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More than 3,000 acres-named the Tuomey Tract-was added recently to Manchester State Forest in Sumter County as a recreational site for wildlife enthusiasts through the work of a unique public-private partnership.

The acquisition, finalized at the end of September, adds the 3,242 acres of the Tuomey Tract, also known as Belles Mill, to the Manchester State Forest, southwest of Sumter. The tract, owned by the late Timothy J. Tuomey, was held by the Tuomey Trust, established to benefit Sumter's Tuomey Hospital. The acquisition is the result of a unique partnership between the S.C. Forestry Commission, S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the Arlington, Virginia-based Conservation Fund, the U.S. Forest Service and South Carolina's Congressional Delegation.

"Thanks to the leadership of the South Carolina Congressional Delegation and the dedication and the commitment of the state, we are creating new areas for public recreation and protecting some of the nation's most important natural resources for future generations," said Larry Selzer, The Conservation Fund's president. "This public-private partnership demonstrates the extraordinary results that can be achieved when elected officials and public agencies work together to find balanced conservation solutions."

Prior to the acquisition of the Tuomey Tract, Manchester State Forest encompassed 23,135-acres. This addition increases the total acreage of the forest to 26,377. Total acquisition cost was $5,770,928 with a U.S. Forest Service, Forest Legacy contribution of $4,503,000 and a contribution of $1,276,928 from the S.C. Forestry Commission, Manchester Land Replacement Fund.

"Thanks to the support of Senator Fritz Hollings, Congressmen Jim Clyburn and John Spratt and The Conservation Fund, the Tuomey Tract is now in public hands, owned by the S.C. Forestry Commission as part of the Manchester State Forest," said John Frampton, DNR director "This acquisition adds 3,242 acres to the Manchester State Forest and is a significant addition to the DNR Wildlife Management Area program in South Carolina. We're pleased to include this additional acreage for the enjoyment of all wildlife enthusiasts and for traditional wildlife use purposes, such as hunting and fishing."

An existing private agricultural lease on the property will be phased out over the next three years as public utilization of the property is phased in. The Manchester State Forest management plan will be updated to include management practices and public use for the new area.

"This is a valuable addition to our State Forest system," said Bob Schowalter, S.C. Forestry Commission director. "The property is a good fit with our self-sustaining, multiple-use management philosophy."
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