Naturally Kiawah Recognition Program

As the landscape of Kiawah changes, the Kiawah Conservancy continues to seek ways to preserve and enhance the Island’s unique balance of nature and development. In addition to the Kiawah Conservancy’s efforts to preserve vital lands across the Island, restoration of important wildlife habitat also is an increasingly important endeavor.

The Naturally Kiawah Recognition Program was developed to encourage property owners to partner with the Kiawah Conservancy in its mission by restoring and maintaining wildlife habitat in residential landscapes. As development continues on the Island, enhancement of these areas is essential to the success of many of our wildlife species. For an owner’s landscape to meet the Naturally Kiawah designation, it must provide wildlife habitat by exhibiting the following features:

  • Dense side buffers that include a variety of understory and ground cover plantings adjacent to neighboring properties. Buffer strips provide a means for privacy from adjacent lots or roads, and they also ensure that wildlife has ample cover to nest or rest. These strips of habitat also serve as important travel corridors.
  • The majority of the main yard is comprised of understory shrubs and ground cover plants. Open areas, such as turf or laid pine straw are minimized. The understory not only provides cover, but also offers food sources which are very important to many resident and migratory birds. Lightly maintained shrubs that exhibit a more natural look are more beneficial to wildlife and using native species helps maintain the ecological integrity of the Island.
  • There are no exotic invasive plant species (e.g. tallow trees, non-clumping bamboo) observed. These invasive plants are difficult to control and over time can have negative impacts on Kiawah’s ecology by outcompeting native species. Additionally, tallow trees can have harmful effects on unique habitats, especially the Island’s limited freshwater wetlands.

A common theme among all of the Kiawah Conservancy’s research efforts is the high value placed on the conservation and restoration of Kiawah’s understory and the important habitat it provides. The criteria for the Naturally Kiawah Recognition Program were developed to highlight the importance of maintaining this environment, which is often at risk during development and will diminish as forest canopies in developed landscapes mature. Additionally, a lack of natural controls (e.g. fire) that allow for forest succession on Kiawah furthers the need for continued enhancement and maintenance of this important resource.

Initial property surveys for Naturally Kiawah Recognition were conducted in 2011 and re-evaluations of owners’ landscapes are ongoing. If you have questions about the program or would like an updated evaluation, please contact the Kiawah Conservancy’s Senior Ecological Health and Conservation Coordinator, Lee Bundrick, at 843-768-2029 or and Collie Farah, Land Preservation Specialist at

We all have a duty of care to preserve the natural balance of Kiawah Island. By participating in the Naturally Kiawah Recognition Program, we can all work together to make a significant impact on the Island’s future.

Preserving Kiawah’s Natural  Diversity through Habitat Improvement: Slide presentation given by Justin Core at the 2018 KICA Landscape Symposium

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