Between Pinewood and Santee, just east of the northern stretch of Lake Marion, there’s a pocket of land that covers more than 400 acres and serves as a classroom to thousands of enthusiastic kids each year. The land is owned by the South Carolina Waterfowl Association (SCWA), a thirty-year-old organization determined to enhance and perpetuate South Carolina’s wildlife heritage through education and waterfowl habitat conservation, according to its mission statement. The organization began its work with programs that have led to the distribution and installation of more than 22,000 wood duck nest boxes, and the enhancement, through the cooperation of landowners, of thousands of acres of waterfowl habitats. But, despite this progress, the SCWA understands its work is meaningless unless future generations recognize the importance of environmental conservation and wetlands management.
Fowl Play // Down in the swampy forests of Pinewood, South Carolina, Ed Paul and the SC Waterfowl Association are supporting a heritage of conservation.
“That realization spawned our summer camp program that started in 1995,” says Ed Paul, SCWA’s director of education programs. Ed began his affiliation with the SCWA when he was only twelve years old. “I was actually a camper back in 1997,” he says. “Then, I worked here every summer as a camp counselor or a shooting instructor. I also did the wood duck technician job one summer and handled all the farming in the duck pond for about a year.” After graduating from Francis Marion University, Ed accepted a position at a chemical plant, a job he admits did not often put a smile on his face. So, in 2011, when the opportunity for a full-time position with the SCWA presented itself, Ed jumped at it.
Each year, he oversees thousands of kids at the SCWA’s two camps: Woodie and Leopold, both located at the SCWA’s Wildlife Education Center near Pinewood. Camp Woodie is the organization’s ten-week summer camp, which focuses on outdoor skills including fishing, canoeing, boating, skeet, and archery. This past summer, the camp broke its previous attendance record and welcomed more than 1,000 campers from ages eight to sixteen. “It’s a chance for kids to come out and spend a week in God’s creation,” Ed says. “And for them to learn about what our role is in the environment as sportsmen and sportswomen, and what we can do to give back more than we take and learn the skills needed to be confident in the outdoors.”
Walk in the Woods // Ed Paul, education director at the South Carolina Waterfowl Association, grew up hunting and fishing and is already teaching his own kids, five-year-old Edsel Paul and two-year-old Logan, the joys of nature and the value of conservation. He purchased lifetime hunting and fishing licenses for their first Christmases.
After one week at the camp, many kids, especially those who spend most of their time glued to phone screens, are filled with confidence and a newfound enthusiasm for nature. “You can really see the change,” Ed says. “The way they’re communicating with others, the way they’re carrying themselves in the outdoors, the way they’re shooting a shotgun or casting a rod and reel. It’s really awesome to see that transition.”
Camp Leopold, named after Aldo Leopold, a philosopher and author who many consider the father of ecology and wildlife management, is a school-year program designed to raise students’ awareness, admiration, and respect of the natural world. This is not just some simple, nature walk field trip. Camp Leopold meets all state and national standards for grades three through seven. And the kids, as well as teachers, love it, as indicated by the camp’s 90 percent return rate.
For Ed, the SCWA’s work is a natural extension of his own personality and ethics. “This organization has had a big impact on me,” Ed says. “It’s kept me in touch with what’s important in nature and what my roll is. I show up for work every day knowing that a difference is being made, not just by me and my department but by the whole organization.”
South Carolina Waterfowl Association, (803) 452-6122, scwa.org. The SCWA Greenville chapter will be hosting their annual Conservation dinner at the St. George Greek Orthodox Church, Oct 19, at 6 p.m. For more information, call Chapter Chairman Hank Axon (864) 616-4431.