When you’re at SEWE this weekend, make sure that you catch an exclusive screening of Common Ground: The Story of the ACE Basin by documentarian Bill Bailey. The film tells the story of how various individuals and organizations helped protect the ACE river basin, which stretches from Charleston to Beaufort, S.C. ACE is an acronym that stands for the defining rivers of the St. Helena Sound: the Ashepoo, Combahee, and Edisto. “These rivers were protected under a heroic conservation effort,” Bailey says.

Two years in the making, Bailey’s documentary tells how South Carolina saved one of its most precious ecosystems from commercial development. “The ACE basin hasn’t been developed on since the 1980s,” says Bailey. “With hundreds of thousands of acres available, the commercial value was tantalizing to developers and many felt they had to stop them.”

“The purpose of the movement was not only to protect the wildlife, but also to allow for the traditional practices that many enjoy,” says Bailey. “Things like fishing, hunting, and kayaking wouldn’t be available to the public if the land had become developed.” Overall, 206,000 acres were preserved, one of the most successful conservation efforts in U.S. history. The basin will also be featured in National Geographic sometime this year.

“I wanted to show audiences the beauty of the South Carolina coast,” says Bailey. “But I also wanted to tell audiences how important it is to protect precious wildlife around them.”

Filmmaker Bill Bailey will hold a Q&A after each of the film’s two screenings.

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