More than Land Brokers

oak avenue kinloch plantation georgetown

A Reputation that Precedes us

Our reputation as conservation developers has always proceeded us, thanks in part to one our namesake, Jimmy Holcombe, and his “natural resource conscience” development projects in the Charleston area.

Undoubtedly, Holcombe, Fair & Lane has been involved in more conservation sales throughout the years than any other brokerage in the Southeast. Since every HFL agent has placed conservation easements on their own family properties, we have been able to educate and set landowners at ease who would not have otherwise considered a conservation easement option for their beloved land.

but we are more than land brokers

Beyond land transactions, we have well-established relationships with owners of commercial resources in the Tri-County area. We manage over 40 commercial buildings and represent complex commercial sales and leasing transactions.

Marrying these two sides of our brokerage (natural and commercial), our agents came up with this simple unifying statement “We exist promote the careful and responsible development of natural and commercial resources in Coastal SC”

making the next generation proud

In alignment with this statement, this year our agents have been promoting good resource management more than ever before. The results of our work have attracted customers and clients to our firm that want to work with us to create a future for Coastal SC that makes the NEXT GENERATION PROUD and makes South Carolina the STANDARD for the nation. We look forward to seeing the public benefits of this focused work even in the next coming years.

further reading on resource management

The first step towards an investment in conservation development in South Carolina may be learning more about the process. For this reason, we have provided several topics for further reading:

Conservation Development

harrell farm meggett pecan orchard

Our motivation for conservation development

South Carolina natives have never been shy to take up the cause of its gorgeous and prosperous state. Amidst shifts in the global and national economy, South Carolinians have historically  held to the view that the health and wellness of their people and places require a measure of personal responsibility. This wise outlook from a generation of hard knocks threatens to lose potency in a day of the quick dollar, but belief that South Carolina can still make important moves toward a thriving future, motivates our conservation development work at Holcombe, Fair & Lane.

The Connection Between Resource Management and Real Estate Brokerage

In the words of one of our founders, Jimmy Holcombe, conservation development is “letting the land tell you where to build (and where not to)”. It is letting the grand trees, the natural rise and fall of elevation, and the wildlife habitat areas speak for themselves rather than in-filling and clear-cutting for cookie cutter communities. Conservation development is a unique planned development concept that allows limited residential development while permanently protecting what is beautiful, wild and/or culturally, historically, or ecologically valuable about the landscape.

There is a real fear that property owners in Coastal South Carolina will allow the quick dollar to bulldoze long-term quality of life for all. Health, comfort and happiness are elements that can easily rise and fall based on one’s physical location and surroundings. For example, the quality of an employee’s work environment, a child’s neighborhood playground or, a state-of-the-art space to host business and community events, all have an obvious impact on quality of life.

At Holcombe, Fair & Lane, we recognize that the sale or lease of a Coastal South Carolina property is a crucial time in determining the trajectory of an asset. Our agents are local Charlestonians who grew up enjoying the charm of Charleston and the beauty of the outdoors. They have a passion for promoting the responsible development of both natural and commercial resources along the Coast. Keep reading to learn about more about just a few of the conservation development projects we have contributed to.


Selkirk Plantation on Wadmalaw Island is an 800+ acre property with established wildlife habitat areas and a scenic tree line on Leadenwah Creek, a popular public waterway. In the late 1990’s, the owner, Ms. JoAnn Parker, reached out to Charles Lane, the Broker in Charge at Holcombe, Fair and Lane, with interest in selling the land while at the same time, preserving its legacy as a cattle farm and recreation retreat. Lane proposed a unique conservation community concept for Selkirk Plantation that would be protected with a conservation easement, and Ms. Parker gave him release to run with the project.

30-Lot Conservation Development of Selkirk Plantation

Charles Lane eventually got approval for a 30-lot maximum conservation community with a pervious road. Selkirk has enforceable standards on construction setbacks, docks, structures and more. As a crucial part of the plan, Selkirk Plantation was permanently protected by a conservation easement from the Lowcountry Open Land Trust in 1997. To this day, the conservation and property values have increased and the protected landscape provides significant public benefit. Furthermore, the sale of the lots gave Ms. Parker a profitable return and an enduring legacy.

selkirk plantation
Scenic tree-lined frontage on Leadenwah Creek
Look out for Turkeys crossing Selkirk Plantation Road


About three-fourths down the scenic, oak canopy of Maybank Highway on the 3-mile Sea Island of Wadmalaw, lies Allandale Plantation Road. It is located on along Leadenwah Creek, right across from Selkirk Plantation.

allandale conservation property
Allandale Plantation Road Property on Wadmalaw Island

This property, comprising 87 acres of highland purchased on March 2022 for $2,000,000 is zoned AG-15, which allows subdivision into several lots – especially around the critical line. The agent, Huger Sinkler II, assisted his buyer in approaching the Lowcountry Land Trust, which holds the majority of the conservation easements on Wadmalaw Island. Together, they formalized an easement document that would permanently preserve traditional use and low-density limited development on the property.

PROPERTY HIGHLIGHT : Gregorie Neck Plantation

When the largest undeveloped waterfront parcel in South Carolina came to market in 2023, in a rare and widely publicized sale by private owners, the property’s future, along with the future of the surrounding area came into question.

The brokers at Holcombe, Fair & Lane recognize that the sale or lease of any property, especially along the Coastal Plain directly impacts the quality of its natural and commercial resources for future generations. Rarely has the area seen such an example.

Empowered by a combination of federal and private funding, The Nature Conservancy, a globally-recognized environmental organization, secured a contract and engaged the Open Land Trust in an agreement to place a conservation easement on the entire property. This easement will protect the property’s conservation values through limits on use, development, and subdivision.  The Brokers at Holcombe, Fair & Lane worked with the Seller and the Buyer to creatively envision a permanent outcome for the property that the Buyer may retain or sell.

Gregorie Neck will soon be the newest extension of two nationally recognized conservation jewels: the ACE Basin (Ashepoo-Combahee-Edisto) and SOLO (Southern Lowcountry) Basin, comprising 500,000 acres of preserved lands.


Interested in Conservation Development?

The first step towards an investment in conservation development in South Carolina may be learning more about the process. For this reason, we have provided several topics for further reading:

Connecting Good Stewards with Great Land

a Conservation-minded real estate company?

Connecting Good Stewards
with Great Land™

Your slogan sounds good, but what does it mean? How do your agents actually find good stewards for the land you list?

Actually, at Holcombe, Fair & Lane, think of this process differently. Let’s back up a few steps and look at the listing interview…

1. We pick our clients and projects

Before we commit ourselves to representing rural property, we ask ourselves if it would be attractive to good land stewards. We evaluate the property’s characteristics and location and determine its best and highest use. We do not promote development scenarios for properties that would have a negative impact on the overall quality/character of the immediate and surrounding area.

2. our clients pick us

Our forthright branding messaging speaks of value for preserving the rural character of land that lies outside of urban growth boundaries. Our long history of involvement in conservation -minded organizations and personal practice of good land stewardship attracts the like-minded.

We don’t shun development. We know there is appropriate timing, location, and methods for building structure for a growing metro. We even have a successful commercial sales, leasing and management division within our firm!
But in our alignment with conservation-minded individuals in South Carolina, we also know there are targeted locations where ecosystems must remain unspoiled in order to preserve the limited and nonrenewable resources in our state.

Click here to view our recently sold properties.

interested in conservation-minded representation?

We have been so privileged to represent owners of rural land since our establishment in 1927. We look forward to a hopeful future of connecting good stewards with great land in South Carolina. If you’re interested in conservation-minded representation for a South Carolina property, please complete the form below and one of our land agents will reach out to you.

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Coy Johnston

coy johnston holcombe fair and lane charleston

Coy Johnston: "A Hero of Conservation"

A major focus of Coy Johnston’s life’s work has been to protect and steward South Carolina’s beautiful natural resources. Through the years, Coy fought countless battles toward this purpose and has lent extensive expertise in developing land stewardship plans for special places. Though coming from a modest background, his consist focus on good stewardship took him to exemplary heights in his field.

Coy Johnston grew up enjoying outdoors activities in in Varnville and Estill, South Carolina. Led by the influence of his grandfather  J.W. Yonce, an avid outdoorsman, Johnston pursued a degree in Forestry from the University of Georgia. Immediately after college, he served his country as First Lieutenant of the Combat Engineers Platoon in the Korean War. When he returned from war, Johnston began what would be a 25+ year career at MeadWestvaco. His duties included managing the 12,000-acre Bonneau Ferry Plantation, which was eventually sold to SC DNR in 2004 and converted to a Wildlife Management Area.

In 1979, Coy Johnston stepped into the role of regional director of Ducks Unlimited in South Carolina. Under his leadership, DU fundraising in SC increased from $250,000 to $1.25M, and he was promoted to East Regional Director for DU in 1987. One year later, he became project director for the Lowcountry’s Wetlands America Trust Program. In August of 1989, he was among a small group of land owners and conservationists that would counter a planned development of more than 1,000 houses on Edisto Island, and eventually start the ACE Basin Task Force. The below documentary tells the story. In 2019, this group celebrated their 30th year of conservation and their cumulative success in securing conservation easements for over 300,000 acres of land in the region along the Ashepoo, Combahee and Edisto Rivers ( See “Forever Wild: More Ducks Fewer PeopleCharleston Mercury 2019 ). For more on their work, visit the article “In Celebration of the ACE Basin.”

The video above documents Coy Johnston’s role in gathering a task force for land conservation in the beautiful ACE Basin of South Carolina.

In honor of Johnston’s conservation work upon retiring from Wetlands America Trust, the SC Legislature passed a resolution citing  Johnston as “one of South Carolina’s leading ambassadors in the effort to promote wise use and conservation our precious natural resources as well as our hunting heritage.” He was attributed as being “directly responsible for permanently protecting nearly 50,000 acres of wildlife habitat and has helped put almost one million acres of marshland, old rice fields and other lands under conservation easement.”

In addition to this honor, Johnston also received the 1993 Chevron Conservation Award and the National Wetlands Conservation Award from USFWS.

After retiring from Ducks Unlimited, Johnston joined the sales and land consulting team at Holcombe, Fair & Lane. His sales activity in the late 1980’s to early 1990’s encompassed over 30,000 acres, worth $35M.

Coy Johnston resides downtown Charleston with his lovely bride, Ann and their energetic Springer Spaniel, May. In his life he raised three daughters, and now enjoys seven wonderful grandchildren and three great grandchildren.

More on Coy Johnston

Birds of Winter” – on the Origin of the SC Waterfowl Stamp Program

On Common Ground: Stories of the ACE Basin” written by Dana Beach

Asphalt is Always the Last Crop” quote by Coy Johnston in Article

Land Conservation Misconceptions

Do I have to have a large property in order to put an conservation easement on it?

There is no minimum acreage requirement; however, the value of the easement should cover costs associated with the process of putting a property under easement. These costs include hiring an appraiser, land surveyor, an attorney for a title investigation, and could also including paying a stewardship fee to the land trust who holds the easement.

Conservation-minded owners of small parcels will often choose to donate their land to a trusted non-profit organization and receive a tax deduction.

Why should I protect my property if I don't ever plan to sell it?

The decision to permanently protect a property is a very personal decision which requires thoughtful attention to both public and private concerns. On the private side, one must consider which property rights should remain with the owner. A licensed appraiser can help evaluate whether the forfeited rights would reduce the property value enough for the conservation easement to be valuable in terms of tax benefits. 

Does land need to have public access in order to be protected with a conservation easement?

A conservation easement must provide significant public benefit. Public benefit may come in the form of preserving scenic, cultural, ecological, agricultural or public recreational benefits that would otherwise be compromised with without protection.

In Celebration of the ACE Basin

ACE Basin in South Carolina Waterfront Edisto Island Salt Point

The ACE Basin in South Carolina

The “ACE” Basin is an acronym for the confluence of the Ashepoo, Combahee and Edisto Rivers along the Coastal Plain of South Carolina. It is a rich ecosystem that has been globally recognized for its environmental significance. The area has caught the eye of conservationists and outdoors enthusiasts — identifying it as key wetland habitat for wintering waterfowl and neotropical birds. In addition to its natural value, there are unique cultural and archaeological characteristics of properties in the ACE Basin area that narrate a complex history. 

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American White Ibis in the ACE Basin

Protecting the ACE Basin

Spearheading the effort to protect this area is the ACE Basin Task Force. Chaired by private landowners since its inception in 1989, the Task Force is comprised of various entities who operate under a strict volunteer-based memorandum of understanding. The Task Force has identified a “focus area” of approximately one million acres that significantly impact the estuary.

A Crucial Collaboration

In August of 1989, John Frampton, Coy Johnston, and Mike Prevost assembled over 100 landowners and challenged them to protect the wonderful ecosystem of the ACE River Basin in the Lowcountry of South Carolina. Matt Connolly, the Executive Director of Ducks Unlimited at the time, challenged them to do this not for themselves but for their children. Many of those original attendees have since passed — giants like Gaylord, Dorothy and Strachan Donnelley, Diane Terni, Gene Dupont, Dr. Jim Timmerman, Holly Richardson, Fritz Hollings and others. Yes, Matt Connolly was correct: they did it for us.

The Goal of the ACE Basin Task Force

ace basin map land protection
ACE Basin Map, March 2022 | Click to view full size

The original goal of this “ACE Basin Task Force” was to protect 90,000 acres. As of its 30th anniversary celebration in 2019, the ACE Basin passed the 300,000-acre mark. 83% of that protected land represented private initiatives – primarily via conservation easements. Since 1989, over 275 individual easements have been signed and recorded in the ACE Basin. This is a remarkable achievement. Without the efforts of the State and Federal government to promote public land, the ACE Basin would never have achieved the community support it now has.

Success Beyond Land Protection

While protected acres are good measure, the ACE Basin has seen so much more accomplished throughout the years:

  • Senator Chip Campsen authored the Conservation Bank legislation.
  • The US Army Corps of Engineers approved a general permit for the repair and maintenance of rice fields
  • The Residents of Edisto Island established a federally-designated scenic highway across the Island.
  • Highway 17 has been designed in such a way as to preserve its scenic qualities, reduce its ecological impact and provide safe travel.
  • Old Sheldon Church ruins have been documented and are being preserved.
  • Folk Land Management, Nemours WF and Clemson University teamed together for the mapping of our historic rice fields. Interestingly, this team is also researching the amount of material moved by hand by enslaved africans in order to create the rice fields. They estimate it to be 23 times the amount of material moved by hand to build the pyramids in Egypt. View July 2022 Press Release
  • The preservation of the archaeological ruins of Jehossee island, a historical time capsule.
Prince William's Parish Church "The Old Sheldon Church Ruins" Circa 1751-57, Beaufort County.
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Jehossee Farms (Jehossee Island) on Edisto Island, Permanently Protected Land in the ACE Basin

Property in the ACE Basin

There may be opportunities for you to invest in future generations through personal property ownership in the ACE Basin. Please complete the form below and one of our land agents will reach out to you with more information on current offerings.

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