It was great to see so many good folks turn out for the 28th annual River Sweep, headquartered at the Bluffton Oyster Factory Park. As always, your legislative delegation was well represented, as was Beaufort County and leadership from Bluffton Town Council.
Among the several hundred good citizens participating were students from the high schools, USCB, as well as TCL. They were joined by civic groups, business groups and a host of people, young and older, who value our natural resources and are willing to spend a day helping to clean up our beautiful May River and adjacent streets and roads.
I always enjoy these events, especially the fellowship with like-minded friends and neighbors. When it comes to protecting and preserving the quality of the local waters, our lovely part of the Lowcountry is populated with a great many such friends and neighbors.
Consequently, your legislative delegation is usually at the forefront of conservation issues making their way through the statehouse. We have a firm understanding of the relationship between the local economy and the necessity of keeping our landscapes and waterscapes clean and green.
In fact, this legislator was recently presented the green tie for conservation leadership in the House, at the recent Green Tie Luncheon put on by the South Carolina Conservation Voters (SCCV). This was a special event for me.
In addition to the recognition, it was also the final Green Tie event for the remarkable Ann Timberlake as executive director for SCCV. After 13 years of success in building the organization, as well as building interest and awareness of the importance of conservation issues, Ann is preparing for new challenges.
When Ms. Timberlake began as executive director, her budget was $60,000, and the average score on their General Assembly conservation scorecards was 41 percent. Today, SCCV is a well-respected and thriving bi-partisan outfit with a $600,000 budget and an average score of 87 percent.
This reflects a shift not only in the understanding of conservation issues among those elected to the statehouse, but also among South Carolinians who, by their votes, place those public servants in Columbia.
As a point of interest, I also was recognized, among others, by the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce, and also the Business and Industry Political Education Committee (BIPEC). These business and industry advocacy groups seem to be evolving, albeit gradually, to an understanding that a vibrant economy needs to reflect not only efficiency and shareholder value, but also recognize appropriate conservation principles as well.
As an example, many of our state’s technical schools are training the workforce for today’s jobs assembling aircraft along our Aerospace Corridor. Those skills would also support jobs in our nascent wind power industry, or assembling the electric automobiles soon to roll off the lines at our auto plants.
Thus, when we are told that protecting or preserving our natural resources will cost jobs, this information is either badly outdated, mistaken, or disingenuous. The business-conservation competition is illusory. With a proper analysis, it probably always was.
Weston Newton is the representative for District 120 in the State House of Representatives.