A changing landscape. all photographs: L. Allen
It is a tragedy as familiar as the daily commute. The woods you roamed as a child, the shady daydream oaks, the family orchard alongside the country road . . . gone. The country road is now a highway, the orchard a parking lot, the woods a treeless subdivision. There’s one oak left languishing beside a mini-mart over a sticky sidewalk.
But a rising movement is responding to the call to halt destruction and honor the intrinsic, sacred value of the natural world, which sustains human life. Thankfully, a handful of visionaries have prepared the way for this good fight, working to protect the land they love. The Edisto Island Open Land Trust is one such group, and a visit to Edisto Island testifies to a miraculous alternative to America’s all too familiar tragedy.
Zinnias at Kings Farm Market
Edisto Island resembles a forgotten dream of paradise. Less than an hour away from Charleston, the traveler crosses over the McKinley-Washington bridge, not into the past or the future, but into a dream of what could be. The realization that Edisto Island is not a dream, but living reality makes it all the more miraculous. The road is lined with oaks and pecan groves, family farms flourish and Kings Farm Market offers u-pick fields of strawberries, tomatoes and beans. Summer tanagers flit in the live oaks of Indigo Farms; Mississippi kites hover overhead; ligustrum hedges shimmer with butterflies; and down at Botany Bay, skeletal live oaks face change at the edge of the earth with austere grace.
Much of the land you see, hundreds of acres, is preserved and managed by the land trust in cooperation with landowners. These landowners have sold, donated or put conservation easements on their land, wherein they retain ownership, but give up the right to development and subdivision, forever. The benefits of conservation easements include tax credits, preservation of historic plantations and family farms, protection of natural resources and fragile ecosystems which support native plants and wildlife. Since 1994, EIOLT has worked to avert the pervasive American tragedy.
Land trusts uphold the "ecological imperative,” defined by nature writer Sam Keen as “life in such a way that all future generations can enjoy as much or more biodiversity as we have enjoyed.” A beacon in a storm-tossed sea of tragedy, EIOLT stands as proof of a real miracle: collective conscience practicing faithful stewardship.