By Queen Quet, Chieftess of the Gullah/Geechee Nation (www.QueenQuet.com)
The Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition (www.GullahGeechee.net) has fought to protect land for over the more than two decades that the organization has been in existence. I have personally fought for the same thing for almost four decades. Over that period of time, the tools that could be used in the field in which we toiled changed from those that my ancestors had available to use on the sacred ground that got renamed from “Chicora” to “Carolina” to “South Carolina,” wherein part of the Sea Islands lie, to very different tools we use today.
Upon the Sea Islands our culture grew in North America, and to that end, these Sea Islands and Lowcountry are part of the Gullah/Geechee Nation. We hold our homeland and the rest of the state as sacred ground and blessed land. That is why we remain here seeking to keep the land quality and the water quality at its optimum. Healthy land and water leads to healthy lifestyles for the people living therein and to that end, we have literally banked on our blessed Carolina land.
The mechanisms that allowed us to bank on the land are the South Carolina Conservation Bank and the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). The latter has existed for over five decades. When it began, the Land and Water Conservation Fund money was intended to protect national parks, areas around rivers and lakes, national forests, and national wildlife refuges from development, and to provide matching grants for state and local parks and recreation projects.
Over the years, LWCF has also grown and evolved to include grants to protect working forests, wildlife habitat, critical drinking water supplies and disappearing battlefields, as well as increased use of easements. Thus, adding more tools to the conservation box over time.
The economy of South Carolina has been positively impacted by the LWCF’s investment in open spaces, historic sites, and recreational areas. These are places that not only the citizens of the state enjoy, but that tourists visit by the millions, spending billions of dollars annually.
There has been a massive return on the LWCF’s investment of just over $300 million because this has contributed greatly to South Carolina’s $16.3 billion outdoor recreation industry which supports 151,000 jobs and generates $4.6 billion in wages and salaries as well as producing $1.1 billion annually in state and local tax revenue. With all this in mind, we are thankful that almost all of the SC delegation voted to support permanent reauthorization of LWCF earlier this year.
To our Congressional Representatives and Senators, we are banking on you now to help keep our blessed lands of Carolina protected. LWCF helped give so much to our communities already.
It’s the protected places like one of our beautiful, majestic oaks down by the riverside where we can shout together and give thanks for this continued blessing. We all share these blessings together and have an obligation to protect treasures all of our visitors and residents can appreciate.
Chieftess of the Gullah/Geechee Nation
Founder, Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition