Jane Lareau, a force of nature
Veteran conservationist Jane Lareau was a tireless — actually, relentless — advocate for the Lowcountry environment and its preservation. Working with the Coastal Conservation League since its creation in 1989, Ms. Lareau had a leading role in expanding protections for the natural realm while preventing ill-considered projects that could damage it.
For example, she helped defeat the extension of I-73 to Charleston, a project that would have cut through the Francis Marion National Forest. She was instrumental in blocking the proposed $150 million bridge from Rimini to Lone Star, across Sparkleberry Swamp.
And as coordinator of the League’s forest programs, she helped rewrite the plan for the Francis Marion National Forest to include restoration of the longleaf pines that once flourished there.
Jane Lareau, who died Monday night, was proudest of her part in the League’s efforts to save Sandy Island in Georgetown County from development, and in halting factory hog farms from locating in South Carolina. Both were hard-fought victories whose value resonates today.
And those were just a few of the campaigns on which she focused her considerable energy. As a volunteer for the Sierra Club, she contributed to the effort in the 1970s to make the Congaree Swamp in Richland County a national preserve — an early victory for the state’s environmental movement.
Indeed, Ms. Lareau could be a force of nature when fighting the good fight to keep unwarranted development at bay. Irrepressible, charming and with an unfailing sense of humor, she would not be denied a voice in taking a stand against dollar-driven developers or the institutional obtuseness of bureaucrats.
As her long-time friend and colleague Dana Beach said, “Jane was an uncompromising advocate in the best sense of the term. She gave people who didn’t know where to turn for help the unfiltered optimism and courage to protect the places they loved. There are very few other people I can think of who have made such an enormous contribution to protecting the natural world.”
In a 2009 interview with The Post and Courier, Ms. Lareau described some of the things that inspired her work: “... tidal creeks and salt marshes, white ibis flying in formation over the Cooper River Bridge, longleaf pine forests and Carolina Bays in the Francis Marion, virgin forested swamps up at Audubon’s Beidler Sanctuary, alligators and whooping cranes in the ACE Basin, swallow-tailed kites over the Santee Delta, loggerhead sea turtles in Bull’s Bay, dolphins breaching in the North Edisto ...”
Those are things that define the Lowcountry, and Jane Lareau recognized that they can’t be taken for granted.
She understood the necessity of battling on their behalf, and she never gave up the good fight.