Former Post and Courier journalist John Burbage is being recognized for his humorous columns, pointed editorials and other efforts that have raised public awareness of the Lowcountry as a special, fragile place.
On Friday, the South Carolina Wildlife Foundation is to honor Burbage with a lifetime achievement award, one of its highest honors.
Burbage's career has spanned the state's coast, with stops in Beaufort, Charleston and Georgetown. He was an early advocate for conserving rural lands through easements and for protecting the pristine waters of the Ashepoo, Combahee and Edisto rivers, which frame the well-protected ACE Basin.
Coastal Conservation League Director Dana Beach said Burbage was one of the state's first editorial writers to focus attention on the environment, raising questions like whether "nuisance alligators" were really a nuisance or whether humans were the problem.
"John has just been a great proponent of the public understanding these issues, and that has led to better decision making," Beach said. "One of his distinctive characteristics is he did it in a humorous way."
Burbage said he tried to tackle serious subjects with a light touch "so both sides of whatever issue it was wouldn't get too mad at me. When you do things that are important, it's best to do it with a sense of humor."
Among the most important issues he successfully advocated for was a greater land trust effort to protect the Lowcountry's forests, marshes and rivers. And he pushed for upgrading the water quality rating on the Edisto and nearby rivers - an upgrade that the state ultimately passed and prevented sewage discharges and new marinas there.
"It's also worth noting that in this age of having to defend everything based on some purported economic value, a lot of what was being written by John back then was on the proposition that it was our obligation as stewards of this region not to degrade it," Beach said. "We didn't need to do an economic analysis - it was just our obligation as citizens."
Burbage, who is married to Lisa Burbage and retired last year, also kept the Lowcountry's environment in mind as he tackled special projects for Evening Post Industries, which owns The Post and Courier. He credited the Manigault family, which owns the company, for its conservation leadership over generations. "You couldn't find a better boss," he said.
The federation's 49th annual Conservation Awards Banquet is designed to recognize and encourage those who have worked to conserve the state's natural resources and environment.
The other Lowcountry winner is Hollywood Town Council, which is receiving the government conservationist award.
That award recognizes Town Council's vote late last year against a proposed development agreement on a 750-acre property that would have been part of an expanded Poplar Grove development.
"They chose to do the right thing," Beach said. "There's always a lot of pressure that comes to bear on towns when these things are brought up, and it's unusual to have a town take a strong and principled position like Hollywood did. They bucked the trend."
Other honors and recipients include: Conservationist of the Year, Bob Perry; Lifetime Achievement Award, Malcolm Leaphart; Bootsie Manning Wildlife Habitat Conservationist, Todd Beasley; Education Conservationist, Cathy Reas Foster; Harry Hampton Journalism Award, Jim Hammond; Land Conservationist, Dan Bryant and Don Compton; Legislative Conservationist, Sen. Katrina Shealy, R-Lexington; Outdoor Ethics Conservationist, Ryan Nevius; Water Conservationist, John Lane; Wildlife Conservationist, Valerie Carter-Stone; and Youth Conservationist, Jared Woodard. Scholarship winners are Rebecca Lynne Cain and Janae Davis, both of the University of South Carolina, and Alaina Wynes of Winthrop University.