When the powers-that-be were pitching a half-cent greenbelt tax to Charleston County voters in 2004, they could have won plenty of support by talking about the Angel Oak on Johns Island. But it wasn't an issue then.

Now it is, and County Council has a rare opportunity to conserve a cultural and historic landmark - an icon of sound environmental principles and a beloved asset that thousands of people have gone to bat for because they want it to be around for their children and grandchildren to enjoy.

Council's Finance Committee today will consider whether to designate $2.5 million of the money derived from the greenbelt tax to further enlarge the green footprint around the storied, spreading oak tree.

By doing so, they would protect the tree from the runoff, noise and pollution that would come from a dense development, which could be built adjacent to it if this purchase doesn't go through.

Council would also be doing what its members have stressed - providing public access to green areas. The additional acreage will have trails and educational features related to the Angel Oak's botanical and historical significance.

Some members of Council have expressed reservations. They have already provided $2.4 million of greenbelt money toward the purchase of another key parcel of land. They want the city of Charleston, which has pledged $400,000, to pony up more.

The city's greenbelt money for such a project is depleted, however, and the bottom line is that the people of Charleston County want the Angel Oak to thrive in an expanded park.

The issue for Council now is not to look back but to look forward for a healthy Angel Oak.

And that demands approving the $2.5 million toward the purchase of acreage next to it.