John Burbage has been in the newspaper business for more than 40 years, and has been an advocate for coastal South Carolina's environment throughout that long career. And though he has retired from the day-do-day grind, he continues to provide news and commentary on the conservation front - as evidenced by today's column on a mega-mill slated for Orangeburg County.

Tonight, the South Carolina Wildlife Foundation will recognize Mr. Burbage's many contributions to the coastal environment with its lifetime achievement award.

Most of Mr. Burbage's journalism career has been with newspapers serving South Carolina's coast from Beaufort to Horry counties. He has worked a variety of jobs, including reporter, editor, editorial writer, publisher and corporate executive. But in each, he usually managed to find the time to write a weekly column, often addressing local conservation issues. And as a native of the Lowcountry, Mr. Burbage infused his columns with local history, lore and humor.

As the pace of coastal development accelerated, his conservation columns became increasingly important to a region struggling to maintain the environment for habitat, public access and the scenic values associated with the region.

For example, in one of his "Lowcountry Diary" columns for this newspaper, Mr. Burbage started the conversation about creating a land trust in Charleston as a way to help private landowners preserve unspoiled property in perpetuity. More than a generation later, land trusts have proven to be of immense value for conservation. The Charleston-based Lowcountry Open Land Trust, for example, topped the 100,000-acre mark in its inventory of protected lands this year, and similar organizations now serve much of the state.

Additionally, Mr. Burbage crusaded to have the state upgrade the Edisto River to its highest water quality classification. Keeping industrial effluent out of the Edisto was essential to the nationally important initiative to establish the ACE Basin as a protected area.

And as a newspaper executive for Evening Post Industries, the parent company of this newspaper, Mr. Burbage was instrumental in developing the carbon credits program for its White Oak Forestry division. He also has led efforts to make EPI buildings more energy efficient and company operations more environmentally sustainable.

Mr. Burbage has been involved in the program to replant longleaf pine by our forestry division as part of the coastal restoration of the forest ecosystem. He has done so on his own farm in Hampton County as well, demonstrating that his commitment to conservation extends to the personal realm.

Coastal Conservation League Executive Director Dana Beach says that Mr. Burbage's newspaper work recognizes "our obligation as stewards of this region not to degrade it."

The Wildlife Foundation award is a fitting tribute to John Burbage's environmental stewardship throughout a distinguished newspaper career.