The historic house at Tibwin Plantation has recently undergone some much-needed repairs. And there's reason to be encouraged that more will be done toward eventually preserving the early 19th century building.

But what is still to be determined is whether the job will continue to be done incrementally using special grants and partnerships as they can be obtained, or whether it might be funded by the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).

The problem is that Congress has fully funded the LWCF only twice in its 50-year existence. And the regular budget of the U.S. Forest Service, which is responsible for the property and could possibly cover such preservation projects, is maxed out fighting fires in the West.

Area conservationists and preservationists say LWCF funds could be used for any number of important projects that would enhance the environment, protect wildlife and preserve properties on protected lands.

And as fires in the West don't appear to be abating, funding the LWCF is the best way to take care of important work.

Robert Bonnie, undersecretary of Natural Resources and Environment with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, told The Post and Courier on a recent visit to Charleston that he'd love to see that funding restored. Indeed, once lost, natural and cultural resources can't be recreated. Property is developed. A historic house caves in.

But unless and until LWCF comes through, Robert Morgan, the Heritage Program manager for the Francis Marion and Sumter national forests, is looking for - and finding - some other answers.

Selling the property is not among them. For one thing, it is an important part of property the Forest Service owns for wildlife conservation.

Also, it would take an act of Congress - literally, Mr. Morgan says.

But he is nevertheless more encouraged now than he has been for years that Tibwin will be restored and will fill a useful purpose.

Tibwin's acreage spreads from Highway 17 to the Intracoastal Waterway, The Forest Service acquired it in 1996 as part of its efforts to protect the area from development. It happened to have on it a building that is considered the most historically significant in the 600,000 acres that comprise the Francis Marion and Sumter national forests. But, for now, it's a preservationist's nightmare: So important, so accessible, and yet so expensive to fix - maybe $500,000.

The Forest Service did spend $150,000 in the mid 1990s to stabilize the house and replace the roof, which had been blown off during Hurricane Hugo.

But the most recent repairs were done with help from Forest Service money designated for helping youth.

Mr. Morgan was able to engage the Clemson/College of Charleston graduate school in historic preservation to oversee and plan what needed to be done to save the front porch, which was pulling away from the house and unsafe.

Palmetto Youth Connections, which helps out-of-school youth ages 16-21 develop skill sets that they might use in their careers, provided three young men who did the work over several months with training and oversight. One of them has since been offered a permanent job doing similar work.

Mr. Morgan would like to have a preservation plan that would allow for one phase to be done at a time, as money and partnerships become available.

But he is also hopeful that an organization would learn about Tibwin and determine that it could be useful to the work it is doing. The organization could do the remaining preservation and upkeep and the National Forest Service would be the lessor.

Two subjects close to the hearts of people in the Lowcountry are environmental conservation and historic preservation.

Tibwin is both.

Protecting the natural landscape and restoring and preserving the house are efforts residents and organizations in the area can - and should - embrace.