Gov. David Beasley was right on the mark with his comment that the state purchase of the Jocassee Gorges property in South Carolina's Upstate protects "one of the most important scenic, scientific and recreational assets in the Southeast."
The property, stretching from the Sumter National Forest in Oconee County to the Mountain Bridge Wilderness north of Greenville, puts virtually all of the state's mountains off limits to land developers' bulldozers.
This is a real bonanza, not only for South Carolinians, but for all lovers of conservation and recreation. It would be hard to find any mountain area in the United States better suited for hiking, hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities. The area should also be a huge boon for tourism.
The public-private group that put this project together earns high praise. This would be the governor, state lawmakers and other state leaders, the Duke Energy Corp., the Richard King Mellon Foundation, The Conservation Fund and an anonymous donor who contributed $10 million to the purchase. Duke's share was to donate the land, valued at nearly $34 million, in exchange for a tax credit.
Though some free-market purists are complaining that the state shouldn't be getting in the land business, how else can such areas be preserved if the state doesn't step in?
These issues should be decided on a case-by-case basis and this is clearly a great deal for taxpayers as well as environmentalists.
Setting aside the wilderness area complements the state's economic development efforts and indicates a balanced, sensible approach to regulating and controlling the future growth of the state.