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Conservation Officers, long known in these parts as Game Wardens, stand as “the long green line” between the wasteful use of our state’s natural resources and their continued healthy existence to be enjoyed by all.
I was part of that “thin green line” for almost twenty-five years, part of a regulatory movement in conservation begun near the turn of the twentieth century; an abiding legacy of such stalwart South Carolina conservationists as James Henry Rice, Jr. and Harry Hampton. The South Carolina Wildlife Commission was formed by legislation brought about through Hampton’s educational campaigns and his influence in political circles. Rice instituted the idea of state Game Wardens and served as the first Chief Warden. Rice was a Lowcountry gentleman but was regarded as one tough cookie.
Their laudable efforts were accomplished with a supportive cast of duck and quail hunters, bird watchers, fishermen, and land owners.
It has been said that among the more notable characteristics of people in South Carolina is the importance of their connection with a particular family, place or community to their sense of who they are as individuals, thus their compelling urge to protect and conserve what they regard as the wild places and wild things that compose their heritage and tradition.
The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources has been at the forefront of informed conservation efforts since its founding, establishing regulatory policy and providing the means of its enforcement.
Private conservation organizations such as The Lowcountry Open Land Trust, The Nature Conservancy, Ducks Unlimited, Coastal Conservation Association of South Carolina, Coastal Conservation League, South Carolina Wildlife Federation and a host of others, each having a different constituency and each having a distinctive conservation focus. These conservation organizations work alongside the various divisions within the Department of Natural Resources in a variety of public-private ventures across the state.
Private individuals such as Havilah Babcock, Archibald Rutledge, Henry E. Davis, and William Elliott wrote eloquently about their adventures afield and instilled woods knowledge and land. ethics in generations of readers who grew up in a tradition where sportsmanship was considered to be synonymous with being a gentleman or a lady (some ladies did hunt in the old days).
Readers learned in their writings that sometimes the seeking was more important than the taking and that there was value to be had in any outdoor experience. I have to agree with that sentiment after witnessing countless spectacular sunrises over Santee Delta and incendiary sunsets slowly drooping over tree-shrouded reaches of the Edisto River while hidden back in the folds of the marsh grass, waiting on someone nearby to contravene the law.
In my patrols over a wide swath of the Palmetto State I could see that there was much yet to protect and conserve and glad to know that there is a much more educated and aware public willing to support conservation efforts over a broad category of interests. I am honored to have been a part of the ‘movement.’