Sullivan’s Island residents must send a clear pro-conservation message in the May 4 municipal election by voting for candidates who aren’t for devastating a maritime forest on accreted land.

Otherwise, the town likely will have to live with a pro-development settlement from last year that authorized massive cutting in what will be little more than butchery to optimize views for rich folks. 

We encourage residents to reelect Mayor Pat O’Neil, as well as three newcomers — Scott Millmet, Justin Novak and Gary Visser. Two other council candidates, as well as O’Neil’s opponent, are pro-cutting.

“There are a lot of ways you can characterize this, but in the end, we made the wrong decision. I think we have some opportunities to reverse that, and I would support any of them,” Visser said at a recent candidate forum run by the League of Women Voters.

O’Neil admitted during the forum that the maritime forest, which includes some wetlands and places protected by state law, has been at issue for more than two decades. 

“But, the agreement the town signed onto bears little resemblance and little relation to the kinds of input we got over these many years — it was, pure and simple, a response to the suit. This is something that flies in the face of what the community has been asking for for many years.”

About 30 years ago, the town of Sullivan’s Island transferred preservation of the almost 200-acre tract to the Lowcountry Land Trust. The town also placed restrictions on the beachfront property’s deed to require the land to be kept in its natural state, although it allowed council to authorize some cutting for views.

And ever since, the tree-cutters have wanted more and more, as lawyer Billy Want wrote in a recent op-ed. By 2010, two landowners sued, and things have gone downhill since then. Now the forest, which provides a buffer during big storms ,and habitat for birds and other animals, faces a serious man-made threat.

The first Earth Day was 51 years ago. If there’s anything humans should have learned since then is that nature needs balance, not more harmful fiddling and destruction by humans. Sullivan’s Island’s ecosystem is already impacted with hundreds of beachfront homes, all of which allow residents to enjoy the area’s beauty. Let’s not make it worse.

Cutting down a forest without seeing the vitality and necessity of its trees is exactly what we don’t need to provide balance on the island. If you live on Sullivan’s Island, send a clear message May 4 by voting to elect a slate of candidates who will work to protect the island and keep away the insipid crawl of development.