Highway Habitat Initiative

Preserving South Carolina’s Eco-heritage along our highways and byways

In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson issued the following landmark statement to Congress regarding natural resource stewardship.

“It would be a neglectful generation indeed, indifferent alike to the judgment of history and the command of principle, which failed to preserve and extend such a heritage for its descendants.”

 Although his full proposal covered cities, counties, pollution, and rivers, it was the highway stewardship initiative that is most commonly associated with his presidency, or, moreover associated with his wife, Lady Bird Johnson.

At its onset, the legislation laid the groundwork for scenic highways and byways, added restrictions on use and maintenance of highway roadsides and prohibited  billboards and unnatural signage that obstructed views of roadside natural beauty.  As the President described it, our roads should be “highways to the enjoyment of nature and beauty… that insured roads themselves are not destructive to nature and natural beauty [but rather] ways to recreation and pleasure.”

When asked if the first lady had any influence in the proposal, the president responded that Lady Bird truly loved the wildflowers so prevalent in their home state of Texas. The first lady added that “I am particularly proud of the Texas highways, perhaps because I know more about them than I do other States. For about 30 years, we have had a wildflower-seed-planting program there which has really made it a glorious experience to drive across the State between about the middle of March and June. The roadsides are a carpet of color if there has been rain.”

Not to be outdone by Texas, many states across our country began adopting similar wildflower planting programs with seeds native to their region. Over the years, this project has been aptly named the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Trail.

Although many states have continued this initiative through special contracts with landscape design specialists, funded by sales tax and special license plates, South Carolina removed this program from the SCDOT and SCPRT, replacing it with a litter control initiative.

The Garden Club of South Carolina would very much like to restore this project. A committee on Roadside Beautification is currently researching ways to restore the program through partnerships, landscape contests and a governor’s initiative to be named the Heritage Highway Habitat Initiative.

The goal of this project is to restore the incentives to beautify our highways and byways in ways that would preserve South Carolina’s ecological heritage, restore its natural beauty and provide critical pollinator habitats along the migration corridors of South Carolina.