FOREST DISASTER DECLARATION

by State Forester Gene Kodama

Rare declaration last used in 2004 is a clarion call to landowners, timber harvesters,
and mill operators to work together after major ice damage

 

 After an intensive survey of timber stands impacted by the recent winter storm, State Forester Henry E. Kodama is issuing a Forest Disaster Declaration today.

A Forest Disaster Declaration by the State Forester is a “Call to action” to:

  1. Ensure that all citizens and the forestry community are aware of the disaster and its importance to South Carolina.
  2. Encourage forestry community members to assist in timber salvage and utilization to the fullest extent possible.

Commission surveys show a 170-mile-long, 70-mile-wide band of timber damage extending from the Savannah River to the North Carolina border.  Immediate, direct timber losses are estimated to be more than $360 million on 1.5 million acres of forestland.  Other unmeasured costs include growth loss due to tree canopy damage and reduced residual tree value due to stem damage. Three-year-old Josh Holt standing in what was his college fund in Williamsburg Co. after the 2014 ice storm.

“The raw material supply chain for our state’s largest manufacturing sector has suffered from this natural disaster,” Kodama says.  “The storm has impacted hundreds of thousands of individual forestland owners and multiple corporations.  Forestland owners and forest product manufacturing is dependent on a consistent cycle of tree growth and harvests, and the storm has disturbed this cycle over much of the state.”

The Forestry Commission estimates that 25,000 to 30,000 acres of timber will have to be salvaged and replanted.  

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley is echoing the State Forester’s concerns.  “Our forests suffered a major hit by the recent winter storm and therefore so did a major component of our state’s strong and growing manufacturing economy. To help ensure the long-term success of this vital industry and the South Carolinians who depend on it, it’s important that we all work together to salvage fallen timber and help landowners replant as efficiently and quickly as possible,” the Governor said today shortly before the declaration.

South Carolina found itself in the path of a major weather event on February 11th.  The winter storm carried heavy precipitation and cold temperatures which straddled the freezing mark.  Rain, snow, and ice fell on most of the state, with the latter two forms of precipitation taking a heavy toll on trees. 

Unfortunately, the storm did the most damage to pulpwood size trees between 15 to 25 years of age which is the type of trees that are in least supply.  So, the ice storm compounded an already challenging timber supply issue.

On the positive side, the state still has the most wood ever recorded due to an abundance of larger sawtimber size trees.

State Forester Kodama says the state must focus on salvaging and utilizing damaged trees and getting these areas replanted quickly to retain economic return for landowners and a dependable timber supply for manufacturing and the many jobs dependent on this supply chain in the future.

Landowners with damage are encouraged to contact a registered forester immediately to assess their situation and begin the recovery process as needed.  Forestry Commission foresters and private consulting foresters are available to assist landowners.

“The State Forester’s Disaster Declaration is a call for landowners, foresters, loggers, mill operators, and state leaders to work together to salvage as much damaged timber as possible in a fair and expeditious manner and to replant as many acres as possible,” Kodama added.  “This cooperative effort and the amazing resilience of our state’s forests will optimize post-storm timber value today and ensure even more timber supply and jobs for future generations.”

 

Forestry Commission Disaster Declaration Kit (pdf)

 

Photos of some storm damage have been posted to SCFC’s Facebook page. 

Map of storm damage.

 

Forest Disaster Declaration 

Forest damage numbers by county.

 

Forest industry has an annual impact of more than $17 billion on the state’s economy, provides 90,000 jobs, and can grow far beyond these levels of importance.   Ten log trucks haul enough wood to support one forestry job for a year.


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