South Carolina Forestry Commission |
(COLUMBIA, SC) - South Carolina’s pine trees are dying by the millions, falling victim to the relentless assault of southern pine beetles. A Forestry Commission report just released places this year’s loss at more than $220 million.
"It’s a disaster," said Forestry Commission scientist Andy Boone. "Trees are dying, there’s no market for the wood, and millions of dollars in timber are just being left to rot." The beetles reached epidemic levels in York County in 1998, and have since spread through the upstate and into some coastal counties as well.
Forestry Commission records show this as the most costly pine beetle epidemic on record; losses for 2002 are the highest ever recorded for a single year. The beetles have claimed almost 27 million trees valued at $350 million since the epidemic began.
With three-quarters of South Carolina timberland owned by private individuals, most of the loss is borne by ordinary citizens. Foresters say many hold timber as an investment to finance the children’s college education or supplement retirement income. When beetles attack, a thirty-year investment can be wiped out in a matter of weeks.
Long recognized as the deadliest insect enemy of pines in the south, southern pine beetles are indigenous to South Carolina. Their numbers rise and fall cyclically, sometimes reaching epidemic levels. Boone said this epidemic is especially severe since South Carolina’s drought-weakened trees are highly susceptible to beetle attack.
Boone said the most practical way to stop a beetle attack is to cut and remove the infested trees. A special council formed by the Governor is now looking for new ways to commercially harvest and market beetle-killed wood.
In cases where commercial harvest is impossible, a Forestry Commission program called cut-and-leave will help defray the cost of simply cutting down infested trees. This program is not available for urban or developed areas, or on lands belonging to forest industry.
For more information on southern pine beetles, contact your local Forestry Commission or Clemson Extension office.
Editors/News Directors: County loss figures are available on request.
For more information, contact: Ken Cabe, 803-896-8820.