SC Forest Resource Assessment and Strategy

Executive Summary, Introduction, and Acknowledgements

Executive Summary

This Statewide Forest Resource Assessment provides an analysis of the benefits that the forests of South Carolina provide as well as an examination of the forces that threaten them.  These benefits and threats can be summarized by the following issues, listed below in order of their priority ranking, as determined by stakeholders and steering committee members.

Water Quality and Quantity
Surface water that is free from pollutants and sediment and provides habitat requirements for wildlife is considered to be of high quality.  Forestry operations generally have little detrimental effect on water quality.  Nevertheless, the South Carolina Forestry Commission, cooperating with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, aggressively promotes adherence to Best Management Practices.  South Carolina has an abundant supply of freshwater, but is not immune to water quantity issues as evidenced by recent legal actions involving neighboring states. 

Stormwater Management
Impervious surfaces such as roads, roofs, driveways, streets, and parking lots increase not only stormwater volume, but also the rate of flow.  Maintenance and expansion of urban canopy cover is an effective tool that can be used to reduce the impact of stormwater runoff.

Prescribed Burning
Forest managers in South Carolina conduct prescribed burns on about 525,000 acres each year.  Experts agree that nearly twice this amount needs to receive this treatment, but obstacles such as smoke management and liability concerns, fragmentation of forest land, and changing attitudes about prescribed burning make increasing the amount of acreage burned a major challenge.

Emerging Markets
Carbon credits, biomass, and other products of the forests of South Carolina are expected to become more important as issues such as climate change and the need for energy independence gain momentum on the federal level.  Savvy landowners will position themselves to take advantage of these emerging markets, which may even enable some of them to retain ownership of their land. In addition, current markets for forest products need to be expanded to provide economic incentives for landowners to actively manage their forestland.

Wildfire Risk
Nearly 3,000 wildfires occur each year in South Carolina, two-thirds of which originate from escaped debris burns or are deliberately set.  With the growth in the state’s population, more and more of these fires damage not only timber and wildlife habitat, but also homes and other structures. 

Forest Regulation
In many cases, forest regulation can be a disincentive for forest landowners to actively manage their forests and may be an incentive to convert their forestland to another use.  Regulations may take the form of ordinances, taxes, and legislation such as the Endangered Species Act.  Some forms of taxation, however, such as lower property tax rates for forested tracts, have a favorable effect on forest management.

Forest Health Threats
The threats to the health of the forests in South Carolina include native, non-native but naturalized, and non-native plants, diseases, and insects.  The three most significant threats to South Carolina’s forests currently are southern pine beetle, Sirex wood wasp, and cogongrass.  They are important because of their potential economic, aesthetic, and ecological impacts. 

Air Quality
South Carolina’s forests play a major role in filtering the air of pollutants such as ozone and particulate matter.  In addition, trees sequester carbon dioxide and emit oxygen through the process of photosynthesis.

Fragmentation and Parcelization
As South Carolina’s population grows, forested tracts of land continue to become fragmented by the addition of roads, powerlines, and buildings.  Many larger tracts are also being subdivided into parcels that make traditional forest management difficult to accomplish.  This trend has implications for the long-term sustainability of the forest resources of South Carolina.

Population Growth
The population of South Carolina is predicted to grow from 4 million in 2000 to over 5 million by 2030.  As the population grows, more forest land will be converted to housing and commercial development, stormwater runoff will increase, public demand on forest attributes will rise, and the number of wildfires that threaten structures will increase. 

Climate Change
Increased incidence of droughts and storms, increased number and severity of wildfires, and more numerous and severe insect and disease outbreaks are possible if climate change predictions hold true.  Sustainable management of forests can help reduce the negative effects of this change.

Public Perceptions about Forestry
Many South Carolina residents value the environmental role of forests, such as protecting water quality, as more important than their role as the provider of raw materials for the number one manufacturing industry in the state.  With increased urbanization, many citizens also do not have a close connection with the land.  As a consequence, restrictive regulations such as outdoor burning ordinances and tree protection ordinances are proposed with little or no consideration of the potential effects of this legislation on forestry operations.

Community Forests in South Carolina
Trees are major capital assets in communities. The quantity, placement and size of trees in populated places can positively impact and provide millions of dollars in savings regarding energy conservation, air filtration, stormwater runoff mitigation, and carbon dioxide sequestration.

Introduction

Background

In 2008, the USDA Forest Service implemented a "Redesigned" State and Private Forestry (S&PF) program. The S&PF Redesign effort was conceived in response to the combined impacts of increasing pressures on our nation's forests and decreasing S&PF resources and funds. Significant threats to forests, such as insect and disease infestations, catastrophic fires, and the loss of critical forested landscapes to development, coupled with the pressure placed on local economies by the increasingly global nature of the forest products industry, pointed to the need for more progressive strategies for conserving our nation's forest resource.

National Priorities

The 2008 Farm Bill established a new set of national priorities for federal assistance for
private forest conservation. A  new subsection (c) was added to the Cooperative Forestry Assistance Act:

(c) Priorities - in allocating funds appropriated or otherwise made available under this Act, the Secretary shall focus on the following national private forest conservation priorities,

notwithstanding other priorities specified elsewhere in this Act:

(1) Conserving and managing working forest landscapes for multiple values and uses.

(2) Protecting forests from threats, including catastrophic wildfires, hurricanes, tornados,

wind storms, snow or ice storms, flooding, drought, invasive species, insect or disease

outbreak, or development, and restoring appropriate forest types in response to such threats.

(3) Enhancing public benefits from private forests, including air and water quality, soil

conservation, biological diversity, carbon storage, forest products, forestry-related jobs,

production of renewable energy, wildlife, wildlife corridors and wildlife habitat, and recreation.

Thus, the 2008 Farm Bill requires that forestry assistance aim to conserve working forests, protect and restore forests, and enhance public benefits from private forests.

Statewide Assessments and Strategies

The 2008 Farm Bill requires each state to analyze forest conditions and trends in the state and delineate priority rural and urban forest landscape areas. From this assessment, a statewide forest resource strategy will be developed to address critical issues facing the forests of that state.  This strategy will also serve as the basis for formulating competitive proposals for S&PF funds.

The three S&PF national themes are:

  1. Conserve working forest landscapes,
  2. Protect forests from harm
  3. Enhance public benefits from trees and forests

In South Carolina, the South Carolina Forestry Commission is the lead state agency in the development of the assessment and resource strategy for the State’s forests.

Final guidance for the state assessment comes from the Redesign Implementation Council and

the 2008 Farm Bill (www.fs.fed.us/spf/redesign/stateassessstrategies.pdf). State assessments and resource strategies are integral to the State and Private Forestry (S&PF) redesign and required as an amendment to the Cooperative Forestry Assistance Act (CFAA), as enacted in the 2008 Farm Bill. This document provides national guidance to states to develop their state assessments and resource strategies.

The 2008 Farm Bill requires three components in the assessment and planning process:

To ensure that federal and state resources are focused on important landscape areas with the greatest opportunity to address shared management priorities and achieve meaningful outcomes, the SC Forestry Commission worked collaboratively with key partners and stakeholders to develop a statewide assessment of the forest resources. This statewide assessment provides a comprehensive analysis of the forest related conditions, trends, threats, and opportunities within the state. The assessment includes:

The geospatial analysis includes data layers that address each of the following core issues or themes:

Each core issue (theme) is tied to one or more of the S&PF redesign themes and associated national objectives. The state's assessment of forest resources includes a description of all spatial analysis methods and logic and one or more maps that identify priority forest landscape areas.

The Southern Group of State Foresters (SGSF) and USDA Forest Service (USFS) Southern Region represent 13 southern states and Puerto Rico. More than 5 million private owners control 89 percent of forests in this area. While each state ultimately decided how to approach its own state assessment, members of the SGSF elected to collectively create a template, or sample state assessment, to be used (if desired) by all southern states.  The SGSF and USFS Southern Region identified the following common set of regional priority issues or opportunities for southern states to consider collectively whileguiding their own assessment process:

This assessment addresses each of the regional priority issues listed above.

 

Assessment Development

The SC Forestry Commission formed a steering committee in February 2009 to guide the development of the state assessment and resource strategy.  The first meeting of this group was held on March 5, 2009. The steering committee is composed of seven SC Forestry Commission program managers, the Forest Management Chief (state lead), and the Deputy State Forester. In addition, two managers from the SC Department of Natural Resources serve on the committee, one of whom is the Forest Legacy program manager for South Carolina.  Additionally, a contractor was hired in May 2009 to assist the steering committee in the development of the assessment and strategy documents.

The steering committee contracted with the SC Budget and Control Board’s Office of Human Resources.  The contractor assisted with project planning, issue identification, data gathering, stakeholder and sub-group facilitation, and the writing and editing of the assessment. Additional assistance will be provided on the development of the Statewide Forest Resource Strategy.  Also, a website was created to provide a central point of contact for the public and stakeholders.  An additional website was created that became the primary vehicle for the committee members and stakeholders to receive progress updates.

The steering committee held several meetings to identify the issues to be considered during the assessment process.  Twenty-eight (28) issues were identified initially. The committee identified the relationships among the issues and sorted them in several ways before deciding to group them under the three national themes: 1) Conserve working forest landscapes; 2) Protect forests from harm; and 3) Enhance public benefits from trees and forests.

The issues were then presented to approximately 60 stakeholders at a day-long meeting on June 30, 2009.  Included in this group were key players, such as representatives of the State Forest Stewardship Coordinating Committee, State Technical Committee, federal and state land management agencies, conservation organizations, and other partners.  Stakeholders were divided into three groups according to the national themes.  Participants were asked to identify South Carolina’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats related to each of the issues associated with their theme.  In addition, the stakeholders were asked to identify their priority areas from among the issues.  Analysis of the data from the stakeholders’ meeting allowed for further issue refinement and the creation of a public survey.

The online survey was available to stakeholders and the public from July 27, 2009 through August 10, 2009.  A total of 378 responses were received.  The survey asked each respondent to rank the issues in each of the three national theme areas.  The survey also asked respondents to indicate their top five priorities from among all the issues.  In addition, the survey collected demographic information to assist the committee in analysis of the data.

The analysis of the survey data led to the creation of four working groups to develop sections of the final assessment document. The four working groups created were:

  1. Forest Sustainability and Regulation
  2. Wildfire Risk
  3. Threats to Forest Health
  4. Environment Benefits of Forests

Team leaders were then selected from the steering committee.  Team members were drawn from SC Forestry Commission personnel as well as from several stakeholder groups.  Team members independently gathered and shared data, and the teams met several times beginning in late September 2009 through February 2010 to develop and refine their sections of the assessment. In addition, the work groups identified critical geo-spatial data to be included in the final assessment to prioritize forest landscape areas in South Carolina. Facilitated sessions were held for each group to identify criteria for analysis or spatial nature of analysis for each issue to prioritize the data.  The GIS data was designed to address where limited resources should be focused.  The data identified was both spatial and non-spatial in nature and included sets of criteria that should be considered.  The criteria considered included richness, threats or risks, and areas of opportunity.

 

Highlights from the Ninth Forest Inventory of South Carolina

Area

Ownership

 

Volume

Net Growth and Removals

 

Economic Impact

Acknowledgements

Authors
This document is a product of the combined effort of a diverse team of natural resource professionals.  As shown below, these individuals represent several organizations and brought a varied perspective to each of the issues that they addressed. 

Russell Hubright     
Project Leader
SC Forestry Commission
Nathan Strong
Advisor
SC Office of Human Resources
Tanika Bryant
Advisor
SC Office of Human Resources
Kris Mayer
Advisor
SC Office of Human Resources
Carla Harkness
Advisor
SC Office of Human Resources
April Stockton
Advisor
SC Office of Human Resources
Darryl Jones
Advisor
SC Forestry Commission
Judy Barnes
Working Group Leader
SC Dept. of Natural Resources
Paul Watts
Working Group Leader
SC Forestry Commission
Guy Sabin
Working Group Leader
SC Forestry Commission
Mike Wetzel
Working Group Leader
Richardson, Bell, McLeod & Wetzel
Laurie Reid
Working Group Leader
SC Forestry Commission
Scott Phillips       
GIS Specialist
SC Forestry Commission
Amanda Newbold       
GIS Specialist
SC Forestry Commission
Harry Blount       
GIS Specialist
SC Forestry Commission
Scott Danskin       
GIS Specialist
SC Forestry Commission
Tom Dooley
Working Group Member
The Nature Conservancy
Bill Crolly
Working Group Member
USDA Forest Service
Gary Burger
Working Group Member
National Wild Turkey Federation
Jeff Baumann
Working Group Member
SC Forestry Commission
Johnny Stowe
Working Group Member
SC Dept. of Natural Resources
Tim Adams
Working Group Member
SC Forestry Commission
Roddy Cooper
Working Group Member
CanFor Corporation
John Spearman
Working Group Member
Private Landowner
Joe Cockrell
Working Group Member
US Fish & Wildlife Service
Billy Cate
Working Group Member
Congaree Land Trust
Emily Cope
Working Group Member
SC Dept. of Natural Resources
Ken Glenn
Working Group Member
USDA – APHIS – PPQ
Colette DeGarady
Working Group Member
The Nature Conservancy
Lisa Lord
Working Group Member
The Nature Conservancy
Matt Nespeca
Working Group Member
Nufarms Americas, Inc.
Sudie Daves Thomas
Working Group Member
NRCS
Steven Long
Working Group Member
Clemson University – DPI
Knight Cox
Working Group Member
Clemson University Forest Res.
Dave Chestnut
Working Group Member
DHEC Bureau of Water
Bill Hansen
Working Group Member
USDA Forest Service
Bryan Rabon
Working Group Member
DHEC Bureau of Water
Vivianne Vejdani
Working Group Member
SC Dept. of Natural Resources
Cindy Kilpatrick
Working Group Member
DHEC Bureau of Air
Mike Bozzo
Working Group Member
SC Forestry Commission
Liz Gilland
Working Group Member
SC Forestry Commission
Tim Ivey
Working Group Member
SC Dept. of Natural Resources

SC Forest Resource Assessment Page