Sunday's editorial recognizes the restoration of local pines lost in April's wildfires through federal stimulus money.
Lewis Ocean Bay Heritage Preserve longleaf pine trees lost to the devastating April wildfire will be replaced with some of the money in a $1.74 million federal stimulus grant to the S.C. Forestry Commission.
Russell Hubright, forest management chief for the Forestry Commission, says the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act money has several components aimed at restoring longleaf pine in South Carolina.
The money is going to private landowners as well as to work in the big Sand Hills State Forest in Chesterfield County. Hubright says contractors have applied herbicide to 900 acres in Sand Hills.
Private landowners have been able to sign up (and may do so until Thursday) for incentive payments for prescribed burning in longleaf pine stands and selective herbicide to control scrub oaks. In another, already allocated, component for private forest lands, the Forestry Commission pays three-fourths of the cost of preparation and planting longleaf pine.
Hubright estimates the $1.74 million will create about 17 jobs that will expire in May 2011. That may not sound like a lot of jobs, but the idea of the stimulus package is to help people get back on their feet. Hubright says a side benefit is that the stimulus grant has freed state money for other uses.
The Forestry Commission employs 350 to 380 people, including some seasonal firefighters and forest workers, according to spokesman Scott Hawkins.
Longleaf pine once thrived over a vast range of the United States from southeastern Virginia to eastern Texas. The longleaf now occupies less than 3 percent of this area, according to the Forestry Commission.
The Longleaf Restoration Initiative includes improving habitat for many species of wildlife, including the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker.
Prescribed burning is an important tool of forest management. American Indians used burning, Hubright says, as did foresters for generations when fire did not occur naturally.
Lewis Ocean Bay Heritage Preserve, where 65 acres of longleaf are being replanted after the April wildfire, is an example of how prescribed burning can reduce the risk of dangerous wildfires by burning off much of the flammable material such as dried pine needles. This reduces the fuel for a wildfire.
Prescribed burning also is used to control scrub oak and other hardwood in a stand of longleaf pine. "You could run a fire through there, and it would appear that all the young trees were destroyed, but the longleaf will survive," Hubright says.
In South Carolina, the longleaf's natural range covers 35 counties, including Georgetown and Horry, from the Atlantic coast inland to a line across the Upstate from McCormick to Newberry to Winnsboro to Lancaster.
Perhaps underappreciated is the fact that forestry is the state's No. 1 manufacturing industry, with 44,708 jobs, a payroll of $2.4 billion and a $17.45 billion impact on the S.C. economy, Hawkins says. Products include deodorant and disposable diapers, oil spill agents and toothpaste.
It may surprise many to know that 67 percent of the state's land area is forests. And two-thirds of S.C. forests are owned by private, non-industrial landowners. Industry owns 16.4 percent of S.C. forests and the public (including the U.S. Forest Service) owns 10.6 percent.
And our forests are growing; in 2006, South Carolina had 2 million more acres of forest than in 1936, the first time a forest inventory was taken.