Williamsburg County tops timber damage costs

  • Monday, March 10, 2014

Three-year-old Josh Holt plays near splintered and broken pines after the 2014 ice storm. Josh's father Ron Holt is a Forester for the South Carolina Forestry Commission and was one of thousands of landowners whose property was devastated from the storm. Photo provided.

A Forest Disaster Declaration issued by State Forester Henry E. Kodama shows Williamsburg County ranks the highest in value of timber damage. The South Carolina Forestry Commission survey of 24 counties 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 in the surveyed area are estimated to be more than $360 million on 1.5 million acres of forestland. Timber damage in Williamsburg County is estimated at $33,388,074. Williamsburg County also ranked the highest in total acres damaged at 143,141 acres.

Forester Ron Holt being was one landowner that will feel the financial effects of the devastation for years to come. "It's just like many landowners, the timber that we have is supposed to help out," said Holt who is also in the middle of conducting ice assessment damage. "That can put a pretty good dent the a savings plan or college fund. I'm sure that's for a lot of folks." Holt, who lives in the Turkey Creek area of Cedar Swamp said the damage is patchy and explained the reasoning behind it. "For example, any trees that were thinned out in the last year, year and a half, haven't put on the diameter growth yet to make them stronger," said Holt. "They're still spindly and are used to leaning on other trees for support." Williamsburg County contains 597,760 acres of land - 409,310 acres of forestland.

A February ice storm caused damage mostly to pulpwood size trees between 15 to 25 years of age, which is the type of trees that are in least supply thus compounding an already challenging timber supply issue. Kodama said other unmeasured costs include growth loss due to tree canopy damage and reduced residual tree value due to stem damage. "The raw material supply chain for our state's largest manufacturing sector has suffered from this natural disaster," said Kodama. "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. However, Kodama said on the positive side, the state still has the most wood ever recorded due to an abundance of larger sawtimber size trees.

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 shortly before the declaration.

Kodama said 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.

Kodama said landowners with damage are encouraged to contact a registered forester immediately to assess their situation and begin the recovery process as needed. "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."

Landowners in Williamsburg County can contact forester Ron Holt at (843) 382-8761. A list of private consulting foresters is available on the commission's website at www.state.sc.us/forest/consult.htm.

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