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How The Forest Industry Protects South Carolina

Monday, September 21, 2020 11:35 AM | Elizabeth Kress (Administrator)

In a conversation with a California friend, she said that the fires were caused because Californians did not rake up around their trees or cut up their dead trees.  She was being sarcastic, of course, since most of the forests are federal lands (57%) and the scale is much greater than what individuals can clean up and rake up on their own private property. How do you clean up forests which cover 31.6 million acres? 

The state of South Carolina is a much different case from California, in that our forests are more managed. Our own dry season results in wildfires which are more easily controlled. California’s hot dry season (and getting hotter) results in catastrophic wildfires over large areas.  We do have our forests - 13 million acres of them, which cover 67% of our state’s area compared to California’s 32% area coverage.  More than just the forests, we have good markets for our trees and our forest products. How does that help us?

The SC Forestry Commission (SCFC) keeps a good eye on the forest industry in our state. Their Forest Products Mill Directory and Maps show detailed lists and locations for all wood and paper-related manufacturing operations in the state. They have a real understanding of how wood and its many products are used and renewed in South Carolina. Having markets for wood provides income for the landowner, and the SCFC offers lots of good information on how to manage forest lands. The result is that our forests are healthy and well-managed for multiple purposes: recreation, the environment, and consistent income to the owner. 

The South Carolina Biomass Council has members who are engaged in forest products. Some members make electricity and/or process heat from wood or make wood pellets as a fuel for energy production. These markets for low-value wood serve to clean up our forests. We don’t have to “rake our forest floor” because in SC good management of public and private forests provides much of that service.

Forest2Market recently published some statistics about the lost value of California’s wood. You can read the full article here. The last 30 days of wildfires could have produced electricity to generate 5,000 GigaWatts running for an entire year, which could have powered California for 62 years at its current use.  The total US electricity generating capacity is only 1,100 GigaWatts.

Now we are not saying that all California’s dead trees should be burned for electricity. We are saying that a there is a place for wood use to produce energy in a balanced system of trees and forest industry.

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