Speak for the Trees: Forest Stewardship

March 16th, 2021
By Caitlyn Smith Gendusa

Hunting brings people and land together. Forestland can conjure memories of taking grandkids on their first hunting trip or watching the forest mature as animals make their home amongst the canopy. It’s clear: forestland is vital to retain the Upstate’s rich landscapes and traditions.

Similarly, timber production is often incorporated on hunting land to provide not only outdoor recreation, but also economic incentives. Timber harvesting is an important land use strategy that enables landowners to retain property ownership while providing economic incentives to improve forest health. In South Carolina alone, the forestry industry generates $876 million a year, making timber the largest harvested crop in the state.

A healthy forest is critical for deer and other hunting game populations to flourish, as well as ensuring timber production grows at a sustainable rate. Forests provide important habitat for wildlife, help to clean our air and water, offer scenic beauty, and provide a place for people to unwind and recreate.

It is no wonder that conservation easements held by Upstate Forever contain provisions to protect forests and trees. If you own land that has forested areas or trees, make sure to check the provisions of your conservation easement before cutting or clearing any trees. There are likely special restrictions around water bodies and only limited situations where tree removal can occur without first seeking approval from Upstate Forever. For properties that allow timber harvesting, a detailed forest management plan (FMP) that satisfies specific requirements is usually required.

However, for those looking to improve forest health and wildlife habitat while harvesting timber, there is an alternative program known as the Forest Stewardship Program (FSP). Administered in South Carolina by the SC Forestry Commission (SCFC), the FSP provides landowners with a free customized forest stewardship management plan based on the landowner’s goals for their property. For example, if a property is being used for hunting, a forest stewardship plan can be created to include a landowner’s goal of “habitat management for hunting opportunities.”

Other possible goals listed on the SCFC application include cultural/historic preservation, biodiversity, recreation, forest health, soil and water conservation, maintaining a scenic forest, and timber management. The program is available to landowners with at least 10 acres of private, non-industrial forestland.

To see if you qualify for the program and for more information, visit the SC Forestry Commission’s website: state.sc.us/forest/

Caitlyn Gendusa is a Land Conservation Stewardship at Upstate Forever. She can be contacted at cgendusa@upstateforever.org.

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