Members of timber industry appeal to SC lawmakers - - Columbia, South Carolina |

Members of timber industry appeal to SC lawmakers

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Expecting to lose more than $360 million in damage from ice storms this winter, members of the South Carolina Forestry industry took several issues before the state legislature Wednesday.

Members of the South Carolina Tree Farm Committee and some of the state's tree farmers gathered at the State House Wednesday to present their requests. In addition to financial assistance for property owners who suffered losses from ice damage, the group also is asking for several issues to be addressed.

They want the state common law prohibiting liability of property owners for trespassers,  budget funding for the SC Forestry Commission, Clemson Public Service Activities and the SC Department of Natural Resources; infrastructure funding and industry representation on the Coordinating Council for Economic Development.

Retired Clemson Extension Forester and tree farmer Dr. George Kessler said the state has to improve bridges so trucks can transport timber and wood products.

"We have so many of them that are not up operating at the standards that we would like to have and for us to have a healthy economy, we need to have healthy bridges," he said.

"We have 413 bridges that have severe problems," said Kessler. "We have 849 that are structurally deficient. That you're talking about almost 1,300 bridges that need to have some work done on them to allow the industrial transportation to occur."

"What happens is that if a person's having timber harvested from their property, all of a sudden that landowner finds out 'Why am I getting such a low price?' And he finds out it's because there's no roads that are suitable leading to his land because of the deficient bridges."

Kessler said the group is asking legislators for financial assistance to recover from the ice storms earlier this year and reforest.  About 30,000 acres of timber forest were destroyed.

"What's happened here is the landowner has a product that's out there and it has a certain value," he said. "The ice storm comes along and it takes away the majority of that value.  They can still harvest the residue what they have out there, in some cases, they'll get some money for that, but not nearly what it's worth."

"That's just the initial impact," said Eric Smith with Kapstone Charleston Kraft, which purchases timber and wood products. "That's not to mention the future impact that will happen from stand degradation from quality issues, from some of those small trees that have been damaged as well.  There's about 30,000 acres that have completely been destroyed, so efforts need to be made to reforest those acres to ensure that we have adequate supply of timber for the future."

The group says forestry contributes $17 billion to the state economy annually, and is responsible for $4.1 billion in payroll to 90,000 jobs in South Carolina.

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