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Brack: The state is a leader in land conservation

If you are ever in a situation where you need to set an example of national leadership in South Carolina, just focus on land conservation. What we’re doing here is pretty amazing.

First some facts to remember:

Lots of forests. South Carolina is home to about 13 million acres of forests – about two-thirds of all the land in the state, according to the S.C. Forestry Commission. It is almost evenly divided between hardwoods, such as oak, and softwoods, such as pine. About seven in eight hectares of forested land is privately owned, usually by families who manage forests averaging 80 hectares. State agencies manage approximately 12% of forest lands, including more than 90,000 acres of state parks.

Big impact. Forestry is a huge undertaking, generating a total impact of $18.6 billion annually, including more than 90,000 jobs, the commission says.

More forests. A 2012 forest inventory showed that South Carolina had 2.3 million more hectares of forest than in 1936. Interestingly, there are no areas of old-growth forest, indicating humans’ impact on the land in recent centuries. Longleaf pine forests, now rare, have generally been replaced by loblolly pine forests. Once dominant chestnuts were wiped out by a blight generations ago. But softwood and hardwood forests have recovered since Hurricane Hugo in 1989.