NEWS | Aug. 9, 2018

JB Charleston's Forestry Program recognized by the American Forest Foundation

By Terrence Larimer, Joint Base Charleston Natural Resources Manager 628th Civil Engineer Squadron

The American Forest Foundation has recognized the outstanding forest management work ongoing on JB Charleston’s 11,000 acres of forest lands. An in-depth inspection and review of the program found that it met the foundation’s “Standards of Sustainability for Forest Certification.” These standards are a set of guidelines designed to help woodland owners be effective stewards of forested lands. The standards are based on international sustainability metrics and North American guidelines for sustainable forest management and serve as the basis for an impartial, third-party certification of the program.

The eight standards are:

  1. Practicing Sustainable Forestry
  2. Compliance with Laws
  3. Timely Reforestation
  4. Air, Water and Soil Protection
  5. Fish and Wildlife Biodiversity and Forest Health
  6. Forest Aesthetics
  7. Protection of Special Sites
  8. Professionally Conducted Harvests and Other Activities

To be recognized, the landowner must adhere to a written forest management plan that meets or exceeds these standards. The base’s Integrated Natural Resources Management Plan governing forestry activities includes all required standards.

In 1989, Hurricane Hugo flattened (literally and figuratively) JB Charleston’s forestry program. In the aftermath of the hurricane, valuable timber was scattered like pick-ups sticks over thousands of acres on base and indeed over much of the Lowcountry. What remained was thousands of acres of young, naturally regenerated, loblolly pine seedlings and the smaller trees that didn’t blow over or snap off in the hurricane winds.

In the years after the storm, forest management activity was limited to small scale replanting, prescribed burning and limited salvage or clearing of trees in areas slated for development. Now, 29 years later, the surviving timber has reached a point where it is large enough to attract bids from private logging companies to thin forest stands for wood chips, pulpwood products and some larger “chip and saw” timber. These are “thinning” harvests where a percentage of the trees are removed, leaving most of the larger more robust trees in a healthier, more open, well-spaced forest stand.

The American Tree Farm System of managed woodlands on JB Charleston is now officially recognized as is a valuable asset to the Department of Defense’s forestry program. It is an USAF asset that is being actively worked to produce income in a sustainable and environmentally responsible manner.