2014-03-12 / News

Timber damage stacks up

By Anne Marie Kyzer

Burke County’s timber stands were likely hit the hardest of any in the state, according to foresters who surveyed damage from the ice storm last month.

The Georgia Forestry Commission released an assessment of the damage after surveying the areas impacted the most. Of the 90 or so counties that had winter precipitation from the storm, the 20 counties in this part of east-central Georgia had the most damage, as indicated by field observations and geospatial analysis performed by foresters.

Overall, the GFC assessment showed that some 70,000 acres of pine trees, valued at more than $65 million, were impacted in that 20- county zone. That estimate was based on landowners intending to grow the trees for at least 30 years.

“It’s a devastating blow if you’re in the timber business,” GFC Chief of Forest Management James Johnson said. “It’s almost like the stock market crashing.”

Johnson says Burke County took the hardest hit, but Columbia, Jefferson and Richmond weren’t far behind. While hardwoods showed some limb damage and top breakage, pine stands suffered the most permanent damage. Of those, the majority of the damage was in stands that had just been thinned for the first time.

Some landowners in Burke County have already decided to clear cut their heavily damaged stands which may cut their losses.

Such is the case with some 1,250 acres of planted pines on the 7,800-acre Yuchi Wildlife Management Area in east Burke County. A decision was made to clear cut those acres after foresters from the GFC and Georgia Department of Natural Resources surveyed the trees, most of which had limb damage, severely bent trunks or complete breaks at the trunks.

“If no action is taken with the damaged pines, the area becomes open to infestation of pine beetles, the ability to prescribe burn is decreased, and the potential to make any economic recovery from the timber sale is lost,” a statement from DNR explained.

Many other landowners are still trying to determine what to do with their timber. Johnson encourages private landowners to look into cost-share programs administered through the Farm Service Agency that help with the cost of replanting.


The type of damage seen here is spread across a much larger area in South Carolina, where the State Forestry Commission is estimating some $360 million worth of damage to timber. The damage assessment released by the commission estimated that 1.5 million acres were impacted in 24 counties along a 70-mile swath across the state.


A Landowner Timber Assessment Workshop will be offered Tuesday, March 18 at 3 p.m. at the Southeast Georgia Research and Education Center near Midville. The workshop, coordinated by the Burke and Jefferson County Extension offices, will include presentations on disaster assistance, damage assessments and the potential for disease and insects to become a problem. UGA Extension, FSA and the GFC will present the program. For more information, call the Burke County Extension office at 706-554- 2119.

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