The South Carolina Forestry Commission was established by law in 1927. At its inception, the agency had three charges – to protect the forest, to promote the benefits of forest management and to monitor the forests' condition. At that time, our forestland had been heavily cut-over and was eroding badly from poor farming practices. Today South Carolina’s forests provide the raw material for the state's forest products industry, the second-largest manufacturing industry sector in South Carolina.
How it began
Interest in the reforestation and protection of forest land in South Carolina began as early as 1787 when a law was passed that provided for the punishment of any person who willfully, maliciously or negligently caused fire to do damage to the property of another. Between 1787 and 1912 some 11 bills were passed concerned with forestry, largely dealing with the protection of the forest from fire. Increasing activities in lumber and naval stores directed the attention of thoughtful individuals to the quickly disappearing timber supply. The future of South Carolina’s forest resources were headed toward crisis when the General Assembly created the State Commission of Forestry on April 26, 1927.
The first organized forest fire control efforts were initiated in 1928 when groups of landowners in cooperation with the S.C. State Commission of Forestry formed five forest fire protection organizations for the control of woods fires on some 195,000 acres of woodland. These Forest Protective Associations, as they were known, grew in number and size until 1944 when 24 counties had organized fire protection organizations. In 1945 the General Assembly passed the South Carolina Forest Fire Protection Act which extended organized forest fire protection to every county in South Carolina – the first of any of the southeastern states to take such a step.
Paralleling the growth of forest fire protection, reforestation of cutover and idle land started demanding increased emphasis. Just two years after the Act creating the State Commission of Forestry, the General Assembly authorized the establishment of a state nursery to grow forest tree seedlings. The Commission was an early leader in the improvement of forest genetics. In 1961 South Carolina improved the quality of the seedlings by establishing seed orchards of superior trees through a cooperative Tree Improvement Program involving both state and industrial interests.
Farmers and other landowners began receiving direct assistance in managing their forest land in the winter of 1930-31 as a demonstration in Fairfield County. Proper thinning techniques, timber measurement and the use of equipment in the suppression of forest fires were demonstrated. Two years later such demonstrations were held in 33 counties in cooperation with the county agricultural agents. Such direct landowner assistance has grown and expanded to include individual forest land examinations.
Education has been a prime function in the fields of fire protection, reforestation, and forest management. In 1931 the forestry field was given an educational boost. Forestry was added as a study in Vocational Agriculture classes throughout the state. Today environmental educational programs such as Project Learning Tree (PLT) and Teaching Kids About the Environment (KATE) are increasing the understanding of the importance of our forests.
At present, the Forestry Commission has about 350 employees and is charged with protecting and enhancing South Carolina’s forest resources. Forest firefighters are based in every county for quick response to wildfires, and project foresters are available to assist landowners throughout the state. Three regional dispatch centers coordinate statewide forest protection. The Commission operates five state forests and a modern forest nursery that grows over 17 million containerized and bareroot seedling species for SC landowners. The Commission continues to provide a range of educational programs to better inform the state’s citizens concerning the wise use and management of South Carolina’s forest resources.
SCFC Agency Overview Video (YouTube)
A scrapbook of memorabilia from the SC Forestry Commission’s history from 1930s – 1970s.
A pictorial archive of South Carolina logging company engines.
A short history of the forest industry in South Carolina.
The significant wildfire events in South Carolina history chronology by year and by month.
A look at five of the most important wildfires in South Carolina history.