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SC Forestry Commission turns 90, plants tree

State Forestry Commission chief Gene Kodama speaks Wednesday. The commission is turning 90 years old.
State Forestry Commission chief Gene Kodama speaks Wednesday. The commission is turning 90 years old.

The state Forestry Commission turned 90 years old Wednesday and South Carolina officials celebrated the birthday by planting a tree on the State House grounds in Columbia.

Headquartered on Broad River Road, the commission oversees state forests across South Carolina, provides data on forest trends and acts as the lead agency responding to woods fires. The agency also works with landowners who harvest timber.

The forest industry has a $21 billion impact in South Carolina, the commission says. About 13 million of the state’s 20 million acres of land are covered in trees.

State officials, including Commerce Secretary Bobby Hitt, helped plant a pine tree on the north side of the State House grounds during Wednesday’s celebration.

Rep. Davey Hiott, R-Pickens, said he is impressed with the commission’s fire-fighting efforts. A fire burned for weeks at Pinnacle mountain near his home in Pickens County, but commission firefighters helped stop the blaze. Hiott chairs the House agriculture committee, which sees bills related to forest policies in South Carolina.

“Pickens County stands intact today because of what the Forestry Commission did on that mountain,’’ Hiott said. “We didn’t lose a single structure, very little damage.’’

Hiott said he would be a leading supporter at the State House to improve equipment needed by Forestry Commission firefighters.

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