The Lowcountry Forest Conservation Project was designed to encourage conservation forestry practices on South Carolina's lower coastal plain. The area has great ecological diversity and need for the type of protections afforded by conservation forestry. The project provided demonstrations of these practices and offered forest owners an estimate of the cost-effectiveness of the techniques. This article reports on a financial analysis of the three main practices: (1) the reintroduction of longleaf pine (Pinus palustris P. Miller) into areas that are now loblolly pine plantations (Pinus taeda L.), (2) more and better use of prescribed fire, and (3) bottomland hardwood management. Longleaf pine reintroduction was accomplished using partial clearcuts of existing pine plantations over several decades. Financial return was shown to be competitive with intensively-managed loblolly pine plantations. Pine straw production played a large role in increasing cash flows. Prescribed burning was shown to “pay for itself” in increased stumpage prices and reduced harvesting costs. A technique to better manage bottomland hardwoods for economic returns was discussed. Conservation forestry practices were shown to be economically-effective means to manage forests while benefiting wildlife, aesthetics, and other ecological values. These techniques can be used to analyze other practices and techniques that are used to protect natural areas. Often they can be shown to “pay their own way.”
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