Ryan Bean has his sights set on turning three acres of land at Clemson’s Sandhill Research and Education Center in Northeast Columbia into an educational opportunity for South Carolina landowners.
Restoration of longleaf pine trees is important for enhancing the South Carolina landscape, according to Bean, a Clemson Extension and Forestry Natural Resources agent. “At one time, South Carolina had 7.6 million acres of longleaf pines,” he said. “That figure has decreased, and today the state has just 569,646 acres.”
The Sandhill REC plot once was home to pecan trees used for research. Knowing the pecan tree research was no longer ongoing, Bean proposed a new plan for the site. “This is a great piece of land, perfect for a forestry education site,” Bean said. “It will be a place where landowners can come and see firsthand how different planting techniques work. They can use this information when planting trees on their own properties.”
The longleaf pine ecosystem once covered more than 90 million acres across the Southeast, Bean said. Today there is only a fraction of that left due to land clearing, mostly for agriculture. Bean said the longleaf pine ecosystem is home to about 100 bird species, 36 mammal species, and 170 species of reptiles and amphibians. In addition, 29 species associated with longleaf pine forests, such as the red-cockaded woodpecker, are listed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as threatened or endangered.
“There is a huge push to restore this ecosystem,” said Bean.
Bean said he loves working outside and helping people achieve their goals, noting he’d “go crazy” if he had to sit at a desk or in a cubicle for a job.
“I field many questions regarding tree planting and proper care for timber stands,” he said. “It will be nice for forestry and natural resource agents to be able to show landowners and others their options for planting and management practices using this demonstration site.”
Bean also will use the demonstration plot to collect data and reference information specifically for South Carolina.
“Our goal as Clemson Extension agents is to bring information and education to the people of South Carolina,” Bean said. “This demonstration plot will be an excellent way to collect local data, as well as educate people about the proper way to plant and maintain longleaf pine trees here in South Carolina.”