(Myrtle Beach, SC) The forestry community has recognized three South Carolina legislators for their dedication to the state’s number-one manufacturing industry.
State Forester Gene Kodama presented Sen. Luke Rankin of Horry County and Rep. Ted Vick of Chesterfield County with the Forestry Commission’s Challenge Coin and a certificate of appreciation. Kodama was joined by industry leaders, during the annual meeting of the SC Timber Producers Association. President Crad Jaynes and board chairman Danny McKittrick joined the South Carolina Forestry Association and the state Forestry Commission in recognizing these two legislators who have been particularly helpful to forestry.
“Both of them personally came to the Hwy 31 wildfire at Myrtle Beach in 2009 to check on the community and offer their assistance, along with Representatives Tracy Edge and Alan Clemmons. Representative Vick came in his National Guard uniform and helped get Blackhawk helicopters on-site to drop almost a million gallons of water on the fire,” says Kodama, who, as State Forester, heads up the Forestry Commission, a state agency.
Rep. Edge was also awarded the coin in a separate ceremony recently.
Last year, Representatives Vick and Edge introduced House Bill 4082 that is currently in the House Ways and Means Committee for consideration. The bill would generate more than $8 million annually which the Commission would use to replace lost firefighting capacity. State budget cuts have diminished the ranks of wildland firefighters and have slowed the acquisition of equipment in recent years. H 4082, Kodama says, would correct this trend and restore his agency’s ability for forest resource development. The bill still needs House co-sponsors and passage and a Senate companion bill.
“It’s an honor to be recognized in this way by the forestry Community,” says Sen. Rankin. “Forestry is a major economic driver in our state when you consider it has a $17.4 billion impact on our economy. During the Highway 31 Fire, two Commission firefighters had to deploy their personal fire shelters when their tractors bogged down and the fire burned over them. We need to make sure our wildland firefighters have equipment that is capable of keeping them safe and out of harm’s way.”
Representative Vick echoes the Senator’s views on keeping the Commission well equipped, in part to keep forest industry vibrant.
“The forest industry is the largest industry in the state and should be treated as such. It’s an honor to receive this award. I will continue to push for legislation to promote this industry and allow it to purchase fire fighting equipment that protects our homes and forests and sets aside millions for economic development by bringing value added industries to our state,” Vick says.
“Sen. Rankin and Reps. Vick and Edge are outstanding advocates for forestry and the wood and paper products industry. They’re both very deserving of recognition by the forestry community and the Commission’s Challenge Coin for their tireless efforts to promote forestry in South Carolina,” says Cam Crawford of the South Carolina Forestry Association, an advocacy group for forest industry in the state.
The idea of a Challenge Coin Award for excellence in mission accomplishment grew out of interactions with military personnel during the Commission’s military appreciation hunting program. Challenge coin programs are common in the military. Commission personnel have received several such coins from soldiers who have participated in the military hunts as a “thank you” for supporting the soldiers and their families.
The Forestry Commission coins are purchased with funding from a USDA Forest Service grant established to promote forestry.