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Forest of trees

11 May . 2020

Healthy forest, healthy life: Meet Mac Baughman, Town Forester

Newkirk Environmental’s Mac Baughman knows a lot about the trees planted across Nexton’s 5,000 acres. That’s because he planted many of them himself.

Really.

Before it became the bustling new live, work, play hub of the Charleston region, Nexton was farmed for nearly 100 years for timber. See how most of the trees grow straight up, thin and tall? That doesn’t happen naturally. These trees were planted for a purpose, nourished and managed by a team of foresters for South Carolina’s timber, pulp, and paper mills. One of those foresters was Mac. Still is, it turns out.

Mac spent decades with Westvaco (as did his father before him), managing the Lowcountry’s pine plantations, helping maintain a healthy balance between the needs of the human population and the natural, and studying the areas’ wildlife populations. Fun fact: a certified wildlife biologist, Mac helped write the first state-wide Safe Harbor Program in the nation for the management of red-cockaded woodpeckers.

As Nexton’s town forester, Mac is continuing the work put in over the years but with a slight shift in the end result. He’s now managing land to-be-developed to make it healthier in the short and long term. We know what you’re thinking: why manage land that’s going to be developed? Lots of reasons:

  1. Thinning and managing the forests allows trees to increase in diameter and the crown to fill out. This creates a more park-like setting and allows sunlight to reach the forest floor, which makes all of Nexton’s inhabitants (birds, squirrels and humans) a little happier.

  2. Trees that are thriving are more likely to be strategically left when it comes time to develop that particular area. Unhealthy, spindly trees aren’t only unattractive – they’re susceptible to wind and floods. Healthy trees with large root systems are sturdier and take up more water from the soil, helping to mitigate water during hurricanes.

There are 1,000 acres of wetlands that will be preserved in perpetuity within Nexton. Much of this land is also pine plantation, and Mac’s job is to thin it over time to create a healthier, more diverse ecosystem.

Mac’s philosophy is pretty simple: “The way I see it, people need to coexist with nature. Through thoughtful planning and proper forest management, we’re able to have much more cohesive growth.”

Nexton’s forests are in the very best hands. Next time you’re out for a stroll, wander down the nearest path into the forest and admire Mac’s work – all 30 years of it (and counting).