Francis Marion National Forest's special connection to 'The Lorax'

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Children have read the Dr. Seuss book The Lorax for decades and moviegoers are packing theaters to see the film version.  But did you know there is a real Lorax forest right here in the Lowcountry?

The only one in the United States is fairly easy to find. There's a sign just off Highway 41 in Berkeley County. Young readers for decades have heard the message of a furry creature, the Lorax, sounding the call of conservation.

That message comes to life in the real Lorax forest. A small section of the Francis Marion National Forest was planted in part with funds from the Lorax project, a conservation effort that grew from the Dr. Seuss book The Lorax, first published about forty years ago.

"The forest service received about $28,000 to restore long leaf pine in the Francis Marion forest. About 600 acres were restored in 1998 and 1999," said wildlife biologist Mark Danaher.

With Lorax funds, the endangered red cockaded woodpecker and other species were given new life. The living lesson leaps from the pages of the book and off the movie screen. The Lorax preaches that by cutting down our trees, we could wipe out living creatures and the forests where they live.

But destructive human practices aren't the only danger to a forest. Mother nature is as well. Back in 1989 when Hurricane Hugo came through, it destroyed 37,000 acres of the Francis Marion National Forest.

Today, the long leaf pine is one of the most endangered forest ecosystems in the U.S.

The endangered red cockaded woodpecker makes its home in long leaf pines. The problem is that pine grows slowly. So after Hurricane Hugo, researchers came up with a man made solution.

"It's amazing. The birds will start using the artificial inserts within days or weeks after we put it in," Danaher said.

Danaher says with the habitat restored, the woodpeckers are making a comeback.

"The Lorax offers a good message of restoration, hope, recovery and renewal," Danaher said.

It's a living lesson that the furry Lorax began preaching some four decades ago.

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