A whistleblower sent the News 2 I-Team pictures of seed bought for the Francis Marion National Forest last year that was never sown. The seed, worth thousands of dollars, had been picked through by birds and rodents and had long missed its germination period.
“This shows us tax money and hunter license fees aren’t making it to the ground,” David Strickland, founder of Carolina Wildlife Syndicate, told the I-Team. He obtained the pictures this week and a member of his group shared them with News 2.
“It represents a lack of communication and a lack of efficiency and organization within an agency handling a very valuable resource,” Strickland said Thursday.
Since the I-Team took the pictures to DNR and the Forest Service, the seeds have been repacked in plastic trash bags, and the Forest Service spokesman said teams are working on a plan to sow them this year.
In total, 150 bags of seed were bought in 2016. Of those, 93 are now considered compromised. The bags are valued at $22 each.
“This is really important to us, and we are glad it was brought to our attention,” Pamela Baltimore, spokesperson for the Forest Service, told News 2 after we shared the pictures with her.
The seed was bought late in the season with funds DNR allocates to the Forest Service. In 2016 the seed was bought late in the year, and the approval process slowed down shipping the seed to the forest. Once seed was received, staff didn’t have enough time to sow them because it was very late in the planting season, she explained.
“We are conscience some was wasted, but we are going to salvage as much as we can,” Ranger Warren Tucker explained. “We are going to do the best we can to not let this happen again.”
Tucker says his team is looking at alternative storage options. He also said staff will sift the seed to see what can be saved.
A spokesperson for DNR said the agency bought their own seed and sowed that in the forest early this year.
The seed is used in what’s called food plots. The seed feeds wildlife in the forest.