Sand Hills State Forest consists of primarily "fall line" xeric sandhills of mostly Lakeland soils bisected by small blackwater streams and stream heads with some small, scattered artificial ponds. Upland sites are vegetated primarily by second or third growth longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) with a "scrub oak" (Quercus laevis, Q. marilandice, Q. incana, Q. margaretta) understory. Wetlands consist primarily of relatively narrow, hardwood stream margins consisting of red maple, swamp tupelo (Nyssa biflora) and yellow poplar (Lircodendron tulipfera) in the overstory with an ericaceous understory of gallberry (Ilex coriacea), smilax, lyonia, titi (Cyrilla), clethera and others.
The area has a history of land abuse including exploitation of longleaf pine for naval stores and lumber, site conversion to non-native (i.e. off-site) species, primarily 16,000 acres of planted slash pine and poor agricultural practices. However, within the past 15 years, the (South Carolina Forestry Commission) SCFC has converted all slash pine sites back to longleaf, has undertaken an aggressive management program to recover Red-cockaded Woodpeckers (RCW), that occur in relict pine stands, and initiated hardwood control (at RCW sites) through controlled burning and cutting.
Designed as a demonstration/recreational forest, this large "working forest" produces goods and services of benefit to society and also provides current and future habitat for an expanding Red-cockaded Woodpecker population.
Loggerhead Shrike, Prairie Warbler, Kentucky Warbler, Prothonotary Warbler and Wood Thrush and state listed Southeastern Kestrel. Thirdly, it qualifies for species assemblage associated with a representataive, rare or threatened habitat type: longleaf pine ecosystem.
The most serious threat to habitat at Sand Hills SF is forest fragmentation. Current boundaries and ownership lines have resluted in a fragmented forest that could limit future expansion of the Red-cockaded Woodpecker population. Primary threats are recreational development/overuse and residential/commercial development. Off-road vehicles, horse trails and field trials are the primary culprits. Forest inholdings are also a threat. Succession, caused by a lack of burning, will impact the longleaf pine ecosystem, especially the Red-cockaded Woodpecker.
An active acquisition/land trade program could help consolidate and adjust current boundaries in order to reduce fragmentation effects.
Sandhills State Forest is owned by the State of SC and managed by the SC Forest Commission.
Sandhills State Forest is primarily longleaf pine/scrub oak with scattered bottomland hardwood drains. A previous history of soil disturbance has eliminated much of the native ground cover, especially wiregrass, but recent restoration efforts have resulted in some gains for native grasses. Small blackwater streams and small artificial ponds retain water year-round.
Sandhills pixie moss (Pyxidanthera), federally endangered, occurs at two unusual geologic formations: Sugar Loaf Mountain and Horseshoe Mountain. Several carnivorous plant species: pitcher plants and sundews occur at scattered hillside drainages. The Pine Barrens Treefrog, of state concern, occurs at scattered seepage bogs and pocosins. The Atlantic white cedar, an uncommon community type is found in some stream drainages.
Sandhills State Forest is primarily used for forestry and wildlife conservation. Secondarily it is used for recreation and hunting.