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New Farm Bill Program to Help Protect Longleaf's Legacy for Future Generations

Posted by Robert Bonnie, Under Secretary, Natural Resources and Environment in Conservation
Feb 06, 2015
Longleaf Pine forest (photo by William D. Boyer, U.S. Forest Service)
Longleaf Pine forest (photo by William D. Boyer, U.S. Forest Service)

As a kid, I spent Christmas vacations with my family and my grandfather in the longleaf pine forests of South Carolina.  While my grandfather and father (and later me) were quail hunters, you don’t have to be a sportsman or a sportswoman to appreciate longleaf pine.  Longleaf forests are home to countless wildlife species, a diversity of plants, and provide valuable wood products, such as heart-pine floors that are cherished across the South.  Longleaf forests once covered some 90 million acres along the Southeast coastal plain, but over the past two centuries, development, conversion, ill-planned timbering, and fire suppression have reduced longleaf’s range to a mere sliver of its former extent.

USDA and our many conservation partners are working to restore longleaf forests, and we’ve seen significant progress in the recent years. Now, a new Farm Bill program, the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, or RCPP, is providing additional support to the effort.

RCPP puts our partners – landowners, conservation organizations, states and others -- in the driver’s seat by allowing them to develop projects that utilize USDA dollars to leverage additional support for conservation. Some of RCPP’s funding is dedicated to priority landscapes, or what we call critical conservation areas. The Longleaf Pine Range is one of those areas.

Last month, we unveiled more than 100 projects funded by RCPP, some of which will help restore longleaf pine forests and address other resource needs in the Southeast. When we announced the recipients, I visited Forsyth, Georgia, to meet with some of the organizations who will help us usher in this new era of conservation.

In one project, USDA will work with U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities, U.S. Department of Defense and others to restore and protect forests around military installations in Georgia, Florida, Louisiana and South Carolina.

This project – called the “Securing Private Working Forests to Benefit Longleaf Pine, Threatened and Endangered Species, and Military Readiness” – will restore 20,000 acres of longleaf near as many as 10 military installations through the purchase of conservation easements. The project will enhance longleaf forests while also increasing the forested buffer around military bases. Longleaf forests produce valuable products, such as high quality wood and pulpwood for paper, that are important to rural communities. Also, these forests are home to many rare species, and by restoring the habitat on which they depend, their populations will grow.

At the core of RCPP is empowering local people and organizations to design and deliver solutions that benefit natural resources where they live and work. This project brings together more than 30 groups, including land trusts, management districts, nonprofits and government agencies.

RCPP also leverages additional resources to expand the reach of private lands conservation efforts.  In the round of projects just announced, USDA is providing more than $370 million to 100-plus projects in all 50 states which will be matched by at least $400 million in partner contributions. As part of the US Endowment’s four-state project, the Department of Defense will match USDA’s funds.

As Peter Stangel, senior vice president for the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities, said: “Funds from our RCPP award will be used to protect some of the most important working forests in the Southeast.”

Peter’s right. These forests are critical in the Southeast, in their ability to provide much needed wildlife habitat for at-risk wildlife, a good source of sturdy timber and other wood products and a buffer for our military installations. I’m proud that our newest Farm Bill conservation program is working to protect the longleaf forest that my grandfather cherished and that future generations will also cherish.

Learn more about the Regional Conservation Partnership Program and other USDA efforts to restore longleaf pine forests. To get started with NRCS, visit your local USDA Service Center or www.nrcs.usda.gov/GetStarted.

Longleaf pine forest ecosystems are heavily dependent on controlled burns to maintain ecosystem health and vitality. (Photo: William D. Boyer, U.S. Forest Service)
Longleaf pine forest ecosystems are heavily dependent on controlled burns to maintain ecosystem health and vitality. (Photo: William D. Boyer, U.S. Forest Service)
Category/Topic: Conservation

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Comments

Sultan Barq
Feb 07, 2015

How can farm bill 2015 & Global Pollution Control can be clubbed? I am a farmer from Pakistan and plant trees on my land as well as along the roads, highways and Motorways to ensure pollution free Roads. I did my Engineering in Environment from GWU and work in Pakistan. Pl advise

Josh Wilson
Feb 07, 2015

It is sad to see the federal government's say's there " belief is that
Government’s role is to do collectively what no one of us can do for ourselves." - this is a camouflaged way of taking away the community's right to operate food sovereignty with out ever telling people OR encouraging the community's to learn to feed them self's. this kind of assumption is VERY dangerous. Maybe the fed's should try and use there media powers to give direction to the public and not to hide and manipulate the public

Ben Weaver
Feb 09, 2015

@Sultan - thanks for your comment. USDA offers technical and financial assistance through Farm Bill conservation programs to private landowners who want to implement conservation practices that help clean air and water. For example, USDA helps landowners restore wetlands, which absorb greenhouse gases and filter pollutants. Learn more about available assistance at <a href="http://nrcs.usda.gov/GetStarted&quot; rel="nofollow">nrcs.usda.gov/GetStarted</a>.

Josh Wilson
Feb 16, 2015

Ben [USDA Moderator] Please reply! I would love to know (above commit)