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longleaf pine initiative

Restoring Longleaf Forests Helps Bobwhite, Other Species Rebound at Florida Research Station

Once a plantation and popular hunting spot, the Tall Timbers Plantation Research Station and Land Conservancy in Tallahassee, Florida, is home to healthy longleaf forests that are filled with a variety of wildlife, including the Northern bobwhite, a type of quail.

When the plantation’s owner, Henry Beadel, died, he willed the land and resources to create a special nature preserve to study the effects of fire on bobwhites, turkeys and other wildlife. As set out in Beadel’s will, strides have been made in re-establishing the longleaf pine ecosystem – one of the most endangered ecosystems in North America.

Gopher Tortoise Habitats Thrive along Alabama's Gulf Coast

Longleaf pine forests once dominated the Southeast. But over the past two centuries, many of these forests have disappeared along with the wildlife that called them home. Recent efforts to enhance longleaf forests on private lands are helping the ecosystem rebound as well as wildlife like the gopher tortoise.

The gopher tortoise is a keystone species of the longleaf forest, known for their deep burrows that provide vital habitat and shelter for not only itself but many other species. The gopher tortoise is listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in the western part of the longleaf range, including parts of Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.

Longleaf Pines Flourish on an East Texas Ranch

In deep East Texas, pine trees are king. Towering pines line the roads and blanket the rolling countryside and national forests. Loblolly and slash pine dominate the landscape in contrast to the area’s historic longleaf pine trees that once reigned.

The reduced number of longleaf pines has not gone unnoticed by landowners and conservationists. In response to the striking loss of longleaf pine trees from Texas to Florida, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) launched the national Longleaf Pine Initiative, which provides technical and financial assistance for conservation practices that help restore longleaf pine forests and enhance existing pine stands.

Conservation Efforts Help Protect Longleaf Forests for Future Generations

I have a few decorative items on my desk at work, and some of those are longleaf pine cones. Even though I only learned of the rare longleaf pine forest – and the large pine cones that fall in them each year – a few years ago, it was love at first sight.

Longleaf pine forests once covered the coastal landscape of the Southeast, and they’re home to nearly 600 plant and animal species.

But over the past two centuries, development, timbering and fire suppression reduced the longleaf's range by almost 97 percent. And many groups, including USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), are working to save and restore this landscape. According to the America’s Longleaf Restoration Initiative, longleaf forests have increased from about 3 million acres to about 4.4 million acres in recent years, reversing a century-long decline across the region.

Partnering in Virginia to Restore an Important Southern Ecosystem

Like the mythical phoenix, the very real longleaf pine is rising from the ashes of near-extinction to reclaim its native range in Virginia with the help of committed partners and landowners like Bill Owen.

A musician by profession, Owen is a conservationist at heart who still lives in the family home in Yale, Va. By working with a team of six agencies, including USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, he hopes to realize his dream of planting 1,000 contiguous acres of longleaf pine in his lifetime.