Partnerships and Private Lands: The Key to Longleaf Ecosystem Restoration

Carol Denhof, Longleaf Alliance

The Longleaf Pine was once the dominant tree species in the south, covering over 90 million acres from Virginia to Texas. Over the last 400 years, the abundance of this species has decreased due to non-sustainable timber harvest, clearing of land for agriculture and development and exclusion of fire. As this ecosystem was diminished, many of its associated plants and animals have become federally threatened or endangered, state-listed or, at best, rare. At the low point in the 1990’s, it was estimated that less than 3 million acres remained. Today, because of the work of The Longleaf Alliance and our partner NGOs, state and federal agencies, and private landowners we are making progress, and now estimate the extent of the resource at 4.7 million acres. An increasing number of landowners that are restoring longleaf to their lands are becoming interested in using a whole ecosystem approach to longleaf restoration. In addition to the traditional interest in longleaf timber production, they have come to appreciate the value in managing forests that support plant and animal diversity as well as the overall health of the ecosystem. Having this diversity in place is essential to achieving their objectives as landowners. It also contributes to true restoration of the South’s great longleaf forest. With the majority of longleaf-suitable lands existing on private lands, the importance of engaging these landowners to support ecosystem restoration and conservation is more important than ever. It is also important to work in partnership with other groups to reach long-term restoration goals. The Longleaf Alliance is working in conjunction with other partners that are members of the Longleaf Partnership Council (LPC) to achieve the restoration goals established by America’s Longleaf Restoration Initiative. Restoration of the longleaf pine ecosystem and the species associated with it is a high priority for all 33 members of the LPC. The LPC has set an ambitious goal of increasing the acreage of longleaf pine to 8 million acres by 2025. Members include federal agencies including US Forest Service (USFS), US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Department of Defense, state agencies, NGO’s, and private landowners.