Longleaf Pine Ecosystem Restoration Project
In 2006, the Alabama Wildlife Federation and the National Wildlife Federation, recognizing their shared commitment to longleaf ecosystem restoration, developed and submitted a joint proposal to promote and deliver longleaf ecosystem restoration information and technical assistance to landowners in Alabama. In 2007, the proposal was funded through the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and Southern Company Longleaf Legacy program. By the end of the three year grant period, the partners had worked closely with landowners in Alabama to restore 3,000 acres of longleaf habitat.
In 2011, the partners were awarded another Longleaf Legacy grant to continue the program for another three years. Ryan Mitchell, AWF’s newest resource stewardship biologist, is responsible for implementing the project. Ryan is particularly suited for this project because of his academic training and work experience related to the longleaf pine ecosystem.
1. To re-establish at least 5,000 acres of longleaf pine across three priority regions by December 2013.
2. To stimulate private landowners who represent another 10,000 acres to take the necessary first steps to restore longleaf pine through such activities as developing a management plan, identifying and ordering seeds, converting from loblolly at the end of rotation, scheduling a prescribed burn, inventorying non-timber resources and sensitive habitats and attending longleaf workshops.
3. To provide landowners the resources and support in order to sustain their commitment to longleaf restoration once they have started, particularly in accessing cost share and grant funds.
This project is funded in part through a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) and the Southern Company’s Longleaf Legacy program.
Project Contact Information
If you are a landowner and you have an interest in restoring longleaf pine habitat on your property, contact Ryan Mitchell, AWB, Wildlife Biologist, Longleaf Pine Specialist at 334-285-4550 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
History of LongleafIn the historical landscape, the longleaf pine dominated the coastal plain from east Texas to southeastern Virginia and extended into the mountains of Alabama and northwest Georgia. Early accounts suggest that the longleaf pine was the dominant tree species on an estimated 60 million acres and occurred in mixed stands on another 30 million acres. Ecologists described the fire-maintained longleaf pine ecosystem as one of the most biologically diverse terrestrial ecosystems outside the tropics, supporting hundreds of plant and wildlife species. Early explorers described the longleaf forest as being a vast open savannah dominated by “long-needled pine” and a low-growing herbaceous understory. Frequent fires ignited by lightning and native Americans were responsible for the development and maintenance of the open forest structure and biological diversity.
Longleaf TodayIn the contemporary landscape, less than three million acres of the longleaf forest remain. This is a 97 percent decline from its historical range. The well documented decline has resulted from anthropogenic influences, such as forest clearing, plantation forestry, and urban development. Fire exclusion or infrequent fire regimes have contributed to the degradation of remaining forests. Longleaf pine and the plants and wildlife associated with the longleaf ecosystem are inextricably linked with fire. That is, fire allows the longleaf pine to thrive with little competition and is essential for maintaining a diverse plant and wildlife community. In the absence of frequent fire, rapid encroachment of shrubs and hardwoods occur. This limits natural regeneration of longleaf and causes a significant decline in biological diversity.
Ecosystem restoration, biological diversity conservation, and other similar paradigms are often poorly understood among landowners and land-users whose primary or only interest is game management. These paradigms are often associated with the recovery and conservation of imperiled wildlife species such as the red-cockaded woodpecker and gopher tortoise, while food plots, mineral supplements and the like are associated with game management. This narrow view of game management has negative consequences because it ignores the many values and functions of ecosystems. Ecosystem management and game management are not mutually exclusive; in fact, they are highly compatible.
AWF and NWF recognize the need for collaborative solutions to longleaf restoration, and that restoration efforts should be results driven. Consequently, there will be no generic set of recommendations for longleaf restoration and management. Instead, we will use a systematic planning approach that considers landowner goals and site conditions linked to constraints on what is possible to achieve the best possible results.