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Longleaf Pine Initiative Showcase

WHIP Benefits Longleaf Pine Restorationred cockaded woodpecker

Once common in the vast expanses of mature pine forests that covered much of the southeastern coastal plain, the red-cockaded woodpecker is now a federally listed endangered species. Today, the birds' preferred habitat -- the longleaf pine ecosystem -- has been eliminated from 97 percent of the lands it once occupied.

During FY 2010, Florida NRCS was able to make great strides in helping private landowners sustain, enhance, and restore longleaf pine forests; mainly with funding provided through the Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program’s (WHIP) Southeastern Forestry Initiative and the Longleaf Pine Initiative.

plantedLL-sm.jpgIn all, Florida NRCS and our partner biologists at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) have worked together to address resource concerns associated with longleaf ecosystems on 7,660 acres throughout the historical range of this habitat. This conservation effort covers 20 counties in Florida. It will assist landowners in increased planting of longleaf pine on 2,900 acres over the next four years through 56 contracts totaling $760,607 in financial assistance. On acreage where longleaf pine existed but proper management was needed, planners assisted landowners to develop conservation plans and cost-share contracts to manage these pine stands with practices such as prescribed fire and brush management. These conservation measures will provide great wildlife benefits and increase the economic outlook for private foresters for years to come.

An example of the collaborative efforts in Florida is landowner Mike Grant who recently purchased land in Wakulla County for the purpose of retiring to Northwest Florida. After signing up for the WHIP program he met with NRCS and FWC representatives. Once he heard the advantages of being able to burn as early as the first year after planting, the improvement to wildlife habitat and the opportunity to restore an important native habitat, Mr. Grant decided to replant his site with a low stocking density of longleaf pine at 300 trees per acre and began a regular burn cycle. The advantage of his plan is that it promotes native groundcover while restoring longleaf pine to a site that was previously converted to a commercial plantation of loblolly pine.

Mr. Grant has now convinced a friend to plant longleaf on his tract of land at a low density and that landowner is now signed up for the 2011 WHIP program.