At the beginning of the 17th century, an estimated 90 million acres of longleaf pine forests existed across the Southeast. But, however, only 3.4 million acres remain. Deforestation and urbanization have threatened this ecosystem, which is home to 100 bird species, 36 mammal species and 72 species of reptiles and amphibians. As these forests have declined, they have placed many of this wildlife in precarious positions, including many of them being classified as endangered or threatened species.
Through its conservation efforts, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is focusing its efforts to help forest landowners more effectively conserve the longleaf pine ecosystem. The Longleaf Pine Initiative (LLPI) uses several NRCS programs to address the priority resources concerns of the longleaf pine ecosystem. These programs include the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) and the Healthy Forests Reserve Program (HFRP).
States involved in the initiative include Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia.
Landowners in Mississippi have realized the economic value of a pole size longleaf pine stand. The price the landowners are receiving for their high-quality, straight-grained dimensional lumber and their long straight poles and pilings is attracting more people to plant longleaf pines. Timber buyers recognize the quality of these trees and are paying top prices for the products.
Recent nursery and silvicultural improvements have improved the quality of longleaf seedlings and reduced the amount of time it takes to get