Longleaf Pine Initiative in South Carolina
The longleaf pine ecosystem once covered approximately 90 million acres in the Southeastern United States. This unique ecosystem, shaped by thousands of years of natural fires that burned through every two to four years, has been reduced to fewer than two million acres, representing a 97 percent decline in this important ecosystem. Today, only scattered patches of the longleaf pine/wiregrass ecosystem occur, primarily in the coastal plains of the Carolinas, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, and Texas. About half of these surviving stands of longleaf pine exist on public lands. Factors contributing to the demise of this ecosystem include fire suppression efforts, clearing for agriculture and development, aggressive logging at the turn of the last century, and conversion to other pine types for faster growth and profits. Through theLongleaf Pine Initiative and other conservation partners are working with forestland owners in nine states, including here in South Carolina, to restore longleaf pine forests.
The initiative is enabling approved participants to receive financial assistance for implementing conservation practices including site preparation, planting longleaf pine, installing firebreaks, conducting prescribed burning, and controlling invasive plants. Contact your local Service Center for further guidelines and details of the program.
Longleaf Pine Video
Recently, students at the Boston University Center for Digital Imaging asked if they could use their digital animation skills to lend their support for longleaf pine. Working with NRCS staff, they created a 3D animation video that captures the beauty and ecological importance of longleaf pine forests.
Longleaf Ecosystem Restoration in South Carolina
NRCS is working with private forest landowners to protect, restore, and improve longleaf ecosystems in Bamberg and Barnwell Counties. With fifty-three contracts on nearly 2,700 acres, longleaf pines are intensively managed with conservation practices such as forest stand improvement, prescribed burning, mechanical understory control, native warm season grass species plantings, and tree establishment. Hundreds of acres of longleaf are being restored to viable fire-dependant systems.
One hundred and fifty acres of the longleaf restoration is located on three adjacent properties in the northwest portion of Bamberg County and near the Barnwell County line. Joe and Brenda Nettles restored 62 acres of longleaf pine by establishing native warm season grasses and forbs between rows of tree seedlings. Native warm season grass species and forbs species provide spring nesting habitat and winter cover for songbirds, bedding for deer, and food and cover for bobwhite quail and wild turkey. Partridge pea, black-eyed Susan, maximillian sunflower, and Florida beggar lice provide seeds for food and attract insects. Little bluestem, Indian grass, and switch grass provide important nesting habitat. All these species are excellent fuels for carrying fire to enhance the system, and the forbs provide excellent pollinator habitat.
Johney Haralson, an adjacent landowner, restored and improved almost 90 acres of longleaf with wildlife food plot establishment, prescribed fire, and mechanical thinning. Prescribed fire and mechanical thinning increase the overall diversity of vegetation and improve tree health and promote vigorous growth, making the trees more resilient to bark beetle attacks. Haralson also removed undesirable hardwood understory to restore the site back to the natural conditions (fire tolerant and dependant species) of an 85 year old longleaf pine stand, thus improving plant diversity and wildlife habitat.
Other benefits of longleaf restoration include improved soil and water quality, wildlife habitat and diversity, improved carbon sequestration, and enhanced recreational opportunities and aesthetics. Wilfred Pace, Bamberg/Barnwell County NRCS Supervisory District Conservationist, and David Findley, SC NRCS Grassland and Forestry Specialist, worked closely with these stewards of the land. “These conservation minded landowners are doing their part to improve their natural resources and ensuring that the land and natural resources are healthy for generations to come,” said Pace.
South Carolina is one of nine southeast states included in the longleaf initiative. The following map displays the priority areas for the Longleaf Pine Initiative in South Carolina. The priority areas are also the counties available for funding.
Click Here for Larger Map
National Longleaf Pine Initiative (LLPI) website
Longleaf Initiative Fact Sheet (PDF; 1.4MB)
Longleaf Pine Ranking Sheet (PDF; 30 KB)
South Carolina Program Contact
Contact your local USDA-NRCS Service Center or
Shaun Worley, Program Specialist, 803-253-3512