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Interest in National Longleaf Pine Initiative Continues to Grow

story by Beverly  Moseley

USDA and Tribal staff inspect the progress of longleaf pine seedlings planted in 2013.Participation by landowners in the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) national Longleaf Pine Initiative continues to grow in the historic longleaf pine range of southeast Texas.

“In 2013, we saw an increase in the number of contracts, acres, and Farm Bill program dollars obligated for reforestation or enhancement of longleaf pines,” says Mary Webb-Marek, NRCS forester based in Bryan.

This initiative provides an opportunity for landowners to take advantage of the benefits associated with this ecologically important species. NRCS financial assistance also has a higher payment rate for longleaf pine restoration and management through this initiative versus other pine species, such as loblolly.

Native American tribes, such as the Alabama Coushatta-Tribe of Texas, have utilized funding through the national initiative to restore longleaf pine forests to the Tribe’s reservation lands. This effort will have long term positive benefits for the Tribe by providing aesthetic and recreational value to the reservation, providing economic benefits through high-quality lumber and forest products, and restoring cultural economic opportunities via their traditional baskets that are handmade from the pine’s needles.

A young longleaf pine seedling grows on the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas reservation.“Between the longleaf pine’s role in ecosystem diversity, resilience to storm and fire damage, and its cultural and commercial economic value, it is an ideal species for landowners who are stewardship-minded,” Marek says.

Longleaf pine’s historic range includes Texas, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia. These pine trees once covered 90 million acres across these nine states. Today, an estimated 3 percent of those forests remain.

“We are fortunate to have portions of southeast Texas within the longleaf pine’s native range and as more landowners implement restoration efforts, we will be able to continue making an impact on the landscape for the benefit of future generations,” says Marek.

For more information on the national Longleaf Pine Initiative visit www.tx.nrcs.usda.gov.