Longleaf pine forests once encompassed more than 90 million acres across the Southeast, stretching from eastern Texas to southern Virginia. These forests represent some of the world’s most biologically diverse ecosystems and are home to nearly 600 plant and animal species, including 29 threatened and endangered species. But over the past two centuries, development, timbering and fire suppression reduced the ecosystem’s range by almost 97 percent.
NRCS works with agricultural producers and conservation partners to restore longleaf forests through the Longleaf Pine Initiative (LLPI), which was launched in 2010. From 2010 to 2014, NRCS has helped producers restore more than 260,000 acres on private land. Together with other conservation efforts, the amount of healthy longleaf forests has grown from 3 million acres to more than 4 million acres during that time period, reversing a century-long decline across the region.
How Does LLPI Work?
Through LLPI, NRCS works with producers on private lands in nine states to improve the sustainability and profitability of longleaf pine forest ecosystems. NRCS provides technical and financial assistance to producers, helping them implement a variety of conservation practices. These practices enable landowners to improve forests, use prescribed burning and plant trees.
LLPI targets efforts in priority counties because of their value in connecting existing longleaf landscapes, providing better habitat and generating more environmental benefits, like cleaner air and water, because of the forests’ larger footprints. These are usually located in the vicinity of a military installation, a national forest, national wildlife refuge, state forest or heritage reserve.
How Does LLPI Benefit Producers?
LLPI enables producers to make conservation improvements on their forestlands with NRCS providing technical and financial help. A healthier longleaf pine forest translates into more valuable timber and wildlife habitat and a more efficient operation through the use of forest management and prescribed burning systems.
How Does LLPI Benefit the Public?
LLPI helps increase the number of longleaf pine forests across the region, helping regenerate this unique ecosystem. Longleaf forests provide ample recreational opportunities. Many wildlife species like the gopher tortoise, listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in part of its range, depend on these forests for habitat. Additionally, healthier forests lead to other natural resource benefits, such as cleaner water and air and healthier soil.
NRCS’ longleaf conservation efforts support those of the American Longleaf Restoration Initiative (ALRI), a collaborative effort that actively supports range-wide efforts to restore and conserve longleaf pine ecosystems. ALRI includes NRCS and its partners like the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Longleaf Alliance, The Nature Conservancy, U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and others.
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