Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Longleaf Pine Conservation And Restoration In Alabama Gets Boost With NRCS Funding

By Andrew Schock, Alabama & Georgia State Director, The Conservation Fund

"The USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has awarded $5.1 million through its Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) to The Conservation Fund for its partnership efforts to protect and restore longleaf pine on private lands in the Gulf Coastal Plain of lower Alabama. We appreciate the leadership and support of Alabama's U.S. Congressional delegation—Senators Jeff Sessions and Richard Shelby and Representative Bradley Byrne—for this RCPP funding.

"Known as the Coastal Headwaters Forests Partnership, partners include The Conservation Fund, Resource Management Service LLC, The Longleaf Alliance and twelve other local and national partners. The grant will provide funds for partner outreach on longleaf pine conservation and for private timber landowners to conserve, restore and manage properties permanently for longleaf pine habitat and endangered/threatened species in a way that benefits the economy and environment. Conserving longleaf pine will support forestry jobs in the region, improve our nation's resiliency to major climate related events, restore critical habitat and preserve water quality and quantity. Specifically, the project will preserve four major coastal river systems in the Gulf Coastal Plain— including 18 percent of the Perdido River's watershed— and protect habitat for the threatened gopher tortoise and approximate 600 other species that live in longleaf pine habitat.

"The project will advance the goals of America's Longleaf Restoration Initiative— a collaborative, public-private effort to restore the threatened longleaf ecosystems across 8 million acres by 2020. Longleaf pine forests once dominated the American Southeast, stretching across 90 million acres, and now only four percent of the original forests remain— mostly on public lands. The Coastal Headwaters Forests Partnership provides a needed solution, bringing partners and resources together to conserve and restore longleaf pine habitat on private lands, where the majority of southeastern forest land is located.

"The opportunities in Alabama's Gulf Coastal Plain are on a large landscape scale, critical to making an impact in reversing longleaf pine's century-long decline. With this grant, dozens of public and private partners with significant resources are ready to meet, educate, make a change and be a model for restoring longleaf pine. The Coastal Headwaters Forests Partnership will make a difference in reversing the decline and serve as a model for others in the region and nation to replicate and further the conservation impact.

"We celebrate this award that will play an essential role in restoring the historic area of longleaf pine, a tree that in many ways built America."

Media Contact: Ann Simonelli, (703) 908-5809, asimonelli@conservationfund.org