WASHINGTON, D.C. (News release) -- The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) announced $5.3 million in grants to restore, enhance and protect longleaf pine forests in nine southern states. The grants will leverage $6.9 million in matching contributions for a total conservation impact of $12.2 million.
Twenty-one grants were awarded through the Longleaf Landscape Stewardship Fund, a public-private partnership between NFWF and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, International Paper's Forestland Stewards Partnership, Southern Company, the Arbor Day Foundation, Altria Group and The Orton Foundation, an affiliate of The Moore Charitable Foundation. Additional funding is provided by AstraZeneca and the American Forest Foundation.
The projects supported by the grants announced today will advance longleaf pine habitat restoration across its historic range, which covers portions of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia. Together, these grants are expected to establish more than 15,000 new acres of longleaf pine and will enhance an additional 400,000 acres of habitat through prescribed burning, invasive species removal and other forest management practices. Grantees will engage private landowners through workshops, trainings and one-on-one technical assistance to restore and maintain longleaf pine habitat on their lands.
These projects will also increase and improve habitat for several at-risk species, including the red-cockaded woodpecker, gopher tortoise and northern bobwhite. These species depend on mature longleaf canopy and the open pine savannah and understory plants that prescribed fires and other management activities implemented by these projects will help to restore and maintain.
Today's awards mark a decade of grant-making through this public-private partnership, which has now invested nearly $50 million since the program launched in 2012, leveraging an additional $62 million in matching contributions for a total conservation impact of more than $112 million.
"Now in its tenth year of grant-making, the Longleaf Landscape Stewardship Fund continues to expand and improve the longleaf pine ecosystem, benefiting numerous at-risk species such as the red-cockaded woodpecker and gopher tortoise," said Jeff Trandahl, executive director and CEO of NFWF. "This longstanding public-private partnership has enabled us to engage more project partners, reach more landowners and support landscape-scale projects that will improve and maintain the iconic longleaf pine ecosystem."
The Longleaf Landscape Stewardship Fund is an integral part of the larger America's Longleaf Restoration Initiative (ALRI), which aims to restore 8 million acres of longleaf pine habitat to benefit imperiled species.
Conservation of longleaf forests demonstrates the interdependence of wildlife, human communities, clean water, carbon sequestration and even national defense. The longleaf pine ecosystem once covered more than 90 million acres across the Southeastern coastal plain and piedmont. Today, it has been reduced to only about 5 percent of its historical range, due to the conversion to other forest types, conversion to other land uses and fire suppression. This fire-adapted ecosystem possesses tremendous biodiversity, supporting nearly 900 endemic plant species and providing habitat for wildlife such as the red-cockaded woodpecker, gopher tortoise, indigo snake and Bachman's sparrow, as well as important game species such as northern bobwhite and wild turkey.
Longleaf forests also contribute to the military readiness of the United States by providing buffers for military training bases. They offer recreational opportunities for millions of Americans and contribute to working lands and forest-dependent economies. Longleaf forests are resilient to drought, wind and pests, and help buffer communities from strong storms. These forests gained the conservation community's attention in the late 20th century as government agencies, nonprofits and private landowners began collaborating to restore longleaf pine and reverse the loss of habitat.
NFWF established the Longleaf Landscape Stewardship Fund in 2012 to support these conservation efforts. The fund combines its partners' financial and technical resources to accelerate the restoration of the longleaf pine ecosystem while implementing the Range-Wide Conservation Plan for Longleaf Pine as part of ALRI.
Since 2012, the fund has invested in projects that are establishing more than 154,000 acres and improving nearly 3 million additional acres of longleaf pine forest and benefitting the native species that rely on those forests. The outcomes contribute to the goals of the ALRI.
A complete list of the 2021 grants made through the Longleaf Landscape Stewardship Fund is available here.
"These grants are in keeping with the NRCS philosophy of voluntary conservation and leveraging key partnerships," said NRCS Chief Terry Cosby. "It's a win-win to support longleaf pine ecosystem restoration and enhancement that protects wildlife and invests in producers and forest-dependent communities."
"In an unprecedented effort to restore one of the world's most biodiverse ecosystems, over the last decade, public agencies, private companies, and other working groups have supported the Longleaf Stewardship Fund with a unified vision. The accomplishments and resulting outcomes are a true success story and are an example of what can be achieved collaboratively on a landscape scale," said Ken Arney, regional forester for the Southern Region.
"The mutually beneficial partnership between DoD and NFWF continues its tremendous success in restoring the historic longleaf pine ecosystem, translating to positive outcomes to national defense, climate mitigation, forest resiliency, and local economies," says Richard Kidd, deputy assistant secretary of defense for environment and energy resilience within the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Sustainment. "Longleaf pine safeguards DoD missions by increasing the landscape's resilience to climate-related threats such as wildfires, hurricanes, tornadoes, and drought. Additionally, these forests provide habitat for imperiled species and buffer military installations from incompatible development, all while providing optimal terrain and cover for military mission training and operations. For every dollar DoD invests through LLSF, approximately $10 in matching partner funds will contribute to establishing 5,100 acres of new longleaf pine, enhancing an additional 7,600 acres of existing longleaf pine, and conducting prescribed fire on 211,000 acres near military installations. DoD is pleased to announce that nine military installations in the Southeast will benefit from LLSF projects, resulting in enhanced military readiness, more resilient landscapes, and conservation of our nation's natural resources."
"The longleaf pine belt--wonderfully diverse and beautiful--runs through the heart of our Southeast region," said Leopoldo Miranda-Castro, the regional director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the South Atlantic, Gulf and Mississippi Basin. "It's home to some of our most iconic species, including red-cockaded woodpeckers, eastern indigo snakes, gopher tortoises, plus thousands of others. And this latest round of grants will bring us that much closer to connect lands and waters and to reach our longleaf goal of restoring eight million acres by 2025."
"Longleaf forests continue to be important ecosystems for wildlife habitat and for our communities through the many benefits they provide--renewable resources and carbon storage among them," said International Paper Chief Sustainability Officer Sophie Beckham. "I am so pleased that through our Forestland Stewards partnership with NFWF we are able to support conservation and restoration projects that are improving the health and abundance of these amazing landscapes."
"We are proud to support conservation through the Longleaf Landscape Stewardship Fund," said Jeff Burleson, Southern Company's senior vice president for environmental and system planning. "These grants will support diverse longleaf-pine ecosystems in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and Virginia that are vital to many plant and wildlife species. We're committed to stewardship and conservation of this rich landscape we're so fortunate to share with our communities."
"Through strategic collaborations, the Longleaf Landscape Stewardship Fund is helping to provide critical solutions for longleaf recovery and resilience," said Louis Bacon, founder and co-chairman of The Moore Charitable Foundation and its affiliate, The Orton Foundation. "National Fish and Wildlife Foundation's commitment to the natural resources and local economies of the Southeast is unwavering. We are honored to be part of this highly effective public-private partnership that is revitalizing thousands of acres of critical forest and habitat."
"We are thrilled to be working with these private and public partners to support the ongoing restoration and conservation efforts for the longleaf pine habitat and wildlife," said Dan Lambe, president of the Arbor Day Foundation. "Protecting and preserving this important habitat is vital to so many species of plants and wildlife across the southeastern part of the United States."