A Brief History of the Longleaf Pine

During the 1700 and 1800s, longleaf populations began to fall as millions of acres were cleared to build communities and transportation routes. In addition, “fuels” of leftover logging debris on the forest floor caused catastrophic wildfires. Animal populations plummeted, with a cascading negative effect on the entire ecosystem. In the 1900s, people began to realize deforested areas were not reseeding in longleaf. Instead, faster growing species such as loblolly, slash and hardwoods were taking over. By the late twentieth century, preserved recreational areas protected the last reserves of high-quality longleaf habitat.

Bringing Back the Longleaf Population

The longleaf ecosystem has become an object of intense concentration by federal, state, non-profit and private entities. Strong efforts are underway to reforest with longleaf and manage existing stands. However, well over half of today’s longleaf pines exist on private land. This is why GFC is working alongside the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and other agencies to reach out and involve landowners in protecting and reestablishing the longleaf pine.

Why Care About Longleaf Pine?
Protecting the longleaf pine isn’t just about protecting trees. Many threatened and endangered species, such as the Gopher Tortoise, Indigo snake, Hairy Rattleweed, Gopher Frog, Red Cockaded Woodpecker and many others, call longleaf forests home. Their survival depends on thinned and frequently burned open pine savannah.

Resources, Services and Programs for Longleaf Conservation

Federal and private funds available for restoring the longleaf ecosystem can make such efforts attractive to landowners. There are many ways landowners can receive help; capitalizing on these resources is a matter of knowing what is available and whom to contact. Below are some programs and services that can begin the process. GFC provides many longleaf ecosystem services and programs to landowners, often at no charge or at highly competitive rates.

Cost Share Programs

EQIP - Environmental Quality Incentives Program


EQIP – Environmental Quality Incentives Program

Requirements:

  • Non-industrial private lands
  • AGI of less than 900,000/year (averaged over the last three years)
  • Completion of practices
  • Compliance with highly erodible land and wetland requirements

Benefits:

  • High cost share rate- 75% of state averages
  • Technical assistance in developing plan for implementation of practices
  • Largest variety of practices offered by cost share program – everything ranging from establishment to commercial thinning
  • Contract length is two years to complete practices

Process:

  • Contact local NRCS agent to apply. Applications are accepted anytime but deadlines are announced each year to receive upcoming funding. Deadlines vary, but there is typically one per year. Applications not funded or those received after the deadline will roll over to the next funding cycle.
    Application is sent to GFC forester for initial inspection and plan development
  • NRCS receives plan and uses it as part of the ranking process
  • Landowner will be notified by NRCS of acceptance or refusal
  • Landowner must complete practices in a proper timeline recommended by GFC
  • Landowner reports practice completion to NRCS and the practice is then inspected
  • If confirmed and approved, funds for practice are distributed by NRCS

Working Lands for Wildlife


Working Lands for Wildlife

Requirements:

  • Non-industrial private lands
  • AGI of less than 900,000/year (averaged over the last three years)
  • Completion of practices
  • Compliance with highly erodible land and wetland requirements
  • Be in the geographic region designated for gopher tortoise habitat restoration
  • Have soils on site that are suitable for gopher tortoise or have tortoises physically present on site

Benefits:

  • High cost share rate- 75% of state averages
  • Technical assistance in developing plan for implementation of practices
  • Smaller pool of applicants (higher chance of acceptance)
  • Contract length is two years to complete practices

Process:

  • Contact local NRCS agent to begin enrollment paperwork before deadlines – Deadlines vary, but there are typically two to three per year; applications not funded will roll over unless cancelled
  • Application is sent to GFC forester for initial inspection and plan development*
  • NRCS receives plan and sends application to state and federal offices for ranking
  • Landowner will be notified by NRCS of acceptance or refusal
  • Landowner must complete practices in a proper timeline recommended by GFC
  • Reports to NRCS practices completed, these are then inspected
  • If confirmed and approved, funds for practice are distributed by NRCS

* Oftentimes inspections by the NRCS county agent are also conducted. This depends on the program being applied for and the practices planned.

Conservation Reserve Program


Conservation Reserve Program

Requirements:

  • Must have been cropped four out of six years between 2008-2013
  • Contract lengths are 10 or 15 years
  • Must own land for one year
  • Non-industrial private lands
  • AGI of less than 900,000/year (averaged over the last three years)
  • Completion of practices
  • Compliance with highly erodible land and wetland requirements

Benefits:

  • Signing incentive payment per acre for some practices
  • Yearly rental payment per acre based on soil type
  • Cost share assistance on required practices- up to 90%

Process:

  • Contact local FSA agent to begin enrollment paperwork
  • Application is ranked based on location, soils and practices desired
  • If approved- GFC receives information and develops plan
  • Landowner is given copy of plan and required to complete practices by timeline set forth in contract
  • Landowner reports completed practices
  • GFC inspects
  • FSA distributes payment and verification

Partners for Fish and Wildlife


Partners for Fish and Wildlife

Requirements:

  • Non-industrial private lands
  • Flat planting of longleaf (not ideal for wet sites)
  • Contract length- 10 years (must keep on site)
  • Soils suitable for gopher tortoise or species present on site
  • Completion of practices
  • Compliance with highly erodible land and wetland requirements
  • Priority given to sites that reduce landscape fragmentation, are adjacent to protected lands, and highest efficacy

Benefits:

  • Financial assistance ranging from $125-$320/acre
  • Technical assistance in developing plan for implementation of practices
  • Smaller pool of applicants (higher chance of acceptance)
  • Practices include longleaf establishment, fire implementation, and establishment of native ground cover

Process:

  • Contact local FWS in spring to early summer (earlier is better)
  • Site is inspected by FWS representative and possibly a GFC forester
  • Approval or rejection
  • Landowner completes all practices and informs FWS contact
  • Site inspected
  • If satisfactory, entire payment is dispensed after all practices have been completed


Local Grant Projects

Agencies are often looking for high priority areas in which to establish and manage the longleaf ecosystem. These agencies often have projects or grants, either active or in progress. Terms and assistance vary from project to project. The organizations below provide a good starting point for considering grants.

Easements

An easement may not be appropriate for everyone, however, for the right landowner in the right location it can be an excellent way to protect land from future development, gain financially, and restore/manage the landscape. Easements that may work for landowner’s interested in longleaf pine conservation include:

Helpful Resources for Planting and Harvesting Longleaf Pine

Longleaf Pine is one of the more difficult southern yellow pine species to establish. While the rewards of longleaf can be great, it takes care and consideration during its initial establishment to ensure a healthy and productive stand of trees. Keep in mind that forestry technical guidance is subjective. Different resources favor different approaches. GFC recommends reviewing a wide range of resources before you decide which approach is right for you. To help you get started, we’ve compiled several articles and links that might help.

TitleDescriptionDocument Type
A Closer Look at Stem Quality of Old-Field Planted Longleaf PinesGFC worked with the University of Georgia on a longleaf pine stem quality study funded by a grant from the US Forest Service. This study was performed with the primary objective of quantifying the sawtimber and pole potential of longleaf pine trees planted in old-fields/pastures/hay fields. More than 200 landowner sites were
inventoried for stocking, condition and form quality.
PDF
America’s Longleaf Restoration Initiative (ALRI)ALRI is a collaborative effort of multiple public and private sector partners that actively supports range-wide efforts to restore and conserve longleaf pine ecosystems.External Website
Keys to Successfully Establishing a Longleaf PineBest practices for planting and maintaining longleaf pinesPDF
Longleaf Pine Conservation Reserve InitiativeThe Longleaf Pine Initiative restores and enhances longleaf pine ecosystems. The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) provides farmers and landowners with initiatives like this to achieve many farming and conservation goals.PDF
Longleaf Pine Forest Establishment HubThe Forest Stewardship Program is designed to integrate forest management objectives of sustaining quality native timber, native wildlife populations, soil & water resources, aesthetics, & recreation, over a 10-year planning period. This template provides landowners with technical guidance that places near-equal emphasis of these objectives. It prescribes conservation practices to establish new longleaf pine forests using either artificial planting methods or natural regeneration methods. PDF
Longleaf Range MapPDF
Seedling Care And Planting GuidelinesOverview guidelines for successfully planting and caring for seedlings.PDF
Stem Quality Summary for Old‐field Planted, Unthinned Longleaf Stands in GeorgiaFull Academic Longleaf Stem Quality Publication – This publication provides full data sets observed during the inventorying process, as well as some additional observations not covered in the landowner version.PDF
The Longleaf AllianceThe mission of the Longleaf Alliance is to ensure a sustainable future for the longleaf pine ecosystem through partnerships, landowner assistance and science-based education and outreach.External Website