National Wildlife Refuge System

Restoring Longleaf Pine Forests

This endangered red-cockaded woodpecker is feeding young at the nest in a cavity of a longleaf pine in Georgia.
Credit: John Maxwell
As part of longleaf pine forest restoration efforts across the Southeast, Mountain Longleaf and Cahaba River National Wildlife Refuges in Alabama are helping young longleaf pines grow to maturity.
Credit: Sarah Clardy/USFWS

July 2, 2015 - Nearly $5 million in grants has been awarded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to restore and improve longleaf pine habitat.  Three national wildlife refuges are among the 22 projects that will restore a total of 11,600 acres and enhance more than 163,000 additional acres.

Before European settlement, more than 90 million acres of longleaf pine forest blanketed the southeastern United States from southern Virginia to eastern Texas. By the early 20th century, these virgin forests were logged for turpentine and lumber with little attempt to replant.

Longleaf pine forests contain a stunning diversity of plants and animals — including rare and endangered wildlife such as the red-cockaded woodpecker, bobwhite quail and gopher tortoise. With many agencies, nonprofits, private landowners and businesses committing to longleaf pine restoration in recent years, the acreage of longleaf pine forest has grown 8 percent over the past decade to an estimated 4.4 million acres, reversing a century-long decline across the South.

“Longleaf pine forests are an integral part of the culture, economy and ecology of the Southeastern landscape,” said Cindy Dohner, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Southeast Regional Director. “Restoring these open, fire-maintained forests will help in the recovery of numerous at-risk or listed species. 

One project will establish nearly 300 acres of longleaf forest between two of the most important areas in the longleaf range, the Mountain Longleaf National Wildlife Refuge, AL, and Talledega National Forest. The Talladega Mountain Longleaf Pine Conservation Partnership will use prescribed burns on existing forests.  Fire helps promote wildflower and plant diversity, controls insects and disease and removes weakened trees.  Prescribed burns in young forests remove litter that can lead to much more damaging wild fires. Fire creates habitat, food and cover for bobwhite quail, gopher tortoises and grassland birds and it also removes other southern pines that compete with the longleaf.

Mountain Longleaf Refuge, AL, is a key area for longleaf pine restoration.
Credit: Bill Gardner

The Okefenokee, GA/Osceola Longleaf project will use prescribed burns to reduce forest litter and fire fuel on some 20,000 acres of public and private lands. It will also provide educational and technical assistance to private landowners on longleaf pine management and restoration.  St. Marks Refuge, FL, is part of a stewardship alliance that will plant or restore 22,000 acres of longleaf pine in the Apalachicola region. This project will also use innovation communication approaches to educate the local community about longleaf pine.

Longleaf Stewardship Fund Grant details

“Restoring the Grandfather Trees of the Woods” Refuge Update September October 2013



Last updated: July 2, 2015