National Fish and Wildlife Foundation announces $4.6 million in funding for restoration of longleaf pine forest and ecosystem across the Southeast
Longleaf stewardship fund will support 22 projects across nine states
Washington, D.C. — The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) today announced $4.6 million in grants to support the longleaf ecosystem and advance the objectives of the Range-Wide Conservation Plan for Longleaf Pine. Funding was awarded to 22 projects across the historic longleaf range that ultimately will restore more than 11,600 acres and enhance more than 163,000 additional acres of longleaf pine habitat, while leveraging over $6.4 million in additional funds from grant partners.
The grants are administered by NFWF’s Longleaf Stewardship Fund, a landmark public-private partnership that includes the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Forest Service and Natural Resources Conservation Service, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), and private funding from Southern Company, International Paper’s Forestland Stewards Initiative and Altria Group. The fund, now in its fourth year, combines the financial and technical resources of the partnership to accelerate restoration of the longleaf pine ecosystem and implementation of the Range-Wide Conservation Plan for Longleaf Pine as part of America’s Longleaf Restoration Initiative.
“The progress made over the past decade in restoring the longleaf ecosystem is truly remarkable,” said Jeff Trandahl, executive director and CEO at NFWF. “The $4.6 million in Longleaf Stewardship Fund grants announced today will continue to build on that record of success and serve as a powerful reminder of the importance of public-private partnerships in conserving America’s natural wonders.”
The longleaf pine ecosystem once encompassed more than 90 million acres, reaching from Virginia to Texas. Unique to the southeastern United States, it contains a stunning diversity of plants and animals — including rare and endangered wildlife such as the red-cockaded woodpecker, bobwhite quail and gopher tortoise — and provides a range of additional benefits, including supporting forest-dependent economies and military readiness. 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.
The 22 projects selected to receive support include 11 Significant Geographic Areas for longleaf pine conservation. Additionally, it is expected that the funding will provide more than 2,500 private landowners with educational and technical assistance related to longleaf restoration and available cost-share programs, with 380 landowners entering into stewardship programs on private lands.
“Public and private organizations working collaboratively to restore the longleaf pine ecosystem is critical to continued progress,” said Robert Bonnie, USDA’s Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment. “We encourage this team effort and the use of USDA conservation programs to provide assistance to landowners while furthering the objectives of America’s Longleaf Restoration Initiative.”
“The Longleaf Stewardship Fund provides a tremendous opportunity for DoD to work with partners to achieve wide ranging benefits for the military,” said John Conger, performing the duties of Assistant Secretary of Defense (Energy, Installations and Environment). “Protection and restoration of longleaf pine forests strengthens military readiness by promoting compatible land uses near military facilities and enhances habitat for imperiled species, which in turn provides greater flexibility for our training, testing and operational missions. In 2015, as a result of our partnership with National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, approximately 11 dollars will be spent by our partners for every dollar DoD spent, resulting in over 5,500 acres of longleaf established and 87,676 additional acres enhanced to benefit seven military installations. Working with partners in the Longleaf Stewardship Fund helps DoD achieve beneficial outcomes in support of national defense, and we’re glad to continue to be a part of the effort.”
“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. The Service recognizes the valuable role that the Longleaf Stewardship Fund plays in longleaf pine ecosystem restoration efforts and is proud to support the Fund.”
“The results of our partnership with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, natural resource agencies and others demonstrate the power of collaboration and a shared long-term commitment,” said Southern Company Chief Environmental Officer Dr. Larry S. Monroe. “Southern Company is proud to continue our support of this critical conservation work in the Southeast.”
“International Paper is proud to work with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to demonstrate the economic, social and ecological value of working forests while conserving and restoring some of nature’s most treasured landscapes,” said Mark Sutton, chairman and CEO of International Paper. “Throughout our 117-year history, our company has encouraged sustainable forestry practices and the stewardship of renewable natural resources. Through the Forestland Stewards Initiative, we are building on this commitment and supporting the important work of the agencies and partners who are advancing healthy forests across the Southeast United States.”
“Promoting the sustainability of natural resources is a core part of Altria’s mission,” said Wendy Shields, Manager of Corporate Contributions and Community Relations for Altria Client Services. “By helping restore the longleaf forests, we are improving our communities while protecting the resources on which we depend.”
Since 2012, the Longleaf Stewardship Fund has invested more than $14.1 million in projects that will restore more than 47,400 acres, improve more than 552,000 additional acres of longleaf pine forest, and benefit the native species that rely on those forests. The grants awarded by the Longleaf Stewardship Fund in 2015 continue to build on the success of this public-private partnership, further expanding the restoration of the longleaf pine ecosystem through collaborative and results-oriented actions.
Phil Kloer, 404-679-7299
The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information on our work and the people who can make it happen, visit fws.gov. Connect with the Service on Facebook, follow our tweets, watch the YouTube Channel and download photos from Flickr.