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NFWF Announces $7.5 Million in Conservation Grants to Restore Iconic Longleaf Pine Ecosystem

·9-min read
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Largest grant slate in program’s history will impact more than 400,000 acres of longleaf pine habitat, benefitting at-risk wildlife across nine southern states

WASHINGTON, D.C., Aug. 18, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) today announced $7.5 million in grants to restore, enhance and protect longleaf pine forests in nine southern states. This year’s grant slate, the largest in the program’s history, will leverage $9 million in matching contributions to generate a total conservation impact of $16.5 million.

Longleaf pine forests are not only critically important for wildlife and biodiversity but also provide clean water, recreational opportunities, forest sector jobs, and contribute to our national defense by buffering military installations from encroaching development.

The grants were awarded through the Longleaf Landscape Stewardship Fund (LLSF), a public-private partnership that showcases how collaboration between 10 different funders can lead to landscape-level improvement. NFWF works with 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 (through the Forestland Stewards Partnership), One Tree Planted, Southern Company, Altria Group and The Orton Foundation (an affiliate of The Moore Charitable Foundation). Additional support was provided this year by the Bezos Earth Fund.

“Amidst the growing challenges to conserve natural habitat and the wildlife and fish that rely upon it, the Longleaf Landscape Stewardship Fund meets forest landowners where they live and work,” said Jeff Trandahl, executive director and CEO of NFWF. “The Fund supports innovative approaches to conserve, manage and restore longleaf pine forests and surrounding habitat. As we grapple with increasing environmental stressors, these 22 projects supported by 11 partners represent a record year of funding for the LSFF and demonstrate that building public-private partnerships is an effective way to engage private land and forest owners in improving management practices while also helping fish, wildlife and natural habitat.”

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 plant more than 25,000 acres of new longleaf pine and will improve an additional 375,000 acres of existing longleaf habitat through prescribed burning, removal of invasive species and other wildlife-benefitting forest management treatments. Grantees will engage private landowners through workshops, trainings and one-on-one technical assistance to restore and maintain longleaf pine habitat on their lands. Over the course of this work, NFWF estimates that nearly 100 jobs will be supported.

These 22 projects will work on both public and private lands to expand and improve longleaf pine habitat to benefit numerous wildlife species, including game species such as wild turkey and white-tailed deer, as well as at-risk species such as the red-cockaded woodpecker, northern bobwhite, and the eastern indigo snake, the longest native snake in North America which is currently listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. All these species rely on a healthy longleaf pine forest that includes a diverse herbaceous understory where these animals can nest and forage. Projects will increase capacity for prescribed burning, a crucial element of restoring and maintaining this fire-adapted ecosystem, and which also reduces wildfire risk to human communities.

This public-private partnership is time-tested, and some consider a model for other conservation efforts, having invested more than $57 million since its inception in 2012, leveraging an additional $69 million in matching contributions for a total conservation impact of more than $126 million.

The LLSF is guided by and provides key financial support for on-the-ground partners working to implement projects that contribute to the larger America’s Longleaf Restoration Initiative (ALRI). This strategic plan for longleaf 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 native plant species and providing habitat for wildlife, not only mentioned above, but others such as the gopher tortoise, Louisiana pine snake and Bachman’s sparrow.

Restoring longleaf forests on state- and privately-owned lands around military installations also contributes to the United States’ military readiness by providing buffers to these installations (compatible neighboring land-uses), all while increasing habitat for at-risk species, and thereby reducing the potential for these installations to become islands of biodiversity. 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.

NFWF established the LLSF 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.

A complete list of the 2022 grants made through the LLSF is available here.

 

Partner Quotes

“These grants align 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 that protects wildlife and invests in producers and their communities.”

“Year after year, the Longleaf Landscape Stewardship Fund has served as a catalyst in leveraging federal funds to achieve far more within the longleaf pine landscape than we could accomplish independently,” said Regional Forester Ken Arney with the U.S. Forest Service Southern Region. “Positive outcomes for local economies, national defense, threatened and endangered species, recreation, forest resiliency, clean air and water, and climate change mitigation, validate the outstanding ‘return on investment’ of the stewardship fund.”

“DoD is honored to collaborate with NFWF and partners of the Longleaf Landscape Stewardship Fund on this record setting year for landscape-scale collaboration,” says Richard Kidd, deputy assistant secretary of defense for environment & energy resilience within the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Energy, Installations and Environment. “Restoring the longleaf pine ecosystem supports national defense by preventing land use conflicts that can limit military activities, sustaining habitat for vulnerable species, and making installations more resilient to climate change. For every dollar DoD invests, approximately $11 in matching partner funds will help establish more than 9,000 acres of new longleaf pine, implement prescribed fire on more than 347,000 acres, and enhance an additional 10,000 acres of existing longleaf pine through management treatments. Altogether, 12 military installations in the Southeast will directly benefit from LLSF projects.”

“The Service is proud to play a part in this conservation partnership,” said Leopoldo Miranda-Castro, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Regional Director. “This coordinated effort helps restore and protect one of the most imperiled ecosystems in North America, the longleaf pine ecosystem, which is one of the most diverse ecosystems in North America. This year’s grants will help support local efforts, on both public and private lands, to restore and manage this iconic ecosystem.”

“As part of our Vision 2030 goal of conserving and restoring 1 million acres of ecologically significant forestland, we are proud to support NFWF in their efforts to restore, enhance and protect longleaf pine in the Southeastern U.S.,” said Jeremy Poirier, International Paper, manager of fiber certification and sustainability. “We recognize helping to sustain healthy working forests is more than just providing a market for trees, and our Forestland Stewards partnership is a testament to this commitment.”

“One Tree Planted is very excited to be part of this exciting partnership with National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to help restore the longleaf pine ecosystem of the southeast and is looking forward to expanding our collective impact in the years to come,” said Stephanie Rochemont, director of projects: USA, One Tree Planted.

“Southern Company is committed to protecting longleaf pine forests as we have for the last 18 years,” said Southern Company Senior Vice President of Environmental and System Planning, Jeff Burleson. “The 2022 grants in Southern Company’s footprint – including those in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Texas and Virginia – will improve longleaf pine ecosystems and the species that make their homes in them, like the red-cockaded woodpecker and gopher tortoise.”

“Strategic, collaborative, and result-oriented actions are critical to restoring the longleaf pine ecosystem at a landscape scale,” said Louis Bacon, founder and chairman of the Orton Foundation, the North Carolina affiliate of The Moore Charitable Foundation. “We are proud to continue our support of NFWF's efforts to restore, enhance and protect critically threatened longleaf pine forests supporting the recovery of iconic and endangered species, and strengthening capacity of local organizations and communities to make impressive advances in forest health in the Southeast.”

About the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
Chartered by Congress in 1984, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) protects and restores the nation’s fish, wildlife, plants and habitats. Working with federal, corporate, foundation and individual partners, NFWF has funded more than 6,000 organizations and generated a total conservation impact of $7.4 billion. Learn more at www.nfwf.org.

About the Natural Resources Conservation Service
As the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s primary private lands conservation agency, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) helps America’s farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners make investments in their operations and local communities to keep working lands working, boost rural economies, increase the competitiveness of American agriculture, and improve the quality of our air, water, soil, and habitat. Through one-on-one, personalized and voluntary assistance, NRCS works with producers and communities to find the best solutions to meet their unique conservation and business goals to ensure the health of our natural resources and the long-term sustainability of American agriculture.

About the U.S. Forest Service
The mission of the USDA Forest Service is, “To sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the Nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations.” The Forest Service manages 193 million acres of forest lands with tribal governments, state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forest research organization in the world.

About the U.S. Department of Defense
The Department of Defense is America's oldest and largest government agency. With over 1.4 million men and women on active duty, 826,000 serving in the National Guard and Reserve forces, and 732,000 civilian personnel, we are the nation's largest employer. The mission of the Department of Defense is to provide the military forces needed to deter war and to protect the security of our country.

About the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is to work with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit fws.gov.

About International Paper
International Paper (NYSE: IP) is a leading global supplier of renewable fiber-based products. We produce corrugated packaging products that protect and promote goods, and enable worldwide commerce, and pulp for diapers, tissue and other personal care products that promote health and wellness. Headquartered in Memphis, Tenn., we employ approximately 38,000 colleagues globally. We serve customers worldwide, with manufacturing operations in North America, Latin America, North Africa and Europe. Net sales for 2021 were $19.4 billion. See how we’re building a better future for people, the planet, and our company at internationalpaper.com/Vision-2030.

About One Tree Planted
One Tree Planted is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit on a mission to make it simple for anyone to help the environment by planting trees. Their projects span the globe and are done in partnership with local communities and knowledgeable experts to create an impact for nature, people, and wildlife. Reforestation helps to rebuild forests after fires and floods, provide jobs for social impact, and restore biodiversity. Many projects have overlapping objectives, creating a combination of benefits that contribute to the UN's Sustainable Development Goals. Learn more at onetreeplanted.org.

About Southern Company
Southern Company (NYSE:SO) is a leading energy company serving 9 million customers through its subsidiaries. The company provides clean, safe, reliable and affordable energy through electric operating companies in three states, natural gas distribution companies in four states, a competitive generation company serving wholesale customers across America, a leading distributed energy infrastructure company, a fiber optics network and telecommunications services. Southern Company brands are known for excellent customer service, high reliability and affordable prices below the national average. For more than a century, we have been building the future of energy and developing the full portfolio of energy resources, including carbon-free nuclear, advanced carbon capture technologies, natural gas, renewables, energy efficiency and storage technology. Through an industry-leading commitment to innovation and a low-carbon future, Southern Company and its subsidiaries develop the customized energy solutions our customers and communities require to drive growth and prosperity. Our uncompromising values ensure we put the needs of those we serve at the center of everything we do and govern our business to the benefit of our world. Our corporate culture and hiring practices have been recognized nationally by the U.S. Department of Defense, G.I. Jobs magazine, DiversityInc, Black Enterprise, Forbes and the Women’s Choice Award. To learn more, visit www.southerncompany.com. 

About the Orton Foundation
The Orton Foundation, the North Carolina affiliate of Louis Bacon’s Moore Charitable Foundation, focuses on protecting the Cape Fear River Basin’s unique waterways, wetlands, forests, and wildlife habitats. The Orton Foundation’s community program supports educational, cultural, and social and environmental justice programs in the region.

CONTACT: Rob Blumenthal National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (202) 857-0166 rob.blumenthal@nfwf.org