Restoring Long-leaf Pine Forests

For several years, conservation groups have been working to restore long-leaf pine forests in the south and southeastern part of the US. Now, USDA’s Natural Resources & Environmental division is on board, to help restore forests of the state tree of North Carolina. Harris Sherman, Undersecretary, Natural Resources & the Environment for USDA:

“Long leaf once occupied 90 million acres of land in the south and southeastern part of the United States. Today, long leaf pine is down to a mere three-million acres. And it is an ecosystem that is threatened with development and fragmentation.”

Sherman explains the reasons for restoring Long-leaf pine forests:

“But, this is a very important, diverse ecosystem that needs to be protected in the future, because it is a forest that is much more insect resistant, drought resistant, and can tolerate high winds, and it provides habitat for many threatened and endangered species.”

Sherman explains that the goal is to more than double the acreage of long-leaf pine:

“We are working, that is the Forest Service, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service, both agencies, are working in a remarkable, collaborative operation with states with non-governmental organizations, such as conservation groups, with business entities to try to restore these forests across the south and southeast. And the goal or objective here is over the next 15 years is to take these forest from the three million acre level up to about eight million acres going forward.”

As far as projects go, Sherman says this is one of the more successful that he’s seen:

“This is one of the most successful collaborative across the country that I’ve seen, and it’s very special not only because it does good work to restore this vital ecosystem to the south and the southeast, but it creates jobs and stabilizing rural communities, and we’re hoping that we’re going to be able to move forward and see some tremendous results.”

Sherman explains the methodology of restoring established forest to long-leaf pine:

“Typically what we do is we go into areas that are occupied by loblolly trees, and we will go through a process of removing loblolly trees, we will be reintroducing fire to these areas, because these areas were historically were fire-resistant areas, and then we will end up planting long leaf pine trees, these are typically 2-year-old seedlings, and then after a few years we will bring fire back into this area, these trees are fire-resistant, basically. And so every three to five years we will be creating prescribed fire in these areas. So, through types of activities and techniques, we will be able to gradually restore these forests in various places throughout the south and the southeast.”

Harris Sherman, Undersecretary, Natural Resources & the Environment for USDA.


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