Twenty-eight grants will support efforts to conserve more than 350,000 acres
of longleaf pine habitat and recover populations of at-risk wildlife
WASHINGTON, D.C., Aug. 28, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) today announced 28 conservation grants totaling a record $6.5 million to restore, enhance and protect the longleaf pine forest in eight Southeast states, benefitting species like the federally endangered red-cockaded woodpecker and at-risk gopher tortoise. The grants will generate $7.9 million in matching contributions for a total conservation impact of $14.4 million.
The grants were awarded through the Longleaf Stewardship Fund, a public-private partnership between NFWF and 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’s Forestland Stewards Partnership, Southern Company, American Forest Foundation’s Southern Woods for At-Risk Wildlife Initiative, The Orton Foundation, an affiliate of The Moore Charitable Foundation, founded by Louis Bacon and Altria Group.
The 28 grants announced today will support conservation work in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas. Together, the grants are expected to establish more than 17,000 acres and improve more than 335,000 additional acres of habitat across the longleaf pine’s historical range. Grantees will provide educational and technical assistance related to longleaf restoration to more than 5,300 private landowners, with an anticipated 500 landowners entering into stewardship programs on private lands.
The grants will also support the recovery of several rare species through translocation, captive rearing and reintroduction, including the red-cockaded woodpecker and the gopher tortoise. A complete list of the 2018 grants made through the Longleaf Stewardship Fund is available here.
“The Longleaf Stewardship Fund exemplifies what can be achieved for conservation when the public and private sector work collaboratively on a landscape scale,” said Jeff Trandahl, executive director and CEO of NFWF. “Through investing in critical restoration activities and educating landowners to become stronger stewards of their lands, the Longleaf Stewardship Fund is helping secure the future of one of the world’s most biodiverse landscapes, and the species and communities that rely on it.”
The longleaf pine ecosystem once encompassed more than 90 million acres across the Southeast, but it has been reduced to only about 5 percent of its historical range. This fire-adapted ecosystem boasts immense biodiversity, including the indigo snake, reticulated flatwoods salamander and gopher frog, and important game species such as bobwhite quail, wild turkey and white-tailed deer.
Longleaf forests provide a range of additional benefits, supporting forest-dependent economies, military readiness and recreational opportunities for millions of Americans. After experiencing a century-long decline, longleaf forests became the focus of conservation efforts in the late 20th Century when communities, government agencies, nonprofits and private landowners began collaborating to restore longleaf pine and reverse the loss of habitat.
“Over the last six years, the effectiveness of the Longleaf Stewardship Fund in restoring and improving the longleaf pine ecosystem cannot be overstated,” said Ken Arney, Regional Forester with the U.S. Forest Service’s Southern Region. “This fund is a catalyst for bringing together and leveraging the resources and expertise of public agencies, private companies and other groups resulting in greater on-the-ground outcomes than what can be achieved independently.”
“Just as longleaf pine forests are home to diverse plants and animals, working together, we bring a diverse group of partners to protect and enhance this unique Southern ecosystem,” said NRCS Acting Chief Leonard Jordan. “The voluntary work of private landowners plays an important role in managing for healthy longleaf forests that benefit wildlife, natural resources and rural economies.”
“DoD is delighted that seven military installations in the Southeast region will directly benefit from this year’s effort to push longleaf conservation forward.” said Maureen Sullivan, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, Environment, Safety & Occupational Health. “DoD and NFWF have a longstanding relationship when it comes to protecting the longleaf pine ecosystem, as protection of this forestland is vitally important to national defense and operation of our military installations in the Southeast. By ensuring the prosperity of longleaf forests, we can promote compatible land uses near military facilities and enhance habitat for at-risk species, thereby allowing our armed forces to continue their training, testing, and operational missions without added restrictions. This year through the Longleaf Stewardship Fund, approximately $5 will be spent by our partners for every dollar DoD spends, resulting in an outstanding collaboration for both conservation and military readiness.”
“The Fish and Wildlife Service is proud to be a part of this important long-term effort to restore longleaf pine across the Southeast,” said Mike Oetker, acting regional director for the Service’s Southeast Region. “Under the Foundation’s leadership and the support of an diverse group of partners, we can celebrate another $6.5 million being shared with partners to conserve more than 350,000 acres benefitting At-Risk wildlife like the gopher tortoise and progress on the recovery of other wildlife like the red-cockaded woodpecker.”
“Our entire business depends on the sustainability of forests,” said Tom Cleves, International Paper’s vice president of global citizenship. “By contributing to these 28 conservation grants through our Forestland Stewards partnership, we are making a positive impact on the restoration, enhancement and protection of the longleaf pine forest across the Southeast U.S.”
“Southern Company is committed to environmental stewardship and to helping restore the iconic longleaf pine ecosystem as we have over the past 15 years,” said Southern Company Executive Vice President of Operations Stan Connally. “We are pleased that this model program continues to expand public and private partnerships to accelerate the recovery of a once prolific landscape—home to dozens of species at risk.”
“Families and individuals own nearly 60 percent of the forests across the South, making them key to helping restore needed forested habitat,” said Tom Martin, President and CEO of the American Forest Foundation. “These individuals care about wildlife and want to do right by the land, but often need support and technical assistance to get the job done. We are proud to be a part of the Longleaf Stewardship Fund to help make this happen and help landowners make the impact they too want to see on the land.”
“The Orton Foundation is proud to be part of the important public-private partnership that is powering restoration of America’s iconic longleaf pine forests under the leadership of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation,” said Ann Colley, executive director and vice president of The Orton Foundation, an affiliate of The Moore Charitable Foundation. “NFWF’s leadership in forging a partnership among such distinguished groups exemplifies the sort of vision that is necessary to restore longleaf pines and make conservation an enduring American value.”
“We’re pleased to be able to provide this support to help the conservation and restoration of the longleaf pine forests,” said Elizabeth Becker, Director Corporate Responsibility, for Altria Client Services. “Promoting the sustainability of natural resources is a core part of Altria’s mission and we take pride in knowing that our contributions are helping to protect the natural resources on which are businesses and communities depend.”
Since 2012, the Longleaf Stewardship Fund has invested more than $30.6 million in projects that will establish more than 92,000 acres, improve more than 1.35 million additional acres of longleaf pine forest and benefit the native species that rely on those forests.
The fund combines the financial and technical resources of its funding partners to accelerate the restoration of the longleaf pine ecosystem, while implementing the Range-Wide Conservation Plan for Longleaf Pine as part of America’s Longleaf Restoration Initiative.
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 and individual partners, NFWF has funded more than 4,500 organizations and generated a conservation impact of more than $4.8 billion. Learn more at www.nfwf.org.