Home / Top News / NFWF Announces $5.6 Million in Grants to Advance Longleaf Pine Habitat and Support Wildlife in Eight Southeast States

NFWF Announces $5.6 Million in Grants to Advance Longleaf Pine Habitat and Support Wildlife in Eight Southeast States

Twenty-three grants will support efforts to conserve nearly 350,000 acres of longleaf pine habitat and help recover populations of at-risk wildlife

WASHINGTON, D.C., Aug. 26, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) today announced $5.6 million in grants to restore, enhance and protect longleaf pine forests in eight Southeast states. The grants will generate more than $6.9 million in matching contributions for a total conservation impact of $12.5 million.

The 23 grants were awarded through NFWF’s Longleaf Stewardship Fund, and will support conservation work in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas. Together, these grants are expected to establish more than 19,000 new acres of longleaf pine through plantings and will enhance an additional 327,000 acres of habitat through prescribed burning, invasive species removal and other forest management practices. Grantees will engage private landowners through workshops, trainings and one-on-one technical assistance to restore and maintain longleaf pine habitat on their lands.

“The Longleaf Stewardship Fund brings together public and private partners to conserve one of the most biodiverse habitats in the country,” said Jeff Trandahl, executive director and CEO of NFWF. “These projects will expand and improve habitat for threatened and endangered species, as well as help foster stewardship of longleaf habitat among local landowners.”

Today’s grants will also support the recovery of several rare species through translocation, captive rearing and reintroduction, including the red-cockaded woodpecker and gopher tortoise. These animals are known as keystone species, which means many other species benefit from their presence in the ecosystem. A complete list of the 2020 grants made through the Longleaf Stewardship Fund is available here.

The Longleaf Stewardship Fund is a 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 Arbor Day Foundation, Altria Group, and The Orton Foundation, an affiliate of The Moore Charitable Foundation.

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 endemic plant species and providing habitat for wildlife such as the red-cockaded woodpecker, gopher tortoise, indigo snake and Bachman’s sparrow, as well as important game species such as northern bobwhite and wild turkey.

Longleaf forests also contribute to the United States’ military readiness by providing buffers to military training bases. 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. These forests gained the conservation community’s attention in the late 20th century as government agencies, non-profits and private landowners began collaborating to restore longleaf pine and reverse the loss of habitat.

NFWF established the Longleaf Stewardship Fund 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 America’s Longleaf Restoration Initiative (ALRI).

Since 2012, the fund has invested more than $42 million in projects that are establishing more than 120,000 acres and improving nearly 2 million additional acres of longleaf pine forest and benefit the native species that rely on those forests. The outcomes contribute to the goals of the ALRI, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year.

Partner Quotes

“More so than ever, I recognize and appreciate how America’s Longleaf Restoration Initiative brings communities and diverse groups together with a common purpose of restoring the longleaf pine ecosystem,” said Ken Arney, regional forester for the southern region of the U.S. Forest Service. “The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, through the Longleaf Stewardship Fund, has been instrumental in moving this initiative forward and has been a true partner in expanding the corresponding ecosystem services we require for survival and quality of life.”

“NRCS is excited to support so many projects that not only restore our longleaf heritage and its wildlife diversity but are also foundational to rural economies across the Southeast,” said Kevin Norton, acting chief of NRCS.

“DoD values its longstanding partnership with NFWF’s Longleaf Stewardship Fund and celebrates both the impressive conservation impacts to the longleaf pine ecosystem and significant benefits to national defense,” said Maureen Sullivan, deputy assistant secretary of defense for environment in the office of the assistant secretary of defense (sustainment). “Ultimately, preserving the longleaf pine ecosystem sustains national defense in a number of ways, from promoting compatible land uses that provide a buffer for essential training areas, to reducing regulatory restrictions by advancing threatened and endangered species recovery. Ten military installations in the Southeast will benefit from the awarded projects, thereby enhancing DoD’s ability to test and train for current and future missions. This year through the Longleaf Stewardship Fund, approximately $11 will be spent by our partners for every dollar DoD spends, resulting in an outstanding return on investment and the accomplishment of shared goals on the landscape.”

“It would be hard to overstate how important the longleaf pine ecosystem is,” said Leopoldo “Leo” Miranda, director of two U.S. Fish and Wildlife regions that encompass 11 southern states and two U.S. territories. “If you love the outdoors, you appreciate the longleaf because it provides invaluable habitat for all kinds of animals, and the Longleaf Stewardship Fund is making invaluable contributions to longleaf conservation. Deer, turkey, quail, as well as many listed and at-risk species, you name it – they call the longleaf home. If you just like to wander in the woods, what’s better than listening to the wind whisper in those long needles?”

“The restoration of America’s longleaf pine forest has immeasurable ecological, economic and social value,” said Sophie Beckham, chief sustainability officer of International Paper. “Through our Forestland Stewards Partnership with NFWF, we are proud to support eight of the 23 grants that will help to restore and manage thousands of acres of southeastern forestland and engage landowners in the stewardship of this important ecosystem.” 

“Restoring a remarkably diverse ecosystem that is deeply connected to the culture and economic growth of our region is reflective of our commitment to the communities we are proud to share with those we serve,” said Southern Company Operations Executive Vice President Stan Connally. “Conservation through the Longleaf Stewardship Fund will benefit a wide range of plants and wildlife that depend on longleaf pine habitat.”

“Families and individuals own more than half of the forests across the South, making them a significant group that can contribute to the restoration of the longleaf ecosystem,” said Tom Martin, president and CEO of the American Forest Foundation. “These families care about the health of their forests and about wildlife, but they often lack the expertise and resources to take action on the ground. We are proud to contribute to the Longleaf Stewardship Fund to help empower these landowners on an important ecological issue.”

“Thanks to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and its Longleaf Stewardship Fund, thousands of acres of longleaf pine and its unique habitat are being protected and revitalized,” said Louis Bacon, founder and chairman of The Moore Charitable Foundation and its affiliate, The Orton Foundation. “The Southeast’s natural resources, local economies and public health benefit immensely from this critical and highly effective public-private partnership. We are honored to be part of this group, whose unified vision is driving real and lasting change.”

“We are proud to work alongside public and private partners to support this important initiative,” said Dan Lambe, president of the Arbor Day Foundation. “From providing a habitat for native wildlife to promoting long-term care of a critical forest ecosystem, restoration of longleaf pine forests will benefit our environment for generations to come.”

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 5,000 organizations and generated a total conservation impact of $6.1 billion. Learn more at www.nfwf.org.

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 Natural Resources Conservation Service
Since 1935, the Natural Resources Conservation Service has helped America’s private landowners and managers conserve their soil, water, and other natural resources. NRCS provides technical assistance based on sound science and offers financial assistance for many conservation activities. Learn more at nrcs.usda.gov.

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, 1.1 million serving in the National Guard and Reserve forces, and 718,000 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 producer of renewable fiber-based packaging, pulp and paper products with manufacturing operations in North America, Latin America, Europe, North Africa and Russia. We produce corrugated packaging products that protect and promote goods and enable world-wide commerce; pulp for diapers, tissue, and other personal hygiene products that promote health and wellness; and papers that facilitate education and communication. We are headquartered in Memphis, Tenn., employ more than 50,000 colleagues and serve more than 25,000 customers in 150 countries. Net sales for 2019 were $22 billion. For more information about International Paper, our products and global citizenship efforts, please visit internationalpaper.com. See how we’re building a better future for people, the planet and our company at internationalpaper.com/Vision-2030.

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. Out 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 American Forest Foundation
The American Forest Foundation (AFF) is a national non-profit conservation organization that protects and measurably increases the clean water, wildlife habitat, and sustainable wood supplies that come from family-owned forests. AFF works with partners, leading businesses, policymakers, and landowners directly, to address key issues such as conserving biodiversity, reducing risk of catastrophic wildfire, and addressing the threat of climate change. To learn more about the American Forest Foundation, visit www.forestfoundation.org. 

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.

About Altria Group
Altria Group is a Fortune 200 company located in Richmond Va. Altria’s tobacco companies include some of the most enduring names in American business including Philip Morris USA, the maker of Marlboro cigarettes, and U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Company, the maker of Copenhagen and Skoal. Altria complements its total tobacco platform with ownership of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, a collection of distinctive wine estates, and significant equity investment in Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world’s largest brewer. 

About The Arbor Day Foundation
The Arbor Day Foundation is the largest nonprofit membership organization dedicated to planting trees, with more than 1 million members, supporters, and valued partners and a mission to inspire people to plant, nurture, and celebrate trees. Our vision is to help others understand and use trees as a solution to many of the global issues we face today, including air quality, water quality, climate change, deforestation, poverty, and hunger. Find out more at arborday.org.

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CONTACT: Rob Blumenthal
National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
(202) 857-0166
[email protected]