Longleaf pine forests once covered millions of acres throughout the Southeastern United States. Today, only a few thousand acres of this vital habitat remains. To help sustain, enhance and restore longleaf pine forests, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Chief Dave White today announced the availability of more than $12 million to help private landowners in nine States restore and manage longleaf pine.

“The longleaf pine is one of our key native species; providing a home to hundreds of plant and animal species as well as being a tremendous economic resource,” White said. “Restoring and expanding this species is only made possible through voluntary partnerships with conservation-minded landowners who share our goal of healthy forests.”

The nine states included in the Longleaf Pine Initiative are Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia.

Longleaf pine habitat can contain as many as 300 different species of groundcover plants per acre, and approximately 60 percent of the amphibian and reptile species found in the Southeast. Additionally, this forested habitat is home to at least 122 endangered or threatened plant and animal species including the fox squirrel, northern bobwhite, red-cockaded woodpecker and gopher tortoise.

“We’ve taken great steps toward conserving longleaf pine forests in Texas,” said NRCS Texas Acting State Conservationist Salvador Salinas. “Through this initiative, and the great works of our landowners, we will be able to enhance and protect more of this essential habitat.”

The Longleaf Pine Initiative will incorporate both technical and financial assistance providing $576,500 to help landowners in Texas improve habitat on agricultural land, nonindustrial private forest and Tribal land.

In Texas, highest priority will be given to land suitable for tree production in the following counties:  Anderson, Angelina, Cherokee, Hardin, Houston, Jasper, Liberty, Montgomery, Nacogdoches, Newton, Polk, Sabine, San Augustine, San Jacinto, Shelby, Trinity, Tyler and Walker. Land outside these counties that is determined to be suitable for longleaf pine production will also be considered.

Approved participants will receive financial assistance for implementing conservation practices including planting longleaf pine, installing firebreaks, conducting prescribed burning and controlling invasive plants. Landowners can apply at their local NRCS office in the USDA Service Center.

A longleaf pine ecology workshop also will be held Dec. 2 at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches. The workshop is tailored for consultants, landowners, Texas Forest Service (TFS), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) employees or anyone who works with non-industrial private forest landowners. This is an excellent time to meet professionals that will share their knowledge of the longleaf pine ecosystem and the wildlife habitat it supports. This free event is hosted by NRCS and the TFS. For more information contact Nancy Posvar with NRCS at (254) 742-9880 or email Jeanna Childers at Jeanna.childers@tx.usda.gov.

Additional information on the Longleaf Pine Initiative, NRCS and our programs is available on our Website at  HYPERLINK “http://www.tx.nrcs.usda.gov/http://www.tx.nrcs.usda.gov/ ,  HYPERLINK “http://www.tx.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/whip/whip_src/longleaf_pine.html” \t “_blank” www.tx.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/whip/whip_src/longleaf_pine.html or at your local USDA NRCS office.

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