Longleaf pine habitat is among the most diverse in the world and was the backdrop for much of the economic and cultural development of the American South. Known for the exceptional quality of their timber, longleaf pines were cut in great swaths over the last two centuries.  Insect-resistant, fire and wind tolerant, and able to grow in dry, sandy soils, these durable trees are ideally suited to the Gulf Coastal Plain. 

America’s Longleaf Restoration Initiative

Longleaf restoration efforts thus far have primarily been focused on public lands and relatively small acreages.  To address the lack of landscape-scale longleaf restoration, America’s Longleaf Restoration Initiative has a goal to restore 8 million acres of longleaf pine across the historic range by 2025.  In addition to public lands and smaller non-commercial private properties, it is imperative to engage large private timberland owners, which will require a new and creative approach.

Our Efforts

The Conservation Fund is engaged in many projects throughout the range of the longleaf pine completing land acquisition projects in nearly every state throughout the longleaf’s range.  Using an innovative approach The Conservation Fund and Resource Management Service, LLC are working together to create a landscape scale (up to 205,000-acres) working longleaf forest in the lower Alabama/Florida panhandle region.  The proposed Coastal Headwaters Forest – Longleaf Conservation and Restoration project will:
  1. Establish conservation easements which require longleaf pine restoration and protect the land as a working longleaf forest in perpetuity;
  2. Protect water quality and quantity by managing the property for longleaf pine and preventing conversion to more intensive uses ;
  3. Support forest related economic development in local communities and create and expand markets for longleaf pine products;
  4. Buffer and protect area military installations and provide potential training and mitigation opportunities;
  5. Provide ecological benefits for plants and animals inherent to the longleaf ecosystem; and
  6. Demonstrate that a landscape scale longleaf forest restoration and working forest model can be successful.


Natural Resources

Coastal-Headwaters-MapApproximately 70% of Coastal Headwaters Forest is currently comprised of loblolly pine, with a smaller amount in existing longleaf.  All of the areas in loblolly will be replanted with longleaf and managed on an approximately 45-year cycle, with prescribed fire required a minimum of once every 4 years to help promote tree growth and health and support native groundcover.  

Coastal Headwaters Forest provides a variety of other habitat types, from ephemeral ponds to bottomland hardwood forests, with numerous streams and creeks feeding into major rivers.  Protection of this habitat and returning longleaf and fire to the landscape will benefit numerous imperiled species.  Learn more about the important habitat these lands provide for threatened and endangered species in the “At A Glance” section.  

Other benefits to natural resources include helping to protect a wildlife corridor connecting conservation lands in Florida to those in Alabama, control of invasive exotic species, and outdoor recreation.

Water Resources 

Coastal Headwaters Forest will also protect water quality and quantity within five major river watersheds: the Escambia, Perdido, Blackwater, Lower Alabama, and Lower Conecuh.  For example, the project encompasses 22% of the Escambia River’s watershed in Florida and 18% of the Perdido River’s watershed in Alabama.  Long-term protection of these watersheds and the prevention of conversion to more intensive land uses will help ensure continued clean, freshwater flows to critical Gulf estuaries.  This will help ensure that these estuaries remain productive and vibrant for years to come.  The majority of the site is also with an aquifer recharge area and protects numerous springs. 

The project will also provide buffering and potential training opportunities for nearby Department of Defense installations and will protect significant cultural and historic sites.

Making This Happen

The Conservation Fund, in partnership with many other organizations, is seeking federal, state, and private funding to acquire conservation easements over the property.  This will protect the landscape from conversion to other land uses, while allowing for sustainable harvesting operations over time.  Longleaf pine has a relatively slow growth rate, making the tree less desirable from a commercial timber operation, especially when coupled with the traditional final harvest regime of approximately 25 years.  Working together we will find funding to compensate for the differential in income and cash flow, allowing for a longer term rotation to final harvest and the successful conversion to longleaf pine habitat across the entire project area.  The efforts will significantly enhance range-wide longleaf restoration efforts and serve as a critical demonstration project to pave the way for future partnerships and successful private endeavors.

Partners

  • Alabama Forestry Commission
  • Alabama Forest Resources Center
  • America’s Longleaf Initiative
  • Alabama Power
  • Alabama Wildlife Federation
  • Atlanta Botanical Garden
  • Audubon Florida
  • E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation
  • Florida Defenders of Wildlife
  • Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
  • Florida Forest Service
  • Florida Wildlife Federation
  • Gulf Coastal Plain Ecosystem Partnership
  • Gulf Power
  • Joseph W. Jones Ecological Research Center
  • National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative
  • National Wild Turkey Federation
  • National Wildlife Federation
  • Northwest Florida Water Management District
  • Ocean Foundation
  • Resource Management Service, LLC
  • Quality Deer Management Association
  • Saloom Properties, LLC
  • Southern Company
  • The Longleaf Alliance
  • The Nature Conservancy
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • U.S. Forest Service
  • U.S. Natural Resource Conservation Service

Learn More

USDA Blog, September 2015
Press Release
, January 2015