WASHINGTON, DC--(Marketwired - July 06, 2016) - The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) today announced that 21 projects across the historical longleaf pine range will receive $4.3 million in grants to support the restoration of the longleaf ecosystem and advance the objectives of the Range-Wide Conservation Plan for Longleaf Pine. These projects ultimately will restore more than 14,800 acres and enhance more than 230,000 additional acres of longleaf pine habitat, while leveraging more than $5.3 million in additional funds from grant partners.
The grants are administered by NFWF's Longleaf Stewardship Fund, a landmark public-private partnership that includes the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) U.S. Forest Service and Natural Resources Conservation Service, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), and private funding from Southern Company, International Paper's Forestland Stewards Initiative, and Altria Group. The fund, now in its fifth year, combines the financial and technical resources of the partnership to accelerate restoration of the longleaf pine ecosystem and implementation of the Range-Wide Conservation Plan for Longleaf Pine as part of America's Longleaf Restoration Initiative.
"The $4.3 million in Longleaf Stewardship Fund grants announced today will build on the successes achieved through this powerful, longstanding public-private partnership," said Jeff Trandahl, executive director and CEO at NFWF. "The grants will support a range of critical conservation actions, including longleaf plantings, invasive species control and the use of prescribed fire for longleaf restoration. These projects will benefit a wide array of wildlife, including rare species such as the red-cockaded woodpecker, gopher tortoise, indigo snake and dusky gopher frog."
The longleaf pine ecosystem once encompassed more than 90 million acres, reaching from Virginia to Texas. Unique to the southeastern United States, it contains a stunning diversity of plants and animals and provides a range of additional benefits, including supporting forest-dependent economies and military readiness. With many agencies, nonprofits, private landowners and businesses committing to longleaf pine restoration in recent years, the acreage of longleaf pine forest has grown from an estimated 3.4 million acres to an estimated 4.7 million acres, reversing a century-long decline across the South.
The 21 projects selected to receive support include 13 Significant Geographic Areas for longleaf pine conservation. Additionally, the funding is expected to provide more than 1,800 private landowners with educational and technical assistance related to longleaf restoration and available cost-share programs, with an anticipated 200 landowners entering into stewardship programs on private lands.
"We accomplish more when we work together, and a shining example of collaboration is here in the Southeast, where private landowners, government entities and other groups have come together to restore this critical landscape," said Robert Bonnie, USDA's Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment. "Restoring longleaf enhances wildlife habitat and improves the quality of water, air and soil while providing a source of income for landowners. We're proud of this team effort, and the importance of this grant program in helping recover the longleaf landscape through sustainable forestry practices."
"DoD is proud to work with our partners in the Longleaf Stewardship Fund," said Peter Potochney, performing the duties of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Energy, Installations and Environment). "The collective efforts to restore the longleaf pine ecosystem helps the military conduct its test and training missions by providing natural buffer areas around its installations and preventing these lands from converting to incompatible land uses. Additionally, healthy longleaf pine forests across the Southeast provide habitat for imperiled species that are either currently protected under the Endangered Species Act or might become listed, creating additional training restrictions for our men and women in uniform. By partnering with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, approximately $8 will be spent by our partners for every dollar DoD spends. This effort will result in establishing more than 14,800 acres of longleaf and enhancing an additional 230,000 acres, and directly benefiting 10 military installations."
"The Service is proud to join with our other conservation partners as sponsors of the Longleaf Stewardship Fund," said Cindy Dohner, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Southeast Regional Director. "The strong relationships we have developed with NFWF and our Federal, State, and private partners are paying great dividends in supporting working forests and their contributions to the South's culture and economy while also conserving numerous listed and at-risk species. I am very impressed that we are going to be able to support the restoration and enhancement of nearly 250,000 acres of longleaf pine habitat through the 2016 awards, more than any previous year of the partnership."
"The Longleaf Stewardship Fund harnesses the power of collaborative public-private partnerships to address critical conservation needs in the Southeast," said Southern Company Chief Environmental Officer Dr. Larry S. Monroe. "Southern Company is proud to join our trusted partners in finding real solutions to conserve and protect the longleaf pine ecosystem, with its many ecological, economic and cultural benefits."
"International Paper is proud of our longstanding work with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to demonstrate the economic, social and ecological value of working forests. Together we continue to conserve and restore some of America's most treasured landscapes," said Tom Cleves, vice president of global citizenship. "For more than a century, we have practiced sustainable forestry and we continue to promote the long-term sustainability of natural resources through the Forestland Stewards Initiative."
"Promoting the sustainability of natural resources is a core part of Altria's mission," said Wendy Shields, Manager, Corporate Citizenship for Altria Client Services. "By helping restore the longleaf forests, we are improving our communities while protecting the resources on which we depend."
Since 2012, the Longleaf Stewardship Fund has invested more than $18.4 million in projects that will restore more than 62,500 acres, improve more than 776,000 additional acres of longleaf pine forest, and benefit the native species that rely on those forests. The grants awarded by the Longleaf Stewardship Fund in 2016 continue to build on the success of this public-private partnership, further expanding the longleaf pine ecosystem through collaborative and results-oriented actions.
For a complete list of the 2016 grants made through the Longleaf Stewardship Fund Program, please click here.
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 committed more than $3.5 billion to conservation projects. Learn more at www.nfwf.org.