The Southeast is a critical forest region both ecologically and economically. Stretching across the sandy, low-lying soils of the Coastal Plain, the gently sloping clay soils of the Piedmont, and the steep sloping terrains of the southern Appalachian Mountains, the forests of the southeastern United States are widely recognized for their high biodiversity. Much of the region is also working forestland and it produces more sawtimber than any other region of the country.
The National Wildlife Federation’s Southeast Forestry program works with forest owners and managers and other partner organizations to help restore and improve wildlife habitat, while also working to ensure good stewardship is rewarded financially, focusing where economics and conservation go hand-in-hand. Our vision is for all types of the region’s forests to be managed such that they continue to provide high-quality habitat, abundant forest products, and high quality of life for all generations to come.
Before Europeans arrived in North America, longleaf pine forests dominated the coastal plain from eastern Texas to southeastern Virginia—as much as 90 million acres throughout the Southeast. These longleaf forests were actually savannas, adapted to the region’s frequent fires, and characterized by scattered trees, open canopies, and abundant ground-level plant communities. As a result, longleaf forests are one of the most biodiverse forests in North America.
But by the end of the 20th century, conversion to densely-planted plantations, agriculture and other land uses had reduced the longleaf pine ecosystem to approximately three to four million acres, representing a 97 percent loss of this critical habitat, making longleaf one of the most endangered ecosystems in North America. The loss of these forests had grave impacts on the region’s wildlife.
Today, well-managed longleaf forests provide critical habitat to northern bobwhite quail, red-cockaded woodpeckers, gopher tortoises, striped newts, southeastern pocket gophers, pinewoods tree frogs, mimic glass lizards, pine and prairie warblers, eastern indigo snakes, Bachman's sparrows and many more. In fact, longleaf forests provide benefits to 29 species on Federal threatened or endangered lists.
The National Wildlife Federation has a number of initiatives underway to restore and better manage longleaf. In addition to being a key member of the range-wide effort to restore eight million acres of longleaf, we are helping provide technical, financial, and social support to landowners:
We are currently helping forest owners and forest managers implement the guidelines. Working with staff from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, we are helping create new cost-share opportunities for landowners who implement the guidelines. We are also creating new markets for pine straw that’s certified to have been managed and harvested according to the guidelines.
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More than one-third of U.S. fish and wildlife species are at risk of extinction in the coming decades. We're on the ground in seven regions across the country, collaborating with 52 state and territory affiliates to reverse the crisis and ensure wildlife thrive.