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Southeast Forestry Program

Restoring Southern Forests for Wildlife

scenic photo of longleaf pines

Forests are vital for both wildlife and people. In the southeastern region, there is a diverse range of ecosystems, including cypress swamps, pines and hardwoods across the area. These forests support a rich variety of wildlife, with over 158 mammal species, 504 bird species, and 178 amphibian species. One particularly important type of forest is the longleaf pine forest, which can live for 300-400 years. These forests play a crucial role in maintaining a healthy environment by providing clean air and water sources, acting as buffers against wildfires, and mitigating damage caused by hurricanes. Furthermore, forests offer essential resources such as oxygen, food, clean drinking water, and shelter for both wildlife and humans.

Wildlife in a Longleaf Pine Forest

There are twenty-nine species listed as threatened or endangered by the state and/or federal government that inhabit these forests. Unfortunately, longleaf pine forests are one of the most endangered landscapes in North America. Restoring these forests could greatly benefit a wide range of species. including:

Priorities for Reforesting the Southeast

Longleaf pine forests once covered a vast area from east Texas to north Florida, extending all the way to Virginia. However, due to logging, development, and agriculture, this habitat has been reduced to less than 5% of its original 90 million acres. Nevertheless, the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) and its partners are working together to restore this iconic landscape. One approach is to promote the use of prescribed fire on private forests, which encourages landowners to participate in larger-scale land management efforts.

scenic photo showing the biodiverse understory in a longleaf pine forest
Understory in a mature longleaf pine forest. Credit: Gary Burger

NWF's Key Accomplishments in Southeast Forestry

Since 2009, NWF and its partners have successfully restored over 1 million acres of these ecosystems. Restoring these forests requires implementing prescribed burns on a timed rotation. NWF actively educates landowners about the benefits of prescribed burning as a management technique through practical learn-and-burn demonstrations. Additionally, NWF provides grants and awards within its network to support underserved landowners in planting, burning, and managing healthy longleaf forests.

photo collage linking to Hoke Community Forest blog Restoring Forests, Reinforcing a Community
Located near the Sandhills and bustling military activity of Fort Bragg, the Hoke County Community Forest is on its way to becoming an outdoor recreation haven and revenue generator for a small, diverse county in North Carolina. The National Wildlife Federation is teaming up with Hoke County and other partners to begin work on a ground-breaking forestry project that will benefit wildlife, forests, and the citizens of Hoke County. Read more >

photo of Herbert Hodges at his longleaf pine forest in Georgia In the Pines
Roughly 150 miles southeast of Atlanta lies the Willie Hodges Estate Family Farm in Swainsboro, Georgia. In the Hodges family since at least 1883, this tract of private land—which has expanded to roughly 600 acres over the years—today boasts more than 400 acres of longleaf pine, a vital but dwindling habitat in the U.S. Southeast that supports hundreds of plant and animal species. It is also now serving as a training ground where other landowners can learn about longleaf management. View full story >

Longleaf for All Initiative Builds Collaborative Partnerships to Increase Diversity in Forestry

Longleaf for All, a newly established initiative, aims to bring about awareness and positive change for underserved and minority landowners, professionals, and students in the historic longleaf pine range in the Southeastern United States. Over thirty groups including non-profit, landowner groups, federal and state agencies are working hand-in-hand to address barriers and provide opportunities and resources to help landowners reap the economic, ecological, and cultural benefits of owning forested land. The group is also creating opportunities to engage with outreach professionals, the forest industry, and students to create positive change in how outreach is provided, markets are accessed, and diversity increases in the next generation of professionals and students. Learn more about our work here.

Learn More

Balancing the economic needs of landowners with the requirements of wildlife habitats has always been a priority for our organization. The Southeast Private Lands Forestry program is particularly interested in inclusivity and accessibility. By improving policies and land management practices, we can enhance the resilience of wildlife populations, forest habitats, and human communities. To find out more about how NWF is making a difference, please review our Mission and Strategic Plan.

Opportunities to participate are available through the following programs:
* Longleaf For All Mentor Landowner Program:
The National Wildlife Federation and Longleaf for All partners are seeking underserved landowners for a unique mentorship program. If you are interested in helping educate others on the importance of sustainable forestry, please contact Katrina Koning (see Contact Us).

* HBCU Internship Network:
Seasonal, part time positions are available to students attending colleges within the historic longleaf range. This Forest Community Outreach Internship is intended for students to learn more about the fields of forestry, prescribed fire, landowner outreach, environmental justice, and community education. If interested please contact Katrina Koning (contact information below).

Contact Us

Tiffany Woods
Southeast Director of the Private Lands Forestry Program
The National Wildlife Federation

Katrina Koning
Senior Forestry Coordinator
The National Wildlife Federation

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Where We Work

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.

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