Alabama Power, partners award longleaf pine grants
Continuing a long-standing tradition of supporting natural resource conservation, Alabama Power and its sister companies, and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) will provide $4.3 million in grants this year to help restore and enhance the longleaf pine ecosystem, including five projects in Alabama.
The 2016 grants will support 21 projects that are a part of NFWF’s Longleaf Stewardship Fund, a landmark public-private partnership that includes the U.S. Department of Agriculture's U.S. Forest Service and Natural Resources Conservation Service, the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Southern Company, International Paper’s Forestland Stewards Initiative and Altria.
These projects will restore more than 14,800 acres and enhance more than 231,000 acres of longleaf pine habitat across the historic longleaf range. The 10 projects within the Southern Company service territory will impact more than 194,000 acres, of which nearly 10,000 acres will be newly planted longleaf.
“We are proud to join our sister companies and others in helping to conserve and protect wildlife habitat across the Southeast,” said Susan Comensky, Alabama Power’s vice president of Environmental Affairs. “Working with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and its partners has helped to expand the positive impact of our efforts to restore the longleaf pine ecosystem.”
The Longleaf Stewardship Fund builds on the success of the Longleaf Legacy program, a partnership between Southern Company and NFWF, which for eight years invested more than $8.7 million to restore more than 87,000 acres of forest and the native species that rely on it. Another 20,000 acres were restored through the company’s closely aligned Power of Flight program with NFWF.
Unique to the United States, the majestic longleaf pine ecosystem once covered more than 90 million acres across nine states, from Virginia to Texas. But because of timbering, development and other factors, the longleaf forest declined over the past century to less than 3 percent of its original area.
In recent years, thanks to the public-private commitment to restoration, land devoted to longleaf pine has increased from roughly 3 million acres to an estimated 4.7 million acres, reversing decades of decline and benefiting many threatened and endangered species that depend on the habitat.
Here are the 2016 Longleaf Stewardship Fund projects that will support restoration in Alabama:
The Chattahoochee Fall Line Conservation Partnership will accelerate and demonstrate longleaf pine conservation on more than 15,000 acres in west Georgia and east Alabama, with an emphasis on privately owned land. The project includes planting longleaf on 1,900 acres and implementing beneficial prescribed fire on 13,800 acres, including lands protected around Fort Benning.
The Talladega Mountain Conservation Longleaf Partnership will establish 236 acres of longleaf pine, and improve 37,000 acres of existing longleaf habitat in west Georgia and east Alabama through prescribed fire. The project will support efforts to develop a conservation plan, improve partnerships with private landowners, and foster greater collaboration among conservation organizations and agencies working in the two states.
The Gulf Coastal Plain Ecosystem Partnership will plant 374 acres of longleaf pine and improve more than 36,000 acres of existing longleaf habitat through prescribed fire and other management practices. Restoration will be in the Yellow River Ravines, an important corridor connecting Eglin Air Force Base in Florida to the larger Blackwater River State Forest/Conecuh National Forest complex in Florida and Alabama, as well as on other public and private lands. Rare species recovery will center on the red-cockaded woodpecker, reticulated salamander, eastern indigo snake and gopher tortoise.
The American Forest Foundation, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, and partners will restore 700 acres of longleaf pine in the Coosa County Wildlife Management Area and engage and educate 2,000 adjacent family forest owners on sustainable forest management practices and longleaf restoration. The project will provide long-term habitat benefits for the red-cockaded woodpecker and other species.
The National Wildlife Federation and Alabama Wildlife Federation will restore and enhance 5,000 acres of longleaf pine habitat, and advance longleaf mapping and measurement in Alabama. Ongoing project strategies include identifying priority areas where the impact of longleaf restoration would be highest, providing landowners with technical assistance to develop conservation plans, and offering educational opportunities – including workshops and field days – for private landowners.
For more information about Alabama Power’s efforts to conserve natural resources, visit www.alabamapower.com. Scroll to the Environment tab and then click Stewardship.
For more information about the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and its partnerships and initiatives, visit www.nfwf.org.