Grant available to save longleaf pine forests

Published 11:51 am Friday, December 3, 2010

RICHMOND—Landowners in Southampton and Isle of Wight counties are eligible for federal funding to help sustain, enhance and restore disappearing longleaf pine forests, the Natural Resources Conservation Service recently announced.

“The longleaf pine is one of our key native species, providing home to hundreds of plant and animal species as well as being a tremendous economic resource,” said Dave White, chief of the NRCS.

The NRCS is offering more than $12 million in funding to help private landowners restore and manage longleaf pine forests in nine southeastern states. In Virginia, $150,000 is available to interested landowners in 17 cities and counties.

The Longleaf Pine Initiative will incorporate both technical and financial assistance. Approved participants will receive financial assistance for implementing conservation practices such as planting longleaf pine, installing firebreaks, conducting prescribed burning and controlling invasive plants.

Galon Hall, a state biologist for the NRCS, said the decline of longleaf pines is tied to harvesting, but not replanting the trees.

“They were not replanted because there was another species, loblolly pine, that would grow quicker and allow the landowners to see a profit much sooner,” he said.

It’s estimated the longleaf pine habitat may contain as many as 300 different species of groundcover plants per acre and approximately 60 percent of the amphibian and reptile species found in the Southeast.

Loblolly pine habitats, Hall said, are home to different types of species.

“The major difference is longleaf pines are tolerant of fire,” he said. “They are a fire-driven ecosystem, so the plant and animal communities that were present within a longleaf pine forest were much different because they were tolerant of fire.”

Longleaf pines also have different wood characteristics and don’t require very productive soils to grow, Hall said.

In addition to Southampton and Isle of Wight, landowners in Accomack, Brunswick, Dinwiddie, Gloucester, Greensville, James City, Mathews, Northampton, Prince George, Surry, Sussex and York counties as well as the cities of Chesapeake, Suffolk and Virginia Beach are eligible for the program.

“We’re on the very northern edge of where longleaf pines were,” Hall said, adding most of the state isn’t suitable for the trees to grow.

For more information about the initiative, visit or contact United States Department of Agriculture NRCS offices in Courtland at 653-2532 or Smithfield at 357-7004.