NFWF Announces Record $18 Million in Conservation Grants to Restore Iconic Longleaf Pine Ecosystem
Largest grant slate in program’s 20-year history will impact more than 500,000 acres of longleaf pine habitat, bolster longleaf seedling capacity and benefit at-risk wildlife across nine southern states
Washington, D.C. (June 15, 2023) – The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) today announced $18 million in new conservation grants from the Longleaf Landscape Stewardship Fund (LLSF) to restore, enhance and protect longleaf pine forests in nine southern states. This year’s grant slate, the largest in the program’s history, will leverage more than $14.7 million in matching contributions to generate a total conservation impact of $32.7 million.
Longleaf pine forests are some of the most biodiverse in the world, providing habitat for 29 species listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act, while also providing clean water, outdoor recreational opportunities, forest jobs, and even supporting our national defense by buffering military installations from encroaching development. The LLSF is guided by and provides key financial support for on-the-ground partners working to implement projects that contribute to the larger America’s Longleaf Restoration Initiative (ALRI). This strategic plan for longleaf aims to restore 8 million acres of longleaf pine habitat to benefit imperiled species.
This year’s record-breaking funding level builds on a long-standing public-private funding partnership and is due to the collective investment of 11 funders, including a major contribution from the Bezos Earth Fund. These investments will scale-up longleaf restoration and enhancement activities that contribute to the ALRI goals, while also enabling NFWF and partners to pursue additional game-changing strategies.
The LLSF exemplifies the power of collaboration, bringing together different funders to support landscape-scale conservation. NFWF works with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, the USDA Forest Service, the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bezos Earth Fund, International Paper’s Forestland Stewards Partnership, Southern Company, Altria Group, One Tree Planted, The Orton Foundation (an affiliate of The Moore Charitable Foundation), and, new this year, Oxy.
“The 28 projects announced today reflect years of hard work by organizations dedicated to the voluntary restoration of the longleaf ecosystem and represent a banner year for longleaf pine conservation that will advance innovative approaches to expand and improve longleaf pine forests and surrounding habitat,” said Jeff Trandahl, executive director and CEO of NFWF. “These projects are game changers, especially for expanding nursery capacity and reforestation efforts, which are needed to reach the America’s Longleaf Restoration Initiative’s goal of restoring 8 million acres.”
The projects supported by the grants announced today will advance longleaf pine habitat restoration across its historic range, which covers portions of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia. Together, the projects supported by these grants are expected to establish more than 50,000 acres of longleaf pine habitat through plantings and enhance an additional 450,000 acres through prescribed burning and other practices, including invasive species removal. Grantees will engage private landowners through workshops, trainings and one-on-one technical assistance to restore and maintain longleaf pine habitat on their lands.
These projects will also collaborate with and support seedling nurseries, seed orchards and tree improvement experts to produce more than 20 million longleaf seedlings over the next five years. In addition, these projects will bolster seedling production and quality over the long-term, which is critical to expanding and sustaining longleaf pine restoration. And over the course of this work, NFWF estimates that more than 200 jobs will be supported.
Today’s grants will work on both public and private lands to expand and enhance longleaf pine habitat to benefit numerous wildlife species, including at-risk species such as the red-cockaded woodpecker, Mississippi sandhill crane and gopher tortoise, as well as game species such as wild turkey and white-tailed deer. All these species rely on a healthy longleaf pine forest that includes a diverse herbaceous understory where these animals can nest and forage. Projects will increase capacity for prescribed burning, a crucial element of restoring and maintaining this fire-adapted ecosystem, and which also reduces wildfire risk to human communities.
NFWF’s investments in longleaf pine habitat restoration started in 2004 through the Longleaf Legacy program, funded through a partnership with Southern Company. The LLSF launched in 2012 and builds on the success of the Longleaf Legacy Program, expanding the number of funding partners to include federal agencies and additional non-federal partners. This public-private partnership is proven, and most consider it a model for other conservation efforts, having invested more than $75 million since its inception, leveraging an additional $83.7 million in matching contributions for a total conservation impact of $158.7 million. This year’s slate of grants is the 20th awarded by NFWF since 2004 and more than double the amount of funding awarded in any previous single year.
Conservation of longleaf forests demonstrates the interdependence of wildlife, human communities, clean water, carbon sequestration and even national defense. The longleaf pine ecosystem once covered more than 90 million acres across the Southeastern coastal plain and piedmont. Today, it has been reduced to only about 5 percent of its historical range, due to the conversion to other forest types, conversion to other land uses and fire suppression. This fire-adapted ecosystem possesses tremendous biodiversity, supporting nearly 900 native plant species and providing habitat for wildlife, not only those mentioned above, but others such as the eastern indigo snake, Louisiana pine snake and Bachman’s sparrow.
Longleaf forests also contribute to the United States’ military readiness by providing buffers to military training bases. They offer recreational opportunities for millions of Americans and contribute to working lands and forest-dependent economies. Longleaf forests are resilient to drought, wind, and pests, and help buffer communities from strong storms. These forests gained the conservation community’s attention in the late 20th century as government agencies, nonprofits and private landowners began collaborating to restore longleaf pine and reverse the loss of habitat.
NFWF established the LLSF in 2012 to support these conservation efforts. The fund combines its partners’ financial and technical resources to accelerate the restoration of the longleaf pine ecosystem while implementing the Range-Wide Conservation Plan for Longleaf Pine as part of ALRI.
A complete list of the 2023 grants made through the LLSF is available here.
Additional quotes from program funding partners can be found here.
About the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
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, foundation and individual partners, NFWF has funded more than 6,000 organizations and generated a total conservation impact of $8.1 billion. Learn more at www.nfwf.org.
About the Natural Resources Conservation Service
As the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s primary private lands conservation agency, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) helps America’s farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners make investments in their operations and local communities to keep working lands working, boost rural economies, increase the competitiveness of American agriculture, and improve the quality of our air, water, soil, and habitat. Through one-on-one, personalized and voluntary assistance, NRCS works with producers and communities to find the best solutions to meet their unique conservation and business goals to ensure the health of our natural resources and the long-term sustainability of American agriculture.
About the U.S. Forest Service
The mission of the USDA Forest Service is, “To sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the Nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations.” The Forest Service manages 193 million acres of forest lands with tribal governments, state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forest research organization in the world.
About the U.S. Department of Defense
The Department of Defense is America's largest government agency. With our military tracing its roots back to pre-Revolutionary times, the department has grown and evolved with our nation. Our mission is to provide the military forces needed to deter war and ensure our nation's security.
About the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is to work with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit fws.gov.
About the Bezos Earth Fund
The Bezos Earth Fund is a $10 billion grant commitment by Jeff Bezos to fund scientists, activists, NGOs and others to help drive climate and nature solutions. By allocating funds creatively, wisely, and boldly, the Bezos Earth Fund has the potential for transformative influence in this decisive decade. Funds will be fully allocated by 2030 — the date by which the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals must be achieved. For more information, visit us at bezosearthfund.org.
About International Paper
International Paper (NYSE: IP) is a global producer of planet-friendly packaging, pulp and other fiber-based products, and one of North America's largest recyclers. Headquartered in Memphis, Tenn., we employ approximately 39,000 colleagues globally who are committed to creating what's next. We serve customers worldwide, with manufacturing operations in North America, Latin America, North Africa and Europe. Net sales for 2022 were $21.2 billion. Additional information can be found by visiting www.internationalpaper.com.
About Southern Company
Southern Company (NYSE: SO) is a leading energy provider serving 9 million residential and commercial customers across the Southeast and beyond through its family of companies. Providing clean, safe, reliable and affordable energy with excellent service is our mission. The company has electric operating companies in three states, natural gas distribution companies in four states, a competitive generation company, a leading distributed energy distribution company with national capabilities, a fiber optics network and telecommunications services. Through an industry-leading commitment to innovation, resilience and sustainability, we are taking action to meet customers' and communities' needs while advancing our goal of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Our uncompromising values ensure we put the needs of those we serve at the center of everything we do and are the key to our sustained success. We are transforming energy into economic, environmental and social progress for tomorrow. Our corporate culture and hiring practices have earned the company national awards and recognition from numerous organizations, including Forbes, The Military Times, DiversityInc, Black Enterprise, J.D. Power, Fortune, Human Rights Campaign and more. To learn more, visit www.southerncompany.com.
About One Tree Planted
One Tree Planted is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit on a mission to make it simple for anyone to help the environment by planting trees. Their projects span the globe and are done in partnership with local communities and knowledgeable experts to create an impact for nature, people, and wildlife. Reforestation helps to rebuild forests after fires and floods, provide jobs for social impact, and restore biodiversity. Many projects have overlapping objectives, creating a combination of benefits that contribute to the UN's Sustainable Development Goals. Learn more at onetreeplanted.org.
About the Orton Foundation
The Orton Foundation, the North Carolina affiliate of Louis Bacon’s Moore Charitable Foundation, focuses on protecting the Cape Fear River Basin’s unique waterways, wetlands, forests, and wildlife habitats. The Orton Foundation’s community program supports educational, cultural, and social and environmental justice programs in the region.
About Occidental Petroleum
Occidental is an international energy company with assets primarily in the United States, the Middle East and North Africa. We are one of the largest oil producers in the U.S., including a leading producer in the Permian and DJ basins, and offshore Gulf of Mexico. Our midstream and marketing segment provides flow assurance and maximizes the value of our oil and gas. Our chemical subsidiary OxyChem manufactures the building blocks for life-enhancing products. Our Oxy Low Carbon Ventures subsidiary is advancing leading-edge technologies and business solutions that economically grow our business while reducing emissions. We are committed to using our global leadership in carbon management to advance a lower-carbon world. Visit oxy.com for more information.
Rob Blumenthal, 202-857-0166, firstname.lastname@example.org