Patriotic Pine: Blog Describes How Longleaf Benefits National Defense
By Ryan Orndorff, deputy director for the DoD Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration Program
GAINESVILLE, Fla., Aug. 15, 2016 — Did you know that longleaf pine forests play an important role for military training within the Southeastern United States?
Thirty-two military installations from Louisiana to Virginia contain over 700,000 acres of longleaf pine habitat across a region that was once characterized by this southern tree. For those installations located in extensive longleaf forests, commanders were able to take advantage of the ideal conditions for realistic training in these remote and open pine savannas. But over time, land conversion eliminated much of the habitat that was once so plentiful across the range, and years of fire suppression degraded remaining longleaf forests.
However, regular testing and training activities occurring on installations, like live-fire exercises, resulted in recurring fires that benefit longleaf pine habitat by reducing underbrush, improving endangered species habitat, regenerating longleaf pine and suppressing undesirable hardwoods. Consequently, as longleaf pine forests were converted to commercial, residential and industrial uses, military installations became key refuges for the pine and its unique inhabitants.
Today, the acres that Department of Defense (DoD) manages represent a significant portion of the remaining longleaf in the United States. Healthy longleaf forests on military installations provide for realistic training conditions, are resilient to fires that may result from these activities and support overall ecosystem health. Natural resource managers for DoD conduct a variety of forestland management, such as prescribed burning, control of invasive species and longleaf restoration that enhance the ecosystem as a whole and support the recovery of threatened and endangered species.
However, balancing the conservation and recovery of this ecosystem and the species that thrive there with military training and testing activities also presents significant challenges. Management for the conservation and recovery of wildlife species that depend on this ecosystem, such as the Red-cockaded woodpecker, can result in restrictions to critical training or testing activities. Additionally, further loss of longleaf pine forests can put greater strain on sustaining military readiness. Forest conversions around military installations can lead to incompatible land uses and increased constraints due to community concerns with fire, smoke or noise. More broadly, further loss of habitats leading to additional species being protected under the Endangered Species Act can also impose additional restrictions. For all these reasons, the DoD is an active and committed partner in America’s Longleaf Restoration Initiative, contributing to the restoration of this ecosystem on and around our installations and in significant areas throughout the historic range.
As working forests are some of the best neighbors an installation can have from a compatibility standpoint, woodland owners can help! While buffering a military installation from readiness-impacting development, sustainably managed longleaf pine forests can produce a wide range of valuable wood and non-wood products that provide economic benefits to rural communities and support the military’s surrounding community as a whole.
If you are located within a military installation priority buffer, additional conservation incentives may be possible through the DoD Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration Program. For more information, contact Stephanie Hertz.
Several agencies can help you establish, restore and manage longleaf pine. A variety of programs are also available to help improve wildlife habitat on your forest.
Natural Resources Conservation Service
Several programs give financial and technical assistance to plant longleaf pine in Florida. The Longleaf Pine Initiative is available to forest owners in select counties and Working Lands for Wildlife is for enhancing habitat for the gopher tortoise. Landowners apply through NRCS’s Environmental Quality Incentive Program. A district conservationist at your local USDA service center will help guide you through the application process.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
Landowner Assistance Program biologists provide technical assistance to manage and restore longleaf pine and manage wildlife habitat. They can also provide information about cost share opportunities.
Florida Forest Service
County foresters give technical assistance managing your stands.
A comprehensive source of information, history, education, workshops and management information for restoring the longleaf pine ecosystem.
America’s Longleaf website
Also a comprehensive resource, including workshops and reports.