From USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service:
GAINESVILLE, Fla., Aug. 31, 2016 — Rebecca Shaw remembers the old days, when mules plowed the fields and workers handpicked manicured rows of tobacco grown for cigar wrappers on her 700-acre farm. But after the children grew up and her husband passed away in 1984, she decided to plant loblolly pine.
Together, she and her son Dick manage their farm south of Quincy, Fla., bordering I-10. “Growing timber was a good choice because it requires less upkeep than row crops and is a better investment over time than leasing the land,” Dick said. But they also wanted better wildlife habitat on their property, so biologist Mike Wilson from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission directed them to Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). They planted 30 acres of longleaf pine. Florida is one of nine states that gives financial and technical assistance for conservation practices to restore longleaf pine forests and enhance existing stands. Both economically and environmentally beneficial, longleaf pine is resistant to pests and disease; it produces a clear, straight wood free of defects, withstands drought and fire and provides habitat for a host of wildlife.
That was two years ago. “In just a short amount of time, we have improved the habitat substantially,” Dick said. “My mother loves seeing the deer and turkey on the property.” And last year they signed up for Working Lands for Wildlife program that will help remove non-native invasive plants and mid-story shrubs and trees to establish better habitat for wildlife. Dick said if he had any other tracts to be planted, they would plant more longleaf pine because it reestablishes the native habitat for quail and gopher tortoise. “But the overriding reason is because it is the right thing to do,” he said. For other landowners who are going to reestablish longleaf pine, Dick recommends planting containerized plugs instead of bare root seedlings because it gets off to a faster start and has a better survival rate. To learn about how NRCS can help you develop wildlife habitat or restore longleaf pine on your land contact your local NRCS office.