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February 23, 2009

The Longleaf Alliance helping to protect longleaf ecosystems

The original Longleaf Alliance, after nearly 15 years as a successful program housed in the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences at Auburn University, recently re-created itself as The Longleaf Alliance Inc.
The Longleaf Alliance Inc.’s mission remains the conservation and restoration of significant functioning longleaf pine ecosystems across the southeastern United States forest landscape. The longleaf pine ecosystem once occupied an estimated 90 million acres in the region, and its unique and favorable economic, ecological and social values have been well documented. By the early 1990s only about 2.8 million acres of this once vast and majestic forest remained. Due in large part to the efforts of the Longleaf Alliance and its many partners, including the S.C. Department of Natural Resources, over the past 14 years, the acreage in longleaf forest has increased to about 3.2 million acres, the first such increase since the time of settlement. Better understanding of the non-timber characteristics of longleaf ecosystems has increased the quality and supply of those conservation values.

The Longleaf Alliance Inc. Board of Directors met Jan. 20-21 to review the status of and set direction for the new non-profit organization. The board was aided in its work by utilizing the "America’s Longleaf Conservation Plan," which was developed by a Regional Working Group composed of several government and private organizations, including The Longleaf Alliance Inc. This effort was initiated by the Longleaf Alliance in 2005 and quickly became a collaborative effort involving many stakeholders and written by a team representing federal, state and private interests. A goal of 8 million acres of longleaf pine was affirmed through:

During the past eight months, The Longleaf Alliance Inc. has successfully raised $500,000 in gifts and grants to pursue its mission and a search for a full-time executive director has begun. In the interim, Rhett Johnson and Dean Gjerstad of Auburn University, with the able support of the board of directors, will continue to guide the organization.

Research and outreach partnerships with other universities and organizations are in place and additional partnerships are constantly being sought. Support for outreach and research projects that augment Alliance goals will be provided when resources permit. Memoranda of Understanding between The Longleaf Alliance, Inc. and several state and federal agencies and non-governmental organizations are also in place or pending.

Like the Longleaf Alliance before it, The Longleaf Alliance Inc. will remain the hands-on/go-to organization for all things longleaf, providing outreach and "how-to" information on longleaf pine conservation and management to landowners of all stripes, agencies, consultants and managers. The Alliance’s Biennial Regional Conference was recently held in Sandestin, Fla., and was attended by about 325 people.

The Alliance conducted three Longleaf Academies late in 2008, and six additional academies are being conducted in the first half of 2009. These week-long courses for professionals and advanced landowners provide in-depth instruction in all aspects of longleaf ecosystem conservation and management.

DNR protects and manages South Carolina’s natural resources by making wise and balanced decisions for the benefit of the state’s natural resources and its people.

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