The National Wild Turkey Federation

LOUISIANA— The National Wild Turkey Federation and the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Louisiana recently partnered to restore 500 acres of longleaf pine habitat on private lands in Louisiana.

“Partnerships such as this are vital to restoring the longleaf pine to its former grandeur and to helping landowners maintain their lands as working forests,” said NWTF biologist Lynn Lewis-Weis. “Working forests provide clean water, wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities, which benefit landowners, wildlife, hunters and anyone who enjoys the outdoors.”

Longleaf pine forests are an important and diverse habitat that is home to 26 federally listed endangered species such as the indigo snake, red-cockaded woodpecker and gopher tortoise. Longleaf pine can grow in landscapes that are poor, sandy and well-drained, and are often more suitable for these sites than other pine species.

Though they once dominated 90 million acres of the southeastern U.S., longleaf pine forests now occupy only three million acres, or three percent, of their original range and are now one of the fastest declining ecosystems in the world, surpassing that of worldwide rainforests. However, because of support from various conservation agencies and organizations, there is a heightened interest in restoring longleaf forests by replanting historic longleaf lands and educating the public about this unique Southern icon.

A grant from the Wildlife Conservation Society enabled the NWTF and NRCS to provide supplemental funding for two federal cost-share programs, Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP). These programs assist landowners in planting longleaf pines on their properties, and establishing native warm season grasses typically found in longleaf pine ecosystems, which creates great habitat for wild turkeys and countless other species of wildlife.

“Native warm season grasses grow from lightweight seeds that require precise planting and warm weather to grow, and provide quality nesting and brood rearing habitat for ground nesting birds,” Lewis-Weis said.

According to Bryan Burhans, NWTF director of land management programs, longleaf pine forests allow prescribed fire to be introduced earlier and more often than other species of pine trees, which reduces the chance for wildfires and maintains grasses and other wildlife-friendly plants.

“The value of longleaf pines for both wildlife and timber production is tremendous,” said Burhans. “Planting longleaf pine trees is a win-win situation for conservation, hunters, landowners and wildlife, and the NWTF is committed to helping rejuvenate the South’s most unique ecosystem.”

Each week, the NWTF provides the latest information about managing property for wildlife plus hunting tips for deer, turkeys, waterfowl through Get in the Game television and twice annually through Get in the Game magazine. Through two recent editions of Get in the Game magazine, 4,000 landowners in Louisiana received a special insert focused on conservation issues in the state. The Federation also co-hosts landowner workshops that often include longleaf pine management advice.