Highly regarded for his decades of involvement with a range of wildlife and land management issues, Mr. Abernethy assumed the Presidency of the Alliance on December 1, 2012 after most recently serving in a senior position with the National Wildlife Turkey Federation.
The biannual meeting of the Longleaf Partnership Council was conducted in Mobile on April 25-26. The Council meeting focused on range-wide topics (e.g., how the RESTORE Act prompted by the Gulf oil spill might offer longleaf opportunities) as well as technical team reports (e.g., recommendations on longleaf seedling stocking density) and, last but certainly not least, updates from partners around the region.
Somewhere down the road, when the history of longleaf restoration is written, the year 2012 will almost certainly be seen as a significant milestone. Last year, after decades of steady decline in longleaf, the USFS Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) first determined that the decline had been halted and, indeed, that acres of longleaf dominated forests had actually increased in the previous 10 years.
Not only is longleaf being successfully restored on the Osceola National Forest, the restoration efforts are generating significant positive returns for the broader economy according to a recent study. The Florida project has received considerable attention from conservationists for its ambitious goals of doubling prescribed fire acreage on the Forest, reducing fuel loads and restoring groundcover. Now impressive economic benefits have also been documented at the local, state and national scales.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in cooperation with and input from the States of Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida and South Carolina, and the Wildlife Diversity Committee of the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, recently released a Range-Wide Conservation Strategy for the Gopher Tortoise. The purpose is to guide public and private partners in proactive conservation of the tortoise, which is a candidate for listing under the Endangered Species Act across most of its range.