Achieving and Documenting Restoration Success: What’s Next?
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. Yes, longleafers paused to celebrate and also to credit the early longleaf silviculturalists and researchers, the pioneering Longleaf Alliance, and the America’s Longleaf Restoration Initiative – all of which have played roles in reversing the demise of this iconic Southern forest. But the celebration was brief, as the 33-member Longleaf Partnership Council was busy aggressively charting the future course of longleaf restoration and committing to ambitious goals over the next three years.
"With release of our Strategic Priorities and Actions 2013-2015 document in the fall of 2012, we really put ourselves out there in terms of publicly setting forth what the next phase of longleaf restoration will achieve. And, believe me, the hard work toward those challenging goals is already well underway," said Vernon Compton, Chair of the Council.
Please see the document at Strategic Priorities and Actions for specific information on goals for longleaf establishment on both private and public lands; increases in prescribed fire and other restoration and management activities; continued development of needed local, state and regional technical teams; enhanced technical assistance delivery and other training; and, of course, broadening the resource base necessary to support the range wide effort.
Glen Gaines, a primary writer of the document who also serves as the USFS Longleaf Pine Regional Coordinator, is quick to emphasize the explicit goals related to preparing a well-documented Annual Accomplishment Report and a Restoration Progress Report every five years. "The Council and its individual members need the ability to communicate the scale and magnitude of the on the ground restoration work and to explain how significant public and private funds are being effectively expended and leveraged," he said.
The first Accomplishment Report is due at the end of 2013 and efforts with partners to design and capture data and other information for the publication have already been initiated. The report is expected to capture acres accomplished for each of the performance measures adopted by the Council that are associated with the Strategic Priorities and Actions document. A narrative portion of the report will cover a variety of stories at various scales and highlight the essential work of the local implementation teams, state coordination teams and technical teams as well as individual partner agencies, NGOs and others.
"Preparing this first annual report is definitely going to present some challenges, and will not be possible without the involvement of the State Coordination Teams. But, now that the America's Longleaf Restoration Initiative is viewed nationally as a model for landscape level collaborative conservation that requires significant public and private support, we simply have to be able to document our progress toward established goals," according to Glen Gaines.