Sandhills Longleaf Pine Conservation Partnership (SLPCP)
Sandhills Longleaf Pine Conservation Partnership (SLPCP) Update
By Susan Griggs, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
Charles Babb, SLPCP Coordinator, recently finalized efforts with five landowners to protect 220 acres of mature longleaf from being clear-cut. These landowners have made a commitment to manage and improve their stands via midstory control, reintroducing prescribed fire (slowly), and using supplemental plantings of native understory plants. “In our area, we have landowners who have never been taught that managing a tract (of timber) can have many benefits,” said Babb. “We are excited to have the opportunity to walk alongside several families and help them navigate a new plan for their forests.”
The stands are in close proximity to public lands with active red-cockaded woodpecker (RCW) colonies. Babb anticipates the proposed management activities will produce premium RCW forage habitat in addition to potential nest sites. In fact, four landowners have expressed interest in installing artificial nest cavities in an effort to attract new RCW pairs once restoration is complete and all families desire to enroll in the South Carolina DNR’s Safe Harbor Program.
Babb, along with Natural Resources Conservation Service Biologist Sudie Thomas, have installed permanent monitoring plots to document changes in understory vegetation over time. Landowners will plant locally harvested native seed in selected areas to increase plant diversity and improve fuel conditions for prescribed fire. “We are excited to have this cooperation from landowners who see the bigger picture in longleaf management,” said Babb. The Partnership plans to use their forest inventory data (collected this summer) to identify other tracts of mature longleaf and to build on the strides already gained. "Being able to foster a relationship with landowners who possess the same level of commitment as this core group would be fantastic," he said. "Preserving these older (privately owned) stands will allow us to preserve a glimpse of the past while building our future."
Funding for the SLPCP and its programs is provided through multiple sources including NFWF grants, USFWS Partners for Wildlife, and USDA’s EQIP.
NRCS Biologist Sudie Thomas talks with Savannah Rogerson as they complete understory inventory in one of five permanent monitoring plots established on her grandparents’ land. Photo by Susan Griggs.