Sandhills Longleaf Pine Conservation Partnership (SLPCP)
SLPCP Completes Second Season of Inventory Mapping: 130,000 Acres Mapped
By Charles Babb, South Carolina Sandhills Longleaf Pine Conservation Partnership, and Susan Griggs, USDA NRCS
The South Carolina Sandhills Longleaf Pine Conservation Partnership (SLPCP) recently finished its second summer of forest inventory data collection with Horry Georgetown Technical College forestry student Dylan Whaley. The inventory has proven critical to understanding where the Partnership’s opportunities are to convert forests to longleaf stands and to protect and improve existing (privately owned) longleaf forests.
To date, students have collected data on approximately 5,000 tracts encompassing 130,000 acres. Data is collected only for soil types suitable for longleaf, excluding wetlands, urban areas, and active cropland.
Results to date show that longleaf is the dominant tree species on 35,000 acres, with mature longleaf covering about 2,500 acres. Along with mapping the forest stands by broad age class, Whaley collects information on existing management evidence such as burning, thinning, and pine straw raking. He also notes the understory vegetation.
This data provides valuable information in a variety of manners, including outreach opportunities. A July outreach effort targeted 175 landowners who own unplanted clear-cuts. A letter and brochure were mailed which included information on the SLPCP and opportunities for financial and technical assistance. As a direct result of the mailing, applications for 500 acres of longleaf planting have been accepted from high priority candidates.
Outreach to landowners with mature age longleaf stands has resulted in six applications for red-cockaded woodpecker Safe Harbor Agreements and the protection of at least 300 acres of stately longleaf. Restoration of these sites is underway through Partnership projects.
Additional outreach is planned to identify landowners of nearly 30,000 acres of mature loblolly stands. Many of these stands are expired Conservation Reserve Program trees that were planted in the 1980s and will be harvested in the next five years. They provide a unique opportunity to increase newly planted longleaf acres once harvested.
With information gathered through this inventory, realistic expectations are to at least double the acres of privately owned longleaf within the SLPCP focal area by 2025.
Dylan Whaley collecting forest inventory data. Photo by Susan Griggs.