Longleaf Partnership Council News - "Accomplishments and Challenges"
Longleaf Partnership Council News
“Accomplishments and Challenges”
In my view, the recent Longleaf Partnership Council meeting held in Biloxi, Mississippi was a turning point in the evolution and maturation of the effort to restore Longleaf across the historic range. The early seeds were planted nearly 30 years ago and have ramped up at an ever increasing pace. A major initiative has been launched with the key components of the America’s Longleaf range wide plan, updated Strategic Actions and Priorities, the creation of a functioning partner forum with the Longleaf Partnership Council, a well organized Federal Coordinating Committee and a significant funding base with NFWF, Southern Company, International Paper, etc., that provide the dollars to make it all happen. Of top importance is the human component – not the least of which are the Local Implementation Teams that transfer objectives and dollars to work on the ground.
Because of the effort, the excellent funding and a lot of hard work at all levels, we have stopped the loss of overall Longleaf acres and are now working towards meeting our restoration goals. The recent 2013 Range-wide Accomplishment Report outlines this success in detail, along with some challenges that lie ahead. Additionally, we are taking time as a group to promote our success to date with a series of 5 year celebrations coming up in Washington, D.C. as well as during the joint fall meeting of the Longleaf Alliance and the Longleaf Partnership Council later this year. We should indeed celebrate!
So what are the challenges that lie ahead? In my mind we are at a turning point and it is time to adapt in order to continue to move forward with Longleaf restoration.
First, we need to develop an effective Communications Strategy to effectively attract funding, set policy and accomplish efficient work on the ground. This effort is much more than a mere plan and a workshop has already been scheduled for the last week in May with the Longleaf Partnership Council in Atlanta to move forward with this project.
Secondly, we have to retain our current funding and also be constantly searching for new and innovative funding sources to continue our restoration. Every time we create additional Longleaf acreage, we also have an inherent commitment for management of those acres with fire, invasive species control, etc. Therefore our management efforts increase in terms of acres treated on an annual basis and that leads to increased funding needs – it is not a linear relationship.
Third, we have made significant gains in Longleaf acres in terms of identification of sites, thinning, prescribed fire, understory treatments, etc., but most of this work to date has been with the larger landscapes on public lands. Often there are dedicated resource managers already on site, prescribed burn crews, economy of scale and management objectives in place to move dollars to the ground for restoration and planting. Indeed, these areas were strategically targeted for management based on our restoration plan and objectives, including the focus on Significant Geographic Areas (SGA). However, our greatest opportunity is on the landscape of private land with exponentially greater challenges particularly with the use of prescribed fire and economy of scale with all land management activities. I believe this is our greatest challenge in the future.
Fourth and finally – we need to be vigilant and mindful of both apathy and fatigue. Ignoring these symptoms can result in a decrease in momentum and subsequent restoration. Some individuals and organizations will see the turn around in Longleaf acreage loss as a success and can justify moving on to other challenges. Additionally, many that have worked tirelessly in this effort at all levels are often working based on passion and personal interest – far above and beyond what is funded or expected from their agencies, organizations and teams. Most are in reality true Longleaf volunteers. It is important that we recognize these individuals, agencies and organizations for their efforts, and also continue to bring in new members with fresh ideas and interest to the Longleaf Partnership Council and the Local Implementation Teams.
A lot has been accomplished, but we must adapt to the new challenges that lie ahead.
Chair – Longleaf Partnership Council
National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative