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Wednesday, December 14, 2011 - 10:50am

Program Protects Longleaf Pines

The Longleaf Stewardship Fund announced a new partnership in Columbus Wednesday to preserve the pine tree in Georgia and other southeastern states.

Through the Fund, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Southern Company and the Department of Defense and other government agencies are pooling resources to provide grants for environmental management efforts.

The Longleaf pine is home to several endangered and threatened species. Commercial logging and development has decreased the Longleaf to 3% of its original range.

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s David O’Neil says the partnership may bring economic opportunity for Georgia landowners:

"…long leaf pine has real value in the marketplace. The long leaf pine itself is one of the most important sources of telephone poles in the US and the value of that is tremendous."

One of the grant winners is The Nature Conservancy.

The group has worked in conjunction with Fort Benning on issues such as encroachment of land development.

Michele Elmore of the Conservancy says the grants benefit Georgia recreation:

“It's private dollars that we're getting that will open up areas for people to hunt and hike and enjoy the outdoors and appreciate and experience the natural heritage of the chattahoochee valley.”

The Fund will award approximately $3 million dollars in its first year.