NFWF - National Fish and Wildlife Foundation

06/18/2024 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 06/18/2024 09:08

NFWF Announces Record $33.5 Million in Conservation Grants to Restore Longleaf Pine Habitat and Help At-Risk Wildlife

Washington, D.C. (June 18, 2024) - The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) today announced $33.5 million in conservation grants from the Longleaf Landscape Stewardship Fund (LLSF) to restore, enhance and protect longleaf pine forests in eight southern states. This year's grant slate is the largest in the program's history, building on a recent trend of increased funding for longleaf pine restoration. These grants will leverage $21.2 million in matching contributions to generate a total conservation impact of $54.7 million.

This year's historic funding level builds on an enduring public-private funding partnership and is due to the collective investment of 10 funders, including a major contribution from the Bezos Earth Fund, as well as increased funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service. These investments will help partners engage more private landowners within this private land-dominated landscape, scale-up longleaf restoration and enhancement activities, and enable NFWF and partners to pursue additional innovative strategies to accelerate longleaf pine restoration.
The longleaf pine ecosystem is one of the most biodiverse in the world, providing habitat for 40 species listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act, as well as dozens of "species of greatest conservation need" as designated by state wildlife agencies. Longleaf pine forests also provide clean water, places to recreate, forest sector jobs and contribute to our national defense by buffering military installations from encroaching development.

The LLSF is guided by and provides key financial support for on-the-ground partners working to implement projects that contribute to the larger America's Longleaf Restoration Initiative, recognized nationwide for its landscape-scale, multi-state approach to solving the nation's biodiversity crisis. The ALRI recently launched an updated strategic plan setting a renewed path to restore 8 million acres of longleaf pine habitat to benefit imperiled species.

"Through this record investment of more than $33 million, the 30 projects announced today will help partners scale up efforts to reach more landowners and implement innovative voluntary approaches to restoring longleaf pine habitat and helping the wildlife that rely on this important forest ecosystem," said Jeff Trandahl, executive director and CEO of NFWF. "These projects would not be possible without the incredible network of funding partners and on-the-ground conservationists working collaboratively to reach the America's Longleaf Restoration Initiative's goal of restoring 8 million acres."

The LLSF is a force multiplier, bringing together different funders to support landscape-scale conservation. NFWF works with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bezos Earth Fund, International Paper's Forestland Stewards Partnership, Southern Company, Altria Group, The Orton Foundation, an affiliate of The Moore Charitable Foundation, and, new this year, Energy Transfer.

The projects supported by the grants announced today will advance longleaf pine habitat restoration across eight states within its historic range, including portions of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas. Together, the projects supported by these grants are expected to establish more than 70,000 acres of longleaf pine habitat through plantings and complete prescribed burnings on an additional 430,000 acres. Grantees will engage private landowners through workshops, trainings and one-on-one technical assistance to restore and maintain longleaf pine habitat on their lands.

These projects will also address restoration bottlenecks by supporting seedling nurseries and seed orchards to bolster the quantity and quality of longleaf pine seedlings, which is critical to expanding and sustaining longleaf pine restoration. Grantees will help strengthen and recover populations of at-risk wildlife including the gopher tortoise, red-cockaded woodpecker and eastern indigo snake through captive breeding and release of individuals to restored longleaf pine habitat.

NFWF's investments in longleaf pine habitat restoration started in 2004 through the Longleaf Legacy Program, funded through a partnership with Southern Company. The LLSF launched in 2012 expanding the number of funding partners to include federal agencies and additional non-federal partners. This long-standing public-private partnership is considered a model for other conservation efforts, having invested more than $108.5 million since its inception, leveraging an additional $109 million in matching contributions for a total conservation impact of $217.5 million. This year's slate of grants is the 21st awarded by NFWF since 2004 and nearly double the previous record amount awarded last year.

Conservation of longleaf forests demonstrates the interdependence of wildlife, human communities, clean water, carbon sequestration and even national defense. The longleaf pine ecosystem once covered more than 90 million acres across the southeastern coastal plain and piedmont. Today, it has been reduced to only about 5 percent of its historical range, due to the conversion to other forest types, conversion to other land uses and fire suppression. This fire-adapted ecosystem possesses tremendous biodiversity, supporting nearly 900 native plant species and providing habitat for wildlife, not only those mentioned above, but others such as the Bachman's sparrow, northern bobwhite and other grassland and forest-dependent bird species that have experienced significant declines due to habitat loss.

Longleaf forests also contribute to the United States' military readiness by providing buffers to military training bases. They offer recreational opportunities for millions of Americans and contribute to working lands and forest-dependent economies. Longleaf forests are resilient to drought, wind and pests, and help buffer communities from strong storms. These forests gained the conservation community's attention in the late 20th century as government agencies, nonprofits and private landowners began collaborating to restore longleaf pine and reverse the loss of habitat, driven in good part by Endangered Species Act requirements that created user conflicts. Twenty years later, the collaborative approach epitomized by the ALRI's collective landscape-scale restoration efforts are lauded worldwide.

A complete list of the 2024 grants made through the Longleaf Landscape Stewardship Fund is available here. See quotes from LLSF partners about this historic announcement here.

About the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
Chartered by Congress in 1984, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) protects and restores the nation's fish, wildlife, plants and habitats. Working with federal, corporate, foundation and individual partners, NFWF has funded more than 6,800 organizations and generated a total conservation impact of more than $10 billion. NFWF is an equal opportunity provider. Learn more at nfwf.org.

About the Natural Resources Conservation Service
As the U.S. Department of Agriculture's primary private lands conservation agency, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) helps America's farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners make investments in their operations and local communities to keep working lands working, boost rural economies, increase the competitiveness of American agriculture, and improve the quality of our air, water, soil, and habitat. Through one-on-one, personalized and voluntary assistance, NRCS works with producers and communities to find the best solutions to meet their unique conservation and business goals to ensure the health of our natural resources and the long-term sustainability of American agriculture.

About the U.S. Forest Service
The mission of the USDA Forest Service is, "To sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the Nation's forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations." The Forest Service manages 193 million acres of forest lands with tribal governments, state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forest research organization in the world.

About the U.S. Department of Defense
The Department of Defense plans and executes all mission activities in a manner that ensures protection of human health and the environment to sustain indefinitely the resources required to support the readiness of our armed forces. Over the past 10 years, the Department of Defense (DoD) has invested approximately $42 billion to ensure the success of its environmental programs. In FY2010, DoD invested approximately $4.2 billion in natural and cultural resource conservation, environmental compliance, pollution prevention, and environmental cleanup, and another $237 million in environmental technology. Learn more hereā€¦Protecting America's Environment

About the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is to work with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit fws.gov.

About the Bezos Earth Fund
The Bezos Earth Fund is helping transform the fight against climate change with the largest ever philanthropic commitment to climate and nature protection. Jeff Bezos has committed $10 billion in this decisive decade to protect nature and address climate change. By providing funding and expertise, we partner with organizations to accelerate innovation, break down barriers to success and create a more equitable and sustainable world. Join us in our mission to create a world where people prosper in harmony with nature.

About the Orton Foundation
The Orton Foundation, the North Carolina affiliate of Louis Bacon's Moore Charitable Foundation, focuses on protecting the Cape Fear River Basin's unique waterways, wetlands, forests, and wildlife habitats. The Orton Foundation's community program supports educational, cultural, and social and environmental justice programs in the region.

About International Paper
International Paper (NYSE: IP) is a leading global supplier of renewable fiber-based products. We produce corrugated packaging products that protect and promote goods, and enable worldwide commerce, and pulp for diapers, tissue and other personal care products that promote health and wellness. Headquartered in Memphis, Tenn., we employ approximately 38,000 colleagues globally. We serve customers worldwide, with manufacturing operations in North America, Latin America, North Africa and Europe. Net sales for 2021 were $19.4 billion. See how we're building a better future for people, the planet, and our company at internationalpaper.com/Vision-2030.

About Southern Company
Southern Company (NYSE:SO) is a leading energy company serving 9 million customers through its subsidiaries. The company provides clean, safe, reliable and affordable energy through electric operating companies in three states, natural gas distribution companies in four states, a competitive generation company serving wholesale customers across America, a leading distributed energy infrastructure company, a fiber optics network and telecommunications services. Southern Company brands are known for excellent customer service, high reliability and affordable prices below the national average. For more than a century, we have been building the future of energy and developing the full portfolio of energy resources, including carbon-free nuclear, advanced carbon capture technologies, natural gas, renewables, energy efficiency and storage technology. Through an industry-leading commitment to innovation and a low-carbon future, Southern Company and its subsidiaries develop the customized energy solutions our customers and communities require to drive growth and prosperity. Our uncompromising values ensure we put the needs of those we serve at the center of everything we do and govern our business to the benefit of our world. Our corporate culture and hiring practices have been recognized nationally by the U.S. Department of Defense, G.I. Jobs magazine, DiversityInc, Black Enterprise, Fortune's "World's Most Admired Companies" list, Forbes and the Women's Choice Award. To learn more, visit www.southerncompany.com.

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Contact:

Rob Blumenthal, 202-857-0166, [email protected]