About the Initiative

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An Imperiled Ecosystem

Shortleaf pine forests and associated habitats once covered a vast area of the continent stretching from eastern Texas and Oklahoma to the eastern seaboard from New Jersey down to Florida. Early settlers and Government Land Office surveys describe these pine dominated and mixed pine-oak forests as open woodlands where sunlight reached the ground and a diverse assortment of native wildlife flourished.

Credit: Clarence Coffee

Over the last 30 years, this extensive shortleaf pine ecosystem has lost over 50% of its former acreage with most of the significant decline taking place east of the Mississippi River. Massive pine beetle outbreaks in poorly managed stands, changes in timber management practices, altered fire regimes, disease, and land use changes have contributed to this rapid decline. These forested landscapes across twenty two states represent an extraordinary diversity of cultural, ecological and economic values centered on wildlife and recreation, water quality, and a high-value wood products industry. With millions of people depending on the values and benefits of this imperiled ecosystem, the need to develop a range-wide conservation strategy is more compelling than ever.

Credit: Clarence Coffee
Credit: Ted Borg

Shortleaf Pine Initiative

In 2010, a diverse group of the region's resource management leaders formed the Shortleaf Working Group (SWG). This group began to focus regional attention on the extensive and rapid loss of shortleaf pine habitats and the associated values. As a result of the SWG's efforts, the Shortleaf Pine Conference (2011) in Huntsville, Alabama was a huge success, with more than one hundred and twenty of the region's resource managers attending. This conference galvanized the need for a much more extensive range-wide conservation effort in shortleaf pine habitats.

In 2013, to address the multiple threats facing this imperiled ecosystem, the Shortleaf Pine Initiative (SPI) was formed. The SPI represents a broad range of public and private organizations, as well as key state and federal agencies currently working in the shortleaf pine ecosystem. In addition, the SPI is currently forming an Advisory Committee and Planning Team to lead efforts in developing a range-wide conservation plan for shortleaf pine and launching an initiative to implement the plan's strategies and actions. The Advisory Committee represents an extensive group of conservation minded agencies and organizations with the common goal of restoring this imperiled ecosystem. Advisory Committee members currently include representatives from USDA Forest Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Southern Group of State Foresters, Southern Regional Extension Forestry, National Association of Conservation Districts, University of Tennessee, American Forest Foundation, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Southeastern Association Fish and Wildlife Agencies, National Wild Turkey Federation, The Nature Conservancy, and Natural Resource Conservation Service. As of November 11th, 2014 Mike Black, formerly of the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative, is the director of the Shortleaf Pine Initiative. To get involved, please e-mail us at info@shortleafpine.net.


A Chronology of Highlights in Shortleaf Restoration and Related Efforts

The SPI builds on the past efforts of federal and state agencies as well as other shortleaf proponents. Here's a brief chronology of some key developments that ultimately led to the launch of SPI in the spring of 2013.

  2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016  

September 2007

USDA Forest Service (FS) and Southern Regional Extension Forester (SREF) develop an initiative to increase the awareness of shortleaf and associated habitats including oak savannahs and woodlands in the eastern part of the Southern region, and to begin building partnerships needed to encourage and promote restoration of the shortleaf/oak savannahs and woodlands.  The project deliverables included contacting representatives in federal and state natural resource organizations, NGOs, academic institutions and land managers to gauge their interest in shortleaf/oak savannahs and woodlands restoration and to determine what was needed to increase awareness of the need for restoration and what was needed to increase restoration efforts on the landscape, plus a literature review.

February 2008

FS and SREF propose the Shortleaf/Oak Savannahs Restoration project at a joint meeting of the regional extension foresters and the Southern Group of State Foresters management chiefs.

September 2008

The FS awards a competitive grant to 5 states (AR, OK, NC, TN and VA) to develop tools to assist land managers who want to restore shortleaf/oak savannahs and woodlands.

August 2009

FS and SREF form a steering committee to gain the participation and commitment needed to promote restoration of the shortleaf and oak savannahs and woodlands, and to plan and execute a symposium.

September 2010

FS, SREF and the steering committee host the Shortleaf Working Group Symposium in Raleigh with 94 attendees.  The Shortleaf Working Group is formed during the symposium.

February 2011

Meeting of Shortleaf Working Group at Auburn University.

September 2011

Shortleaf Working Group host its second symposium in Huntsville, AL: http://www.aaes.auburn.edu/comm/pubs/specialreports/sr11.pdf


FS competitive grant to Tennessee Division of Forestry for development of Range-wide Plan for Shortleaf Pine.

May 2013

Launch of the Shortleaf Pine Initiative.

June 2013

First Shortleaf Pine Initiative workshop held in Knoxville, TN

October 2013

Second Shortleaf Pine Initiative workshop held in Roanoke, VA

December 2013

Third Shortleaf Pine Initiative workshop held in Fort Smith, AR

2nd Biennial Shortleaf Pine Conference held in Fort Smith, AR

June 2014

Shortleaf Pine Initiative Stakeholder Workshop- Waretown, NJ 

November 2014

Mike Black hired as Director of the Initiative

March 2015

Inagural meeting of the SPI Advisory Committee

July 2015

Roll out of the Shortleaf Pine Initiative website

September 2015

3rd Biennial Shortleaf Pine Conference held in Knoxville, TN

March 2016

Annual SPI Advisory Committee meeting held in Nashville, TN

Shortleaf Pine Restoration Plan published

June 2016

Restoration Plan Release at the annual Southern Group of State Foresters Meeting in Mobile, AL

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