Kim Jensen

May 10, 2019

Picky About Pine: These Forests Are Better for Wildlife and Water

Restoring longleaf pine forests improves wildlife habitat and drought resilience in the Southeast

Longleaf pine trees once dominated large swaths of the country’s landscape, covering more than 90 million acres—or roughly the area of Montana—from Virginia to eastern Texas. But this all began to change around the beginning of the 20th century, when longleaf pine was found to be excellent building material for ships and railroads. By the 1920s, most of these trees were gone, and many foresters replaced them with other types of pine that were thought to grow faster and offer a quicker return on investment.

Today, only 3.4 million acres of longleaf forests remain, and much of this is spread sparsely across the Southeast. This poses some serious challenges for game species and communities that are at risk of extreme weather events.

Here’s why.

Longleaf Is a Lifeline

With the potential to support roughly 100 types of birds, dozens of species of mammals, and nearly 200 kinds of reptiles and amphibians, longleaf pine forests are some of the most diverse ecosystems in North America. Sportsmen and women know them best as critical habitat for bobwhite quail, wild turkeys, and whitetail deer.

Longleaf, even as a seedling, is highly resistant to wildfire, and its wide-set leaves create a more open forest canopy so more sunlight can reach plant life on the ground. With a little help from strategic prescribed burning, longleaf forests can have incredibly healthy underbrush with native grasses and vegetation that offer food and shelter for wildlife.

But we need longleaf pines for more than just great habitat—they are master adapters that can survive the harshest weather events and a wide range of climates. A study conducted after Hurricane Katrina found that longleaf pine trees were better able to withstand hurricane winds than other types of pine trees. More storm resilience means less costly damage to wildlife habitat and forestry businesses.

As if that wasn’t enough, these trees are also more resilient to drought, can better withstand pests and most diseases, and store carbon more effectively than other pine species. All of this makes longleaf a win for our critters and for communities that face major storms and drought.

Photo by Randy Tate/Longleaf Alliance.
We Need Millions More

Unfortunately, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that by 2060 the South will lose up to 67,000 square miles of forest to development and other habitat challenges.

But there is hope. The federal agencies that carry out conservation in America, along with dozens of non-governmental partners—including key TRCP allies, such as the National Wildlife Turkey Federation, The Nature Conservancy, and National Wildlife Federation—have joined forces on the “Million Acre Challenge” to add one million acres of longleaf pine to public lands in the coming years. This would go a long way toward helping the Forest Service complete its goal of putting 8 million total acres of longleaf pine habitat on the landscape by 2025.

Photo by Randy Tate/Longleaf Alliance.

Recent passage of the 2018 Farm Bill could help, too. Programs such as the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, Environmental Quality Incentives Program, and the Conservation Stewardship Program help to coordinate landscape-scale conservation projects and reduce the cost for private landowners to restore or enhance their longleaf pine forests. With more than $5 billion in conservation funding to support private land efforts, the Farm Bill is a big win for habitat, but we also need strong funding for the Forest Service and Fish and Wildlife Service to help take on forest restoration.

The TRCP is committed to ensuring that the federal agencies have what they need to maintain and enhance our forests across public and private lands. And a powerhouse habitat-creator and wildfire-defender like longleaf pine is a great way to invest those dollars. It’s a critical down payment on the future of hunting and fishing in the Southeast.

Top photo by Andy Wraithmell/FWC. Quail by flickr user leshoward.

One Response to “Picky About Pine: These Forests Are Better for Wildlife and Water”

  1. Phil Moen

    This is fantastic! Any tree that is fire resistant and also wind resistant is a better choice than the fast growing “trash wood” that is currently being planted. Unfortunately, I don’t believe Long Leaf pine can grow here in Montana.

Do you have any thoughts on this post?

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Chris Macaluso

May 9, 2019

Video: Where There’s Grass, There’s Bass… and Redfish and Specks

Restoring vegetation on the Gulf coastline is helping to improve your chance of landing bigger trout and redfish

Freshwater anglers have long understood that finding grass means finding the bass.

In the last decade, saltwater fishermen in Louisiana have begun to understand that it’s not just largemouth bass that love to live, lurk, and feed in submerged grass beds. Popular brackish-marsh dwellers, like speckled trout and redfish, utilize this subsurface vegetation, as well.

Throughout the late summer and into the spring, speckled trout cruise the edges of grass beds in marshes, coastal lakes, and bays eating shrimp, mullet, menhaden, crabs, and even bluegill, shad, and other freshwater forage. Juvenile trout spend much of their first few months in the grass, as well—eating and hiding from predators.

Redfish from two to 25 pounds live in and around the submerged vegetation, too, using clumps and pockets in the grass as ambush points. In fact, they are usually sharing these same dents and pockets with largemouths.

Few things in angling match the excitement of a 10-pound redfish demolishing a topwater frog or a buzzbait meant to lure a bass from a grassy shoreline.

In addition to the enormous benefits for sportfish, forage fish, and migrating waterfowl, submerged grasses help to break up wave action, filter out suspended sediment, and infuse dissolved oxygen into the water. This protects sensitive marshy shoreline while improving water quality.

Submerged grass beds had become scarce in many of the marshes of Southeast Louisiana in the 1980s and 90s.

Annual flooding of the Mississippi River had been largely cut off from coastal marshes by levees and canals—like the ill-fated Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO) in St Bernard Parish and the Barataria Waterway in Jefferson Parish—while hundreds of oil field canals were allowing saltwater to intrude deep into brackish and freshwater marshes and swamps.

The salt water killed off hundreds of thousands of acres of grass beds, along with large expanses of coastal oak and cypress forests, reducing the productivity of coastal fisheries, weakening already-loose marsh soils, and making coastal communities more vulnerable to the winds, waves, and storm surges from hurricanes and tropical storms.

This vulnerability was on full display during Hurricane Katrina, as storm surge flowed freely through the MRGO, across the degraded marshes and dead cypress swamps, and straight into the heart of New Orleans communities.

This redfish was caught in scattered submerged grass in a small marsh pond near the mouth of the Atchafalaya River in Terrebonne Parish. (May 2019)

Fortunately, efforts over the last 20 years to restore Louisiana’s coast and control salinity levels have facilitated the return of submerged grass beds, especially in the marshes east of the Mississippi River and around Lake Pontchartrain. Marshes that held a few redfish and some seasonal speckled trout have become incredibly productive bass fisheries, while still offering excellent opportunities to catch speckled trout from early fall until the early spring and to land trophy reds year round. Ducks have returned to some of those spots too.

Lower salinity levels have also provided an opportunity for Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority and non-profit groups, like the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation and America’s Wetland Foundation, to replant cypress trees to replace the ones killed by saltwater intrusion and timber harvest in the last century.

Louisiana’s ongoing efforts to divert sediment and freshwater from the Mississippi into coastal marshes and rebuild natural coastal barriers will go a long way toward allowing submerged vegetation to return—further improving fish and waterfowl habitat and protecting coastal communities.

Our fisheries will change, and so will the way we fish, as freshwater and sediment is reintroduced. But, as many Louisiana anglers have found out in the last two decades, it will be a change for the better.

To learn more, watch our video on the importance of vegetation to the health of Louisiana marshes.

To advocate for the construction of diversions to restore the Mississippi River Delta, please log on to www.coastal.la.gov.

Whit Fosburgh

May 7, 2019

Remaining Nonpartisan Does Not Mean Sitting Out the Tough Fights

When it comes to safeguarding the future of America’s hunting and fishing traditions, we can’t afford to be silent

You might think that to be nonpartisan in today’s deeply polarized political climate you’d have to avoid taking sides altogether. But hunters and anglers have no hope of creating conservation solutions if we sit out the tough fights.

Even as many groups slide into one camp or the other, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership has stayed true to its principles, regardless of political pressures. This is outlined in our latest Annual Report, where we detail the bad conservation policy we criticized, the positive steps forward for habitat that we praised, and the major TRCP priorities we were able to see through in 2018.

Report design by Pete Sucheski. Cover photos by BLM, Kyle Mlynar, and Dusan Smetana.

For example, we worked across the aisle to achieve huge successes for wildlife, water quality, and hunting and fishing access in the Farm Bill. Our staff and partners secured long-overdue recognition for the value of recreational fishing and the need for critical updates to fisheries management in the Modern Fish Act. We exposed challenges with public land access, but we also offered
meaningful solutions.

And, of course, we continued to do the hard, inglorious work of defending conservation, as plans to restore greater sage grouse habitat got a second look and Clean Water Act protections
for headwaters and wetlands were put at risk.

The TRCP doesn’t toe a party line or take positions based on red or blue. And, no matter how daunting, we’ll never back away from an issue that threatens fish and wildlife—from our best big game down to the tiniest forage fish.

We remain true to the notion that conservation should never be partisan. That’s why we will continue to provide the forum to bring disparate sides together for the benefit of future generations of American outdoorsmen and women.

We’re glad to have you in our camp.

Download TRCP’s 2018 Annual Report here.

 

Top photo by Dusan Smetana.

Kristyn Brady

May 2, 2019

TRCP Honors Three Champions of Bipartisanship in Conservation

Senator Bennet, Representative Conaway, and philanthropist Liz Storer were recognized at the organization’s 11th Annual Capital Conservation Awards Dinner

The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership was honored to celebrate three conservation champions from Capitol Hill and the private sector last night at the organization’s 11th Annual Capital Conservation Awards Dinner and gala fundraising event.

Liz Storer, president and CEO of the George B. Storer Foundation and a longtime conservation advocate, received TRCP’s 2019 Conservation Achievement Award for her impact on Western conservation issues. This includes consistent support for the development and implementation of comprehensive sage grouse conservation plans and the research, mapping, and protection of big game migration corridors. Storer has also been proud to serve on the TRCP Board of Directors for the last nine years.

Storer’s award was presented by Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), who received a TRCP award in 2016.

Senator Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Representative Michael Conaway (R-Texas) were each presented with the 2019 James D. Range Conservation Award—named for TRCP’s co-founder, a conservation visionary, and given to one Democrat and one Republican each year.

Sen. Bennet was recognized for championing both public and private lands and waters, through his support of the Land and Water Conservation Fund and as a conservation leader on the Senate Agriculture Committee during Farm Bill negotiations. He is also the Democratic lead on legislation to improve federal science on chronic wasting disease.

Bennet’s award was presented by Erik Glenn, executive director of the Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust.

Rep. Conaway was recognized for his leadership on the 2018 Farm Bill, which clinched many victories for wildlife habitat, water quality, and sportsmen’s access. He is the ranking member of the House Committee on Agriculture and a member of the Sportsmen’s Caucus and International Conservation Caucus.

Conaway’s award was presented by Representative Marc Veasey (D-Texas.)

“Like TRCP founder Jim Range, Michael Bennet, Mike Conaway, and Liz Storer are pragmatic conservationists who understand that people are a part of the land and believe that we are duty-bound to leave a natural legacy to future generations,” said Whit Fosburgh, TRCP’s president and CEO. “They also understand that conservation is not a partisan issue—it is something that should connect us all as Americans. We were proud to honor that spirit by bringing together more than 500 conservation luminaries, individual supporters, corporate sponsors, policymakers, and media professionals at this event.”

Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont.) teamed up with Representative Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) to deliver the ceremony’s opening remarks about the value of conservation, before an exciting live auction featuring auctioneer Johnna Wells. TRCP Board Chairman Rod Nelson gave closing remarks.

Thank you to our event sponsors:

Coca-Cola, George B. Storer Foundation, National Fish & Wildlife Foundation, Schlumberger, Shell, Yamaha, Altria, American Sportfishing Association, Baker Botts, Bass Pro Shops, Boone & Crockett, Matt Cook, The High Lonesome Ranch, Kirby, National Marine  Manufacturers Association, Outdoor Industry Association, Outdoor Recreation Roundtable, Pure Fishing, Range Resources, Recreation Vehicle Industry Association, Tod Sedgwick, Simms Fishing Products, SITKA Gear, Archery Trade Association, The Baird Group, Center for Sportfishing Policy, Coastal Conservation Association, Costa, Everglades Foundation, Federal Premium, Natural Resource Results, The Nature Conservancy, Orvis, Outdoor Research, Peak Design, Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever, PotlatchDeltic, REI, Sorini Samet & Associates, Southern Company, Weyerhaueser, Williams, YETI, AFL-CIO, Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies, Baker Donelson, Bonefish & Tarpon Trust, Browning, Captains for Clean Water, The Conservation Fund, Ducks Unlimited, Elliotsville Plantation, First Lite, Forbes-Tate, Fly Fishers International, Jonah Energy, Land Trust Alliance, Leupold, NEMO Equipment, National Wild Turkey Federation, PERC, Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation, Ruffed Grouse Society, Texas Parks & Wildlife Foundation, Union Roofers, Upper Green River Conservancy, American Forest Foundation, American Iron & Steel Institute, Brookover Land Enterprises, The Cypress Group, Erdle Consulting Group, Filson, National Park Foundation, National Wildlife Refuge Association, New Belgium Brewing, New Belgium Family Foundation, Pisces Foundation, Sage, Terlato Wine Group, Turner Foundation, Vortex Optics, and Wine & Spirit Wholesalers of America.

The 12th Annual Capital Conservation Awards Dinner will be held on Wednesday, April 29, 2020 in Washington, DC.

April 26, 2019

Podcast: Building Better Highway Crossings for Big Game on the Move

A perfect download for your next road trip, tune in to learn how wildlife use enhanced highway over- and underpasses

Photo by Colorado Department of Transportation

HOW YOU CAN HELP

WHAT WILL FEWER HUNTERS MEAN FOR CONSERVATION?

The precipitous drop in hunter participation should be a call to action for all sportsmen and women, because it will have a significant ripple effect on key conservation funding models.

Learn More
Subscribe

You have Successfully Subscribed!

You have Successfully Subscribed!

You have Successfully Subscribed!