NRCS Soil Conservation Technician Allen Hughes mailed longleaf pine needles from his backyard to Oregon to be used to weave baskets, a Native American tradition across the U.S. Photo: Justin Fritscher, NRCS.
The 567 federally-recognized Native American Tribes are unique in their own way—from their languages and family structure, to their clothing and food. Tribes are working hard to revive their roots to help reconnect their heritage to the land, rekindle their spiritual bonds and cultural traditions, and raise awareness amongst future generations; especially tribal youth in line to inherit the land.
USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) works with the tribes like the Choctaw Indians, comprised of nearly 10,000 members across the United States, to farm and harvest hickory king corn and other heirloom white varieties, and process them to make hominy. Hominy is made from dried corn kernels, but it is expensive to purchase. NRCS provides the tribe with technical assistance to help transform idle land into a hominy-making enterprise–enabling the tribe to provide their own locally-grown, fresh produce, and cut their expenses by growing the corn. Read more »
(Pictured left to right) Jimmy Bullock with the Resource Management Service, Andrew Schock with The Conservation Fund and NRCS Alabama State Conservationist Ben Malone stand in one project area for the Coastal Headwaters Forest.
It takes time, patience and a committed partnership, but seeing thriving forests of longleaf pine trees return to Alabama’s Gulf Coast is well-worth the wait.
Longleaf pine forests once dominated the American Southeast, stretching across 90 million acres. A stronghold of the region’s environment and economy, longleaf was an essential building material used during the American Industrial Revolution. Today, only four percent of the original forests remain standing.
The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Alabama is working with groups to revive this strong and resilient wood, while also providing environmental benefits for the Gulf Coastal Plain’s wildlife and water. Read more »
The gopher tortoise is the keystone species of longleaf pine forests as its burrows provide shelter to 360 other species.
The gopher tortoise earned its name for good reason – because it likes to dig and spends much of its time underground. The gopher tortoise, the Southeast’s only land-dwelling tortoise, burrows in the sandy soils below longleaf pine forests where it can escape heat and danger.
Its burrows are popular. About 360 other species, from rattlesnakes to rabbits, toads, and northern bobwhite take advantage of the underground real estate provided by the tortoise, what biologists call a keystone species because other species depend on it. Read more »
A Forest Service employee monitors a red-cockaded woodpecker to track population trends and to identify birds that may be moved to other populations as part of the species’ translocation program. Photo credit: U.S. Forest Service/Chuck Hess
It isn’t often that an endangered species successfully recovers, which is why the story of the red-cockaded woodpecker is so inspiring.
Once found throughout 90 million acres of longleaf pine forests in the southeast, the red-cockaded woodpecker’s population on National Forest System lands today number approximately 3,150 active clusters of typically one to five birds each. This is a 60 percent increase from the low of 1,981 active clusters in 1990. Read more »
Coveys of quail once again populate the 4,000-acre research station north of Tallahassee, Fla. Photo courtesy of Shane Wellendorf.
Once a plantation and popular hunting spot, the Tall Timbers Plantation Research Station and Land Conservancy in Tallahassee, Florida, is home to healthy longleaf forests that are filled with a variety of wildlife, including the Northern bobwhite, a type of quail.
When the plantation’s owner, Henry Beadel, died, he willed the land and resources to create a special nature preserve to study the effects of fire on bobwhites, turkeys and other wildlife. As set out in Beadel’s will, strides have been made in re-establishing the longleaf pine ecosystem – one of the most endangered ecosystems in North America. Read more »
Private landowners in Alabama and elsewhere in the Southeast are playing a crucial role in restoring habitat for gopher tortoises.
Longleaf pine forests once dominated the Southeast. But over the past two centuries, many of these forests have disappeared along with the wildlife that called them home. Recent efforts to enhance longleaf forests on private lands are helping the ecosystem rebound as well as wildlife like the gopher tortoise.
The gopher tortoise is a keystone species of the longleaf forest, known for their deep burrows that provide vital habitat and shelter for not only itself but many other species. The gopher tortoise is listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in the western part of the longleaf range, including parts of Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. Read more »