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Texas 2023 - Restoration of Longleaf Pine project

Texas 2023 - Restoration of Longleaf Pine project

Planting Location: Big Thicket and Longleaf Ridge SGAs. Priority areas that will be targeted are within Angelina, Chambers, Cherokee, Hardin, Houston, Jasper, Jefferson, Liberty, Nacogdoches, Newton, Orange, Panola, Polk, Rusk, Sabine, San Augustine, San Jacinto, Shelby, Trinity, and Tyler Counties of Texas.

Project Description/Objective: This project will concentrate efforts to restore, enhance, and conserve longleaf pine ecosystems within the Longleaf Ridge and Big Thicket SGAs, two landscapes that have been identified as priority areas within the America’s Longleaf Range Wide Conservation Plan. These geographic areas represent the western extent of longleaf pine’s historic range, and without targeted technical and financial assistance efforts, could be lost potential for restoration and enhancement for the species. Longleaf pine management in this area is consistent with the goals and objectives of the National Forests and Grasslands in Texas (NGFT), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Texas A&M Service (TFS), Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), and many other partners in terms of biodiversity conservation, fire management, wildlife habitat for game, non-game, threatened and endangered species, and forest health and resilience.

Ecological Benefits: The proposed work will benefit all native wildlife species within the SGAs, but in particular several key species of interest. This area is home to the federally endangered red-cockaded woodpecker (RCW), the last known populations in Texas of the Louisiana pine snake (listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act), the Bachman’s sparrow, and a host of additional unique species. The Longleaf Ridge SGA includes 117,000 acres within the southern Angelina and Sabine National Forests. Two designated Habitat Management Areas (HMAs) for the federally endangered RCW occur in these areas, which in 2012 supported 63 RCW family groups. Over the last five years, RCW clusters have increased on both the Angelina (6%) and Sabine National Forests (8%), indicating that forest restoration and enhancement are having positive impacts.

The Big Thicket SGA contains a large number of plant species of significant conservation concern (Texas trailing phlox, white firewheel, scarlet catchfly, Chapman’s orchid) and a high concentration of scenic and unique natural features that, because of their rarity, are important conservation sites. The Big Thicket SGA also contains some of the last remnants of wet longleaf pine savanna in Texas. This ecosystem type is highly threatened to urban development and fire suppression. Pitcher plant bogs also occur in this region.

This project is expected to have direct and positive benefits for all species listed in the attached document, because each depends upon the longleaf pine habitats that this project will restore and/or enhance through prescribed burning, hardwood encroachment control through herbicide application, reduction of overstory basal area, and the encouragement of native ground covers. Strategic restoration work on private lands will connect isolated tracts of longleaf to the National Forest and other large scale longleaf anchors in these SGAs.

Community Benefits: Of the 1.03 million people who reside in our project area counties, 69.2% are white, 11.2% are black, and 18.4% are Hispanic. The median household income for our project area is approximately $49,000. This project will add to the $2.99 billion in economic contribution and over 9,000 jobs provided by forest sector in the 19 East Texas counties determined to be priority areas for this project (Texas Forest Sector Economic Impact). Additional economic benefits include the following:

· Recreational Income for landowners and rural communities as wildlife habitats are improved and expanded.

· Employment of consulting foresters and contractors to plan and implement management (planting, mechanical treatments, herbicide, prescribed fire) required for Longleaf restoration.

· Timber asset protection, which benefits all in the forest sector due to Longleaf pine’s superior resilience to wind events, drought, and insect threats, compared to other southern pine species.

TLT will work with Prairie View A&M University, Community Based Organizations, USDA, and other partners to provide outreach, technical, and financial assistance for longleaf restoration and enhancement to historically underserved landowners. Specifically, our project will align with the LLSF funding strategies as follows:

1) Establishing Longleaf Pine | 500,000 – 700,000 trees planted $201,250 This project will seek to restore 775 acres to new longleaf stands, with another 100 acres restored through silviculture. This portion of the proposal would deploy cost-share funds at average rate of $250/ac for restoration (Site-prep and planting) and $75/ac for restoration through silviculture (pre-commercial thinning, interplanting).

2) Enhancing / Maintaining Existing Longleaf Pine and/or Bottomland Hardwood Ecosystems | $115,750 This project will implement prescribed burning on 4,100 acres of existing longleaf stands at a cost-share of $20/acre. Secondly, we will support enhancement of existing longleaf on 250 acres through woody plant control (mechanical and chemical) to improve rare and endemic plant communities and control competition, with an average cost-share of $75/acre.

Lastly, we will support enhancement of 100 acres of bottomland hardwoods near longleaf stands with prescribed fire and invasive species control at a rate of $20-150/acre.

Types of Trees: Longleaf Pine

Number of Trees Donated by Noble Oak: 70,000

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