JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – The federal government is giving over $10 million to help forest managers restore longleaf pine ecosystems.
The money will go to help private land in nine states, including eastern North Carolina.
Longleaf pine forests nearly vanished. But the USDA led a conservation effort that helped unique ecosystems in the southeast recover.
Over the past six years, nearly a quarter of a million acres were recovered.
Longleaf pines once covered more than 90 million acres across the southeast, but over the past two centuries that number has decreased by nearly 97 percent.
The assistant district forester tells 9 On Your Side, without long leaf pines, North Carolina’s ecosystem would not be the same.
Forests that are home to longleaf pines are also home to nearly 600 other plants and animals, including 29 endangered species. Without long leaf pines, many of those species would go extinct.
With many of the trees being cut down to build houses, shopping malls and buildings the North Carolina Forestry says the new initiative helps rebuild what’s been lost.
“Human intervention has led to a decline in the longleaf pine ecosystem due to suppression, of fire development, and things like that,” explained Dennis Register, Asst. District Forester.
Over the past four years, longleaf pines have grown from 3 million to 4 million acres. That helps recreate the unique ecosystem, providing more recreational opportunities.
Longleaf pines also provide income to some through pine straw raking and timber.
It costs up to $130 dollars an acre to plant longleaf pines. That adds about 400 trees per acre.
The assistant district forester says any land owner that’s interested in establishing longleaf pines on their property can contact either the North Carolina Forest Service or the Natural Resource Conservation Service.