Cooperatove Conservation Project

Longleaf Pine and Red-Cockaded Woodpecker Recovery

Restoring Longleaf Pine Habitats without Harming Inhabitants

Location: Southeastern Region: Georgia

Project Summary: Partners at Fort Benning are working to expand longleaf pine stands to all upland pine sites and increase Red Cockaded Woodpecker breeding groups to 350.
Click for Full Size
A longleaf pine stand on Fort Benning displays the desired condition for recovery of the red-cockaded woodpecker. (Photo by Stephen Hudson)
Resource Challenge
Fort Benning’s pine forests are primarily loblolly and shortleaf pine  that seeded naturally on abandoned farmland soon after the Army  acquired the lands in the 1920s and the early 1940s. These tenacious  forests have persisted despite generations of intensive row-crop agriculture, heavy military training, lack of natural fires, and repeated timber harvesting.
Fort Benning’s forests are now critical to supporting one of the 15  designated red-cockaded woodpecker (RCW) recovery populations.  However, the forests are unhealthy and dying prematurely from pine forest decline syndrome, which is proceeding at a rate faster than new  growth.
In 1990, Fort Benning had about 6,000 acres of longleaf pine. At  that time, biologists identifi ed 172 active RCW clusters on 100,000  acres of managed upland pine forests. Fort Benning reached out to experts to help with forest restoration. The challenge is to restore the  longleaf pine forests that once dominated Fort Benning uplands,  and at the same time, maintain existing old growth loblolly and  shortleaf pine RCW habitat. The project goal is to restore and preserve the longleaf pine ecosystem and federally-endangered red-cockaded woodpecker that relies on the longleaf pine ecosystem.
Examples of Key Partners
Federal Agencies: USDI Fish and Wildlife Service, USDA Forest Service, and U.S. Army Fort Benning; Non-government: The  Nature Conservancy, NatureServe, Jones Ecological Research  Center, and Longleaf Alliance; Academic Institutions: Clemson  University, University of Georgia, Auburn University, and Louisiana  State University.  
Results and Accomplishments
The partners first concentrated on identifying the cause of the dieoff and how best to slow it down. Next, they evaluated techniques to convert existing forests to longleaf pine using timber harvests and prescribed burning. Finally, they acquired knowledge and skills needed to artificially reforest areas with nursery grown seedlings. Foresters evaluated reforestation methods under existing pine  canopies, projecting RCW habitat deficiencies and prioritizing longleaf pine restoration activities.
Today, there are 34,000 acres of healthy longleaf pine and the number of RCW potential breeding groups has increased to 249. The partners are well on their way toward restoring longleaf pine on all upland pine sites while continuing to move the RCW population toward the goal of 350 potential breeding groups.

Converting a major forest type while recovering an endangered species that is 70 percent dependent on the tree species being converted

Project Contact
Mr. Wade C. Harrison
Chattahoochee Fall Line Project Director
The Nature Conservancy Fort Benning Office

Mr. Robert K. Larimore
Chief, Land Management Branch
U.S. Army Infantry Center


To request additions or corrections to this case study email the Administrator