Since 2011, the NWTF has been a partner in the West-Central Louisiana Ecosystem Partnership, a group of conservation-minded organizations interested in restoring and maintaining the longleaf pine ecosystem throughout central Louisiana.
In addition to the NWTF, the WLEP committee consists of the Department of Defense, USDA Forest Service, Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, Natural Resources and Conservation Service, The Nature Conservancy and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
“Through the WLEP partnership, we have a Longleaf Implementation Team in central Louisiana, known more commonly by its acronym LIT, which consists of myself, a Wildlife and Fisheries private lands biologist, and a delivery specialist for The Nature Conservancy,” said Tom Sullivan, NWTF wildlife biologist. “Our job is to implement and orchestrate all the groundwork involved in restoring and maintaining the longleaf pine ecosystem here in Louisiana. This includes us working closely with the NRCS to write plans for private land Longleaf Pine applicants too.”
“We have two grants currently that are allowing us to restore and enhance 5,700 acres of longleaf pine ecosystems. These grants are providing financial assistance to plant longleaf, enhance existing habitat with prescribed fire and support private landowner outreach and technical assistance through field days and development of forest management plans.”
Throughout the Southeast’s history, longleaf pine ecosystems have provided a haven for numerable plant and wildlife species. However, since European settlement, development and improper forest management turned this once robust ecosystem into one that needs guardianship, proper management and restoration.
Once the NWTF and partners finish the projects Sullivan and the other members of LIT are overseeing, it will produce early successional habitat that provides ideal habitat for many native game and non-game species, including eastern wild turkey, northern bobwhite quail, Bachman’s sparrow, red-cockaded woodpecker and white-tailed deer, among an array of others.
“We plan to wrap one these projects up in 2021 and continue the work awarded through the grants,” said Sullivan. “The amount of support we have here in Louisiana to protect these special ecosystems is humbling, and I am proud to be a part of such a great partnership. I think I speak for the entire WLEP when I give a huge thanks to the National Fish and Wildlife Federation for granting these funds to reshape this landscape to its historical habitat.”