In 2012, the NWTF separated the continental U.S. into six distinct regions of conservation, and within each of those regions, the NWTF identified multiple areas of the greatest conservation need. The NWTF calls these critical areas Focal Landscapes. And while the NWTF operates diligently in all these areas throughout the country, on landscape-scale initiatives and smaller conservation projects alike, the NWTF is proud of its multiple roles within the America’s Longleaf Initiative, which focuses conservation delivery throughout America’s Southern Piney Woods – part of the NWTF’s America’s Big Six of Wildlife Conservation – and specifically focuses on the Southern Flatwoods Focal Landscape.
Ranging from east Texas all the way to Virginia, longleaf pine ecosystems once dominated the Southeast. These native ecosystems provide ideal foraging, roosting and nesting habitat for wild turkeys and benefit a myriad of other species; however, since European colonization, increasing development has been dwindling these once abundant habitat sanctuaries.
To combat this alarming decline, America’s Longleaf Initiative has constructed various local implementation teams (LITs), multiple of which the NWTF is a proud partner, to garner funds, conserve ecosystems and implement science-based management on these treasured areas, reversing the trends of development and degradation.
These LITs focus their efforts on specific areas. Since 2016, the NWTF has provided technical assistance and annually contributed $20,000 to the Gulf Coastal Plain Ecosystem Partnership, an LIT, which focuses its conservation efforts on a 1.3-million-acre landscape throughout southern Alabama and northern Florida. This area contains a large portion of the remaining old-growth longleaf pine ecosystem but also contains immense development pressure, especially in northern Florida along the Gulf Coast.
“This area’s large, intact longleaf pine ecosystem is crucial to the NWTF’s conservation mission,” NWTF District BiologistRicky Lackey said. “When actively managed, this ecosystem is vitally important to the wild turkey, providing crucial nesting and brood-rearing habitat. That is where our support and involvement comes into play with our partners in GCPEP. Our support is focused on the GCPEP Ecosystem Support Team, which delivers tens of thousands of acres of ecosystem management annually on public and private lands throughout the landscape.”
The GCPEP teams’ accomplishments include prescribed fire on partner lands in Alabama and Florida, invasive species control, mid-story treatments and mechanical restoration of isolated wetlands on nearly 300,000 acres since the partnership’s inception.
The NWTF and 15 other partners in the GCPEP — comprised of nonprofits, businesses, universities and conservation agencies — are working to ensure this habitat, which is a treasure for wild turkeys, stays a treasure.
Click here to read about NWTF’s role in the West-Central Louisiana Ecosystem Conservation Implementation Team, which is also part of the Longleaf Alliance.