Watch Us Grow Longleaf! Ocala Longleaf Pine Local Implementation Team (OLIT)

Watch Us Grow Longleaf! Ocala Longleaf Pine Local Implementation Team (OLIT)

By Cheryl Millett, The Nature Conservancy

You may have read in the New York Times that salvaged longleaf pine is highly valued for current building projects. Well, we are working on growing the longleaf of the future!

After participating in the April Longleaf Partnership Council meeting, it was time to get in the field at the Ocala National Forest. Led by Senior Forester Janet Hinchee and accompanied by the new Longleaf Consul and O2LIT Coordinator to our north, we visited and discussed the forest’s unique longleaf restoration and maintenance history, work in progress and plans, and were surprised to spot some wandering Florida scrub-jays too.

Eager to apply the results of the Florida Forest Service (FFS)/Florida Natural Areas Inventory Longleaf Pine Ecosystem Geodatabase to prioritize future work, we invited their team to present at OLIT’s June meeting. The meeting was jam-packed. A highlight was a combined presentation about public-private longleaf restoration project in progress in Gainesville that spans multiple land ownerships; the Kincaide Loop Partnership was sparked by private landowners. This is only one of the projects made possible in part through the current OLIT FFS private lands incentive program.

The Ocala LIT is thankful the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Longleaf Stewardship Fund is supporting continued work on the ground on public and private lands in our region with a $250,000 award for 2016-2017. This will help restore endangered red-cockaded woodpecker habitat at Ocala National Forest, restore longleaf habitat with hardwood reduction at Camp Blanding Joint Training Center (with an associated study into the impacts on rare species), support controlled burning by the Northeast Ecosystem Restoration Team, and restore and maintain longleaf on private lands through FFS. It will also support team efforts such as  applying the longleaf geodatabase to prioritize our future work and developing a conservation plan.

Image 1: Ocala National Forest’s Janet Hinchee leads a field visit about longleaf pine restoration and maintenance with O2LIT Coordinator Alan Dozier and Longleaf Consul Ryan Bollinger for the Ocala LIT.  Photo by Cheryl Millett.