Field Day Inspires Landowners in the Western Longleaf Pine Range

Participants at workshop and field day on longleaf pine restoration held at the Kisatchie National Forest in late May. Photo by U.S. Forest Service.
Participants at workshop and field day on longleaf pine restoration held at the Kisatchie National Forest in late May. Photo by U.S. Forest Service.

A field day and workshop held on May 23rd at the U.S. Forest Service Kisatchie National Forest Ranger District office near Natchitoches, Louisiana is among the first ventures to spark landowner interest in longleaf pine along the western edge of this species’ historic range.

Longleaf pine technology transfer efforts in the West are led by a partnership of more than 12 federal and state agencies, along with nongovernmental organizations such as The Longleaf Alliance, National Wild Turkey Federation, and The Nature Conservancy.

Forest Service Southern Research Station (SRS) scientists from the Restoring Longleaf Pine Ecosystems unit helped organize the event and with others, led morning field presentations designed to:

  • highlight comparisons of timber values between longleaf and other pine species,
  • provide practical ways to encourage biodiversity and wildlife habitat during longleaf restoration, and introduce state-of-the-art regeneration technology geared to meet the needs of the private landowner.

In one of the first presentations, Clint Iles of Templin Forestry, Inc. of Alexandria, Louisiana, used the backdrop of a 70-year-old slash pine stand scheduled for conversion to longleaf pine to describe how mixed and pure longleaf pine stands produce high quality poles and small saw logs not available in comparable pure stands of loblolly and slash pine. To the timber buyer, these products bolster the appeal of longleaf pine for small sale areas typically offered by non-industrial private landowners.

Also at this site, SRS research scientist Dave Haywood demonstrated how recent improvements in longleaf pine establishment have narrowed the production gap among longleaf, loblolly, and slash pines. He suggested that longleaf pine can now be the species of choice for landowners wanting to improve their wildlife habitat, grow high quality timber, and lessen their risk from arson and windstorms.

A common theme throughout the field day was the utility of frequent fire as a longleaf pine management tool. SRS scientist Mary Anne Sayer illustrated the importance of prescribed fire applied not only frequently, but also soon after planting. Sayer explained that fire is key in controlling volunteer pine seedlings that originate from seed blown into longleaf plantings from nearby stands of loblolly and slash pine.

In another presentation, Longleaf Alliance research coordinator Mark Hainds advised landowners to focus their resources on site preparation rather than release.  Hainds indicated that chemical site preparation treatments should control vegetative competition without destroying plants that have an important role in the fuel bed. Once site preparation is complete, good quality seedlings should be planted before the next calendar year begins.

SRS scientist Susana Sung emphasized that the unique root system architecture of longleaf pine warrants seedling production in container cavity volumes that are at least 6 cubic inches. Sung also described container cavity attributes that minimize the grass stage of development. Continuation of this research will determine whether cavity attributes can be tailored to accelerate the initiation and rate of longleaf pine seedling height growth.

At midday, participants enjoyed a crawfish boil while keynote speaker and forest landowner Dick Meaux explained how he diversified his landholdings with longleaf pine and established a “legacy forest” for his family. Meaux described how he participated in federal cost-share programs, setting the stage for the day’s final presentation, which summarized numerous forms of assistance available to private landowners considering the restoration of longleaf pine on their land.

The event was funded, in part, by a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation awarded to the West-Central Louisiana Ecosystem Partnership (WLEP), a 14-member cooperative which emerged from the Texas-Louisiana Longleaf Pine Task Force established in 2010 after release of the America’s Longleaf national initiative in 2009.

The goal of the WLEP is to accelerate the restoration of longleaf pine and other native ecosystems on public and private lands within Louisiana’s six-parish area in the vicinity of the U.S. Army’s Fort Polk and Peason Ridge, and Kisatchie National Forest’s Vernon Unit of the Calcasieu Ranger District. Interaction with the private sector by education and technology transfer is considered essential by the WLEP to achieve this goal. For more information, email Mary Anne Sayer at msword@fs.fed.us.

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