CHILTON COUNTY, AL – December 5, 2014 – More than 1,400 acres of longleaf pine habitat in the Oakmulgee District of the Talladega National Forest will be protected through an acquisition supported by The Nature Conservancy and the Open Space Institute.
The transaction, consisting of nine parcels purchased from Hancock Timber Resource Group, will expand existing longleaf pine habitat restoration efforts onto private lands directly adjacent to Alabama’s National Forests and other public lands.
“Because the longleaf pine ecosystem supports dozens of at-risk species, this area is a conservation priority. This acquisition will provide long-term benefits in protecting wildlife, and support the restoration of the forest. We are delighted to join The Nature Conservancy in protecting these properties and hope to build on this achievement through future projects,” said Nate Berry, Vice President at the Open Space Institute.
This nearly $2.5 million purchase is a culmination of several years of effort by The Nature Conservancy and was made possible with a low interest loan of $2.18 million from the Open Space Institute. Although longleaf pine provides habitat to over thirty threatened and endangered species, it covers less than 3 percent of its original 90 million-acre range.
“With our partners, The Conservancy worked behind the scenes to identify these important properties and find unique strategies to get the deal done,” said Chris Oberholster, state director, The Nature Conservancy in Alabama.
The Open Space Institute has been an active conservation partner in the southeast for the past decade, having given $23 million worth of grants and loans to protect a total of 31,000 acres. Earlier this year, it also acquired, with the Nature Conservancy, 2,223 acres of longleaf pine habitat in coastal South CarolinaResilient Landscape Initiativecurrently focuses on protecting lands that can facilitate wildlife adaptation to climate change on the Southern Cumberland Plateau in Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee.
In the past five years, the Open Space Institute has also conducted research on trends in land conservation, including an analysis of forestland ownership in eastern North Carolina; a climate vulnerability assessment in the Southern Cumberlands; and an analysis of threats and opportunities to restore longleaf pine.
This is the second time that the Open Space Institute and The Nature Conservancy have partnered to protect land in Alabama. In 2012, OSI provided a $500,000 grant to The Nature Conservancy to protect the 11,364-acre Jacobs Mountain property in Jackson County, Alabama.
Going forward, The Nature Conservancy will work in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service to restore the lands to longleaf pine woodlands. Once reestablished with native longleaf, the tracts will provide key habitat for stabilizing the red-cockaded woodpecker populations in the upper coastal plains of Alabama