Ten years ago, North Carolina’s longleaf pine forests were dense tangled jungles strangling flora, suffocating fauna and threating catastrophic wildfire.
But an innovative public-private partnership that has embraced controlled burning — the careful application of fire managed to improve forest heath — has since returned thousands of acres of North Carolina’s longleaf forests to their natural state. These diverse forests, which are dependent on a regular cycle of fire, support one of the world’s most complex ecosystems, rivaling the diversity of the Amazon.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of America’s Longleaf Restoration Initiative, an ambitious conservation program led by the U.S.D.A. Forest Service, the Department of Defense, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in collaboration with NGOs, private landowners, state and local agencies, universities and private industry to restore 8 million acres of longleaf pine forest. The group’s activities span from Virginia to Florida to Texas, the historical range of longleaf pine before Europeans arrived on American shores.