Working Lands

Longleaf Restoration

Nature grows great when people plant trees whose shade they know they shall never bird watch in. Photo: Richard Covey

Beautiful longleaf pine savannahs once covered ninety million acres across the southeast.  But over time, clear-cutting reduced this unique forest to just three percent of its original range.

One beneficiary of longleaf is the Red-cockaded Woodpecker.  Like their habitat, these federally-endangered birds have dwindled to a tiny fraction of their original population -- about one percent.  To bring the species back to stable numbers, we've got to restore the longleaf pine, and that's just what Audubon South Carolina is doing.

Quite the Challenge

Planting single pines won’t do the trick, as Red-cockaded Woodpeckers need 120 to 200 acres of habitat to thrive.  They also prefer older pines, which doesn’t mesh well with the typical plant-and-cut cycle of the lumber industry.  So stabilizing the Red-Cockaded Woodpecker poses quite the challenge.

Our solution is to restore 661 acres of longleaf habitat at our Silver Bluff facility and 230 acres of longleaf at Beidler Forest -- with plans to restore more acres in the future.  Audubon South Carolina's work in this area complements the efforts of other groups, including the Longleaf Pine Initiative and Norfolk Southern’s Brosnan Forest, to restore and maintain longleaf throughout the Southeast. 

There’s Still Time

Though it's tricky to lend a hand to birds like the Red-cockaded Woodpecker, there’s evidence that their population will readily stabilize if habitat is provided. Transplanting Red-cockaded Woodpeckers to new locations also seems to be proving fruitful.  

With support, time, and effort, the Red-cockaded Woodpecker is a success story just waiting to happen.  And along the way we'll also benefit Northern Bobwhites, Pine Warblers, Brown-headed Nuthatches, Bachman’s Sparrows, and more.  

PROJECT CONTACT: Mark Musselman, mmusselman@audubon.org.