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Money offered to plant trees around post
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Private lands surrounding Fort Stewart may soon be planted with longleaf pine seedlings, a native species that also will be reintroduced in other locations across the Georgia coast. The $200,000 project is being funded by federal stimulus money.
“The funds are for use on certain private lands where they want to encourage longleaf pine conservation,” said Kevin Larson, Fort Stewart media chief. “Because of Fort Stewart’s importance as a large, existing longleaf forest, and because U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wants to help support our efforts to encourage conservation on private lands around Fort Stewart, they included the counties around Fort Stewart in the focus area where landowners are eligible to apply for these funds.”
The seedlings will be planted under the supervision of the Longleaf
Alliance. The alliance, based in Andalusia, Ala., is a nonprofit organization that has partnered with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to complete the longleaf pine restoration project. Alliance officials say they also hope to plant seedlings in the Okefenokee area and along the Altamaha River corridor.
“Because Fort Stewart already has longleaf pine we want to help build on that and encourage longleaf pine restoration around that area,” said Robert Brooks, private lands coordinator and biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “Fort Benning and Fort Gordon also are other focus areas (for planting longleaf pine).”
Brooks said a longleaf pine forest benefits several species of wildlife present on Fort Stewart such as the red cockaded woodpecker, the gopher tortoise, the indigo snake and the flatwood salamander.
Dr. Dean Gjerstad, vice president of the Longleaf Alliance, said his organization “just signed the contract last week” and, in addition to planting longleaf pines, the alliance will likely restore native ground cover such as herbaceous grasses. This type of ground cover will make it easier to manage longleaf pine forests, he said.
“A lot of our (financial) support comes from people that remember the longleaf pine, either walking
or riding horses (through those forests) when they were growing up,” Gjerstad said.
He said the alliance will offer $125 per acre to private landowners who want the longleaf pine saplings planted on their land. The alliance vice president said the monetary incentive to landowners will cover the costs of preparing the site for planting and the planting itself.
“We will do some planting this winter,” the vice president said. “But the bulk of planting will be done next winter so landowners can prepare the sites for planting. The program runs through September 2012.”
Gjerstad said new longleaf pines would be planted from October through February.
“Most of the trees are hand planted and we use container seedlings,” he added.
Gjerstad, a retired Auburn University professor, became active in the Longleaf Alliance 14 years ago.
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