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Building a Blueprint: Longleaf Pine Restoration for Black Landowners in the Southeast
This past month, The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) in partnership with Longleaf for All, The Longleaf Alliance, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), The U.S. Forest Service and many other partner groups hosted and celebrated its first graduating class of “Longleaf & the Landowner,” held at the Willie Hodges Estate Family Farm in South Georgia. This is a brand new Longleaf Academy designed for historically and socially disadvantaged landowners and land managers interested in longleaf restoration and management. Over 40 participants learned about longleaf pine establishment and management, prescribed fire, the Southeastern history of black landownership, Heirs’ Property issues, estate planning, and financial/technical assistance opportunities.
This new event was the most widely-attended by landowners in the Longleaf Alliance’s history of Longleaf Academies with 25 landowners, and the first that consisted primarily of landowners of color. One family brought three generations of family members, as they have a goal of making sure that their property is enjoyed and managed for future generations, and for it to remain in the family as its greatest asset. Many of the participants shared how meaningful it was to attend an event that highlighted and celebrated black history, addressed barriers and opportunities for minority landowners, and to attend an event on the property showcasing Mr. Hodges’ hard work, success, and lessons learned.
What stood out about this Academy was how Longleaf for All partners came together to present a new Academy addressing the historically disadvantaged longleaf landowner experience, and how well it was received from participants and the longleaf community at large. The inclusion and attention to significant details are what made this event special, from hosting the event on the family farm of an African-America landowner who has tirelessly worked to restore longleaf pine, to having longleaf curriculum tailored to include components celebrating black history of Southeastern landowners and addressing issues such as Heirs Property, and the fellowship that occurred among all attendees throughout the event. Our host landowner, Mr. Hodges, shared how meaningful it was to hold the 3 day “Longleaf for the Landowner” Academy during the same month that we celebrate Martin Luther King day, as well as the days leading into black history month and celebrations. Our Academy built in additional time and space for the landowners to share personal experiences, ask questions pertaining to their individual properties, and fellowship with one another.
At the conclusion of the workshop, one landowner commented to the classroom:
“The information received and the people that I met are priceless. My mind is racing over all the information of what we can do with [our] land and the steps we need to take now. I can’t begin to express my gratitude for this program.”
Additional presenters and support were provided by: the US Forest Service, Natural Resources Conservation Service of Georgia, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, The Georgia Forestry Commission, McIntosh S.E.E.D, The Georgia Heirs Property Law Center, The Center for Heirs’ Property Preservation, and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.
Up next, the National Wildlife Federation, NRCS, TLA and many other partners will host a “Learn & Burn” the week of February 7th at Mr. Hodges’ property as part of ongoing efforts for this educational program.
*USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer, lender.