Partnership for Southern Forestland Conservation Projects
The Partnership for Southern Forestland Conservation includes several projects, each of which support the Endowment’s and the Partnership’s broader goals to retain and increase working forests in the South. Following are summaries of current projects:
Lower Mississippi River Restoration
The Mississippi River Trust will enroll at least 15,000 acres of frequently-flooded and degraded agricultural land in federal bottomland hardwood forest reforestation programs in the Lower Mississippi River Batture (land between the levees) of Kentucky, Missouri, Tennessee, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Reforested areas would provide private landowners with income from timber and non-timber products, and the new forests would help reduce sediment and run-off from degrading water quality in the Mississippi and the Gulf of Mexico. The broader purpose of this project is to demonstrate the benefits of bottomland hardwood restoration to water quality in the Gulf of Mexico, and set the stage for the Endowment to pursue large-scale funding for this purpose from the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill settlement. Private funding for this project is being provided by the Endowment and the Walton Family Foundation; federal funds for reforestation will come from the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Gulf Forestry/Deepwater Horizon Settlement
There is significant potential to secure Deepwater Horizon (BP oil spill) settlement funds for forestry in the states bordering the Gulf. The Endowment, in partnership with American Forest Foundation, is working closely with state foresters in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas to build a Gulf-wide strategy for the importance of forests and forestry as part of the plan to restore ecosystem health and resiliency to the area.
Two recent reports were commissioned by the Endowment and partners to better understand the importance of forests to Gulf restoration and resiliency:
This report summarizes the many values that freshwater forested wetlands and other forest types provide to the coastal ecology and economy of states bordering the Gulf of Mexico. Dominated by bald cypress-water tupelo swamps and hardwood wetlands, these forests reduce nutrients and sediments in surface water that ultimately flows into the Gulf, provide wildlife habitat, protect coastal urban areas from storm surge, retain storm water, recharge groundwater, support timber, fish, fur, and alligator harvests, offer opportunities for recreation, and sequester carbon.
The purpose of this project was to better understand and quantify the impacts of reforestation on water quality, particularly with regard to replanting of frequently-flooded or degraded agricultural lands. A modeling study high-lighted the role reforestation plays in reducing flooding and the volume of farmland-derived sediments in waterways in the Lower Mississippi River Alluvial Valley. It was found that as the area of flood-prone agricultural land converted to forest increased, the total volume of water and the mass of sediment flowing from those areas into rivers and streams decreased. Sediments from agricultural lands are often associated with fertilizers and pesticides, which contribute to hypoxia (the “dead zone” caused by low oxygen levels) in the Gulf of Mexico. Reforestation would therefore tend to help reduce the volume of nutrients flowing into rivers.