Lawmakers, businesspeople, conservationists and plain folks gathered Thursday as additional projects in a five-year effort to restore 200,000 acres of forestland in the Southeast were announced.
Earlier this year, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and International Paper announced formation of the Forestland Stewards Initiative funded with a $7.5 million grant from the paper company. The initiative is granting money to restore and maintain forestlands in eight southeastern states from the Carolinas to Texas.
On Thursday, the initiative announced $350,000 will go to conservation groups and federal partners in the Carolinas. Those projects include increasing the management of longleaf pine in and around the Francis Marion National Forest northeast of Charleston. They also call for planting more than 1,200 acres of longleaf pine seedlings and enhancing more than 8,000 acres of longleaf pine habitat in the Cape Fear area of North Carolina.
Other first-year projects include restoration of shortleaf pine habitat in Alabama, Tennessee and Louisiana as well as longleaf pine habitat restoration in East Texas.
Over the five years, the grants will go to maintaining forests in three areas. They include the coastal plain of the Carolinas and the southern Cumberland Plateau running from Kentucky through Tennessee and into northern Alabama and Georgia. The third area is the piney woodlands in Louisiana and east Texas.
Projects include such things as managing forestlands with controlled burns and purchasing seedlings for planting.
John Faraci, the chairman and CEO of International Paper, the largest forest products company in the world, said that maintaining forests is important both for the economy and recreation.
"Although we don't own forests in North America any longer, forest lands have been part of our DNA for the last 115 years and we're not in business without them," he said.
He added that the $7.5 million provided by the company is expected to generate another $22.5 million through matches and contributions from government agencies and conservation groups.
U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford, R-S.C., said forests are about more than trees and lumber.
"While pine trees are important, it's also about the human habitat and creating a variety of different experiences and having time to step away from the busyness of our lives and experience solitude," he said.
State Sen. Chip Campsen, R-Charleston, said conservation is about saving the world's last great wild places whether be they places like nearby Winyah Bay or the Congaree Swamp National Park near Columbia.
"Our goal in preserving should be that man may enter nature's sanctuary, and he should, but his entrances should be an incursion and not a conquest," he said.