The Texas Longleaf Team (TLT) is a group of individuals, organizations, and agencies that share a passion for the longleaf pine. Together, they work to restore longleaf pine ecosystems on private and public forestlands in the state of Texas.
Project Description & History
Longleaf pine once spanned from Virginia, through Florida, and into East Texas. However, the species’ range has since decreased from 90 million acres to only 3 million remaining acres, with 60,000 of those acres remaining in East Texas. Over 30 unique species of plants and animals are associated with longleaf pine ecosystems.
Longleaf pine is exceptionally beneficial for our water resources as it provides both an open canopy and diverse understory ecosystem that work in parallel to filter water that passes through it. Researchers believe that longleaf pine filters and captures water more efficiently than other southern pine species due to its maintained native grass savannah.
In 2023, the Texas Longleaf Team received $972,000 from The Coca-Cola Foundation, Silk (a Danone North America brand), Google, Meta, and Microsoft to restore 2,000 acres of longleaf pine forest on private lands in Trinity County, Texas.
This investment is a result of project matching through the Texas Water Action Collaborative (TxWAC) and collaboration with Bonneville Environmental Foundation, through their Business for Water Stewardship program. Led by Texan by Nature, TxWAC is a coalition of industry, nonprofit, and governmental organizations established in 2021 to increase investments in efforts that yield positive returns for Texas’ water resources.
To successfully secure funding for this project, the following critical components were in place:
Alignment of project and funder goals
Clear impact/benefits metrics, including a monitoring plan to collect baseline, during, and post-implementation data for reporting
Effective, powerful storytelling
Learn more from the project partners at ~25:43 min:
In 2021, Texan by Nature began working with the Texas Longleaf Team through our Conservation Wrangler program, we piloted the creation of the Return on Conservation (ROC) Index with TLT to calculate the ecosystem service benefits and associated economic valuation from restoring longleaf pine. This set the foundation for building the business case for why funders should invest in longleaf pine restoration.
In 2022, TLT identified a project opportunity in Trinity County with a private landowner. Using the ROC Index data as a starting point, TxN conducted a literature review and collaborated with Dr. Matt McBroom, Ph.D. CF, Associate Dean and Professor at Stephen F. Austin State University, to model water benefit data for the property. Texan by Nature created a project funding proposal and through TxWAC matching, Bonneville Environmental Foundation (BEF) pulled together their clients to collaboratively fund this project.
TLT, in partnership with Raven Environmental Services, will work over a 5-10 year period to remove invasive plants, conduct prescribed burns, and plant ~100,000 longleaf pine seedlings. Through the restoration of 2,000 acres of longleaf pine, this project is projected to provide increased water filtration, totaling 200 million gallons per year for 8-12 years (or as long as maintenance activities are implemented). Learn more about how longleaf pine forests are managed here.
The volumetric capture benefit for this project is calculated as the increased water capture by an improved longleaf pine stand and herbaceous understory due to the removal of invasive (and water-intensive) yaupon. By reducing these invasives, promoting the growth of the longleaf pine grassy savanna understory, and providing more area for longleaf pine to thrive in the canopy, increased water capture and usage to the ecosystem will occur. Monitoring efforts, such as measuring water filtration, are taking place across the 2,000 acre property to enable TLT to report on the environmental uplift taking place from the practices implemented.
Texas Longleaf Team will support the local community by planting longleaf pine seedlings and applying best management practices to the existing longleaf pine forests in Trinity County. Through this work, the longleaf pine ecosystem will provide ecosystem services that benefit the community, such as filtering and storing freshwater, sequestering carbon, and supporting increased biodiversity of flora and fauna. This project will also create more jobs in the local community, and provide additional economic and health benefits to communities in East Texas.