Fort Benning’s pine forests are primarily loblolly and shortleaf pine that seeded naturally on abandoned farmland soon after the Army acquired the lands in the 1920s and the early 1940s. These tenacious forests have persisted despite generations of intensive row-crop agriculture, heavy military training, lack of natural ﬁres, and repeated timber harvesting.
Fort Benning’s forests are now critical to supporting one of the 15 designated red-cockaded woodpecker (RCW) recovery populations. However, the forests are unhealthy and dying prematurely from pine forest decline syndrome, which is proceeding at a rate faster than new growth.
In 1990, Fort Benning had about 6,000 acres of longleaf pine. At that time, biologists identiﬁ ed 172 active RCW clusters on 100,000 acres of managed upland pine forests. Fort Benning reached out to experts to help with forest restoration. The challenge is to restore the longleaf pine forests that once dominated Fort Benning uplands, and at the same time, maintain existing old growth loblolly and shortleaf pine RCW habitat. The project goal is to restore and preserve the longleaf pine ecosystem and federally-endangered red-cockaded woodpecker that relies on the longleaf pine ecosystem.