Forest Stewards Guild Southeast Program

The Forest Stewards Guild works in critical areas that affect the Southeast region, including: 1) defining and coordinating conservation practices for bottomland hardwood forests of the Southeast, 2) Directing and partnering on shortleaf pine restoration in the Cumberland Plateau, 3) ensuring the long-term sustainability of forests with regard to biomass harvesting.

  • Bottomland Hardwood Forest Management
  • Shortleaf Pine Restoration
  • Biomass Harvesting Guidelines for Southeast Forest Types
  • Highlights from 2017

Bottomland Hardwood Forest Management

Bottomland hardwood forests, floodplain forests that are periodically inundated or saturated during the growing season, are critically important to biodiversity, wildlife, carbon storage, recreation, and clean water in the Southeastern U.S. Unfortunately, bottomland hardwood forests are exceptionally threatened by land conversation, invasive species, raising temperatures, more frequent intense storms, and altered hydrology. There are opportunities for forest owners, natural resource managers, and communities to protect and enhance bottomland hardwood forests through careful management. Conscientious stewardship based on recognition of the complex ecology of bottomland hardwood forests can provide a full suite of benefits.

The Forest Stewards Guild is working to define and communicate a model of ecological forestry for bottomland hardwood forests in the southeastern United States. We started with our May 2016 report, Ecological Forestry Practices for Bottomland Hardwood Forests of the Southeastern U.S., which combines scientific knowledge with boots-on-the-ground experience to produce meaningful, solution-oriented tools that can help improve the stewardship of this resource. The members of our bottomland hardwoods working group, field forum participants, and reviewers, made this work possible.

More recently, we are building on this momentum and partnering with others on outreach, trainings, and developing further guidance to make responsible stewardship of this resource more feasible. Participation in the Wetland Forest Initiative, a network of organizations and agencies promoting abundant wetland forests for healthy human and natural communities, and in Enviva’s Bottomland Taskforce and the Dogwood Alliance’s Wetland Forest Initiative, help us fulfill our key role in convening assembly around this topic and creating meaningful discourse. The Guild is engaged in industry-led and third-party certification-driven focus groups for reducing risk to sensitive ecological systems such as bottomland forests. We are also partnering to appraise sourcing plans and practices and to prioritize research needs.

Shortleaf pine restoration in the Cumberland Plateau

In September 2017, the Guild was awarded a competitive grant to restore shortleaf pine (Pinus echinata) ecosystems in the Cumberland Plateau region of Tennessee and Kentucky. Shortleaf pine currently occupies less than 10 percent of its historic range throughout the southeast and mid-Atlantic. Most of the remaining shortleaf pine forests are thought to be present on private landholdings. By partnering with Sewanee: The University of the South, Berea College, and Tennessee Wildlife Federation, this project takes a landscape-level approach to enhance and restore habitat for shortleaf pine and upland savanna forests by creating demonstration sites at Sewanee’s Domain Forest and the Berea College Forest. The Guild is also working closely with Tennessee Wildlife Federation to engage private forest landowners in the region by developing shortleaf habitat plans for landowners, organizing workshops and technical trainings, and distributing educational materials.

Biomass Harvesting Guidelines for Southeast Forest Types,

The Forest Stewards Guild's Forest Biomass Retention and Harvesting Guidelines for the Southeast (February 2012), details how to produce renewable energy from the region's forests while still protecting them for future generations. Developing domestic, renewable sources of energy is a national priority, and in the Southeast, forest biomass is a potential source of renewable energy and fuel that also supports local economies. Already, the Southeast is exporting thousands of tons of forest biomass to Europe in the form of wood pellets to be burned instead of coal. Forecasts for forest bioenergy suggest harvesting levels could grow by over 100 percent by 2050. These harvests could also add to ecological stress caused by an expanding population, a warming climate, and spread of exotic plants and animals.

The Forest Stewards Guild used the best available science and professional judgment of on-the-ground foresters from the region to identify practices that ensure the forest can support wildlife, maintain biodiversity, provide clean water, sequester carbon, protect soil productivity, and continue to produce income for the long term.

The guidelines were developed by a working group of 16 Forest Stewards Guild members from the Southeast and aided by Forest Stewards Guild staff. Together the working group identified practical and flexible targets for biomass retention. The guidelines identify the forest conditions that call for specific amounts of logging residues to remain in the forest during biomass harvest as well as the numbers and sizes of dead and dying standing trees that are necessary to maintain wildlife habitat (Ecology of Dead Wood in the Southeast, February 2011).

Highlights from 2017

  • Bottomland and Swamp Forest Symposium participation - hosted by the North Carolina Forest Service and North Carolina State University.
  • Participation in the Wetland Forest Initiative, a network of organizations and agencies promoting abundant wetland forests for healthy human and natural communities.
  • Participation in Enviva’s Bottomland Taskforce and the Dogwood Alliance’s Wetland Forest Initiative.
  • Industry-led and third-party certification-driven focus groups for reducing risk to sensitive ecological systems such as bottomland forests.
  • Partnering to appraise sourcing plans and practices, prioritize research needs, and develop trainings and outreach opportunities.
  • New partnerships and a grant award for shortleaf pine restoration in the Cumberland Plateau.
  • Guild Gatherings – Southeast Regional Meeting.