Burning the forest for the trees

By Janisse Ray
The Bitter Southerner
June 27, 2024
Category: Forestry
Region: United States, US East

NORTH CAROLINA — Longleaf pine can survive natural disasters, but it has barely survived us humans. Writer and naturalist Janisse Ray visits a longleaf champion who wants to bring back this forest of heart-stopping beauty – one match at a time. The night a massive winter storm hit the pine barrens of the Carolinas, Jesse Wimberly lay awake listening to limbs popping in the forest surrounding his cabin. He had planted every one of the longleaf pines by hand. Nobody wants to lose longleaf. Too much has been lost already. When Reed Noss surveyed endangered U.S. ecosystems in 1995, only 3 percent of the historic, iconic forest remained. Noss called the landscape “critically endangered.” Longleaf pine once covered 92 million acres of the upland South. Although it survives disturbances like hurricanes and fires, it could not survive the greatest disturbance of all, us humans.

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