While lots of folks were putting Christmas trees up in their living room, volunteers from Longleaf Ridge were putting Longleaf pine seedlings in the ground at the Roy E. Larsen Sandyland Sanctuary between Kountze and Silsbee. This beautiful 5,654-acre habitat filled with native plants and wildlife, with Village Creek coursing along one side of it, is part of a comprehensive effort to protect and restore the longleaf pine ecosystem on the West Gulf Coastal Plain. Longleaf pine forests are among the most rapidly disappearing habitats in the southeastern United States. Some 90 million acres of longleaf pines once stretched from Virginia to Texas, but only about three million acres exist today.
The Nature Conservancy has protected this unique natural area of the Big Thicket since 1977 when Temple-Eastex Inc. donated the first large tract to them. Staffers, Shawn Benedict and Wendy Ledbetter talked to volunteers about the reforestation efforts, and gave them simple instructions on how to use a dibble to drive a hole in the ground, drop in the seedling, and pack the ground to get all of the air pockets out. The most important thing to remember, Shawn said, is “the green side goes up!”
We loaded up in every available space of their 4-wheel drive trucks and headed out to the site. First time planter, Richard Peters (our new Vice-President!), was dibbling and dropping in seedlings like a pro in just a few minutes. “This is easy!” he said. Lanny and Brenda Marshall teamed up together and worked at a rapid pace.
Veteran planter, Keith Stephens, is an expert dibbler, but he didn’t care for the stooping required to drop the seedling in a the hole. “Oh, that’s painful!” Keith likes to joke, but he never misses one of these opportunities to help bring the longleaf back to its native habitat.
We were joined by other volunteers from the Golden Triangle Sierra Club, our sister chapter from the Sabine-Neches, and our friend, Adrian Van Dellen, President of the Black Bear Alliance. Adrian will be the featured speaker at our March 10, 2020 meeting.
Many thanks to Lori Horne, who tirelessly and anonymously coordinates these events, and always shows up to work. We will see you at the next planting!