Recently, the President of the Longleaf Alliance (and Steering Committee representative to the South Atlantic LCC) was interviewed about his thoughts on longleaf and the upcoming 11th Biennial Longleaf Conference. Here is the full interview, posted on behalf of the America’s Longleaf Restoration Initiative Communications Team.


Longleaf Alliance President and South Atlantic LCC Steering Committee representative, Robert Abernethy.

1.         How did you become interested in longleaf?  When I was a kid exploring the pine woods on my grandmother’s farm in the 1960’s, I found old pine lightwood snags with odd scars reaching up one or two sides of the tree.  She said they were turpentine scars where the trees were tapped long before she was born.  We started planting longleaf on the farm about 1992 and have continued ever since.

2.       Why do you think longleaf restoration is so important?  The longleaf forest was the forest of the South.  It covered over 90 million acres and was the forest described by Bartram and other explorers to the region.  Over 900 species of plants occur in the longleaf forest and 29 species of State or Federally listed species are found there.  Today, we have about 4.7 million acres and we are planting about 153,000 acres a year.  These same forests that provide habitat for rare and endangered species also provide income for the families that own and care for them.  They provide recreational lands for hunting and bird watching also.  They are now too valuable and rare and unique not to care for them, use them and restore them.

3.       What is the most important thing that woodland owners or managers should know about longleaf?  They are unique wildlife habitats with unique plants that we can use and enjoy without destroying; but managing longleaf is not simple forestry and we as forest landowners need to become informed on how to grow and harvest and safely burn our forests if we want to keep them around in perpetuity.

4.       If a landowner or land manager has questions about longleaf, where can they go for additional information?  Our website, is a great place to start for any question about longleaf management. Contacts for all of our talented staff of experts are on the website also.  We are here to assist landowners and managers and have a fantastic network of partners to connect you with as well.  We also encourage all longleaf landowners to take one of our Longleaf Academies to learn the intricacies of managing longleaf.

5.       The Longleaf Alliance is hosting the 11th Biennial Longleaf Conference in Savannah, GA on November 1-4, 2016.  What part of the conference are you most excited about?  I am really excited about the opening night social on November 1.  We are having an art show featuring longleaf art and food and drink.  Landowners will be able to meet and socialize with over 400 fellow landowners and natural resource professionals.  The fellowship and learning that starts on November 1 will continue for the next 3 days.

6.       How did this conference begin, and how would you describe it to someone who is not familiar with the event?  The Conference was started over 20 years ago by Rhett Johnson and Dean Gjerstad founders of the Longleaf Alliance and professors at Auburn University as a way to bring together everyone that was working on longleaf to learn from each other and share information.  Through a combination of speaker sessions, field tours, and social functions, this 3-day meeting provides countless opportunities for networking and information exchange.

7.       Would you like to highlight any specific activities or speakers?  The 11th Biennial Longleaf Conference kicks off November 1, immediately following the Longleaf Partnership Council meeting, with a Welcome Reception and “Longleaf Regenerated” art exhibit.  The show will be a celebration of the inspiration each artist draws from the longleaf forest to create a unique work of art. The following day, November 2, Dr. Reed Noss opens the Plenary Session. Dr. Noss is the Provost’s Distinguished Research Professor, Pegasus Professor, and Davis-Shine Professor of Conservation Biology at the University of Central Florida and President of the Florida Institute for Conservation Science.  Speaker sessions on Wednesday and Friday will not disappoint.  These sessions will be organized into 4 subject tracks (Partnerships, Technology, Ecosystem Restoration, and Working Forests) that will provide something of interest to all attending.

8.       Who is encouraged to attend this conference?  What kind of audience has attended in the past? There would be no Conference without the Conservation Partners and sponsors.  Everyone associated or interested in Longleaf will be there.  We will have the private landowners, land managers, wildlife biologists, foresters, conservation groups, consultants, university researchers, agency and outreach personnel and staff who share a passion for the restoration of the longleaf pine ecosystem.  It takes us all working together to restore the forest and, to host a successful conference.

9.       Where can people find out more information about the conference? To register, go to, or visit our website at  To become a sponsor, conservation partner or become an exhibitor call Lynnsey Basala at 314-288-5654 or email Lynnsey at

The America’s Longleaf Restoration Initiative Communications Team would like to thank Robert Abernethy for participating in this interview!

Biography of Robert Abernethy

Robert was selected as President of The Longleaf Alliance in September 2012 and oversees all Alliance activities in the 9-state range of the longleaf pine. The Alliance has 16 staff members located in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. Robert has a BS from NC State in Wildlife Biology and a MS from LSU in Marine Science. He has worked all over the United States and Canada on projects as varied as waterfowl and wetlands research, wild turkey restoration and habitat restoration of Louisiana marshes, bottomland hardwood forests, Carolina bays, oak savannas and longleaf pine forests. Robert comes to the Alliance after 17 years as Assistant Vice President for Agency Programs with the National Wild Turkey Federation where he oversaw the restoration of the wild turkey as well as habitat management projects with state and Federal partners across the nation. His passions are his family, turkey hunting and habitat restoration (especially longleaf) on the family farm in Duplin County, North Carolina.