Conservation Workshop Planned for Saturday
Southern Pines, Whispering Pines, Pinehurstjust the preponderance of the word "pine" in the names of local communities conveys the importance of this tree to the Sandhills.
It has been said that when the first explorers landed on our shores the forest was so thick that a squirrel could run through the treetops from the Atlantic Coast to the Mississippi River without ever touching the ground. In the Sandhills that forest consisted mainly of longleaf pines.
So what happened to that stately pine forest?
According to Ruth and Bob Stolting, "Most of the old growth longleaf pine forest is gone, and the remaining longleaf pine acreage is fragmented."
The Stoltings, members of the Greenway Wildlife Habitat Committee, Master Gardeners, and owners of Oldefield Farm, will present a workshop on the longleaf pine, sponsored by the Pinehurst Conservation Commission.
The workshop, including a Powerpoint Presentation, will be held from 10:30 a.m. to noon Saturday, Oct. 3, in the Pinehurst Village Hall at 395 Magnolia Road. It is open to the public free of charge.
The recent wildfires in California have some local residents concerned about whether this area is ripe for such fires.
The Stoltings will talk about the last big fire in the area in 1963 that burned from Foxfire to Pinebluff -- and how it could have burned all of Pinehurst if the wind had not changed.
Ruth Stolting offers some reassurance. "Yes, we are susceptible to destructive wildfires in this area," she says. "However, there are both commonalities and differences between our situation in the southeast and the conditions out west. We don't have the fierce Santa Ana winds that have helped spread the most destructive wildfires in California's historyThese winds can gale past 100 miles per hour."
This area is, however, subject to other factors that can cause fires: accidental ignition from cigarettes, barbecues, etc.; arson; and climate change resulting in drought and dry conditions.
"Longleaf pines are the dominant native pine of the Sandhills, and are more tolerant of fire than other pines because of their bark," says Stolting.
She also points out that the implementation of the concept of controlled burns by the forestry service has contributed to a lessening threat of fire.
At the workshop, the Stoltings will tell the story of the unique longleaf pine ecosystem and the tremendous biodiversity of the Sandhills, how the pines provide a sustaining habitat for local wildlife and how the wildlife helps to sustain the pines. They will discuss what is being done to maintain the ecosystem and keep the area safe.
"Most importantly, they will talk about what the average person can do to help maintain the unique ecosystem that is the Sandhills," says a spokesman.
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