The National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) recently took a group of their student interns on a special orientation. During the orientation, students learned about the endangered pinesnake and the work that NRCS does.
The pinesnake is among the rarest of snakes on this continent. The process to put the snake on the endangered species list began in October 2017.
Loss of habitat is the primary culprit behind the pinesnakes endangered status. “A lot of it is loss of habitat due to prescribed burning,” Troy Mallach of the NRCS said. “There wasn’t as much prescribed burning years ago as there is now.
Studies have shown that the pinesnake prefers dry sandy soils and open woodlands. Longleaf pine trees provide an excellent habitat for the pinesnake, among other species.
A special program done by NRCS is the Working Lands for Wildlife project (WLFW). The project works with partners and private landowners to focus on what NRCS calls “voluntary conservation.”
We want to let landowners know what’s available to them,” Mallach said. “This is based on a concept called voluntary conservation, letting the landowner decide what to do instead of the government mandating what to do. I think it is a concept that works.”
WLFW provides assistance for landowners who have pinesnakes on their land. NRCS provides information and financial assistance to help local landowners maintain the habitat of the pinesnake that inhabits their land.
“Landowners who sign-up for the Louisiana pinesnake WLFW project would continue to utilize active management practices, like prescribed fire, thinning and herbivory to maintain forest land,” Amy Robertson of NRCS stated.
It also protects the landowners should an accident occur and a pinesnake is injured or accidentally killed under their watch. “Additionally, any incidental take of a Louisiana pinesnake would not be held against the landowner, as long as they were following their conservation plan established in the WLFW project.
NRCS took the initiative to consult with USFWS developing the Louisiana pinesnake WLFW project. “Rural, non-industrial, private forest landowners within the Louisiana pinesnake geography (can) work with NRCS managing their forest lands without worry,” NRCS state resource conservationist John Pitre said.
“We sit down with the Department of Wildlife first,” Mallach said. “We go through different scenarios and advise what would be beneficial to the snake, and provide coverage for landowners if a snake is injured.”
Mallach claims WLFW has also helped the gopher tortoise of East Louisiana, which is a species that requires a similar habitat to the pinesnake. “We’ve seen this project’s success firsthand with the gopher tortoise. This is a great way for landowners to help endangered species.”
Landowners who are interested in WLFW are advised to contact their local NRCS office to become a part of the program.