The Gulf Coastal Plain Ecosystem Partnership (GCPEP) was formed in 1996 to conserve and restore the dwindling longleaf pine ecosystem. The seven public and private landowners agreed to work together to further that goal, and began the effort by enrolling over 840,000 acres of their lands in GCPEP. The partners recognized early on that success would depend upon both internal and external collaboration, and that there would have to be a focus on protection, restoration, management, and public outreach and education. Over the almost 15 years since the partnership was formed, GCPEP has grown to eleven partners and over 1.05 million acres. Within the GCPEP landscape, protection, restoration, and management of longleaf pine has improved dramatically over that period. GCPEP staff and partners have supported the longleaf conservation effort using a variety of conservation tools and strategies.
From the beginning the GCPEP partners agreed that increasing the acreage of longleaf pine through planting was a priority goal toward the recovery of the longleaf pine ecosystem. However, an equally high priority was increasing on the ground management, especially prescribed fire and invasive species control, in order to restore and maintain longleaf pine forests. The partnership developed a team of specialists called the Ecosystem Support Team (EST) to work across the entire landscape. The EST has been extremely successful with increasing management and restoration efforts, an especially significant success in light of increasingly limited partner resources.
The Partnership is guided by a Steering Committee which is composed of two representatives from each of the partner organizations, one primary and one alternative. The GCPEP Steering Committee operates under a Memorandum of Understanding and has agreed to guidelines that ensure efficient operation of the Partnership. The Longleaf Alliance in 2010 assumed facilitation of the partnership from The Nature Conservancy which had fulfilled the facilitation role since the inception of GCPEP. The mission of GCPEP is unchanged and both The Longleaf Alliance and The Nature Conservancy will continue as partners in GCPEP.
GCPEP has played an important role in the recovery of the longleaf pine ecosystem by focusing on a diverse group of recovery needs and collectively supporting planning, project development, education and outreach, rare species and natural community recovery, and on the ground management. And the partners have found a way to accomplish this at a landscape – level scale.
The eleven partners are the Department of Defense (Naval Air Station and Eglin Air Force Base), the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the Florida Forestry Service, the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, The Longleaf Alliance, the National Park Service, the Northwest Florida Water Management District, National Forests in Alabama, The Nature Conservancy, Nokuse Plantation, and Westervelt Ecological Services.
For additional information on GCPEP, please contact Project Director firstname.lastname@example.org