TALLAHASSEE — More than 1,000 acres of the Blackwater River, Pine Log and Point Washington state forests have increased in biodiversity during the past three years due to an ongoing Florida Forest Service reforestation project.

The longleaf pine ecosystem is experiencing a rebirth after approximately 1,094 acres were restored in Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, Walton, Washington and Bay counties’ three state forests. The restoration and reforestation process will bring the forest back to its natural state as a native longleaf pine ecosystem.

Forest health accomplishments included:

●Planting 50 acres of groundcover, including wiregrass

●Reducing hardwood intrusion on 150 acres within red-cockaded woodpecker habitat

●Treating for nonnative invasive plant species

●Conducting prescribed burns on more than 69,000 acres.

A $300,000 grant from the Longleaf Stewardship Fund — a public-private partnership between the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, USDA Forest Service, U.S. Department of Defense and Gulf Power through its parent company, Southern Company — paid for the work.

In 2012, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation announced the availability of $2.88 million to fund restoration of longleaf pine forests in the Florida Panhandle and in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Louisiana.