Some 220 new acres of singular longleaf pine will be planted in and around the Francis Marion National Forest and the management of 8,000 current acres supported, thanks to a new round of public-private grants.

The cathedral-like stands of longleaf and their tufted needle crowns are maybe the most ecologically and economically valuable forest in the Lowcountry and the Southeast. Their elongated needles and wood are prized. The savannah understory is rife with plants and animals seen almost nowhere else.

By Colonial times, they covered some 60 million to 90 million acres of the coastal plain. But the acreage was hacked to little more than 3 million by the 1990s. Faster-growing commercial pine species have been planted. Now private-public groups across the region are trying to bring the native pines back.

Nearly $250,000 has been awarded the Sewee Longleaf Conservation Cooperative Restoration to manage longleaf habitat on public and private lands in the forest environs. The grants come from contributions by International Paper through the National Fish and Wildlife Federation and from federal agencies.

They are among three sets of longleaf grants awarded in South Carolina this year, along with $280,000 to the SoLo-ACE Basin Longleaf Partnership for education and planting assistance, and $90,00 to the Milliken Longleaf Pine Forest Habitat Restoration for restoration efforts.

White Oak Forestry - an affiliate of Evening Post Industries, the owner of The Post and Courier - is one of the Francis Marion-area private property owners who are members of the Sewee cooperative.

Reach Bo Petersen at 937-5744, @bopete on twitter or Bo Petersen Reporting on Facebook.