McIntosh S.E.E.D Community Forest
Transforming Communities By Transforming Lives
McIntosh SEED’s rural community development work begins with engagement, education and empowerment of community members. When scaffolded with opportunities for economic development that is locally-owned and locally controlled, along with infrastructure improvements, communities are becoming more resilient and self-sustaining.
McIntosh S.E.E.D Community Forest
McIntosh SEED partnered with The Conservation Fund to acquire 1,148 acres of land in Long County, creating the state’s first Community Forest. This precedent-setting acquisition involved many “moving parts” carried out by an incredible array of partners that included rural community leaders, landowners of color, faith groups, conservation groups, birdwatchers, graduate students and the US Department of Defense.
McIntosh SEED’s board and staff engaged community members in developing a masterplan that blends community economic development, cultural preservation, landowner education, environmental protection and restoration, and community-based recreation. The Conservation Fund’s- Working Forest Fund, Resourceful Communities and Land Conservation Loan Programs, Conservation Acquisition team and The Turner Foundation provided support and continues to partner on implementing this innovative natural resource-based model for rural community development.
Thanks to this unique partnership, the McIntosh SEED community forest will protect and enhance the natural resource base, create jobs and business opportunities, and strengthen long-standing cultural connections to the land for residents and visitors of all ages.
What is a community forest?
A community forest is a working forest that is permanently protected—offering the community value and benefits from the land, access and rights to the forest resources, and involvement in decision-making. In a series of surveys, focus groups and interviews, residents emphasized a love of nature and outdoor recreational opportunities, as well as a need for economic growth through jobs and small, locally-owned businesses.
This endeavor differs from the suite of programs McIntosh SEED traditionally offers. The community forest uniquely combines the social, economic, environmental, and cultural interests of the community, which is the foundation of McIntosh SEED’s mission.
- The property is under a conservation easement, thereby protecting natural resources indefinitely
- Restoration of endangered longleaf pine ecosystems
- Educational programs will promote the importance of natural resource protection
- Campgrounds and recreational trails provide the opportunity for connecting with nature
- Sweetgrass cultivation and basketmaking demonstrations educational programs
- Partnership with neighboring cultural centers
- Recreational access to traditionally underserved community members
- The spirit of the forest is in celebration of inclusion and diversity
- A community garden offers the opportunity for community engagement
- Educational programs related to sustainable timber and non-timber forest products
- Source of information for interested visitors
- Demonstration sites for alternative usage for landowners
McIntosh SEED is currently compiling this information to determine the suitability of various activities including camping, recreational trails, birding, longleaf pine restoration, sweetgrass cultivation, community gardens, agroforestry, and interpretive education. The master plan also includes a program implementation and phasing section, as well as funding and communication strategies.
The first phase of this project was the writing of the McIntosh SEED Community Forest Master Plan. Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment graduate students Audrey Archer and Erika Zambello took the task of co-authoring the plan.
The comprehensive plan includes two sections, the Community Profile and Ecological Site Conditions, which serve as the informational basis for determining the feasibility of recreational activities, educational programs, and infrastructural improvements. The Community Profile section includes (1) the results of community surveys, focus groups, and individual interviews and (2) a service area analysis and demographic report. The Ecological Site Conditions section includes information on topography, hydrology, soils, ecological communities and wildlife that was collected via field assessments and various GIS datasets.
McIntosh SEED is currently compiling this information to determine the suitability of various activities including camping, recreational trails, birding, longleaf pine restoration, sweetgrass cultivation, community gardens, agroforestry, and interpretive education.
The McIntosh SEED Community Forest is currently being used as a working forest educational and active demonstration site for landowners and students to engage with NRCS and public and private forest professionals.