Looking for Longleaf

The Fall and Rise of an American Forest

By Lawrence S. Earley

336 pp., 6.14 x 9.21, 34 illus., 1 map, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-5699-4
    Published: February 2006
  • eBook ISBN: 978-0-8078-7578-0
    Published: October 2005

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Awards & distinctions

2005 Phillip D. Reed Memorial Award, Southern Environmental Law Center

Covering 92 million acres from Virginia to Texas, the longleaf pine ecosystem was, in its prime, one of the most extensive and biologically diverse ecosystems in North America. Today these magnificent forests have declined to a fraction of their original extent, threatening such species as the gopher tortoise, the red-cockaded woodpecker, and the Venus fly-trap. Conservationists have proclaimed longleaf restoration a major goal, but has it come too late?

In Looking for Longleaf, Lawrence S. Earley explores the history of these forests and the astonishing biodiversity of the longleaf ecosystem, drawing on extensive research and telling the story through first-person travel accounts and interviews with foresters, ecologists, biologists, botanists, and landowners. For centuries, these vast grass-covered forests provided pasture for large cattle herds, in addition to serving as the world's greatest source of naval stores. They sustained the exploitative turpentine and lumber industries until nearly all of the virgin longleaf had vanished.

Looking for Longleaf demonstrates how, in the twentieth century, forest managers and ecologists struggled to understand the special demands of longleaf and to halt its overall decline. The compelling story Earley tells here offers hope that with continued human commitment, the longleaf pine might not just survive, but once again thrive.

About the Author

Lawrence S. Earley, former editor of Wildlife in North Carolina magazine, is a writer and photographer living in Raleigh, North Carolina.
For more information about Lawrence S. Earley, visit the Author Page.


"Easy to digest for a non-technical reader. . . . Remarkably complete."--Natural Areas Journal

"A history of the southeast, an informative natural history, and a paean to a beautiful tree."--Southeastern Naturalist

"A welcomed addition on an important topic. . . . Should be required reading for anyone interested in the history of conservation in the South."--Georgia Historical Quarterly

"Not to be overlooked [and] reader-friendly."--RaleighNews & Observer

"Brings a love of the outdoors and the gift of a great storyteller."--Chapel Hill News

"The longleaf story, supplemented by ample illustrations, is presented here in lucid, graceful prose. The tale is not just reader-friendly; it's a page-turner."--Wildlife in North Carolina