Program to Be Run by UT Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries


Mike Black, Director of SPI

Mike Black has been appointed as director of the national Shortleaf Pine Initiative, which is being coordinated through the University of Tennessee Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries. Photo courtesy UTIA. Download image.


KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The forestry coordinator for the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative, Mike Black, has been appointed as director of the Shortleaf Pine Initiative. Mike Black began his duties November 10, 2014.

Launched in the spring of 2013 and coordinated through the Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries within the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture, the Shortleaf Pine Initiative (SPI) is a collaborative, strategic and energetic response to the dramatic decline of shortleaf pine forests and associated habitats that once covered a vast area from eastern Texas to Florida and up the eastern seaboard to New Jersey. Funding is provided by the U.S. Forest Service with additional administrative support from the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, Division of Forestry.

“Over the past 30 years more than 50 percent of the shortleaf pine forests have been lost, with the most significant declines taking place east of the Mississippi River,” said Keith Belli, head of UT’s Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries. “Now is the time for a more robust and concerted effort to restore these acres.  We’re pleased to be involved and to have Mike leading the effort.”

Research shows that the loss of the shortleaf pine forests negatively impacts an extraordinary diversity of cultural, ecological and economic values centered on wildlife and recreation, water quality and a high-value wood products industry. The SPI represents a broad range of public and private organizations as well as key state and federal agencies currently working in the shortleaf pine ecosystem.

While some restoration efforts are already underway, Black will help draft and administer a range-wide conservation plan for shortleaf pine to optimize restoration strategies, increase coordination among shortleaf stakeholders and maximize the effectiveness of ongoing efforts.


“I am really looking forward to contributing to this challenging conservation effort,” said Black.  “Millions of people and wildlife depend on the benefits of this imperiled ecosystem – from jobs, to habitat, to quality of life – the need for a range-wide conservation strategy is more compelling than ever,” he said.

Black is a professional forester with a background in forest industry, private consulting, as a contractor with the Department of Defense.  Most recently Black served as the Forestry Coordinator for the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative.  He has spent his career coordinating and promoting the integration of forest and wildlife management conservation and policy.


For more information, please visit the project’s website: www.shortleafpine.org

The Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries is celebrating 50 years as a research, teaching and outreach department within the the UT College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, a unit of the UT Institute of Agriculture. The UT Institute of Agriculture also provides instruction, research and public service through, the UT College of Veterinary Medicine, UT AgResearch and its 10 research and education centers, and UT Extension offices in every county in the state.

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Contacts: 

Dr. Keith Belli, head, Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries, 865-974-7989