Longleaf Pine forests and their associated ecosystems were once the dominant natural environment of the southeastern United States, covering approximately 90 million acres from southern Virginia to Louisiana.  These ecosystems support highly diverse communities including many endemic species and are recognized as one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots. Unfortunately, longleaf pine forests now cover less than 3% of their historic range because of widespread deforestation and poor management that occurred after European settlement.  The dramatic decline of Longleaf Pine forests combined with high fragmentation and degradation of remaining stands threatens these important forests and the animals that depend on them with extinction.

The Orianne Society’s Longleaf Savannas Initiative works to conserve and restore Longleaf Pine ecosystems in our focus landscape, the Altamaha River Corridor, through land protection and restoration, research, inventory and monitoring, and education-outreach.  Active land management is particularly critical for Longleaf Pine systems because the historic fire regime has been completely removed and thus to have a functioning ecosystem, prescribed fire and other management tools are needed. Historically, Longleaf Pine forests would have experienced regular wild fires, which regulated communities by supporting fire-adapted species. To manage and restore the Longleaf Pine ecosystem prescribed fire must be applied, trees must be planted, and native groundcover has to be restored. These three “pillars” of restoration are the management steps needed to support a functioning Longleaf Pine ecosystem in today’s world.

Longleaf Pine forests support many iconic species of amphibians and reptiles, including our focal species, the Gopher Tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus), the Eastern Indigo Snake (Drymarchon couperi), and the Spotted Turtle (Clemmys guttata).  These species and many others have experienced population declines coinciding with the loss of Longleaf Pine forests.  To conserve these species, it is critical to understand their current distributions, habitat requirements, and life histories, which allow The Orianne Society and our partners to successfully manage their populations.

Orianne Indigo Snake Preserve

Indigo Snake Preserve

The Orianne Indigo Snake Preserve (OISP) consist of 2,500 acres that includes over 14 different plant community types with over 400 species of plants documented. The land management team works to restore these natural plant communities. The OISP also lies in the heart of one of the most important remaining strongholds for Eastern Indigo Snakes.

Photo: Pete Oxford

Spotted Turtle Ecology

Spotted Turtle Ecology

To better understand Spotted Turtle habits, Orianne Society scientist have conducted multiple radio telemetry studies on Spotted Turtles in Georgia. These studies provide insight into Spotted Turtle space use, activity seasons, fecundity, and habitat selection.

Photo: Houston Chandler

Longleaf Pine Restoration

Longleaf Pine Restoration

The land management team has planted 750 acres of Longleaf Pine on The Orianne Indigo Snake Preserve totaling 453,300 seedlings. The team has also assisted in the planting of over 250 acres on private cooperators lands.

Photo: Heidi Hall

Scientific Involvement

Scientific Involvement

Orianne Society scientists work actively to publish the results of our conservation research and present our findings to fellow scientists at both region and national scientific meetings. 

Photo: Ray Chandler

Eastern Indigo Snake Surveys

Eastern Indigo Snake Surveys

Orianne Society scientists perform annual surveys for Eastern Indigo Snakes across sandhill habitats of southern Georgia. Surveys identify sites as occupied or not and are part of the long-term monitoring strategy for Indigo Snakes in Georgia.

Photo: Michael Starkey

Snake Fungal Disease Surveys

Snake Fungal Disease Surveys

Snake Fungal Disease is an emerging disease with the potential to impact a wide variety of native snake fauna. We have been conducting baseline surveys in Georgia to expand our knowledge of this disease and are committed to ensuring that the impacts of this disease are mitigated.

Photo: David Hutto

Spotted Turtle Inventory

Spotted Turtle Inventory

The Orianne Society conducts surveys for Spotted Turtles in Georgia and Florida where records for this species are scarce. New records will be used to better conserve this charismatic turtle.

Photo: Pete Oxford

Prescribed Fire

Prescribed Fire

Orianne Society’s land management team implements prescribed fire on The Orianne Indigo Snake Preserve and private and public partner lands to restore longleaf pine plant communities. To date the team has burned over 27,000 acres across southeast Georgia.

Photo: Cody Bliss

Private Landowner Network

Private Landowner Network

The Orianne Society has worked with over 30 landowners throughout southeast Georgia to manage and restore Longleaf Pine habitats. It is considered the backbone of the land management program because approximately 90% of Georgia’s land is privately owned. In order to conserve species and restore habitats, the private landowner must be engaged and willing to participate.


Photo:Chris Jenkins

Gopher Tortoise Initiative

Gopher Tortoise Initiative

Partnering with other conservation groups, The Orianne Society is working to protect remaining Gopher Tortoise populations across their range in Georgia. This initiative focuses on protecting enough populations to preclude the need for federal listing of Gopher Tortoises in the eastern portion of their range. Orianne plays a critical role in land conservation and stewardship and inventory and monitoring components of the Gopher Tortoise Initiative.

Photo: Dirk Stevenson

Eastern Indigo Snake Reintroductions

Eastern Indigo Snake Reintroductions

The Orianne Society is an active partner on the Eastern indigo Snake Reintroduction Committee and works to see this species returned to areas where it has been extirpated. We are currently restoring indigo snakes at two sites: one in Alabama and one in the Panhandle of Florida.

Photo: Jim Godwin

Spotted Turtle Population Monitoring

Spotted Turtle Monitoring

The Orianne Society performs annual mark-recapture surveys at two Spotted Turtle populations in southern Georgia. These surveys provide detailed demographic data on these populations, including population sizes, sex ratios, growth rates, and much more.

Photo: Pete Oxford

Groundcover Restoration

Groundcover Restoration

By partnering with the groundcover working group in the Ft. Stewart/ Altamaha Longleaf Pine Restoration Partnership, which consists of other agencies such The Nature Conservancy, Longleaf Alliance, and GA Department of Natural Resources, we have restored approximately 40 acres of degraded longleaf understory and harvested over 600 pounds of native grass seed.

Photo: Houston Chandler

Citizen Science

Citizen Science

Orianne Society scientists take private citizens in the field to conduct research during our Places You've Never Herped and Indigo Days events. 

Photo: Houston Chandler

Education and Outreach

Education and Outreach

Orianne Society staff participate in several festivals, events, and speaking engagements each year to increase public awareness and knowledge about longleaf pine forests and the species that depend on them. This allows us to share a positive message for species that are often viewed negatively by the public and dispel some of the common myths that characterize reptiles and amphibians.

Photo: Houston Chandler