TEXAS – The National Wild Turkey Federation and its project partners have united to complete projects that will potentially improve more than 550,000 acres of Texas National Forests and Grasslands and Wildlife Management Areas through the Master Challenge Cost Share Agreement.
Together with the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department and the U.S. Forest Service, the NWTF’s Texas State Chapter and national headquarters signed the Master Challenge Cost Share Agreement. Throughout the five-year agreement, each partner committed $125,000 to create a shared biologist position and oversee the completion of projects that will improve habitat for wild turkeys and other wildlife.
Made possible by the recent agreement, a project on the Pat Mayse Wildlife Management Area in Paris, Texas, will improve more than 1,000 acres of prairie lands, home to native warm season grasses that provide much-needed nesting and brood-rearing habitat for wild turkeys and other ground-nesting birds.
“The availability of quality nesting and brood-rearing habitat is the single most limiting factor influencing ground-nesting bird populations,” said NWTF’s East Texas Regional Biologist Scotty Parsons. “Native warm season grasses on this management area had been choked out by eastern red cedar trees that absorb huge amounts of water. In this case, removing the cedar trees and conducting prescribed burns was essential to restoring vital habitat.”
Project partner Kindcaid Mulching of Idabel, Okla., is removing the eastern red cedars to allow land managers to conduct prescribed burns.
Prescribed burns introduce controlled fire to forests and grasslands, which eliminates forest undergrowth and wildfire fuel and opens the forest up to new growth that is beneficial to wildlife. Prescribed fire also provides important nutrients to the soil to help with new growth.
According to Scott Vance, the NWTF’s director of conservation field operations, the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department and the U.S. Forest Service can increase habitat projects and accomplish bigger and better things for wild turkeys on USFS lands – especially grasslands – and WMAs thanks to the Master Challenge Cost Share Agreement.
“Wildlife biologists often have to act as a Jack of all Trades instead of focusing on one specific area or project,” said Vance. “The Master Challenge Cost Share Agreement created a position for a biologist that can wake up every morning thinking about what he can do to improve habitat for wild turkeys and other wildlife in eastern Texas. Everyone that uses these public lands will reap the benefits from this agreement.”
Additional projects that have been or will be completed in eastern Texas through the Master Challenge Cost Share Agreement include:
- * Enhancing brood habitat on Alabama Creek WMA in Apple Springs
- * Restoring Blackland Prairies and enhancing brood habitat on Sam Houston National Forest in Livingston
- * Restoring longleaf pine and overseeing moist soil management projects on Alazan Bayou WMA in Nacogdoches
- * Removing Eastern Red Cedars and restoring native warm season grasses on the Fannin Unit of the Caddo National Grasslands in Fannin County
- * Constructing wildlife watering facilities, improving roost habitat for wild turkeys and removing salt cedar trees on Matador WMA in Paducah
- * Improving roost habitat for wild turkeys, constructing wildlife watering facilities and controlling brush on Gene Howe WMA in Canadian