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New York — During the last five years, volunteers from the National Wild Turkey Federation’s 62 New York chapters have raised and spent more than $490,000 through Hunting Heritage fundraising banquets. These dollars have helped fund habitat enhancement projects, outreach and education programs and research within the state.

Now, the state chapter has put together a roadmap of how it will spend its dollars to help further wildlife conservation through the NWTF New York State Wild Turkey Strategic Plan.

“The state chapter’s board of directors has embraced the plan and is looking forward to doing more great things for wildlife than ever,” said Doug Little, NWTF’s New York regional biologist. “Our volunteers believe it is important to look toward the future of North America’s greatest game bird and are excited about having a plan in place to help secure the future of the wild turkey in New York.”

In particular, the plan details a wildlife habitat restoration project in Allegany and Cattaraugus counties that will improve critical wild turkey habitat. The areas once had abundant wild turkey populations, and were actually some of the original sites where birds were trapped and moved to Massachusetts and Vermont to help restore wild turkey populations in those states. However, the landscape has gradually changed and turkey densities have declined.

“These counties are in desperate need of quality brood habitat as much of the area has become heavily forested over the last few decades,” said Little. “The habitat focus area selected by the chapter was once the go-to area for turkey hunters in New York, but as with many areas of the northeast, mature woods exist where there used to be a patchwork of openings.”

One of the projects the state chapter is helping fund, in conjunction with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC), will restore a nine-acre opening that is currently a stand of saplings into quality brood habitat for wild turkeys.

The project, which will take place on Hanging Bog Wildlife Management Area in Allegany County, will require a contractor to shred the saplings with a hydro-ax, a large machine with front-mounted cutting devices and large lugged tires. The chapter will provide at least $7,500 for the project and NYS DEC will contribute approximately $15,000 to remove stumps, treat the soil and reseed the area.

“The state chapter also identified creating winter food sources as an objective because they understand wild turkeys need standing food sources to survive tough winters,” said Little. “To help offset the cost of planting food sources for wildlife, the state chapter chose to support the NWTF’s Conservation Seed program.”

Last year, the chapter spent $6,566 from its Hunting Heritage Super Fund to help purchase two truckloads of 60-pound bags of round-up ready corn, which were shipped in mid-April. A total of 1,205 bags were delivered, which could benefit wildlife on more than 2,410 acres across the state.

Forty local chapters also participated in Operation Appleseed in 2008, which could improve about 2,960 acres of wildlife habitat.

“Through Operation Appleseed, volunteers plant crabapple trees and shrubs to provide late winter food for wildlife,” said Little. “These trees and shrubs provide food to wild turkeys, grouse, deer, songbirds and other wildlife during the colder months of winter when the animals really need food and have a hard time finding it because deep snow has covered other food sources.”

The state chapter’s management plan also outlines their strategies for improving hunter safety education and awareness, goals for helping support wild turkey research, plans for improving hunter access and supporting NWTF’s outreach programs.

Through its JAKES, Women in the Outdoors and Wheelin’ Sportsmen outreach programs, the NWTF helps youth, women, and people with disabilities across North America learn new outdoor skills.

The Bigger Picture
The New York plan is part of the larger North American Wild Turkey Management Plan, a compilation of objectives covering the United States, all Canadian provinces home to wild turkeys and selected areas of Mexico.

The plans are being written on a national, regional and state-specific basis and will act as a road map to the help NWTF’s dedicated volunteers work with wildlife management agencies to target the most important habitat needs in their areas.

Because hunting is such an integral part of conservation, this plan will continue to support ongoing efforts to recruit the next generation of hunters as well as making sure they have places to hunt.

“The plan will be dynamic and adaptable to balance the social needs of people with the biological needs of wildlife, and will provide accurate and relevant science-based support for wild turkey management,” said Dr. James Earl Kennamer, NWTF’s senior vice president of conservation programs. “It will serve as a guiding light for NWTF’s volunteers and will help ensure their dollars are spent in ways that will get the greatest good by having the tools needed to make informed decisions when spending their hard-earned Hunting Heritage Super Fund dollars.”

According to NWTF’s NAWTMP Coordinator Mark Hatfield, working with non-government organizations, government agencies, corporations and other partners in conservation gives NWTF volunteers key opportunities not only to strengthen and improve habitat, but also to forge the relationships needed for across-the-board cooperation.

“Today, the cost of even the smallest habitat project requires the resources of multiple partners whose very influence could have far-reaching effects on wild turkeys,” said Hatfield. “For example, partnering with those who are improving habitat for the Indiana Bat in New York, which is a threatened species, also improves wild turkey habitat. By working together, project partners can leverage Hunting Heritage Super Fund expenditures with Endangered Species Act dollars to do far more work than either group could have done alone.”

The NWTF will continue to work with state wildlife agencies, the USDA’s Forest Service and Natural Resources Conservation Service, the U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and numerous other partners to maintain critical habitat on millions of acres of public and private properties across North America for a multitude of species.

“The NWTF’s long-term relationships with these partners were key to the restoration of the wild turkey across the U.S., and having them on board is a blessing for the wild turkey’s future,” Kennamer said.