EDGEFIELD, S.C. — Since 1973, the National Wild Turkey Federation and its dedicated volunteers have worked with wildlife agencies to help successfully restore wild turkey populations in nearly all suitable habitat in North America. As the need to trap and transfer wild turkeys becomes less necessary, it is critically important to look toward the future of North America’s greatest game birds and work to make sure that future is bright.
“The comeback of the wild turkey is arguably one of the greatest conservation success stories in our nation’s history,” said Dr. James Earl Kennamer, NWTF’s senior vice president for conservation programs. “A lot of folks have asked what’s next for the wild turkey? The NWTF and its partners are ready for the next phase with the North American Wild Turkey Management Plan.”
In fact, the NWTF’s staff, grassroots volunteers, and agency partners have been working together to write the next chapter in the wild turkey success story. The Wild Turkey Management Plan will not only ensure the continued success of the wild turkey, but at the same time it will improve habitat for a multitude of wildlife and plant species, while also focusing on providing more opportunities and access for North America’s hunters.
“The North American Wild Turkey Management Plan is a compilation of plans that cover the United States, all Canadian provinces home to wild turkeys and selected areas of Mexico,” said Kennamer. “The plans will act as a guide to help wildlife management agencies and the NWTF’s dedicated volunteers target the most important habitat needs in their areas.”
The Wild Turkey Management Plan will ensure our volunteers can make informed decisions when spending their hard-earned Hunting Heritage Super Fund dollars to not only put them in the right places, but to make them go further with additional cooperator funds, Kennamer added.
Ensuring the wild turkey’s future is a tremendous challenge and the primary focus of the North American Wild Turkey Management Plan. Kennamer says this ambitious plan, which will be updated as needed, will not only ensure a bright future for wild turkeys through the 21st century, but will also conserve the flora, fauna and habitat that define its world.
“The plan will be dynamic and adaptable by constantly monitoring progress, balancing the social needs of people with the biological needs of wildlife, and will provide accurate and relevant science based support for wild turkey management,” he said.
According to 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, even the smallest habitat project requires the efforts of multiple partners whose very influence could have far-reaching effect on wild turkeys,” said Hatfield. For example, partnering with those who work with threatened and endangered species creates a win-win scenario that allows the NWTF to leverage Hunting Heritage Super Fund expenditures with Endangered Species Act dollars.”
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 turkey habitat on millions of acres of public and private properties across North America.
“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.
Making More Places to Hunt
The Wild Turkey Management Plan will focus not only on maintaining essential wild turkey habitat, but will identify areas that NWTF’s state and local chapters can help fund projects to improve hunting access.
“Studies by the National Shooting Sports Foundation indicate that one of the top reasons hunters give up the sport is that they can’t find places to hunt,” said Kennamer. “Losing a place is not trivial. The ripple effect from such losses are immense.”
Kennamer added, as hunter numbers decline, state agencies lose revenue used to support habitat and places to hunt. Without habitat and places to hunt, wild turkeys and hunters lose again. Without changes, the cycle will slowly feed itself until there are no places to hunt, no hunters, and ultimately, no turkeys.
For years, the NWTF has worked to improve access to hunting lands with great success. At both local and national levels, the NWTF and its volunteers have developed partnerships with landowners, and worked with state and federal agencies to help improve hunter access. As part of the North American Wild Turkey Management Plan, the NWTF will continue to fight for increased hunter access through the More Places to Hunt initiative.
More Places to Hunt is a new NWTF program designed to help provide more hunting land on both public and private property. The NWTF already has spent nearly $9 million and obtained more than 400,000 acres for hunting since 1987.
However, this new program’s objective is to find out specifically what hunters need in regard to access, incorporate their needs into the Wild Turkey Management Plan, and build upon NWTF chapters’ successes and allow the NWTF to better cooperate with partners to accomplish even more.
The Federation’s chapters have already experienced tremendous success in affecting hunter access in a variety of ways, including significant land acquisitions such as those in South Carolina, Iowa, Ohio, West Virginia and North Carolina; funding conservation easements that provide public access in Montana; funding a walk-in hunting area program in Kansas; holding landowner appreciation days in Wisconsin; and active involvement in legislative issues.
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