EDGEFIELD, S.C.— Although South Carolina is known as the Palmetto State, the National Wild Turkey Federation is helping landowners establish a different kind of beautiful tree on their properties – the oak.
Through the NWTF’s Operation Oak initiative, more than 16,000 oak tree seedlings were recently distributed to 83 private landowners across 37 counties in South Carolina. The seedlings are in the ground and on their way to providing food and shelter for wildlife, in addition to beautifying and increasing the value of the landowners’ properties. Almost 90 percent of South Carolina’s 19.3 million acres are privately owned, highlighting the need for programs such as Operation Oak.
“These seedlings represent another phase of the Federation’s plan to benefit wildlife as well as our children,” said Don Going, NWTF South Carolina State Chapter president. “It’s imperative that we leave a lasting legacy to show future generations the importance of taking care of the land. I can’t think of a more symbolic example of that environmental legacy than thousands of tall, mighty oaks.”
Established in 2000, Operation Oak was formed to combat the decline of oak woodlands in eastern U.S. forests by planting seedlings on public and private lands. The seedlings are chosen for their hardiness, high growth rate and the potential to produce acorns in approximately ten years.
The NWTF’s partners in the recent South Carolina planting include the Federation’s South Carolina State Chapter, the South Carolina Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and the South Carolina and Georgia Forestry Commissions. Operation Oak’s corporate sponsors include Miller High Life, International Paper and DeltAg.
South Carolina NRCS State Conservationist Niles Glasgow said the NRCS was proud to be a part of the project.
“Operation Oak fits into our mission of helping people help the land, and we’re glad to work with the NWTF to help improve habitat for a variety of species, including wild turkeys.”
Operation Oak Coordinator Greg Boozer reflected on the project’s success while noting that the initiative shows no signs of slowing down.
“To date, we’ve helped plant more than 400,000 oak seedlings and improved more than 640,000 acres of wild turkey habitat across the southeast,” Boozer said. “We thank our partners, our sponsors and especially our volunteers for all of their hard work and support. Together, we’re leaving a positive, long-term impact on wildlife for generations to come.”