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NWTF ‘Save' Initiative Makes Impact

(Jeff Phillips photo) (Jeff Phillips photo)

By: OutdoorChannel.com staff

The National Wild Turkey Federation's (NWTF) “Save the Habitat. Save the Hunt.” initiative was implemented just over one year ago and it's already making a big difference.

The reason according to the conservation organization is that the SHSH initiative is "...an aggressive charge that mobilizes science, fundraising and devoted volunteers to combat some of the driving factors in the decline of wild turkey numbers, loss of habitat and the decrease in the number of hunters."

"'Save the Habitat. Save the Hunt.' has re-energized our incredible volunteer base and it shows in the progress that has been made thus far," said Becky Humphries, NWTF executive vice president of conservation, in a news release.

"There is still a long road ahead in our efforts to ensure the future of our habitats and our wildlife but it is nice to know we are making great strides from the start."

The initiative's goals are big and include efforts to raise $1.2 billion to conserve and enhance more than four million acres of essential upland wildlife habitat, to create at least 1.5 million additional hunters and to open access to 500,000 acres for hunting, shooting and outdoor enjoyment.

Ambitious, yes. But what else would you expect from the organization founded in 1973 that has been perhaps the biggest player in what is arguably the greatest conservation success story in North American wildlife history, the restoration of the wild turkey?

In the NWTF's ongoing efforts to conserve and enhance some four million acres of habitat, the organization has identified regions and corresponding focal landscapes that are in need of urgent attention. A number of states have worked alongside the organization in the past year to create strategic plans to address the immediate needs in such areas.

The creation of some 1.5 million new hunters is the second goal of the initiative according to the NWTF and has also seen first-year success. State agencies like Minnesota Department of Natural Resources have partnered with the NWTF to successfully offer mentored hunts in the past year. That effort has seen nearly 200 youth being accepted into the Minnesota DNR program and placed with a hunting mentor.

The NWTF indicates that it has also been able to help offer several mentored hunts in Georgia. A "hunt and learn" weekend partnership with the Savannah Wildlife Refuge was an incredible success according to the group, one that resulted in several other wildlife refuges exploring the option of offering similar programs.

In addition to the above success stories, after one year's time, the NWTF says that its SHSH initiative is "...well on its way to meeting the goal of opening access for hunting to 500,000 acres. More than 81,000 acres have already been opened for hunting use."

What does all of this mean? A big win for hunters and for hunting to start with.

And ultimately, a big win for the North American wild turkey and other wildlife species that depend on healthy habitat.

"Hunters are the biggest advocates for conservation in the form of donations or through funds generated by license sales," said Humphries, in the news release.

"An increase in the number of hunters along with opportunity will lead to more funds for saving precious habitat," she added.

And that's certainly something to gobble about.

Editor's Note: To learn more about the NWTF's Save the Habitat. Save the Hunt. initiative, visit the NWTF's website at www.nwtf.org.

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