EDGEFIELD, S.C. —
The oaks and prairies region of central Texas and Oklahoma and the wildlife it supports received good news as 2016 came to a close.
The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service selected the Oaks and Prairies Joint Venture to receive federal funding through the USDA’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program, which was created under the 2014 Farm Bill.
According to Gene Miller, NWTF district biologist for west Texas and Oklahoma, the Oaks and Prairies Joint Venture partners will receive $2.9 million to address significant declines in grassland wildlife populations and the loss of natural water-cycle conditions through the improvement and restoration of native grassland habitats in the Southern Great Plains.
“This will result in restored grassland habitat for declining bird species like northern bobwhite, and will greatly benefit wild turkey and white-tailed deer populations, especially in the oak savannah woodland portion of this project area,” Miller said. “With private landowner and partner dollars, we will spend a total of $6 million on this effort to benefit grasslands over the next five years,” he added.
The joint venture will administer the grant through their Grassland Restoration Incentive Program, or GRIP. This program aims to help landowners pay for grassland restoration work, including range planting, controlled burning and invasive plant control. In its first three years, the program has paid out more than $1.1 million, which has restored wildlife grassland habitat on more than 57,000 acres. Landowners interested in enrolling should watch for announcements coming later from selected USDA-NRCS Field Offices in focal counties within Texas and Oklahoma.
The Oaks and Prairies Joint Venture partners, which includes National Wild Turkey Federation as the lead, along with Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, will collaborate with landowners to improve 61,000 acres of native grasslands and oak savannah woodlands.
The project occurs within the NWTF’s Great Open Spaces region of their America’s Big Six of Wildlife Conservation focal areas. Six areas of concern were established to help identify the most urgent wildlife and wild turkey habitat needs and to better monitor the conservation objectives of the organization’s Save the Habitat. Save the Hunt. initiative.
About the National Wild Turkey Federation
When the National Wild Turkey Federation was founded in 1973, there were about 1.5 million wild turkeys in North America. After decades of work, that number hit an historic high of almost 7 million turkeys. To succeed, the NWTF stood behind science-based conservation and hunters’ rights. Thanks to the efforts of dedicated volunteers, professional staff and committed partners, the NWTF has facilitated the investment of $488 million in wildlife conservation and the preservation of North America’s hunting heritage. The NWTF has improved more than 17 million acres of wildlife habitat and introduce 100,000 people to the outdoors each year. The NWTF Save the Habitat. Save the Hunt. initiative is a charge that mobilizes science, fundraising and devoted volunteers to raise $1.2 billion to conserve and enhance more than 4 million acres of essential wildlife habitat, recruit at least 1.5 million hunters and open access to 500,000 acres for hunting. For more information, visit NWTF.org.