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NWTF Programs Benefit Wildlife Across Country

While efforts to restore wild turkey populations across North America have been met with phenomenal success, biologists for the National Wild Turkey Federation recognize that habitat improvement programs targeted to specific regions also are important in maintaining and improving these populations. Working closely with state and federal wildlife agencies and even a number of corporate partners, the NWTF has created the following habitat programs:

Operation SOS

This program is the NWTF's initiative to plant trees that aims to provide long-term habitat enhancement to helping wild turkeys survive the cold winters in the northern part of the wild turkey's range. Together, Operation SOS projects have improved more than 400,000 acres. Trees that were planted include Northern red oak, Northern hackberry, cranberry and green ash, all trees and shrubs that bear fruit for wild turkeys in the winter. Through Operation SOS in 2002, volunteers from 177 U.S. chapters planted more than 139,000 seedlings, and 20 Canadian chapters planted another 10,000 seedlings. Operation SOS is sponsored by Global Releaf and Cinergy.

Operation Big Sky

The aim of Operation Big Sky, now in its fifth year, is to enhance habitat in the Northern Great Plains states. In 2002,volunteers from 44 NWTF chapters planted more than 25,000 seedlings to help wild turkeys in those areas. In all, more than 113,000 acres of wildlife habitat has been improved. Operation Big Sky is sponsored by Cinergy.

Guzzlers for Gobblers

Stepping up to address the needs of wildlife is what NWTF volunteers do. Out West, their work has resulted in a program funded by the Wild Turkey Super Fund that makes it easier for wild turkeys and other wildlife to find water in arid regions. Projects include the construction of rock header dams and water catchments, raising culverts, altering natural springs to hold more water, planting trees, etc. In 2002, 14 states completed more than 125 projects. In all, more than 1 million acres of habitat has been improved.

Operation Heartland

Operation Heartland reestablishes bottomland hardwoods along streams, creeks and rivers in the Midwest. In 2002, 177 NWTF chapters planted more than 6,000 seedlings in six central Mississippi and Ohio River Valley states. The program improved more than 18,000 acres in the Midwest. Seedlings planted include red oak, pin oak, white oak, sycamore, persimmon and cottonwood. This program is made available with corporate support from American Electric Power.

Operation Oak

The disappearance of mast producing trees through conversion to pine plantations is a pressing habitat concern throughout the Southeast. Operation Oak was started in 2000 to counteract this loss by planting sawtooth oaks in areas without hardwoods. In 2002, 241 chapters planted 6,000 seedlings, all with tree survival kits. Their efforts improved more than 80,000 acres of wildlife habitat. This program is sponsored by International Paper and Global Releaf.

Operation Appleseed

The disappearance of family farms in the Northeast has led to fewer fall and winter food supplies for the wild turkey and other wildlife. Planting crabapple orchards creates an abundant food source when wildlife needs it most. Another part of the program involves managing utility rights-of-way, which make up more than half of the open land in the Northeast. In 2002, 131 chapters planted more than 4,000 seedlings. More than 15,000 acres have been improved. Operation Appleseed is made available with corporate support from Global Releaf, Central Vermont Public Service, Asplundh and Mead.

Southern Great Plains Riparian Initiative

The NWTF is making history with the Southern Great Plains Riparian Initiative, one of the largest habitat improvement efforts ever initiated by a wildlife organization. The riparian initiative will improve wildlife habitat all across the southern Great Plains, where saltcedar, Russian olive and land use practices are a threat. The initiative is a 10-year commitment to improve wildlife habitat on thousands of miles of rivers and streams in several states including Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.

The NWTF's regional programs have gone a long way to improve habitat for new and long-established populations of wild turkeys. These programs have also done a lot to benefit habitat for other wildlife such as deer and songbirds. For more information on how you can help improve the habitat in your area through these regional programs, contact the NWTF at 1-800-THE NWTF.


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