NWTF Conservation Week: America’s Southern Piney Woods

The two overarching parts of the NWTF’s mission are to conserve the wild turkey and to preserve our hunting heritage. These two major components touch on many other areas that achieve our mission, but they also improve our communities, including influencing beneficial policy; hosting community outreach events; funding and assisting with projects that create clean water, healthy forests, robust wildlife populations and an overall difference on the landscape that enhances the world we live in.

The NWTF’s National Week of Conservation will highlight this all-encompassing work through the NWTF’s America’s Big Six of Wildlife Conservation, which encompasses the entire continental U.S.

Today, for our National Week of Conservation, we are highlighting some of the great work the NWTF is doing in its America’s Southern Piney Woods.

States in NWTF’s Southern Piney Woods region include: Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Florida.

Since 2018, The NWTF has conserved or enhanced 877,416 acres in its Southern Piney Woods.

Southern Piney Woods Overview

Healthy forests are economically important, and their natural diversity provides great wildlife habitat. However, the wildlife potential of many southern forests is unrealized due to the lack of active forest management. We must maintain and promote forest diversity in the South. It’s time for a southern pine revival. 

Development, urban sprawl and growing agricultural operations are rapidly altering the southern landscape. We must recognize the value and importance of active stewardship and management of our remaining habitat to slow the pace of development. Restoring and maintaining a diversity of southern habitat types, including wildlife openings, native ground cover and pine ecosystems, will provide excellent wildlife habitat and environmental benefits, leading to clean air and water and overall more turkeys on the landscape.

Active management, including timber harvests, thinnings and prescribed fire, creates and maintains healthy, diverse forests of varied ages and species, which provide the quality habitat wild turkeys and countless other species need to thrive.

Fortunately, NWTF volunteers, wildlife biologists, foresters and partners have joined forces to actively manage our Southern Piney Woods forests for the betterment of wildlife and the people who enjoy them. We subscribe to the philosophy of “thin and burn,” using thinning and prescribed fire to keep forests healthy. The NWTF is revitalizing its Southern Piney Woods through both regional and landscape-scale initiatives alike.

The NWTF is collaborating with an array of partners on a variety of projects that will ensure the wild places in NWTF’s Southern Piney Woods stay wild and continue to provide great habitat. Some recent projects include:

Regional projects include the work NWTF state chapters fund through the NWTF Super Fund. Super Fund dollars are raised by NWTF local chapters in a state and go toward benefiting projects in their respective state. Projects like this include creating wildlife openings on WMAs, creating early successional habitat in national forests or funding land purchases; for instance, the NWTF Georgia State Chapter recently helped fund a 6,300-acre land purchase to expand the Canoochee Sandhills WMA.

When this regional work is combined with an adjacent state or state in the same Big Six Region, it augments the work the NWTF is doing from a national level through its landscape-level initiatives.

The NWTF has created a handful of landscape-level initiatives across the country that address specific issues of concern and incorporate an array of traditional and nontraditional partners, agencies and interested parties. These groups combine resources, funding and expertise that ultimately benefits the wildlife, forests, private lands and wetlands on an entire landscape.     

NWTF’s Southern Piney Woods is involved in multiple landscape-scale initiatives, including the National Forestry Initiative, Longleaf Restoration Initiative, Shortleaf Pine Initiative and the White Oak Initiative. For more on these and other NWTF landscape-level initiatives, click here.

In NWTF’s Southern Piney Woods, the endangered longleaf pine ecosystem is of the utmost importance. To bring longleaf pine ecosystems back to their historic range takes both work at a regional and landscape level. To learn about how the NWTF accomplishes this work for longleaf ecosystems through local implementation teams, click here.

Research

Wild turkey ecology research is the guiding star for much of the conservation work the NWTF implements, and it is also crucial in addressing population declines, especially in the South. In Southern Piney Woods, the NWTF is currently helping with the following research projects:

  • Texas Parks Wildlife Department's wild turkey population density research project through University of Missouri using UAV FLIR (unmanned aerial vehicle forward looking infrared) technology to count wild turkeys to be used with the decision support tool to reopen East Texas counties for hunting.
  • Alabama Gobbling activity
  • North Carolina Gobbler Chronology
  • North Carolina State University, North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, NWTF State Chapter Ecology Study.

For additional information on research, click the following links: NWTF Technical Committee and The National Wild Turkey Symposium

Policy  

Policy is another major part of the NWTF’s mission that is housed under the conservation of the wild turkey and the preservation of our hunting heritage. In the Southern Piney Woods region, the NWTF has been involved in the following legislation:

  • The NWTF recently supported a bill that would allow Sunday hunting on WMAs in South Carolina.
  • (Louisiana) The NWTF supported proposed license fee increases, which have been signed into law.

For more on NWTF involvement in conservation and hunting legislation, click here

Hunting Heritage

Just like conservation projects, hunting heritage events are crucial to the NWTF mission. In America’s Southern Piney Woods, NWTF staff and volunteers recruit, retain and reactivate new and lapsed hunters, and like NWTF’s conservation projects, these hunting heritage events benefit states at a regional level and contribute to the national conservation effort.   

The NWTF’s volunteers are the lifeblood of the organization. For our Conservation Week, we want to thank all volunteers for their support and dedication to conserve the wild turkey and preserve our hunting heritage. Here are a few volunteers who have taken that commitment to extraordinary heights.

Conservation Heroes:

Missie Schneider, FL: Schneider is President of the National Wild Turkey Federation-Gator Gobbler chapter and secretary of her local Coastal Conservation Association chapter. Her chapter has held many outreach events over the years. She worked with Florida Wildlife Commission on a collegiate field to fork deer hunt. Since 2014, the Gator Gobblers Chapter has been partnering with the Florida Wildlife Commission to host youth hunts each year. As we work to bring in new audiences, Schneider is helping to pave the way.

Texas Super Stocking Team:

  • Craig White, White is a dedicated steward of the wild turkey and proponent of the NWTF’s mission in Texas, which was evident in his four-year service as NWTF state chapter president; 
  • Tony Hawley, Texas State Chapter President  
  • Shawn Roberts, Roberts is an NWTF regional director, but his volunteer hat is on 24/7. Whether it's mentoring new hunters, helping with stocking efforts or raising crucial funds for the mission, Roberts eats, sleeps and breathes the NWTF mission.
  • The Texas State Board of Directors and the TPWD efforts in helping with the eastern wild turkey restoration efforts in East Texas.

During our week of conservation, we want to highlight how far our mission reaches, but we also want to show how it all interrelates. Stay tuned for more of America’s Wildlife Conservation and the NWTF’s impact on our great outdoors.

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