NWTF conservation work is often associated with trapping and transferring wild turkeys, assisting with the coordination and funding of landscape-level wildlife habitat initiatives or hosting huge mentored hunt events, among countless other mission-related objectives. And while the NWTF is rightly associated with all of these expansive undertakings, it also works to enhance the smaller, often-overlooked components needed to improve wildlife habitat and access to outdoor recreation. These projects don’t grab large headlines, but they are essential to the NWTF’s greater conservation story.
One of these small but essential projects is an ongoing collaborative effort, now in year two, between the NWTF and the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources to provide better access and infrastructure for sportsmen and women on 10 new and expanded wildlife management areas throughout the state.
Set in the Central Appalachian focal landscape of the Colonial Forests, part of the NWTF’s America’s Big Six of Wildlife Conservation, these new and expanded WMAs are the result of a 34,000-acre, non-contiguous land purchase by the West Virginia DNR.
“Lack of hunter access and an inability to find places to hunt are a few of the top reasons folks say they quit hunting,” said Cully McCurdy, NWTF district biologist in West Virginia. “Kudos to the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources for acquiring over 30,000 acres to greatly expand opportunities for West Virginian hunters and nonresidents.”
The NWTF earmarked up to $60,000 in match aimed at improving these new and expanded WMAs and making access easier for outdoor enthusiasts. The work included marking boundaries and installing signage to identify the property lines, installing exclusionary gates to protect wildlife openings and sensitive areas, replacing culverts, creating parking lots and improving roads within and to the WMAs.
“Marking boundaries so individuals do not trespass, reducing human disturbance during brooding season, preventing damage and erosion — all this work is so critical for mission success,” McCurdy said.
The next time you go to a WMA and see a smooth, easily-accessible road or an attractive food plot, know that there are dedicated conservationists behind.