NWTF National Forestry Initiative foresters from across the country gathered in Nashville as part of the Conservation Conference at NWTF’s 46th annual Convention and Sport Show.
Cooperatively funded by the NWTF and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, NFI foresters act as a support system and educational resource for private landowners and conduct an array of duties, ranging from helping landowners apply for conservation programs, to hosting “landowner field days,” which are educational events that illustrate how NFI programs benefit the landscape, the landowner, wild turkeys and overall wildlife habitat.
The foresters congregated in Nashville to collaborate, share highlights in their respective states and discuss ways to further amplify the NFI’s nationwide assistance to NRCS in delivery of conservation efforts through USDA farm bill programs.
NWTF employees also shared information and collaborated with the NFI foresters on ways to bolster communication efforts of NFI’s successes and how to integrate NWTF’s many conservation programs into NFI projects, including NWTF’s Conservation Seed Program and its State Chapter Hunting Heritage Super Fund.
Of particular note, NWTF District Biologist Ryan Boyer and NFI Forester Page Weckbacher illustrated to the panel the great success of Ohio’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program (known to many as EQIP). The program in Ohio was centered specifically around improving wild turkey habitat, which resonated with Ohioans and NWTF members in the state. In Ohio where approximately 95% of land is privately owned, programs such as EQIP and NFI’s works are crucial.
The success of the EQIP program in Ohio resonated with the NFI foresters and sparked interest and discussion in being able to conduct similar programs in their states.
The NFI foresters’ work is particularly important because, like Ohio, many states throughout the country are composed primarily of private lands.
“Contiguous habitat is crucial for wild turkeys and so many other species,” said Mike Mitchener, NFI coordinator. “Our NFI foresters are working to ensure these private lands that are adjacent to so much habitat remain optimal for wildlife and forest health. This is what makes our NFI partnership so great; it is a win for private landowners and wild turkeys alike.”
Staffing of NFI positions with trained foresters and wildlife biologists began in the early summer of 2019, and the results to date have been remarkable, with more than 119,000 privately owned forest acres have being enhanced.
The meeting concluded with high-level talks about exciting next steps for the partnership.