In the early summer of 2019, the NWTF and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service forged the National Forestry Initiative, a partnership dedicated to aiding private landowners across the country and fostering greater stewardship of America’s natural resources.
The program works by the two organizations cooperatively funding foresters throughout the U.S. who act as a support system and an educational resource for private landowners, while also offering cost-share assistance for forest management. Since 2019, the program has enhanced 119,000 acres of privately owned forests. An ongoing project that exemplifies the great work of the NFI partnership is a four-year forest management project in Latah County, Idaho.
Set in the Palouse Prairie Focal Landscape of the NWTF’s Western Wildlands, one of six regions in the NWTF’s America’s Big Six of Wildlife Conservation, the project site is comprised primarily of old, infertile crop fields that have been replaced with forestlands. After years of letting these forests grow without any treatments or management, many of the areas have become overly dense. This makes the trees in the forest less productive for wildlife and puts the forest at risk of uncharacteristic wildfire, insect infestation and disease.
This type of suppressed and unmanaged forest is a common theme throughout many western states, and the NWTF is working with the NRCS and numerous other partners across the country to address these critical forests issues.
As is the case for many states, the main solution being implemented in the Idaho project is a variety of forestry management practices that thin out the forest and diversifies the age class of the trees. This includes:
- Precommercial and commercial thinning.
- Slash treatment.
- Controlled burns for vegetation and nutritional enhancement.
- Planting for wildlife habitat and more forestland.
These management practices make the forests more resilient to inevitable natural disturbances and overall makes them more beneficial for wildlife. In this project, the more opened forest will greatly benefit Merriam’s wild turkey, elk, white-tailed deer, moose and black bear.
“Much of the private lands we benefit through the National Forestry Initiative are part of a larger overall habitat system,” said Michael Mitchener, NWTF National Forestry Initiative coordinator. “Our partnership with the NRCS allows us to benefit land that would otherwise be inaccessible to management. This allows for significantly more contiguous habitat for wild turkeys and other species, not to mention making the landowner’s property safer, more resilient and more of an asset. It’s a win for wild turkeys and everyone else involved.”
This project in Idaho began in October of 2020 and will conclude in 2024.