NWTF Week of Conservation: America’s Great Open Spaces

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. 

NWTF’s Conservation Week 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 Conservation Week, we are highlighting some of the great work the NWTF is doing in its America’s Great Open Spaces.

States in the Great Open Spaces include: Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana.

Since 2018, The NWTF has conserved and enhanced 330,406 acres in its Great Open Spaces.

Great Open Spaces Overview

NWTF’s Great Open Spaces is where the storied amber waves of grain ripple from the winds of the western Plains; where bluebonnets dot Texas Hill Country and where aspens gently sway on mountainsides. It’s these spaces where wildlife and the people who enjoy them are meant to roam. 

While our Great Open Spaces are filled with great turkey country and some of the best opportunities in the nation for outdoorsmen and women, there are conservation needs that must be addressed.

Water corridors are suffering from an influx of invasive species. Salt cedar and Russian olives are choking out trees like cottonwoods that are indicators of healthy waterways. Native prairies also are being overtaken by unwelcome plant species. Couple that with unmanaged grazing and cropland conversion and the world’s last remaining tallgrass prairie could fade into history. Forests that dot the Great Plains are becoming less diverse, which means we’re losing quality habitat for turkeys and many other wildlife species. We’re battling invasive species such as honeysuckle and garlic mustard, which are pushing out native plants that keep our forests healthy.

Luckily, much of the work the NWTF is doing to conserve wild turkeys is addressing these pressing conservation issues. NWTF volunteers, wildlife biologists, foresters and partners have joined forces to actively manage forests and prairies for the betterment of wildlife and the greater outdoors community.

Thinnings, prescribed fires, tree planting and an array of management techniques the NWTF is implementing and funding will keep these habitats healthy and diverse. The NWTF is fighting the war against invasive plants and restoring native species like cottonwoods, thus restoring healthier waterways. We’ll help balance land use to keep it productive for farming but still valuable for wild species. The NWTF is tackling these issues on both a regional and landscape scale.

The NWTF is collaborating with an array of partners on a variety of projects that will ensure the wild places in NWTF’s Great Open Spaces 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 to benefit projects in their respective states. Projects like this include creating wildlife openings on WMAs, improving access areas or creating early successional habitat in national forests, among a myriad of others.

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 Great Open Spaces is involved in multiple landscape-scale initiatives, including the National Forestry Initiative, Northern Plains Riparian Initiative, Longleaf Restoration Initiative, Rocky Mountain Restoration Initiative, Shortleaf Pine Initiative, White Oak Initiative, and the forthcoming Waterways for Wildlife Initiative. For more on these and other NWTF landscape-level initiatives, 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. Research priorities in NWTF’s Great Open Spaces include:

The NWTF will be funding and aiding research projects in Oklahoma and North Dakota. These research projects are in the design phase and will answer key questions around wild turkey declines. Keep an eye for these projects as they unfold in the near future.

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 Great Open Spaces region, the NWTF has been involved in the following recent legislation:

In Oklahoma, the NWTF recently supported wild turkey regulation changes for the 2022 season that includes a decreased bag limit, adjusted season dates and no hen harvest in fall.

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 Great Open Spaces, 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 couple volunteers who have taken that commitment to extraordinary heights:

Tyler Brei — The Nebraska native won the 2019 national JAKES Volunteer of the Year award. Brei has helped coordinate JAKES events for his local chapter for many years and can recall being as young as 15 while assisting with local chapter events. After many years of hosting a JAKES event, he wanted to help his chapter become more involved in the local community. He started planning a Fishing with First Responders event, coordinating with his local agencies (law enforcement, fire department, ambulance, game and parks) for everyone to show up at a local pond and fish with the youth. Brei wanted to help the youth in the area get outdoors and feel comfortable with their local law enforcement. He hosts two education and outreach events each year and a successful banquet. 

Bobby Armstrong —When Armstrong became Oklahoma’s volunteer Save the Hunt Coordinator, he sought to learn all he could and establish new events. Seeing a need for hunting mentors, he held a mentor workshop and hunter education classes through the state chapter. Most recently, he has held a mentored squirrel hunt and a Deer Hunting Clinic in partnership with the state agency. He has also been instrumental in helping start Wheelin’ Sportsmen events.

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

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