Opportunity for Landowners Set to Enhance Wild Turkey Habitat in Buckeye State

The NWTF is working alongside agency partners to benefit wild turkey habitat in Ohio through a new opportunity. The Environmental Quality Incentives Program, known to many as EQIP, is a voluntary conservation program that assists farmers and landowners. Administered by the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, EQIP provides landowners financial support and professional guidance to manage their property’s natural resources. And now in Ohio, the program will provide a particular emphasis on enhancing wild turkey nesting and brood-rearing habitat.

Currently found in all 88 counties of the state, the wild turkey’s success story in Ohio is similar to that of so many other states — nearly nonexistent on the landscape in the early 1900s, but through restoration efforts between state agencies, the NWTF and dedicated hunters and conservationists, is now flourishing. 

Despite the wild turkey’s success nationwide, there are numerous factors causing a decline in reproductive success in certain pockets of the country, including urban development, changing agricultural practices, unmanaged landscapes and more, and like many states, Ohio is not immune to these decreases.

“A renewed focus on creating and improving nesting and brood-rearing habitat will provide a much-needed boost for Ohio’s wild turkey population,” said Kendra Wecker, Division of Wildlife Chief in Ohio. “The EQIP partnership provides Ohio landowners with the necessary resources to enhance these spaces for wild turkeys and other native wildlife.”

The EQIP program will foster beneficial nesting and brood rearing conditions by offering cost-share plans with private landowners and by providing them with technical assistance from NRCS and NWTF staff such as Page Weckbacher, NWTF’s NFI Forester in Ohio and Ryan Boyer, NWTF’s District Biologist.

“A great management tool in our arsenal is creating viable nesting and brood-rearing habitat,” Boyer said. “Working with private landowners to create this crucial habitat, is critical to help ensure stable wild turkey populations; NRCS’s EQIP program will allow us to impact significantly more acres.”

Management activities will include carefully planned timber harvests, thinning, prescribed fire, controlling invasive species and creating permanent wildlife openings.

“We are aiming to enhance nesting and brood-rearing habitat by mimicking natural disturbances,” Boyer said. “These practices set vegetative growth back in succession creating early successional habitat full of seeds, berries, insects, and other important vegetation that wild turkeys and so many other species rely on. Working with private landowners through EQIP will allow us to implement these management practices, making landowners’ property more valuable for them and the wildlife that inhabit it.”

In Ohio, which is approximately 95 % privately owned, working with private landowners to optimize their land for habitat is a great strategy for influencing Ohio’s wild turkey population and overall biodiversity for the better. 

“The NWTF works hand in hand with our state, federal, and non-governmental organization partners, as well as private landowners to conserve wild turkeys and preserve our hunting heritage, Boyer said. “It’s partnerships like these with the NRCS, NWTF, and the Ohio Division of Wildlife which brings a multi-agency approach focused on promoting healthy and sustainable wild turkey populations and provide private landowners with the tools they need through EQIP to be impactful.”

Landowners in Ohio interested in EQIP should reach out to NWTF District Biologist Ryan Boyer (Rboyer@nwtf.net), NWTF NFI Ohio Forester Page Weckbacher (pweckbacher@nwtf.net) or visit the Ohio NRCS EQIP webpage for more details.

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