For 50 years (1973 to 2023) the NWTF has focused on conservation of the wild turkey through wildlife habitat work across the U.S. With population declines estimated at 15% or more over the past decade-plus, the NWTF ramped up conservation work to counteract the turbulence.
The Save the Habitat. Save the Hunt. initiative conserved or enhanced more than 5.2 million acres of critical wildlife habitat from 2012 to 2022, an average of 520,000 acres per year over the 10-year timeframe. Look closer and you’ll find the averages consistently climbed almost every year, doubling from about 300,000 acres per year in the early part of the initiative to more than 650,000 acres per year on average in the final years of the campaign. In fact, the total acres conserved or enhanced in fiscal year 2022 — more than 772,000 — was the most ever accomplished in a single year in NWTF history.
That’s big. Now it’s time to go even bigger on the cusp of the NWTF’s Golden Anniversary. The goal in 2023: Positively impact 1 million acres of wildlife habitat. How is that possible? For starters, partners nationally took notice over the last 10 years, which did two things: 1. It increased the NWTF’s influence and reach in conservation projects across the landscape, while still targeting critical areas in need of habitat work for wild turkeys. 2. More partners means more leverage. Match rates for NWTF-involved projects doubled from 2012 to 2022; for example, a contribution in 2012 could be matched at an average of 4-to-1. In 2022, that same contribution could be matched at an average of 8-to-1 to support mission-related activities across the landscape.
On a larger scale, a recent Super Fund allocation in Florida resulted in a 24-to-1 match rate, turning less than $100,000 into more than $2.2 million in partner or grant funds for approved wildlife projects in the Sunshine State. That’s just one example of many.
To reach 1 million acres positively impacted in one year, the NWTF will continue to leverage existing and new partnerships to impact wildlife habitat through on-the-ground work that NWTF funds in whole or part, administers or is directly involved in at the landscape level. This also includes initiatives led by or co-convened by NWTF, such as NWTF-funded restoration and land acquisition projects, NWTF-funded habitat equipment purchases, NWTF-led grants, NWTF seed programs and landscape-scale initiatives like the Rocky Mountain Restoration Initiative.
The NWTF will also positively impact wildlife habitat acreage through its involvement and support of state, private, federal, tribal or other conservation organizations and by providing technical assistance to landowners and other partners. For example, landscape-scale initiatives that the NWTF is indirectly involved in and other conservation efforts like the USDA Forest Service Wildfire Crisis Strategy will work toward positively impacted acreage.
“We’re going to accomplish our goal through directly conserving or enhancing acres of wildlife habitat along with work through our involvement and support of partnerships,” said Mark Hatfield, NWTF director of conservation services. “In addition, we’ll continue our policy and advocacy efforts to protect critical water and forest resources across the United States, while maintaining research efforts and more.”
NWTF members and volunteers’ involvement in chapter fundraising and identifying needed projects will be key to accomplishing the objective by Dec. 31, 2023.
“We always rely on our state chapters to consider the scale of projects and how they can continue to widely invest Super Fund dollars to have the greatest impact on the mission,” Hatfield said. “By continuing to increase leverage and expand partnerships, we will be able to invest in the most impactful projects moving forward.”
Since 1985 with the creation of Super Fund distribution, the NWTF has positively impacted more than 22 million acres of critical wildlife habitat. By the end of 2023, adding another million acres to the total to benefit wild turkeys and many other wildlife species is only one of the monumental goals set to celebrate the dedication of the NWTF and its members over 50 years. Most importantly, the drive to strengthen wild turkey habitat and populations for the next 50 years continues in earnest through these targeted milestones.
This is the total acres of wildlife habitat conserved or enhanced by the NWTF in fiscal year 2022, the most ever accomplished in a single year in the history of the organization. Now, the NWTF has its sights set on 1 million acres positively impacted in one year.
The NWTF has ambitiously set these goals for its 50th anniversary in 2023: