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NWTF Success Stories

Austin Knight Foundation Boosts Conservation in the Volunteer State

A donation from the Austin Knight Foundation illustrates how investments in the NWTF mission go beyond face value.

February 29, 20242 min read
Photo courtesy of TWRA.

The Austin Knight Foundation and Tristar Hat and Apparel were created to honor Austin Knight and to carry on his memory and passion for his love of hunting, fishing and wildlife. In the spring of 2023, the foundation made a generous $10,000 donation to the NWTF for habitat enhancement within Tennessee. 

Through collaboration with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, the foundation's $10,000 gift became $34,000 through grants. The boosted funds have been utilized to improve the habitat for wild turkeys and many other species on the Chuck Swan Wildlife Management Area in Sharp's Chapel, a WMA where Knight enjoyed recreating.

Chuck Swan WMA is located in TWRA Region IV, east Tennessee. It is 24,444 acres along Lake Norris and the Powell River, offers hunting, fishing, hiking and camping opportunities, and is part of the Chuck Swan State Forest.

"We are thankful for the Austin Knight Foundation's generous investment," said Paul Campbell, NWTF development director. "We are proud to magnify BJ and Amanda’s generous gift to make the largest impact we can for our natural resources, and we are proud to be a part of Austin's legacy.”

The additional funds have allowed TWRA to amplify the habitat enhancement work on the WMA.

For instance, Chuck Swan WMA staff rented a Cat 299 compact track loader with mulching head with the enhanced funding. The WMA technicians were able to reclaim 140 acres of wildlife openings over the last few weeks.

Area on the Chuck Swan WMA prior to being mulched. Photo courtesy of TWRA.
Area on the Chuck Swan WMA prior to being mulched. Photo courtesy of TWRA.

The WMA team targeted areas with thick woody stem growth, areas where prescribed burning alone wasn't enough to reclaim the wildlife openings. In fact, some areas of invasive growth were so dense they were close to becoming young forests. But thanks to the additional equipment, the WMA's wildlife openings were opened up, making them ideal for wild turkey nesting and brood-rearing.

"Wild turkeys thrive in a mosaic of habitat, including quality nesting and brood-rearing habitat which are essential for poult production and recruitment," said Derek Alkire, NWTF district biologist for Alabama, Kentucky and Tennessee. "By maintaining wildlife openings, as well as young and mature forested areas, wild turkeys have the patchwork of habitat to meet their annual cycle needs." 

In addition to the mulcher rental, a 300-gallon boom-less sprayer was purchased with Knight Foundation funds and will be used to prevent invasive species from spreading within the reclaimed areas and other wildlife openings within the WMA. With no booms, it can be utilized in tighter areas with less worry of damage, meaning lower maintenance costs over the life of the equipment. Knight Foundation funds were also used to purchase a mower attachment for the WMA's excavator, allowing staff to trim field-access roads and field edges, making moving equipment in and out of the wildlife openings safer and more accessible. Increased access will improve the ability to plant and maintain food plots and other wildlife openings. There is a possibility of adding more acres of row crops in the areas they recently reclaimed.

Filed Under:
  • Healthy Habitats
  • Land Management