EDGEFIELD, S.C. — Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service and the National Wild Turkey Federation have signed a landmark 20-year national master stewardship agreement.
This first-of-its-kind agreement paves the way for these partner organizations to work together to address the wildfire crisis in the West and promote healthy forests across the U.S. It also includes an initial $50 million commitment from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law as well as regular agency appropriations and other sources.
"This agreement reflects our strong, long-standing relationship with the National Wild Turkey Federation and its four decades of forest restoration work on national forests and grasslands," USDA Forest Service Chief Randy Moore said. "Larger wildfires, more frequent natural disasters, and other disturbances that continue to threaten the health of the nation’s forests and grasslands, and the wildlife habitat they provide, means the work we do together is even more vital."
When Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the Forest Service’s wildfire crisis strategy at the beginning of this year, the NWTF began to identify areas where they could assist. Using funding made possible by this agreement, the NWTF will develop regional projects to protect communities, reduce wildfire risk, and improve forest health, wildlife habitat, and water quality on national forests and grasslands.
This agreement is largest in the NWTF’s 50-year history and is one of the first long-term agreements of its kind between the Forest Service and a conservation partner. The NWTF is the largest and longest-serving nongovernmental partner involved in Forest Service stewardship agreements. A master stewardship agreement will expand funding and partnership opportunities with other federal and state agencies, and Tribes, as well as with the timber industry, municipal water providers, and volunteers.
“Our partnership with the Forest Service is central to our mission,” said Kurt Dyroff, co-chief executive officer of the National Wild Turkey Federation. “Wild turkeys, as well as other wildlife, rely on healthy habitats and healthy forests for their long-term sustainability. Likewise, hunters rely on the same for a quality and successful hunting experience. Our work focuses on the shared values of water, forests/wildlife habitat, recreation, and resilient communities. This partnership enables us to make greater investments at a greater scale to keep forests healthy, water clean and stop critical habitat loss.”
“This long-term master stewardship agreement builds on a 40-year history of successful regional conservation partnerships between the NWTF and the Forest Service that have delivered on our organization’s mission of conserving habitat for wild turkey and preserving our nation’s hunting heritage,” said co-CEO Becky Humphries. “NWTF is proud to work with the Forest Service to enhance habitat and make America’s forests healthier and safer, and to accelerate the pace and scope of this vital work.”
The NWTF’s work under this new agreement includes vegetation management and prescribed fire, aiming to improve forest health and fish and wildlife habitat while reducing wildfire risk. Through the agreement the NWTF will also support Forest Service efforts to promote commercial use of forest products, including transporting wood fiber from over-supplied areas to areas it can be used.
The NWTF will ensure investments are designed equitably and inclusively and support underserved communities and diverse partners.
About the National Wild Turkey Federation
Since 1973, the National Wild Turkey Federation has invested over half a billion dollars into wildlife conservation and has positively impacted over 22 million acres of critical wildlife habitat. The NWTF has also invested over $8.5 million into wild turkey research to ensure the wild turkey population remains healthy. The organization continues to deliver its mission by working across boundaries on a landscape scale to increase clean and abundant water, healthy forests and wildlife habitat, resilient communities, and robust recreational opportunities across the U.S. With the help of its dedicated members, partners and staff, the National Wild Turkey Federation will continue its work to provide Healthy Habitats and Healthy Harvests for future generations.