Giving thanks for four decades of protecting turkeys

wild turkey
© National Wild Turkey Federation

The wild turkey is one of the most enduring symbols of Thanksgiving – but you may not know how close we’ve all come to losing these birds. As recently as 1973, there were only about 1.5 million wild turkeys in all of North America. At that time, the decline in the wild turkey population was so significant that the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) was founded. Over the last four decades, NWTF staff, volunteers, and partners have helped the wild turkey population grow to a high of nearly seven million.

That doesn’t mean that the wild turkey is out of the woods. The NWTF continues to work in the “America's Big Six” areas of greatest concern identified by conservation experts. These efforts not only help conserve wild turkeys, but also the ecosystems they live in, which is also home to other wildlife in need of conservation.

Big Six Geographies for Turkey Conservation in the United States

America's Western Wildlands

NWTF foresters, wildlife biologists, volunteers, and partners are actively managing forests and grasslands in the West. Efforts include forest thinning, prescribed fire to prevent catastrophic wildfire, and combatting invasive species to improve waterways.

America's Great Open Spaces

Forest thinning and prescribed fire are also being applied in the Great Plains. Invasive plant species are being curtailed, and native plants, such as cottonwoods, are being restored. Conservation efforts seek to balance land use between productive farming and wildlife habitat.

America's Crossroads

Responsible timber harvest is a particular focus in the Midwest, as well as sustainable farming practices.

America's Mid-South Rebirth

NWTF and its partners actively work with forest landowners in the Mid-South to help them achieve both improved wildlife habitat and sustainable economic returns.

America's Southern Piney Woods
The focus for NWFT and its network of experts, volunteers, and partners in the Southeast is restoring and maintaining the longleaf pine ecosystem to benefit both wildlife and local economies.

America's Colonial Forests
Colonial forests have long been an important source of timber for the nation. Active timber management in the Northeast is underway, along with conservation easements and the preservation of existing hardwood habitat.

NWTF Partnership with the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI)
Independent, non-profit SFI is one natural partner for the NWTF. The two groups have a memorandum of mutual support. Programs of common interest include conservation education for youth through the NWTF Juniors Acquiring Knowledge, Ethics and Sportsmanship (JAKES) program, Families Afield Initiative, Boy Scouts of America, and Project Learning Tree (which is a program of SFI).

NWTF has also met the strict sustainability requirements required to use the SFI label on its turkey transport boxes and organizational publications. The SFI label means a product or its packaging has been sourced from a responsibly managed forest. You can find the label on hundreds of everyday paper and wood products, as well as building materials and even furniture.

In 2016, SFI was recognized with the NWTF Land Stewardship Award for its commitment to conservation and responsible forest management.

To learn more about SFI, wildlife conservation, and how you can help by looking for the SFI label when you shop, visit sfiprogram.org. For more information on the conservation efforts of the NWTF or to join in those efforts, visit NWTF.org.

Giving thanks for four decades of protecting turkeys
The wild turkey is one of the most enduring symbols of Thanksgiving – but you may not know how close we’ve all come to losing these birds. As recently as 1973, there were only about 1.5 million wild turkeys in all of North America.

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