In the United States, turkey and Thanksgiving are synonymous, and year after year, celebrating on the fourth Thursday of November with family and friends is a given for many of us. However, the wild turkey population may not always be able to keep up. It has declined 15 percent in recent years, especially in some areas of New England and the Southeast.
While researchers are still actively studying the causes of population decline, the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) lists loss of habitat via development and lack of proper land management as likely factors negatively affecting turkey populations.
That is one reason why conservation-focused organizations including the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), NWTF, and the Nature Conservancy North Carolina Chapter are taking the initiative to protect habitats and help the wild turkey survive and thrive. Doing so requires partnership, partnership and more partnership.Carolina conservation
SFI is working with The Nature Conservancy North Carolina Chapter to address the quality of wild turkey habitat in that state by connecting private forests through corridors, allowing the greater room needed for wild turkeys and other important species to roam, mate and feed. SFI awarded the group with a grant to help landowners along the Cape Fear Arch develop forest management plans, which gives them access to expertise and cost sharing through a variety of programs offered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The work also contributes to restoration and conservation of the native longleaf pine ecosystem, which is rich in rare species and natural communities.
“We want to encourage buffering and forming corridors between existing managed lands,” Nature Conservancy program director Dan Ryan said. “But this can’t be achieved solely by buying land to be set aside for conservation. We need private forest landowners to participate.”
Protecting turkey habitats through sustainable forestry
For the NWTF, saving turkey habitat and saving tradition go hand in hand. NWTF’s “Save the Habitat. Save the Hunt” initiative includes a goal of conserving or enhancing 4 million acres of upland habitat. Through their partnership with SFI, NWTF is promoting responsible forest management across North America, helping to ensure healthy habitats for wild turkeys as well as many other forest-dwelling creatures. NWTF recently aired a two-part video on the importance of responsible forest management and certification to wildlife habitat.
SFI is an independent, non-profit organization dedicated to promoting sustainable forest management. The SFI community includes a range of organizations and groups that are working to improve forestry and wildlife management practices. Lands certified to SFI’s Sustainable Forest Management Standard of now cover more than 260 million acres across the United States and Canada. These certified forests provide numerous wildlife benefits including clean water; abundant food resources; and cover and habitat for roosting, nesting, brood rearing and foraging. In addition, as part of the certification process, SFI requires landowners to invest in forest research, which leads to enhanced wildlife habitat management and conservation.
Certification is Good for Turkeys and Good for You
SFI also requires landowners to provide opportunities for public access and recreation where consistent with forest-management objectives. As a result, 97% of all land certified to SFI is available for outdoor recreation activities such as hiking, camping and birdwatching so you can enjoy a walk through the woods as much as the turkeys do.
According to Paul Trianosky, SFI’s Vice President of Conservation and External Affairs, “Responsible forest management benefits a wide variety of species, ranging from game species like turkey, to lesser known plants and animals like those found in longleaf pine forests. SFI’s partnership with NWTF illustrates how these interests come together to benefit wildlife in well-managed forests.”
Birds of a feather protect habitats together
In addition to the collaboration with SFI, NWTF has also collaborated with three of the largest wild bird conservation organizations in the U.S. through a memorandum of understanding: Ducks Unlimited, Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever. “We have major challenges facing wildlife conservation…,” NWTF CEO George Thornton said. “We know we can’t solve this alone. It’s bigger than one organization.”
Giving thanks for wild turkeys and the people who are conserving them
This Thanksgiving, as you gather with your loved ones, give thanks that the iconic wild turkey still roams free in America and give thanks for all the people who are working hard to keep things that way.
Learn more about the partnership between SFI and the NWTF and how wildlife conservation and sustainable forestry go hand in hand at www.sfiprogram.org.