Wednesday, May 13, 2015

As Hunters Focus On Turkeys, PA Game Commission Applauds Partner National Wild Turkey Federation

National Wild Turkey Federation surpasses fundraising milestone in Pennsylvania.

The wind was calm, the air was cool and, as darkness turned to daylight, the woods were silent for as far as the ear could hear.
Soon, the songbird symphony started. Then, a raspy gobble pierced the dawn, so close it could be felt.

And as the sky began to glow with oranges and blues, that big bird became visible and curiously approached the calls coming from the hunter’s direction.

With spring turkey season now open, this might well describe the morning some lucky hunter experienced today. Sometimes everything goes perfectly.

And the Pennsylvania Game Commission would like to recognize the fact that generous contributions by conservation partners like the National Wild Turkey Federation play no small part in these perfect mornings.

Through habitat creation and maintenance, hunter recruitment, education, outreach and wild turkey research, NWTF recently reached an impressive milestone, hitting the $6 million mark in funds it has raised and spent in Pennsylvania.

Game Commission Executive Director R. Matthew Hough said it’s something to be celebrated.

“Wildlife conservation can’t happen without the cooperation of people who care,” Hough said. “Pennsylvania relies on its hunters and trappers, through the annual purchase of their licenses, to fund for all Pennsylvanians the management of game and nongame species alike, but other revenue still is needed.

“With its contributions over the years, NWTF has helped us to better understand our wild turkeys, restore their population, as well as create the habitat necessary for populations to expand,” Hough said. “The organization is an exemplary partner, the success of which gives all of us reason to celebrate.”

NWTF Regional Biologist Bob Eriksen said $3.1 million of the now more than $6 million total NWTF has spent in Pennsylvania went to wildlife habitat-enhancement projects, about 80 percent of which occurred on state game lands. In 2015 alone, NWTF has raised more than $194,000 for habitat work in Pennsylvania – on both public and private lands.

NWTF over the years also has spent in Pennsylvania about $140,000 for land acquisition – much of which ends up being added to state game lands or other properties open to public hunting; $269,000 for hunter-safety education; $149,000 for wild-turkey research projects led by the Game Commission; more than $500,000 for outreach programs that encourage people to get outdoors and hunt turkeys; and about $450,000 on youth education.

“It’s an investment in the future of our wildlife resources and our hunting tradition,” Eriksen said of the money NWTF continues to raise and spend in Pennsylvania. “It certainly is money well spent.”

Equally valuable is the time NWTF chapter members volunteer within Pennsylvania. Whether it’s putting on an educational program, completing habitat work, helping to trap turkeys or assisting with other research, the organization continuously is working for wild turkeys.

Eriksen said NWTF’s membership in Pennsylvania is more than 13,000 strong. There are 84 local NWTF chapters statewide, and each hosts a major fundraising banquet each year to generate money to be put back into Pennsylvania, benefiting wild turkeys and other wildlife.

Within Pennsylvania in 2014, the banquets raised more than $250,000 to be spent in Pennsylvania, Eriksen said.

Some of the money donated qualifies for matching federal dollars, meaning it’s more valuable than its bottom line suggests. And the Game Commission typically partners on habitat projects NWTF supports on game lands by providing workers and equipment to carry out the projects.

Mary Jo Casalena, the Game Commission’s wild turkey biologist, said that while NWTF’s investment in Pennsylvania has reached the $6 million mark, it’s hard to put a price tag on the amount of good the organization has done for the state’s wild turkeys, especially considering the volunteer hours NWTF donates.

NWTF’s habitat projects helped wild turkey populations expand into new areas, creating more hunting opportunities in more places, she said.

“Partners like NWTF are among the reasons Pennsylvania is a top turkey-hunting state, a leader in wild-turkey research and has the healthy wild-turkey population it does,” Casalena said.

Eriksen said while hitting the $6 million mark is an important milestone, it’s by no means a destination, and the organization continues its efforts to benefit Pennsylvania’s wild turkeys.

“I can assure you we will celebrate many more milestones along the way,” he said.

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