USDA signs deal with turkey federation

Published 2:11 pm Friday, November 4, 2022

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On Friday, Oct. 28, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service and the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) 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 promote healthy forests in Virginia and across across the U.S. It also includes an initial $50 million commitment from President Biden’s 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. “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.”

This agreement is the 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, 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.