Showing Sportsmen The Money!

The National Wild Turkey Federation local chapters continue efforts to raise money that goes back to work on projects here in Georgia.

Where does the money go?

NWTF staff and board members frequently get that question from folks attending banquets across the state, and it’s a valid question. I’m always happy to report that a majority — usually upwards of 90 percent of the money raised by our volunteers — is turned around and put directly back on the ground supporting a ton of conservation projects including habitat work, scholarships, outreach-and-education events, land acquisition, hunter access and others projects and programs.

The NWTF is a national non-profit conservation organization that was founded in 1973. It has worked with wildlife agencies to restore wild-turkey populations from 1.3 million wild turkeys in 1973 to nearly 7 million today. Now, NWTF volunteers raise funds and work daily to improve critical wildlife habitat, increase access to public hunting land and introduce new people to the outdoors and hunting. Since 1985, more than $3.2 million has been raised and spent by Georgia chapters on these types of projects within the state. Nationally, NWTF chapters and cooperating partners have raised and spent more than $286 million for wild-turkey conservation.

Unfortunately, the NWTF can be so busy getting all these great projects done that we forget to let folks know what we’re up to. So here’s just a few things that we’ve got going on in Georgia this year.

Georgia NWTF Hunting Heritage Super Fund

Administered jointly by the NWTF, its state chapters and state wildlife agencies, the Hunting Heritage Super Fund is used for projects that support the conservation of the wild turkey and preservation of the hunting tradition. These monies are raised primarily at NWTF Hunting Heritage banquets through ticket sales, raffles and auctions, and the money is distributed annually for specific local and state projects. In fiscal year 2008-09, more than $145,000 has been allocated for projects in Georgia. Just a few examples are:

• Georgia DNR has received more than $50,000 for maintaining wildlife openings on four WMAs, keeping track of turkey populations and turkey-hunter numbers through surveys, the purchase of a no-till drill and equipment purchases for law enforcement.

• The U.S. Forest Service received $3,500 to support youth events and maintain wildlife openings on the Oconee National Forest.

• The Department of Defense received almost $3,000 to maintain wildlife openings on Ft. Benning.

• More than $31,000 is going to support youth, women, the mobility impaired, shooting-sports events and academic scholarships across the state.

• More than $30,000 has been allocated for the purchase of an in-holding of land that will boost acreage available for hunting at the Moody Forest Natural Area in Appling County.

GA Grant Projects

The NWTF also uses monies raised to partner with other groups and pool resources to do larger projects through various grants. Here are some currently going on in Georgia:

In 2007, the NWTF received a $1.1 million grant funded by Southern Company to restore longleaf pine habitat on more than 7,000 acres of public and private lands in Georgia, Florida, Alabama and Mississippi. The longleaf pine ecosystem once dominated the Southeast with more than 90 million acres from Virginia to Texas. The longleaf piney woods of old were a southern icon that influenced southern culture, economics and history. Through this grant, more than 4,000 acres of longleaf pines has been or will be restored in Georgia. Acres scorched by the wildfires of spring 2007 on Dixon Memorial Forest in southeast Georgia have been reforested with fire-tolerant longleaf pine to minimize impacts of any future wildfire occurrence. Other lands being reforested include acres on Ft. Stewart and Ft. Benning. The long-leaf pine ecosystem is a highly diverse system that is a favorite of many wildlife species including the wild turkey. It’s also fire tolerant, produces an excellent timber product and is more resistant to insects and disease than other pine species.

The $139,000 Corridor of Flight grant will improve forested lands on 3,000 acres of Oconee National Forest and Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge mainly for the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker, but these habitat improvements will also benefit other species like wild turkey and bobwhite quail. Improvements include timber thinning, establishment of native warm-season grasses, fire break installation and creation of wildlife openings.

It’s not just how much is spent, it’s the ratio of money raised that goes back toward an organization’s mission. The NWTF is one of the most highly ranked non-profit conservation organizations according to Charity Navigator, a group that monitors and evaluates various charities on how much they spend on their programs versus money spent on administration and fund-raising. Visit their site at <www.charitynavigator.org>, and see how the NWTF stacks up against other conservation organizations.

If you love the outdoors and the wild turkey, volunteer to help out at an event, or attend your local banquet to support the great work that the NWTF does in the state. You can have a great time, and you can rest assured knowing your monies donated to the NWTF will be well spent.

To find an event or to get more information, go to the NWTF website at <www.nwtf.org>, and look under “NWTF in your state.” Or visit the Georgia state chapter website at <www.nwtfchapter.org/georgiastatechapter>.

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