Expanded cooperation in the protection, conservation, and management of habitat for wild turkeys and other upland game birds should be the result of a Memorandum of Agreement inked by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Wild Turkey Federation on June 21st at the annual conference of the Outdoor Writers Association of America in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
"The National Wild Turkey Federation, with its extensive network of state and local chapters, is an ideal partner that can provide expertise and support to National Wildlife Refuges all around the country," said Deputy Director John Rogers, who signed the agreement on behalf of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
"The Memorandum of Agreement gives us a framework for communicating and invites our chapters and refuge managers to work together so this partnership can make things happen on the ground," said Executive Vice President and CEO Rob Keck, who signed on behalf of the NWTF.
Hunting and wildlife watching are considered "priority uses" -- wildlife dependent recreational activities--on the 93 million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, a nationwide network of lands and waters managed for wildlife. Almost 450,000 hunters hope to bag turkeys and other upland game birds on refuges each year. Visits by wildlife watchers have expanded by more than 20% since 1994 -- now exceeding 25 million each year.
The National Wild Turkey Federation, headquartered in Edgefield, South Carolina, is a 200,000 member conservation and education organization dedicated to conserving wild turkeys and preserving hunting traditions. The Federation^s Wild Turkey Super Fund expenditures, combined with cooperator dollars, have reached nearly $100 million on nearly 10,000 projects in the past decade. The MOA commits the Federation to periodic meetings with Service representatives and paves the way for the Service to use monies generated by the Wild Turkey Super Fund.
This MOU marks a step towards the vision laid out by Fulfilling the Promise, a long term road map for the system^s future, which envisions refuges as providing "opportunities for Public Stewardship," with organizations such as NWTF "actively participating in their stewardship."
"From hunting programs to habitat improvement, the National Wildlife Refuge System and the National Wild Turkey Federation are natural partners," said new refuge chief Jim Kurth. "National wildlife refuges^ dedication to conservation and the solitude of these special places translate into prime conditions for turkey hunters to seek their quarry."
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 93-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System comprised of more than 500 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands, and other special management areas. It also operates 66 national fish hatcheries, 64 fish and wildlife management assistance offices and 78 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state wildlife agencies.