EDGEFIELD, SC — Earlier this year, the National Wild Turkey Federation began a pilot program as part of the 20-year national master management agreement with the USDA Forest Service. This program, called the Timber Transport Pilot, was intended to address the ongoing wildfire crisis while contributing to the conservation of wild turkey habitat in the West. Their success paves the way for future projects throughout the western region.
He wooden transport pilot began with harvesting stumpage in the Klamath National Forest of northern California. The harvested logs were then trucked to Gilchrist Forest Products in Gilchrest, Oregon, where they were tested for size and the presence of a fungus infestation known as “blue spot.” Records that met the required criteria were landed for insect and disease control. The logs were then transported to the Burlington Northern rail siding in Klamath Falls, Oregon, and loaded into modernized and sleeper rail cars to begin the 1,490-mile journey to Upton, Wyoming.
After the 30-day train journey, the logs reached their destination in Wyoming on June 13. The next day, the logs were offloaded onto trucks for transport to the Neiman Sawmill in Hulett, Wyoming. At this plant, the logs will be processed into “glossy pine” boards, which will then be sold to Andersen Windows.
The Timber Transport Pilot has fostered collaboration among various partners, including the Forest Service, the California Deer Association, and Neiman Enterprises, Inc. By working together, these organizations have underscored the importance of partnerships and shared stewardship to mitigate the significant threat posed by forest fires and promote long-term forest restoration.
The NWTF’s participation in the timber transport pilot program aligns with its commitment to conserve wild turkey habitat and address the wildfire crisis. By partnering with the Forest Service and implementing the Wildfire Crisis Strategy, the NWTF seeks to extend its conservation efforts beyond traditional forest management and address the broader challenge of mitigating wildfire fuels across the 90 million acres of Forest Service lands in need of forest restoration.
“This is NWTF’s opportunity to be part of the solution to what is an American problem, not just a USFS problem,” said Tom Spezze, NWTF’s national director of state policy/field conservation. “This crisis has been a spectator sport for far too long and the NWTF is leading all national conservation NGOs in this effort.”
Wild Turkey Improvement habitat through the implementation of this pilot program has also been a key focus for the NWTF and its partners. The excessive abundance of timber in California has led to significant degradation of wild turkey habitats, with an alarming increase in the number of trees per acre. The optimum range of 50-75 trees per acre for favorable wildlife habitat has been exceeded, reaching 500-1,000 trees per acre. This dense tree cover not only exacerbates fuel buildup, but also intensifies the risk of catastrophic wildfires, posing a serious threat to wildlife habitats.
Additionally, in the Black Hills National Forest, the pressing need to maintain mill operations for the sake of the local economy has resulted in overharvesting of ponderosa pine. This practice jeopardizes the delicate balance necessary to maintain suitable habitats for wild turkeys.
Overall, the project has begun to alleviate California’s overabundance of trees, mitigate the risk of catastrophic wildfires, improve wildlife habitat, and support the economic needs of the Wyoming mill. By harvesting timber from California’s overgrown forests and transporting it to the factory in Wyoming, the Timber Transportation Pilot has created a win-win situation for all parties involved.
The NWTF is currently working on implementing side project agreements in the Rocky Mountain region and the Pacific Northwest region. These agreements are intended to expand the scope of the timber transport pilot by incorporating additional timber sales and pivoting the NWTF into other wildfire crisis strategy efforts.
About the National Wild Turkey Federation
Since 1973, the National Wild Turkey Federation has invested more than half a billion dollars in wildlife conservation and has conserved or improved more than 22 million acres of critical wildlife habitat. The organization continues to advance wildlife conservation, forest resiliency, and robust recreational opportunities across the US by working beyond borders at the landscape scale.
2023 is the 50th of the NWTFhe Anniversary and an opportunity to push the organization’s mission into the future while honoring its rich history. For its 50th anniversary celebration, the NWTF has set itself six ambitious goals: positively impact 1 million acres of wildlife habitat; raise $500,000 for wild turkey research; increase membership to 250,000 members; dedicate $1 million to education and outreach programs; raise $5 million to invest in technology and the people of NWTF; and raise $5 million to build a $50 million endowment for the future. Learn how you can help us achieve these lofty goals.