NWTF and Forest Service awards recognize conservation achievement

EDGEFIELD, SC—The National Wild Turkey Federation’s Making Tracks Awards with the USDA Forest Service recognize individuals and projects that best incorporate wild turkey conservation education, partnerships and management.

The NWTF presented awards during its 50th anniversary celebration at its 47th annual Convention & Sports Show, sponsored by Mossy Oak, to projects and programs that furthered the NWTF’s mission in the forests and grasslands of our nation.

The winners of the 2023 Making Tracks with the USDA Forester Service awards are:

Dena Holmes Collaboration Award: Dena Holmes

Dena Holmes, who passed away in January 2022, was an employee of the National Wild Turkey Federation for 22 years and served as Manager of Contracts and Administration Agreements for more than 15 years of her time with the NWTF. During her tenure, she helped develop and manage numerous agreements, becoming a go-to resource for NWTF staff, as well as many Forest Service employees.

Holmes’s daughters, Lauren and Chelsey, accepted the award on his behalf.

Holmes approached the work collaboratively and creatively, with the goal of finding ways to achieve great work on the ground through the Stewardship Authority, as well as other tools and agreements. Receiving the award posthumously, Holmes is the inaugural recipient of the award named after her. Going forward, the award will go to NWTF partners who take a collaborative approach to conservation like Holmes did.

“Accepting this award on behalf of our mother is an honor beyond measure,” the family said in a group statement. “Her hard work and dedication to this organization is her legacy. She really loved her work and looked forward to conventions like this every year. We are proud to know that she left such a big mark on people she considered not only co-workers, but also family and that her legacy can live on through this award.”

Partnership Achievement: Coconino National Forest – Mogollon Rim Ranger District

The NWTF forged a new agreement with the Coconino National Forest for the General Springs Project in 2022 that will conserve and improve approximately 3,500 acres while providing protection for the East Clear Creek watershed and water main, which serves the city of Payson, Arizona, with potable water and is valued at over $300 million in water and hydroelectric infrastructure.

The agreement also provides other important infrastructure protection, including power line corridor protection and thinning of roads.

“The real prize was working with a group of people, both FS and NWTF, who care deeply about preserving a magical landscape for future generations,” said Robert Guebard, Forest Service timber contracting officer. “[They are] Dedicated and attentive in all aspects of the project.”

Habitat Management Program Award: Land Between the Lakes National Forest

Since 2015, the NWTF and Land Between the Lakes National Forest have built an effective partnership through their management agreement, providing early successional habitat for wildlife, encouraging outdoor recreation, and providing environmental education opportunities.

To date, the management agreement has affected more than 5,000 acres of wildlife habitat in the bi-state recreation area. Some of the projects implemented include mowing, discing, seeding, liming, fertilizing, managing warm-season native weeds and grasses, and maintaining roads and fields in open conditions.

Areas that have been managed are also popular locations for hunters and wildlife watchers. Some of the work that has been done has been done within the Elk and Bison Prairie.

This project has been beneficial to the public and NWTF members and chapters.

The local NWTF chapter worked with the national forest to build a handicap accessible hide, in honor of the local chapter president, which is now open for deer and turkey hunting.

“I am very excited and grateful to receive this recognition,” said Elizabeth Raikes, a wildlife biologist with Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area. “I enjoy working with the NWTF on projects, and their biologists and support staff strive to make a lasting difference in conservation efforts. They have worked with us at Land Between the Lakes on a wide range of projects since 2008. I look forward to working with the NWTF for years to come.”

Habitat Management Program Award: George Washington and Jefferson National Forest

The NWTF and the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest Partnership has evolved over the years into a multi-year approach to achieving the desired future condition of the national forest as outlined in the forest management plan. This includes providing management to support a mosaic of wildlife habitats. Activities integrate disciplines of hydrology, soils, archaeology, fisheries, recreation, timber, roads, and fire and wildlife management to improve fish and wildlife habitat on hundreds of acres of the national forest.

“I appreciate the recognition that the National Wild Turkey Federation has given to the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests and to the many partners who have promoted important conservation work in the spirit of shared stewardship,” said Mary Yonce, district ranger for the Forest Service. “This Making Tracks award is a testament to the importance of collaboration and teamwork that shows that more is possible by working together. I look forward to continuing our relationship as we strive to achieve mutual conservation goals.”

“The Forest Service is by far the oldest partner agency of the NWTF,” said NWTF Co-Director General Kurt Dyroff. “We partner with the Forest Service on forest health and conservation projects across the country, and we are proud to recognize these specific and notable partnerships and programs.

“We are also incredibly honored to award Dena Holmes posthumously in memory of her decades of service to the NWTF and the conservation community. She was a linchpin in our great partnership with the Forest Service, and her work ethic and her tireless commitment to the NWTF are sorely missed.”

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 his 50he anniversary, the NWTF has set 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. Find out how you can help us achieve these lofty goals.