NWTF Receives SITKA Ecosystem Grant for Conservation in Big Sky Country

EDGEFIELD, SC — SITKA Gear awarded the National Wild Turkey Federation a $25,000 ecosystem grant to improve wildlife habitat and reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires on more than 1,600 acres in Montana’s Bitterroot National Forest. The NWTF will use the grant to secure an additional $696,400 in partner funds to carry out high-priority forest management.

The project fits into NWTF’s burgeoning Big Sky Forest Initiative, a collaborative effort, jointly developed by NWTF and the USDA Forest Service, established to improve wildlife habitat, ensure clean water, enhance recreational opportunities and create communities and forests resilient to the threat. catastrophic forest fires.

“We are thrilled to continue our support of NWTF’s important initiatives to improve wildlife habitat across the country,” said Lindsey Davis, director of SITKA conservation ecosystem and partnership grants. “The Big Sky Forest Initiative represents an inspiring, large-scale collaborative effort with our federal land managers and will have a major impact on wildlife and their habitats in our home state of Montana. This forestry work will not only benefit turkey hunters, but also recreationists and the ecosystem in general.”

Like many forests throughout the western United States, Montana’s forests were historically shaped by fire. Uncharacteristically catastrophic wildfires, however, have drastically different outcomes and threaten Montana’s natural resources and those who hold them dear.

Catastrophic wildfires, increasingly common, are caused by a buildup of dense forest fuels that are the result of more than 100 years of fire suppression. Hotter, drier weather exacerbates the problem, along with severe drought, insects, and disease, resulting in larger, more severe wildfires that degrade wildlife habitat, reduce access to public lands, and pose serious risks to Montanans living in the wildland-urban interface. The Big Sky Forest Initiative will significantly reduce the threat of catastrophic wildfires while improving the overall ecological values ​​of the landscape.

SITKA funds are being directed to the Stevensville Ranger District of the Bitterroot National Forest in western Montana to remove woody biomass from the forest, prepare the landscape for prescribed burn, and create desired forest conditions and optimal habitat for life. wild.

The removal of small diameter hazardous fuels is essential to safely reintroduce fire as a management tool in the landscape. The treatments will result in less dense forest, which can be managed by prescribed burning. Additionally, removal of these forest fuels will reduce competition between trees, increasing sunlight and water, improving vegetation structure and composition, and ultimately increasing wildlife habitat diversity.

Forest Service staff have identified priority project locations. The NWTF Montana district biologist will work with the Forest Service forester to design treatments that optimize wildlife habitat diversity.

Additionally, in September 2021, NWTF was awarded $20,000 from the SITKA Gear Ecosystem Grant Program to help support ongoing efforts to restore oak savannahs in western Michigan. These funds provided critical support for on-site restoration and protection efforts of more than 1,700 acres of oak savannah on Forest Service land. The funds were also used as a match to leverage additional federal dollars in excess of $2 million in project costs.

“We deeply appreciate SITKA’s generous support of our Big Sky Forest Initiative,” said Patt Dorsey, director of conservation operations for NWTF’s Western region. “SITKA is much more than a business that provides hunters and outdoor enthusiasts with great equipment. They understand that without healthy forests and wildlife habitats, those opportunities don’t exist. We look forward to working with the USFS and making a difference for Montanans.”

To learn more about NWTF’s Big Sky Forestry Initiative and how you can contribute to this great effort, contact Regional Director Jason Tarwater at (785) 221-6515, [email protected] or visit https://events.nwtf .org /260011-2023.

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 anniversary of the NWTF and an opportunity to push the organization’s mission into the future while honoring its rich history. For its 50th anniversary, the NWTF has set itself six ambitious goals: to 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.