The National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) is leading the way in gobbler conservation.
The NWTF is a driving force in upland wildlife habitat conservation with an emphasis on the wild turkey.
The CEO of the non-profit organization, George Thornton, leads by example with an advocacy plan of the highest standards. His work, and the work of those around him, is diligently helping turkey populations across the continent, and promoting hunting ethics of a beautiful and valuable wildlife resource.
NWTF CEO George Thornton"We will see to it that the NWTF community is one that reflects high trust and mutual respect as well as fosters organizational and personal integrity from staff and volunteers."
We asked Thornton a few questions about the NWTF and what it stands for, as well as some specifics about the state of the turkey in North America.
WOS: What are the key objectives that the NWTF works towards?
George Thornton: Since its inception, the NWTF has been an organization that has worked towards conserving wild turkey populations and preserving our hunting heritage.
Our more recent Save the Habitat. Save the Hunt. initiative outlines obtainable goals that serve our mission. First, we are committed continuing conserving and enhancing more than 4 million acres of habitat vital to the wild turkey and other wildlife. Second, we plan to create 1.5 million hunters. Finally, we plan to open access to 500,000 acres for hunting and other outdoor activities. This three-part initiative embodies what the NWTF is all about.
WOS: How are the NWTF and everyday hunters connected, and how does one impact the other?
GT: The NWTF and everyday hunters are connected as both play a role in ensuring the future of hunting. When hunters purchase licenses, they are actively supporting their state’s wildlife programs. However, the number of hunters is on the decline due to lack of access. So as the number of hunters decline, so does the allocation of funds for wildlife conservation. The NWTF is committed opening hunting access to more acres of habitat. This in turn should help the number of hunters in the country experience an up-swing allowing for an increase in state funds for wildlife conservation.
WOS: In what ways can the public get involved with the NWTF?
GT: Joining the NWTF through membership or attending one of the local NWTF banquets are the easiest ways to get involved. Upon becoming a member, there are many ways to volunteer. In addition to serving on club committees, our hunting heritage programs allow our volunteers to work with youth, women and individuals with disabilities, teaching them about hunting and conservation. These programs need volunteers for event coordination, hunting mentors and much more. Many individuals, who were once non-hunters, become life-long participants in the outdoors sports after going through these programs.
WOS: Do you hunt, fish or shoot firearms yourself?
GT: Yes. I participate in all three sports and have since I was a child.
WOS: What’s the best part of working for the NWTF?
GT: The people I work with and meet and the impact our organization has on our precious natural resources
WOS: What specific issues are affecting the NWTF and its current mission?
GT: The lack of hunting habitat is one of the biggest driving factors in a reduction in the number of both hunters and wild turkeys. Each year, this country loses about 2.2 million acres of habitat. That is equal to the size of Yellowstone National Park. We need to secure and manage every bit of habitat that remains if we hope to end that trend.
WOS: Are our nation’s wild turkeys taken for granted?
GT: I do believe that the turkey is taken for granted. Some hunters are seeing more turkeys in places where they were once scarce, but overall populations are down from the record high. Several states are experiencing dramatic declines or even historic lows. All hunters need to band together to reverse this trend.
WOS: Can you tell us something most people don’t know about the nation’s wild turkey populations?
GT: We consider the wild turkey to be an important surrogate species, an indicator of a healthy forest habitat.