EDGEFIELD, S.C.—The National Wild Turkey Federation’s Making Tracks with the USDA Forest Service awards recognize people and projects that best incorporate conservation education, partnerships and wild turkey management.
The NWTF presented the awards during its 50th anniversary celebration at its 47th annual Convention and Sport Show, sponsored by Mossy Oak, to projects and programs that bolstered NWTF’s mission delivery on our nation’s forests and grasslands.
2023 Making Tracks with the USDA Forester Service awards recipients are:
Dena Holmes Collaboration Award: Dena Holmes
Dena Holmes, who passed away in January 2022, was a 22-year employee of the National Wild Turkey Federation and served as the Stewardship Agreements and Contracting Manager for more than 15 years of her time with the NWTF. During her tenure, she helped develop and administer numerous agreements, becoming the “go-to” resource for NWTF staff, as well as many Forest Service staff.
Holmes approached work collaboratively and creatively, with the goal of finding ways to accomplish 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 her namesake award. The award will henceforth be presented to NWTF partners that take a collaborative approach to conservation as Holmes did.
“Accepting this award on behalf 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 truly loved her job and looked forward to conventions like this every year. We are proud to know that she left such a mark with people she considered not only co-workers, but 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 enhance roughly 3,500 acres while also providing protection for the East Clear Creek Watershed and water pipeline, which supplies the town of Payson, Arizona, with drinking water and is valued at over $300 million in water and hydroelectric infrastructure.
The agreement also provides other important infrastructure protection, including powerline corridor protection and roadside thinning.
“The true award was working with a group of individuals, both FS and NWTF, who deeply care about preserving a magical landscape for future generations,” said Robert Guebard, Forest Service Timber Contracting Officer. “[They are] Dedicated and caring in all aspects of the project.”
Habitat Management Program Award: Land Between the Lakes National Forest
Since 2015, the NWTF and the Land Between the Lakes National Forest have created an effective partnership through their stewardship agreement, providing early successional habitat for wildlife, fostering outdoor recreation and providing environmental education opportunities.
To date, the stewardship agreement has impacted over 5,000 acres of wildlife habitat across the two-state recreation area. Some of the projects implemented include mowing, discing, planting, liming, fertilizing, native warm-season grass and forbs management, and maintaining roads and fields in open condition.
The areas that have been managed are also popular hot spots for hunters and wildlife viewers. Some of the work that has been done has been conducted within the Elk and Bison Prairie.
This project has been beneficial for the public and NWTF members and chapters.
The local NWTF chapter worked with the national forest to construct a handicapped accessible blind, in honor of a local chapter president, that is now open for deer and turkey hunting.
“I am so thrilled and grateful to receive this award recognition,” said Elizabeth Raikes, Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area wildlife biologist. “I enjoy working with the NWTF on projects, and its biologists and supporting staff strive to make a lasting difference in conservation efforts. They have worked with us at Land Between the Lakes on a vast array 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 focus to achieve the desired future condition of the national forest as outlined in the forest’s management plan. This includes providing management to support a mosaic of wildlife habitats. Activities integrate hydrology, soils, archeology, fisheries, recreation, timber, roads, and fire and wildlife management disciplines to improve fish and wildlife habitat on hundreds of acres of the national forest.
“I appreciate the recognition the National Wild Turkey Federation has bestowed on the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests and the many partners who have furthered important conservation work in the spirit of shared stewardship,” said Forest Service district ranger Mary Yonce. “This Making Tracks award is a testament to the importance of collaboration and teamwork that demonstrates more is possible working together. I look forward to continuing our relationship as we endeavor to achieve mutual conservation goals.”
“The Forest Service is by far the NWTF’s longest-running agency partner,” NWTF co-CEO Kurt Dyroff said. “We partner with the Forest Service on conservation and forest health projects across the country, and we are proud to recognize these specific and noteworthy partnerships and programs.
“We are also incredibly honored to posthumously award Dena Holmes in memory of her decades of service to the NWTF and the conservation community. She was a linchpin to our great partnership with the Forest Service, and her work ethic and tireless commitment to the NWTF are greatly missed.”
About the National Wild Turkey Federation
Since 1973, the National Wild Turkey Federation has invested over half a billion dollars into wildlife conservation and has conserved or enhanced over 22 million acres of critical wildlife habitat. The organization continues to drive wildlife conservation, forest resiliency and robust recreational opportunities throughout the U.S. by working across boundaries on a landscape scale.
2023 is the NWTF’s 50th anniversary and an opportunity to propel the organization’s mission into the future while honoring its rich history. For its 50th 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 NWTF’s people; and raise $5 million to build toward a $50 million endowment for the future. Learn how you can help us reach these lofty goals.
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