By Brent Lawrence
A person recently posed the question: “You’re with the National Wild Turkey Federation and I see your tagline of ‘Conserve. Hunt. Share.’ How do you conserve wildlife by hunting?”
I love questions like this because they show an open mind and an interest to learn.
Hunters are indeed the champions of conservation in many ways.
- The NWTF has conserved and improved 17 million areas of essential wildlife habitat with its partners by raising and investing $372 million since 1985. In South Carolina alone, we have invested $20 million to improve 337,985 acres across the state. These improvements come in the form of prescribed fires, timber management, tree planting, streamside projects, land and easement purchases, and many other critical habitat initiatives. The habitat projects that help wild turkeys, also improve land for deer, quail, rabbits, songbirds and many other species in the fields and forests.
- We have helped successfully reintroduce turkeys to 99.5 percent of suitable habitat in North America, thanks to an innovative method to transfer wild turkeys between states drawn up by Edgefield’s Dr. James Earl Kennamer. Through the efforts of Dr. Kennamer and the NWTF, we have worked with state wildlife agencies to move more than 200,000 wild turkeys across North America.
- In the early 1900s there were fewer than 30,000 wild turkeys left in the United States due to uncontrolled hunting, and detrimental agricultural and forestry practices. Today there are more than 7 million wild turkeys in North America. It truly is the greatest wildlife success story in North America, and hunters paid the way.
But there is another component to how the NWTF and hunters conserve wildlife and habitat. It is a fact that anti-hunting organizations don’t want you to know.
Nationwide, more than 90 percent of the funding for state wildlife agencies comes from hunters. It comes through our hunting licenses and tag purchases, and through a self-imposed tax on the purchase of hunting-related items.
Through the Pittman-Robertson Act, an 11-percent excise tax is placed on firearms, ammunition and archery equipment. This act has raised $4 billion since its inception in 1937. The funds are distributed to states through the Secretary of the Interior and can only be used by state wildlife agencies to purchase public land, improve essential habitat and create additional outdoor opportunities. These opportunities also benefit hikers and bikers, canoeists and campers.
Without funding from hunters’ license and tag sales and the Pittman-Robertson Act, there wouldn’t be a Sumter National Forest, much less the bike trails, campgrounds and other facilities. There would be no active management of the land to decrease wildfire risks, keep trails clear of brush and limbs, and there certainly wouldn’t be the multitude of deer, turkey and the many non-game species that are your constant companions on a trip through the forest.
Revenue from hunters also supports two essential groups of people: wildlife biologists and game wardens. Biologists conduct the scientific research that determines hunting seasons and the appropriate harvest limits to keep species healthy and vibrant for future generations. Our game wardens protect wildlife from poachers and other people who aren’t looking out for the future of wildlife.
Hunters support hunting seasons and limits and we respect the game laws. We want to pass on our hunting heritage to the next generation … and we put our money where our heart is.
Whether you’re a hunter or simply an outdoor enthusiast, there are two great ways you can do your part for wildlife.
- First, buy a hunting license every year even if you don’t hunt. The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources will put the money to good use.
- Second, attend an NWTF banquet. NWTF volunteers hold two conservation fundraisers in Edgefield every year, one in the spring and a second in November. In addition to a great meal, tremendous fun and opportunities to win great prizes, you’ll also be helping conservation in South Carolina.
To learn more about the history of conservation, the wild turkey and the NWTF, please stop by our Winchester Museum at the Wild Turkey Center at 770 Augusta Road in Edgefield. Admission is free for NWTF members, and for non-members admission is only $5 for adults, $2 for children under 17 and free for children under age 2. At the museum, you’ll be able to learn about the history of hunting, conservation and the NWTF.
You’ll learn why the NWTF’s tagline of “Conserve. Hunt. Share.” is far more than just a motto on the bottom of a business card. Without hunting, there is no conservation. Without conservation, there is no hunting. And we owe it to future generations to share this message.
Please, help pass on the tradition.
Brent Lawrence is Public Relations Director with the NWTF, which has proudly called Edgefield home since 1973.