The National Wild Turkey Federation was created in 1973 as a national nonprofit conservation and hunting organization that works for the conservation of the wild turkey and preservation of the hunting heritage. The Coastal Chapter, representing areas in Liberty County, was formed 12 years later, and on Thursday night, the members gathered at the Clubhouse in Rye Patch for their annual banquet and 25th anniversary celebration.
According to fourth-year President Robert Clark, the Coastal Chapter was founded by Odis King. Clark said the NWTF has been at the forefront of education and conservation.
"The NWTF does lots of land practice conservation and it’s not just for the wild turkey," Clark said. "Everything they do also benefits the songbirds, deer and a lot of endangered species."
Clark said the organization sponsors educational events for children, known in the NWTF as "JAKES" (juniors acquiring knowledge, ethics and sportsmanship). Teenagers are "Xtreme JAKES." The group also offers scholarship programs."They spend lots of money on the youth," Clark said. "They sponsor all kinds of JAKES events. They sponsor the women in outdoor events where women learn about hunting and archery. They also sponsor the wheeling sportsman."
According to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, there were only 1.3 million wild turkeys when the NWTF was established in 1973. Today, that number stands at more than 7 million birds throughout North America. The comeback of the wild turkey is one of Georgia’s conservation success stories and due in part to the NWTF’s conservation efforts.
The Georgia Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation has donated more than $3,220,977 since 1985 on projects that benefit wild turkey and other wildlife. The NWTF works in partnership with the Wildlife Resources Division and other land-management agencies with a focus on habitat enhancement, hunter access, wild turkey research and education. There currently are 96 state chapters of the NWTF with more than 16,000 members. Clark said the Coastal Chapter has roughly 200 members.
The banquet featured a silent auction, a live auction and raffle prizes.
"We have lots of things to give away and raffle off and the money goes to the national headquarters to be used for more conservation efforts," Clark said.
The president said conservation efforts are happening on Fort Stewart. They recently planted long-leaf pines and donated farming equipment to wildlife management areas like Griffin Ridge.
"They donated plows to help plant food plots," Clark said.