Lawrence Burraston, Brenden Dowd, Ty Carter, John Smith, Kody Carter and Jersey Dowd release turkeys near the Dolores River Bottom. [Photo by Stan Baker/ National Wild Turkey Federation]

The National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) will hold their 18th Annual Hunting Heritage Banquet Mar. 2 at the Grand Center.

“These banquets help support the conservation of the wild turkey and the preservation of our hunting heritage,” said Stan Baker NWTF senior biologist for Colorado and Utah.

The evening will feature games, raffles and both live and silent auctions.

“While you’re there you’ll meet like-minded folks who enjoy conservation and hunting. You might be able to find a new hunting buddy or a new place to hunt,” Baker said.

The NWTF is a non-profit conservation and education organization. It has 235,000 members across North America and has raised and spent more than $372 million dollars to improve and restore wildlife habitat and open more public hunting lands.

“We have improved nearly 17 million acres of wildlife habitat, and not just for turkeys,” Baker said. “When you improve turkey habitat, you’re also helping other wildlife, including deer, pheasants, rabbits and squirrels.”

The Utah State Chapter has trapped and transferred 3,522 turkeys within the state.

“The Utah State Chapter was established to help introduce the wild turkey to the state,” Baker said. “While turkey populations have been established, the state faces a number of other challenges, including a rapid growth in human populations, loss of upland wildlife habitat and difficulty accessing public places to hunt.”

Their goal is to raise $300,000 over the next three years in order to improve streamside forests through the eradication of invasive species like tamarisk and Russian olive, and to increase access to public land.

“There was a time just a few years ago that we really focused on putting wild turkeys in all available habitat throughout North America. We accomplished that goal in more than 99 percent of acceptable habitat,” Baker said. “Now we’ve got to focus on habitat to ensure turkeys and other wildlife have healthy places to live, and we’re able to pass this conservation mission along to future generations.”

Two areas in Southeast Utah receive new additions of more than 30 wild turkeys thanks to the efforts of the La Sal Mountain Chapter and the Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR).

Volunteers with the La Sal Mountain Chapter assisted DWR personnel with trapping 12 wild turkeys from the Mill Creek area near Moab and transporting and releasing them into suitable river bottom habitat along the Dolores River.

“Relocating these birds to suitable habitat on public lands will provide hunting and viewing opportunities to our NWTF membership and the general public as well,” Baker said.

Another 19 wild turkeys were trapped and relocated from the Cottonwood Ranch area to the Nash Wash area in the South Book Cliffs by DWR personnel.

“This will help re-establish a population of wild turkeys in the Nash Wash area that had struggled in recent years,” Baker said.