In honor of the National Wild Turkey Federation, Hopkins County Judge Robert Newsom declared the week of May 5-11 as National Wild Turkey Week. The Hopkins County Longbeards, the local arm of the NWTF, will host a fundraising banquet and auction that will benefit hunting and wildlife conservation at 6 p.m. Saturday, May 10, at the Veterans of Foreign Wars building. Tickets are $55 at the door and include a membership to NWTF. The NWTF, founded in 1973, is a nonprofit organization and leader in wildlife habitat conservation and preservation of wild turkeys. During the 19th century, wild turkeys were on the brink of extinction, with only 30,000 birds, according to a census in 1900, due partially to overhunting. The NWTF, state, federal and provincial wildlife agencies worked together to significantly increase the population of wild turkeys with a process called “super stocking.” Currently their are more that 7 million birds in the United States. “The birds were essentially wiped out by subsistence and market hunting along with extensive habitat loss in the later parts of the 19th century, but with the help of the NWTF, we have been able to bring the birds back all across the country,” stated Jason Hardin of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Wild Turkeys from Alabama, Missouri, Kansas, South Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia are being brought to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in Tyler to be released across east Texas. The birds will be outfitted with GPS transmitters for biologists to track and obtain data on the survival and territorial movement of the birds. Currently more than 100 turkeys have been released into the wild locally to “super stock” the wildlife habitat. The NWTF also created “Save the Habitat, Save the Hunt,” where the organization rebuilds local habitats in order to positively affect wildlife growth. Locally, NWTF is currently clearing brush at Cooper Lake for the wildlife, as well as raising money for the organization. “The biggest problem we have in east Texas is cedar,” said NWTF Area Manager Shawn Roberts. “We clear out the area, mulch the cedar, sell it so we can put that money right back on the ground to improve local habitat for every animal, not just turkeys.” Funds raised in Sulphur Springs also will benefit local habitat restoration. Proceeds from the dinner will be deposited to a state-allocated superfund where wildlife grants, foundation benefits, donations and state funds are used to impact Texas wildlife. Last year, local funds collected averaged a twenty-to-one financial match in East Texas, with the help of private companies and organizations vested in the preservation of wildlife. “The money raised at the NWTF this weekend is going to be significant,” Roberts said. “If someone spends $100 dollars, our organization will turn that money into $2,000 with other organizations and foundations ready to help wildlife conservation.” The NWTF banquet begins Saturday at 6 p.m., with a barbecue dinner served at 7 p.m. For more information, contact Wayne Bailey at 903-885-6237.
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