Hoosier National Forest staff receive national award for habitat work

Group photo holding an award
From left, Chief Vicki Christiansen, National Wild Turkey Federation District Biologist Ryan Boyer, USFS's Steve Harriss, Chad Menke, Bryan King and Cheryl Coon, and NWTF Director of Conservation Operations - Midwest Jason Lupardus. USDA Forest Service photo.

INDIANA —  Hoosier National Forest in Indiana recently received the National Wild Turkey Federation’s Making Tracks with the USDA Forest Service Award in recognition of outstanding accomplishments in the Habitat Management Program - Group category. The group includes Wildlife Technician Bryan King, Botanist Cheryl Coon, Plant Technician Evie Phelps, Plant Technician Jason Isbell, Hydrologist Chad Menke, and Wildlife Biologist Steve Harriss.

The Making Tracks award recognizes outstanding programs, projects and individual achievements in wild turkey conservation and habitat management.  Each year NWTF, in partnership with the USDA Forest Service, acknowledges those national forests, national recreation areas, districts or individuals throughout the country that excel in developing strong projects, programs and partnerships to accomplish mutual goals through the Making Tracks awards.

The Habitat Management Program category recognizes program accomplishments that benefit wild turkeys over multiple years. Hoosier National Forest, comprised of approximately 200,000-acre, has improved over 30,000 acres of early successional areas in the last 10 years. The completed activities include oak habitat improvement, wildlife opening maintenance, vernal pool creation, tree plantings, pollinator enhancement activities, prescribed burning and improvement of public access. The forest used the congressionally approved Good Neighbor Authority and stewardship agreements for early successional habitat maintenance to benefit a variety of species including wild turkeys and salamanders.   

Hoosier National Forest developed strong partnerships with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, the local chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation – Dogwood Drummers and other non-profit organizations to accomplish forest restoration and wildlife habitat work. Forest staff also incorporated a strong education and outreach component to their habitat restoration work including signage, education, radio broadcasts, social media updates and a noteworthy National Wild Turkey Federation internship program that mentors/trains upcoming natural resource workers.