Since 1973, the National Wild Turkey Federation has been working to preserve and restore the natural habitats of wild turkeys. When they started, the number of wild turkeys in North America was down to just 1.5 million. Over the course of four decades, they saw that number hit a historic high of 7 million.
But in recent years, those numbers have fallen once again. According to the NWTF, Proper management of fields and forests is essential to reverse the decline; and that's where the group is focusing their efforts – with a campaign called: “Save the Habitat. Save the Hunt”. Calling hunters a crucial part of conservation efforts, the NWTF is working to preserve and restore habitats while recruiting new hunters to be part of an American tradition. They are also cultivating partnerships with corporations, particularly those in the energy industry who have an active outdoor presence and a proven commitment to environmental stewardship.
One of those corporations is Marcellus Shale driller Range Resources. Range is an active participant in the NWTF's "Energy for Wildlife" – a program that matches energy and utility companies with opportunities to improve wildlife habitat in and around energy projects. As part of that effort, Range Resources participated in a 33-acre restoration at Cross Creek Park in Washington County. The company was later honored for their efforts with the NWTF Corporate Conservation Award.
"This project is directly aligned with Range Resources' philosophy of being good stewards for our shareholders, while also being good stewards of the environment and the communities where we work and our employees live,” says Range Resources' Mike Mackin who helped foster the program with the Marcellus Shale driller and who works with local and state government. “This conservation award is something very special to Range and all of our employees, many of whom are avid outdoors men and women. We very much appreciate the partnership with the Washington County Commissioners who have been strong conservation advocates at Cross Creek. "
The Corporate Conservation award was presented to Range Resources in recognition of the company's successful collaboration with the NWTF, Washington County and NiSource Midstream to come up with a plan to restore two separate areas in Cross Creek Park. One of the areas hosts producing wells; the other served as a storage area for water equipment in 2011. Cross Creek Park is home to more than 30 Marcellus shale wells utilizing less than 1% of the surface of the grounds; and represents a successful partnership with the community and Washington County.
Prior to any restoration efforts taking place – the targeted land was mostly blanketed with an inhospitable mix of weeds and invasive plant species. A plan to reclaim, restore and replant the land with a mix of clovers and wildflowers was developed – with the ultimate goal of turning it into a wildlife friendly habitat that would attract and nurture an array of turkeys and smaller birds; along with deer and other wildlife.
Field Environmental Compliance Manager Jeremy Matinko was involved in the effort from the beginning – – helping to identify locations; planning access and work around Range's production pads; and making seed mixture and food plot suggestions. “It's rewarding to work for a company that gets involved in conservation projects like this that benefit the community, and demonstrate that energy development and wildlife can easily coexist. I think we need to give special thanks to Washington County's commissioners and the Parks staff, who worked so cooperatively with the Game Commission and the NTWF; this this a project that all park visitors can enjoy,” says Matinko. Range Resources Water Operations Supervisor Justin Welker also took part in the project, lending his expertise and experience with the outdoors and wildlife habitats.
The work was done in stages. First, weeds and invasive plant species were eradicated. After that – crews began a process of clearing, brush-hogging and mowing. The land was plowed in later summer; then seeded with a mix of clover species, a nurse crop of oats, and a variety of wildflowers including purple coneflower, partridge pea, lanceleaf coreopsis and at the special request of the Cross Creek Park Staff – blackeyed susan.
A detailed video of the overall partnership at Cross Creek Park can be found at rangeresources.com.
This article is brought to you by Range Resources.