Hoosier National Forest Staff Receive National Award for Habitat Work

(BEDFORD) – The 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 the following individuals: Bryan King, wildlife technician; Cheryl Coon, botanist; Evie Phelps, plant technician; Jason Isbell, plant technician; Chad Menke, hydrologist and Steve Harriss, wildlife biologist.

left to right – Chief of the USDA Forest Service Vicki Christiansen; NWTF District Biologist Ryan Boyer; USFS’s Steve Harriss, Chad Menke, Bryan King, and Cheryl Coon; and NWTF Director of Conservation Operations – Midwest Jason Lupardus)

The Habitat Management Program category recognizes program accomplishments that benefit wild turkeys over multiple years. The ~200,000-acre Hoosier National Forest 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.  

The Forest developed strong partnerships with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, the local chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) – Dogwood Drummers, and other non-profit organizations to accomplish forest restoration and wildlife habitat work. 

Hoosier National 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 NWTF internship program that mentors/trains upcoming natural resources workers. 

The Making Tracks awards recognize outstanding programs, projects and individual achievements in wild turkey conservation and habitat management. 

Each year the National Wild Turkey Federation (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.