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Wild Turkeys in MA: A Model for Conservation Efforts Nationwide

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Friday, November 25, 2022   

Wild turkeys are not only the official game bird of the Commonwealth but the latest champion of conservation efforts in Congress, where environmentalists said the bird's restoration can serve as a model for other species on the brink of extinction.

Wild turkeys were once widespread across Massachusetts until habitat loss devastated the population. Federal protections in the 1970s helped revive their numbers to nearly 35,000 today.

John Kanter, senior biologist for the National Wildlife Federation, said Congress can provide similar protections to other species by passing the "Recovering America's Wildlife Act."

"What we're doing here is using this tremendous conservation success story as a springboard to talk about the next generation of conservation success stories," Kanter explained.

The bill would provide states and tribes with $1.4 billion annually to save some 12,000 endangered species, with sizable investments in habitat conservation led by tribal nations.

Wild turkeys thrive in the farm lands, forests, and suburban areas of the Commonwealth, although they have been known to make an appearance on the streets of Boston.

But not every species is so lucky to keep their home. More than 40% of freshwater fish species are endangered and there are three billion fewer birds in the sky compared to fifty years ago. Kanter noted the Recovering America's Wildlife Act will recreate the model which protected turkeys and expand it to other important ecosystems.

"A third of species -- known plants and animals in the U.S. -- are at increased risk of extinction. It's time for us to address this biodiversity crisis, and let's get ahead of it," Kanter urged.

The Recovering America's Wildlife Act passed the House in June, but is waiting for Senate approval. More than 40 senators are on board, although none from Massachusetts. Kanter hopes lawmakers will act quickly to pass what he said would be the biggest win for wildlife in half a century.


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