DANIEL CLIFTON • PICAYUNE EDITOR
MARBLE FALLS — The Highland Lakes chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation is handing out one of the organization’s most prestigious awards during its annual banquet March 7 — one that it doesn’t give up every year or much at all.
“This is the first time we’ve presented it,” said Robert Linder of the chapter. “But we believe the person we’re giving it to deserves it for all the work he’s done with the youth, for conservation and everything else he’s done.”
The chapter will present the Aldo Leopold Award to Wade Hibler, who recently retired from the Burnet County AgriLife agriculture extension agent position. Over more than a three-decade career with the extension office and the past decade or more in Burnet County, Hibler has worked with landowners to better provide wildlife habitat as well as encouraged youth in several conservation and agriculture programs.
“He’s definitely deserving of it,” Linder said.
Leopold is considered one of the leaders of the modern conservation movement. He outlined ways people could improve and conserve habitat. His book “The Sand County Almanac” is still considered one of the most important works in the modern American conservation movement.
While Hibler’s accolade is a part of the banquet, there is a lot more, including a great meal and plenty of silent and live auction items as well as prize giveaways. The items up for auction and prize giveaways include hunting trips, fishing trips, firearms and much more.
The money generated by the banquet goes into wild turkey and habitat conservation. Since its inception, the National Wild Turkey Federation has been a leader in wild turkey habitat conservation. Its efforts and the programs it supports through funding have helped return the wild turkey to healthy numbers across much of the country.
“Here in Texas, we have more than 500,000 Rio Grande turkeys,” Linder said. “But we’re working on a project to increase the number of Eastern turkeys to Texas.”
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, along with the federation, is trying to establish sustainable Eastern turkey populations in eastern parts of Texas. At first, program leaders stocked about two dozen birds — hens and toms — in East Texas. But the numbers didn’t grow as officials hoped.
“We’re trying super stocking now,” Linder explained. “That means they’re stocking 80 birds of which 15 are gobblers.”
Officials require 10,000 contiguous acres of proper habitat to stock the birds. And the landowners hold off hunting the birds for at least five years. The cost per bird is $550-$600. The federation helps fund the effort. And it’s through banquets such as the Highland Lakes event that help support the endeavor. The federation is also supporting the re-establishment of the Gould’s turkey in southern Arizona and New Mexico. Wildlife officials trap birds in Mexico and release them in approved habitat in the two states.
“See, there’s a lot of things people don’t understand when it comes to turkey conservation,” Linder said. “These banquets and organizations like the NWTF do a lot of work to make sure turkeys and all wildlife have a place to live.”
The banquet includes activities for youth through Juniors Acquiring Knowledge Ethics and Sportsmanship (JAKES). The chapter also will award a scholarship and present a donation to a local 4-H shooting club.
“The banquet is a lot of fun,” Linder said.
Tickets for the banquet are $50 per person (which includes an annual federation membership) and $65 for a couple. Youth tickets are $15. The banquet will be at Lakeside Pavilion, 307 Buena Vista in Marble Falls, starting at 6 p.m.
Call Linder at (830) 693-9515 for tickets or more information.