Friday, February 22, 2019

National Wild Turkey Federation Honors Game Commission Forester Brent McNeal

On February 22, the Game Commission announced forester Brent McNeal has been presented with the National Wild Turkey Federation’s Joe Kurz Wildlife Manager of the Year Award for his dedication to wild turkeys and wildlife habitat management.
The award is named after former Georgia Department of Natural Resources wildlife chief Joe Kurz, who was a principal figure in wild turkey trap-and-transfer programs across North America and who played a vital role in improving wildlife management.
McNeal received the award last week at the 43rd annual NWTF Convention and Sport Show in Nashville, Tenn.
In addition to supervising foresters in the Game Commission’s Southcentral Region, McNeal is responsible for all aspects of forest management efforts on nearly 225,000 acres of game lands, where controlled burns and other habitat treatments are implemented to increase mast production and reach other habitat-management goals.
Regarding controlled burns, McNeal achieved certification as an "RxB2," which requires hundreds of hours of classroom instruction and participation in prescribed burns and wildfires. He’s the only employee in the region with such a certification.
McNeal has spent over 2,500 hours, mostly since 2009, training for, preparing, and conducting controlled burns.
Southcentral Region GIS specialist Jeremy Diehl, who serves on the regional controlled-burns team says the region has been able to do more burning in the last five years, especially on forestland and barrens, than at any time in the past.
“We would not have been able to do that without Brent's training, expertise, and experience," Diehl said.
NWTF CEO Becky Humphries noted these projects benefit turkeys and a variety of wildlife, and McNeal deserves credit for his important role.
“Brent is far more than a forester,” Humphries said. “His conservation practices combine forest and habitat management to enhance the landscape and benefit all wildlife.”
“It makes me very proud to represent the agency that I have spent most of my career with,” McNeal said. “Habitat management has evolved throughout my career to a point where I feel we are making great strides every day to improve wildlife habitat for current and future generations, and this award reflects that. I credit my peers in habitat management. I credit my Dad for raising me to be a steward of the resource and to appreciate every day spent in the woods. My wife and children have supported me throughout my career, tolerating me leaving early and coming home late from prescribed burns and wearing muddy boots into the house. For that, I thank them!”
For information on programs, initiatives and upcoming events, visit the PA Chapter-National Wild Turkey Federation webpage.  Also visit the Game Commission’s PA Wild Turkey webpage.
(Photo: Brent McNeal and his wife Crystal.)

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