Founded in 1936, the Georgia Wildlife Federation (GWF) is Georgia’s oldest and largest member-supported conservation organization and the state affiliate of the National Wildlife Federation. GWF began as a sportsman’s organization, but even in the early days its membership included teachers, hikers, gardeners, and birdwatchers —a diverse group of individuals united by their concern and compassion for the outdoors. The mission of the federation is to encourage the intelligent management of Georgia’s wildlife and other natural resources through advocacy, community outreach, and education.
Over the course of its history, GWF has been dedicated to the preservation of Georgia’s wild places. In the 1960s it led the fight to save the Alcovy River in Newton County. In the 1970s it spearheaded the campaign to preserve south Georgia’s Hurricane Creek in Bacon County and to protect Sprewell Bluff, along the Flint River in Upson County. More recently, the organization helped to establish a conservation plan for the red-cockaded woodpecker (Picoides borealis), fought to stop proposed mining near the Okefenokee Swamp, and campaigned for the Conservation and Reinvestment Act. Currently GWF is leading a statewide water coalition, working to reestablish the longleaf pine ecosystem in south Georgia, and fighting for wilderness protection in the Chattahoochee National Forest.
GWF creates awareness of the importance of conservation through education. Georgia leads the nation in the number of Schoolyard Wildlife Habitats certified by the National Wildlife Federation. By helping schools establish and teachers use Schoolyard Habitats, GWF puts Georgia’s youth in contact with nature, fostering students’ sense of stewardship for the local environment. The organization educates people of all ages through its Web site and the award-winning Georgia Wildlife magazine. GWF directs field trips and nature studies, sponsors workshops and seminars, trains “habitat stewards” to create and restore habitats, and offers educational materials to the public free of charge.
In the year 2000 GWF dramatically expanded its educational outreach when it opened the Alcovy Conservation Center in Covington. Located on 115 acres of pristine forest, meadow, and river swamp, the Alcovy Conservation Center serves as GWF’s headquarters and as a training ground for environmental activists and educators. Teachers visit the center and surrounding gardens to gather ideas and resources to take back to their schools. Concerned citizens and community leaders meet there to collaborate and learn more about natural resource issues. The Alcovy Conservation Center allows GWF to deliver its conservation message more effectively to more people—to truly be the community service organization it was designed to be.
Although GWF is not purely a sportsman’s club, it remains a strong advocate for Georgia’s hunters and anglers. GWF lobbies the legislature, giving sportsmen a political voice, and sponsors a variety of programs geared specifically to outdoor enthusiasts. Each year GWF hosts four trade shows for sportsmen—the Atlanta Turkey Hunting, Fishing, and Outdoor Expo; the Perry Fisharama/Turkeyrama; the Atlanta Buckarama; and the Perry Buckarama. In addition, GWF offers hunter safety courses, hunting and fishing trips, and an annual sporting clay shoot (the Shoot for Conservation at the Meadows National Gun Club in Forsyth).
The GWF membership, which stood at 58,000 in 2003, is governed by a volunteer board of directors composed of five executive officers, thirteen district directors, and ten directors at large. GWF’s president and CEO is Jerry L. McCollum.