RALEIGH, NC- It's not deep fried. It's not caked with powdered sugar either. But the new wildlife diversity T-shirt making its debut at the N.C. State Fair makes for a pretty sweet collectible.
The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission partnered with Neuse Sport Shop in Kinston to develop a new Wildlife Commission T-shirt for sale in the agency's Wild Store at this year's State Fair. The T-shirt's front features the smallmouth bass art from this year's State Fair button leaping over the agency's wildlife logo, while the back features all 32 previous State Fair buttons dating back to the original squirrel button in 1981.
Fabrication of 700 T-shirts was paid entirely by Neuse Sport Shop in Kinston, which also agreed to donate all proceeds from T-shirts sold at the State Fair to the Commission's Wildlife Diversity Program. Sales of the T-shirts at the fair could generate $9,600 for the Wildlife Diversity Program, which then could allow the Commission to access as much as an additional $9,600 in federal grants from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service through the State Wildlife Grants Program.
The potential $19,200 could be designated for projects monitoring and surveying conservation-needy species or broader projects conserving priority habitats, according to Perry Sumner, the Commission's Wildlife Diversity section manager.
"More than 1,000 nongame species call the Tar Heel state home - animals such as songbirds, fish, bats, salamanders, frogs and turtles all benefit from the work conducted by the Commission's wildlife diversity work," Sumner said. "Many animals, such as box turtles, gray treefrogs and eastern towhees, are common and can be found in your neighborhood. But other animals, like peregrine falcons and bald eagles, were endangered in the past and rebounded in part due to wildlife diversity work."
Wildlife diversity projects currently being conducted by Wildlife Commission biologists include:
Monitoring sea turtle populations to help biologists understand how North Carolina's population contributes to the overall North America sea turtle diversity;
Working with partners to maintain and enhance colonial waterbird breeding habitat;
Partnering with the N.C. Aquarium to enhance wetlands in long-leaf pine forests on the coast and in the Sandhills that provide critical wintering habitat for gopher frogs;
Monitoring populations of the broadtail madtom, a tiny gray catfish found only in a handful of locations in the Coastal Plain of North and South Carolina; and,
Restoring fish and mussel populations in the Cheoah and Pigeon rivers using animals taken from other rivers as well as those propagated at the Wildlife Commission's Marion State Fish Hatchery.
Russell Rhodes, president and CEO of Neuse Sport Shop in Kinston, said collaborating with the Wildlife Commission in support of the Wildlife Diversity Program complemented the broader, ecosystem-wide philosophy toward fish and wildlife that Neuse Sport Shop has adopted recently.
"Like the Wildlife Commission, Neuse Sport Shop recognizes the importance of wildlife diversity and associated habitats," Rhodes said. "The Commission's CURE program targets habitat improvement for quail, but it also helps Bachman's sparrows and indigo buntings.
"The Commission's effort to maintain threshold flow levels in the Roanoke River each spring helps shad and striped bass migrate upriver to spawn, but it also helps sturgeon."
Rhodes cited the Commission's stream restoration work as an example of habitat conservation that benefits a fish and wildlife diversity, rather than targeting only those animals that are fished and hunted.
"When Neuse Sport Shop changed its logo three years ago, we adopted an image of the Earth as part of our logo with arrows circling the Earth to represent connectivity across ecosystems," Rhodes said. "The Commission's stream restoration work in support of wildlife diversity addresses this very issue.
"When Commission staff builds vegetated buffers along stream banks to reduce erosion or when they install root wads in streams to break up the flow, the clearer water isn't just benefitting hellbenders and shellfish. It's helping trout. And the eddies in the streams formed by root wads aren't just good hiding places for darters. They create great habitat for smallmouth bass. We get this."
The Commission's partnership with Neuse Sport Shop not only provided revenue for habitat work and wildlife diversity projects, but it also helped the program meet agency goals and objectives in its strategic five-year plan, according to Shannon Deaton, the Commission's Habitat Conservation Program manager.
"This project matches perfectly with our goal of conserving and enhancing the abundance and diversity of the fish and wildlife resources of North Carolina," Deaton said. "And building a partnership with Neuse Sport Shop to create this innovative revenue stream is an excellent example of developing new constituent relationships that our strategic plan tasks us to explore."
If the 700 wildlife diversity T-shirts sell well at the State Fair, the Wildlife Commission may explore other options to create and sell more of the same shirts after the fair concludes. Plans also are being considered to create a new T-shirt annually to coincide with the new wildlife button created each year for the Wildlife Commission's State Fair exhibit.
The wildlife diversity T-shirt is for sale Oct. 12-21 in the Wildlife Commission's tent at the N.C. State Fair, which is located at 1025 Blue Ridge Road in Raleigh. General fair information is available online at www.ncstatefair.org
. The Wildlife Commission's exhibit is open daily from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
About the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission
Since 1947, the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission has been dedicated to the conservation and sustainability of the state's fish and wildlife resources through research, scientific management, wise use, and public input. The Commission is the state regulatory agency responsible for the enforcement of fishing, hunting, trapping and boating laws and provides programs and opportunities for wildlife-related educational, recreational and sporting activities. To learn more, visit www.ncwildlife.org
Get N.C. Wildlife Update - news including season dates, bag limits, legislative updates and more - delivered free to your Inbox from the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. Go to www.ncwildlife.org/enews