Maturen honored for conservation efforts

OSCEOLA COUNTY — When it came time for Rick Lucas, forester with the Osceola-Lake and Mecosta Conservation Districts to present the Conservationist of the Year award to Jim Maturen, he declared he had “never met a more determined or more dedicated person” nominated for that honor.

Lucas said he considered Maturen either “the Roadrunner or the Energizer Bunny” when trying to describe his efforts in conservation over the years, “because he takes a licking and keeps on ticking.”

He said the honor is in recognition of Maturen’s more than 30 years of wild turkey workshops in Baldwin, his continued support of district programs, dedication in taking programs out to the schools, support of Rural Education Days, and introducing bills to protect and help wild turkeys.

Lucas said it was not uncommon to see Maturen at one end of the state one weekend, and the opposite end the next.

Maturen was instrumental in pushing for and promoting the winter feed program for turkeys, “and it was critical. Maturen said their slogan was, ‘It’s a fed turkey or it’s a dead turkey,’ and it was true. We’re all real conscious of the efforts he made.

“As early as the 1980s there were very few wild turkeys in Michigan, and he’ll tell you he’s not the only one responsible for this, but he’s a good leader. Some real important legislative acts and bills happened because of his efforts.” He added that Maturen testified more than once in the Michigan Senate and House, and called him vital in the push to have turkey recognized as a wild game and thus allowing for it to qualify for a portion of the poaching fees.

“We wouldn’t have the prominence without his efforts,” Lucas said, noting that Maturen also played an important role in steering the DNR and private landowners to see the need to look at habitat over the years to provide for the wild turkeys.”

Maturen responded that there was a time back in the “’40s I lived in Bay County, and my dad was the last commercial fisherman in Saginaw Bay, I finally got old enough to drive,” and he and his friends would drive around the Thumb area searching for places where they could see pheasants.

“We’d stop and ask permission to hunt, and they’d just give us that permission. Not today,” he said. He said there’s not the hunting available like it was some time back, but with effort, it can grow. He said he used to see pictures of wild turkeys in magazines, “and I never thought in my wildest dreams I’d ever see a real one.”

Then on a trip up by Baldwin, “we saw a hen turkey and her young cross the road. I made up my mind I want my grandkids to grow up and see them, and know they’ll continue to exist up in this area and across the state. We’ve got to save something for our grandkids.”

Fellow Conservation attendee Dave Randall, a long time friend of Maturen, said, “I think of him as Mr. Turkey,” adding that he believed “You picked a tremendous example of a good steward of conservation.”