… Or Bob, Do I Have Your Stamp of Approval?
John J. Morgan
Field & Stream blogger Chad Love started the conversation about having upland bird hunters mirror the duck hunters who supported the federal duck stamp program (http://www.fieldandstream.com/blogs/mans-best-friend/2011/07/how-much-upland-hunting-worth-you#comment-727276). The topic clearly struck a chord with his readers, so I figured it worthy to test ours!
Without question, the federal duck stamp has been an overwhelming success for waterfowl and a host of wetland associated wildlife. Lands acquired through stamp funds were the base for the refuge system helping foster tremendous gains in waterfowl populations. But, how successful would it be for an upland gamebird like northern bobwhite?
Given bobwhite’s resident gamebird status, making a federal stamp poses some significant problems. Waterfowl required federal government oversight given the birds’ inter-state and international movements, so national leadership was clearly needed. Bobwhites do not require that type of involvement. The added level of bureaucracy would likely only minimize progress and create conflict between state and federal conservation staff. Honestly, the federal government currently has little expertise in the management of bobwhite, because it hasn’t been their charge.
Is an upland bird stamp a bad idea? Absolutely not! But, it should be managed by the state. The current economy and dwindling hunter base has put state fish and wildlife agencies in a pickle. You’re going to be shocked to hear this, but managing bobwhite is expensive!! Dedicated funding at the state level for bobwhite could be as effective as it has been at the national level for ducks. Perhaps one of the biggest things to consider is what to do with the money. Buying land through duck stamp funds worked great for birds that fly thousands of miles and can hop from habitat to habitat. The bobwhite’s world is 40 to maybe a few hundred acres. It’s not about buying land.
The key to bobwhite restoration is to create a cultural shift in land management. Wow! That sounds kinda hard, doesn’t it??? Perhaps that’s why states aren’t doing so well for Bob!
The bobwhite’s fate rests in hands of the landowner. The private sector owns >85% of land in the eastern U.S . They decide if we have quail or not. So, how we use money for bobwhite may be more nebulous then you may think. What it will take is creativity and strategic investments. For example, what if we used every upland bird stamp dollar across every bobwhite state to build a bobwhite lobby in Washington? Their function would be designed to change the implementation of the Farm Bill to maximize public benefits. If the lobby was successful, I’m confident the math would work out! But, I can’t say that it would guarantee bobwhite restoration.
In Kentucky, we seriously considered an upland bird stamp in the late 90’s. It was widely supported by our sportsmen and women, but we never pulled the trigger. It just may be time to consider it again. We have a plan in place to spend it, and ultimately, the habitat and renewed interest in conservation would benefit all wildlife, from deer to turkeys to songbirds. Benefits to water and air quality, storing carbon, and conservation of energy will result as well. Come to think of it, all Kentuckians would benefit.
Perhaps a habitat or upland bird stamp is the place to start, but ya know, I’m getting really tired of sportsmen and women having to always step up and do the heavy lifting. I think hunters’ and anglers’ backs are getting tired! I am confident that they will step up again, but when can we start expecting society to step up?
Let us know by leaving comments if you would support an upland habitat stamp and how would you recommend the money be spent. By the way, is your back getting tired?