NBCI to Study Impact of Conservation Reserve Program for FSA

The USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) is contracting with the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI) for a $135,000 study of the impact of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) on bobwhites and grassland songbirds. The contract comes on the heels of a Memorandum of Understanding between NBCI and FSA last month, which established NBCI’s potential role as a consultant on various facets of the program.

“NBCI will study the population response of bobwhites and other birds to CRP in focal areas that are part of our Coordinated Implementation Program (CIP),” said NBCI Director Don McKenzie. “Because CRP is a private lands conservation program it means that we will choose focal areas that have the private lands component. We expect the final report, due at the end of 2019, to provide recommendations for strategically managing the quality, amount and distribution of CRP for the maximum benefit to bobwhites and grasslands birds. Those recommendations could have the potential to improve the efficiency of Farm Bill programs in the context of bobwhite and grassland bird conservation.”

NBCI’s CIP-branded focal areas are being targeted in the study because they are designed to rigorously test the contribution of habitat management to abundance of bobwhites and grassland birds. Requirements include habitat measurements and prescriptions, and monitoring of bobwhite and grassland bird abundance during different times of the year. It does not, however, include any measurement of specific habitat programs, such as CRP. The study will add that measurement, as well as analysis, on those focal areas. Among the candidates for participation in the study may be focal areas in Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, Iowa, Indiana, New Jersey and Texas.

About NBCI

Headquartered at the University of Tennessee’s Institute of Agriculture’s Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries, NBCI is a science and habitat-based initiative of the National Bobwhite Technical Committee (NBTC) to elevate wild bobwhite quail recovery from an individual state-by-state proposition to a coordinated, range-wide leadership endeavor at regional and national levels. The committee is comprised of representatives of 25 state wildlife agencies, various academic research institutions and private conservation organizations. Support for NBCI is provided by the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Program, state wildlife agencies, the Joe Crafton Family Endowment for Quail Initiatives, the University of Tennessee, Quail and Upland Game Alliance, Park Cities Quail and Roundstone Native Seed.

National Bobwhite Initiative, Turkey Federation Renew Agreement

The National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI) and the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF), both requiring the creation and management of early successional habitat for success, renewed their commitment to working together at the 2017 Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies’ annual conference in Sandy, Utah recently.

Jim Douglas, director of Nebraska Game & Parks and vice chair of the NBCI Management Board, and Becky Humphries, NWTF’s chief executive officer, signed the commitment.

Both groups share mutual goals for upland wildlife habitat enhancement and restoration across public and private lands. Both organizations have designated focal regions in which to concentrate their efforts and, in many cases, there are commonalities, creating opportunities for collaboration and coordination in implementation.

“Both our efforts are habitat-based and early successional habitat is critical for both organizations,” said NBCI Director Don McKenzie. “There is a substantial overlap in habitat requirements for both bobwhites and wild turkeys. It’s only logical that we look at those overlaps and work together wherever possible for the benefit of both species.”

“Setting the stage for future collaborative habitat projects with partners as important to us as the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative is truly exciting,” said NWTF CEO Humphries. “Our march to achieve our mission to Save the Habitat. Save the Hunt. takes all of us working towards a common goal and it takes partners like the NBCI.”

About NBCI
Headquartered at the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture’s Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries, NBCI is an initiative of the National Bobwhite Technical Committee (NBTC) to elevate bobwhite quail recovery from an individual state-by-state proposition to a coordinated, range-wide leadership endeavor working at regional and national levels. The committee is comprised of representatives of 25 state wildlife agencies, various academic research institutions and private conservation organizations. Support for NBCI is provided by the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Program, state wildlife agencies, the Joe Crafton Family Endowment for Quail Initiatives, the University of Tennessee, Quail and Upland Game Alliance, Park Cities Quail and Roundstone Native Seed.For more information, visit bringbackbobwhites.org.

About the National Wild Turkey Federation
When the National Wild Turkey Federation was founded in 1973, there were about 1.3 million wild turkeys in North America. After decades of work, that number hit a historic high of almost 7 million turkeys. To succeed, the NWTF stood behind science-based conservation and hunters’ rights. Today, the NWTF is focused on the future of hunting and conservation through its Save the Habitat. Save the Hunt. initiative – a charge that mobilizes science, fundraising and devoted volunteers to conserve or enhance more than 4 million acres of essential wildlife habitat, recruit at least 1.5 million hunters and open access to 500,000 acres for hunting. For more information, visit NWTF.org.

NBCI Fire Bird Conservation Award Recipients Show Bobwhite Support Can Come From Unexpected Places

A military installation, a native seed company, a cranberry company and a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service national wildlife refuge were among recipients of the 2017 NBCI National Fire Bird Conservation Award during the annual meeting of the National Bobwhite Technical Committee in Knoxville, Tennessee, recently.

Award recipients are nominated by the respective NBCI-member state’s quail coordinator for their contributions to that state’s efforts toward habitat-based restoration of wild bobwhite populations on a landscape scale.

“NBCI provides this avenue for states to recognize and thank those making meaningful contributions to our science-based restoration agenda, and perhaps help encourage others to join their efforts,” said NBCI Director Don McKenzie. “We need as many individuals, agencies and organizations as possible actively contributing to this unified 25-state strategy.”

The award’s name symbolizes the historic reliance of bobwhites on fire in much of its range to maintain the landscape in an “early successional” stage, that is, in the native grasses, wildflowers and “beneficial weeds” providing bobwhites with suitable habitat. Both wildfires and fires intentionally set by landowners to clear farm fields and woodlots historically resulted in abundant habitat for bobwhites, as well as other wildlife. The term “fire bird” in relation to bobwhites was first coined by naturalist Herbert Stoddard, who researched bobwhites and worked to restore bobwhite habitat in the early 20th Century.

Today, “prescribed” fire under controlled conditions by trained professionals has become an increasingly important tool for helping create and manage habitat for bobwhites, as well as a suite of songbirds, pollinators and other wildlife that require early successional habitats to survive.

ALABAMA

Phillip Crow of Andalusia reached out to Conecuh National Forest staff 20 years ago to assist, along with his friends, in disking and planting wildlife openings to benefit quail, including purchasing seed and fertilizer when federal funds evaporated. In 2005, he was instrumental in establishing the Conecuh Forest Chapter of Quail Forever, serving as president since its formation. The chapter has maintained more than 200 acres across 100 permanent wildlife openings on the forest, purchased $50,000 in seed, lime and fertilizer and donated approximately $100,000 in volunteer labor and equipment time. In addition to habitat work, the chapter, under Crow’s leadership, has been an effective ambassador promoting quail hunting on the forest, generating local interest and involvement, and sharing knowledge of Conecuh opportunities across Alabama and other states. In 2015, Crow was instrumental in Quail Forever and the U.S. Forest Service formalizing their relationship with a Challenge Cost-Share Agreement, resulting in more effective use of combined resources and better strategic focus of joint management and marketing activities. The chapter also received the U.S. Forest Service’s Regional Forester’s Volunteer Award for its commitment to improving public land resources and recreational opportunities. More recently, Crow worked along Alabama’s state quail coordinator, Mark Sasser, to travel and participate in meetings between the U.S. Forest Service and the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources that established a portion of the 84,000-acre Conecuh as the Boggy Hollow Wildlife Management Area. This new 7,000-acre WMA is Alabama’s first NBCI Bobwhite Focal Area.

ARKANSAS

With more than 85 percent of Arkansas land being in private ownership, participation and interest in quail management programs by private landowners is essential to the successful revitalization of quail populations. However, examples of habitat restoration must be available and accessible for landowners to demonstrate habitat manipulation necessary for bobwhites’ benefit. The Arkansas Game & Fish Commission (AGFC) recently identified Harold E. Alexander Spring River Wildlife Management Area in Sharp County as a quail focal area for that purpose, based on the habitat management activities coordinated by AGFC Habitat Biologist Rob Willey since his assignment to the region in 2010.

Willey has improved more than 1,200 acres of timber, taken out 260 acres of cedar, mulched 270 additional acres of cedar and reclaimed 590 acres of open land, restoring and maintaining critical habitats, specifically woodland, savanna and glades that provide direct benefit to bobwhites and well as other species of greatest conservation need. He has also coordinated similar activities on Scott Henderson Gulf Mountain and Jamestown Independence County WMAs.

Willey is an AGFC certified firing boss and prescribes fire treatments and participates in prescribed fire activities on WMAs and cooperative areas across northern Arkansas, assisting in burns totaling 1,511 acres in the 2015-16 season and 3,084 acres during the 2016-17 season on the focal area, in addition to 5,000 acres during those two years on other WMAs.

DELAWARE

With the responsibility of 20,000 acres of wildlife management area and all the habitat restoration occurring on the state’s Cedar Swamp Wildlife Area Bobwhite Focal Area, Delaware Division of Fish &Wildlife Regional Manager Eric Ludwig coordinates with numerous state and private agencies to maximize his efforts. In the past year he has planted 85 acres in annual and perennial food plots, 103 acres of grass/forb/wildflowers, conducted 153 acres of prescribed burns, 13 acres of timber tinning, 20 acres of fallow disking, 2,000 acres of chemical vegetation control, including invasive species spot spraying, and removal of 200 acres from agricultural lands lease to return to early successional habitat. He also arranged a donation of 3,000 pounds of wildflower seed for the Cedar Swamp focal area, a donation of 10,000 loblolly pines, donations of sunflower seed, and he arranges tree planting and invasive species removal workdays for volunteers, as well as arranging the purchase of new equipment – a skid steer, two tractors and a no-till drill – to assist with management activities.

KANSAS

Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks & Tourism Public Land Manager Scott Thomasson received the award for his upland bird habitat management of Smoky Hills Wildlife Area and
Wilson Wildlife Area – 12,800 acres in total – taking on the management of the latter with no additional full-time staff. When Thomasson hit roadblocks to using patch-burn grazing within the greater prairie complex to provide suitable bobwhite habitat, he met with a grazing specialist to develop a new rotational grazing system that could produce a similar heterogeneity of patch-burn grazing. So impacts could be quantified, he worked with the state quail coordinator to adopt a monitoring protocol (NBCI’s focal area monitoring guidelines), including a reference area as a control. When he identified the need for training in executing the required fall covey counts involved, he handled the field logistics of hosting of an NBCI training workshop for KDWPT staff and others. He continues to host annual training for staff and partners

KENTUCKY

John Seymour/Roundstone Native Seed was honored for pioneering work in the native plant industry in Kentucky, including the championing of native ecotypes, innovating harvest techniques, developing creative seed cleaning methods and their active support of conservation and management of native plants in the state and beyond. Roundstone was an advocate for and key contractor on one of the state’s greatest bobwhite success stories, the establishment of over 100,000 acres of native grassland habitat in the Green River Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program. As the need to manage those acres became necessary and the state’s prescribed fire laws prohibited the private sector from effectively participating, Roundstone became the leading voice for the establishment of a Certified Burn Boss Program through the Kentucky Prescribed Fire Council. Seymour made several trips to the legislature to help ensure the bill’s passage in 2016. Roundstone is actively engaged in pollinator conservation, including partnerships with the Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources, active participation in the development of the state’s Monarch Restoration Plan, and a critical partner on the Perryville Battlefield Grassland Restoration, planting 700 acres in one season, the single largest habitat restoration in KDFWR’s history.

MISSOURI

Missouri Department of Conservation Private Lands Biologists Tim Kavan and Brad Pobst are responsible for five of the most intensively farmed counties in the state. In the last three years they have combined to write 110 contracts on 3,687 acres under the center pivot irrigation program, in which each 40-acre field averages eight acres of habitat for the combined four un-irrigated corners. They made more than 600 site visits, made over 300 technical assistance contacts and written over 300 plans for more than 50,000 acres of property that addressed 15,000 acres of management under various Farm Bill programs.  They also made more than 400 site visits, made 1,500 technical assistant contacts and wrote 200 management plans totaling over 15,000 acres that did not involve Farm Bill programs. The duo has also been active in outreach efforts, combining to conduct over 50 workshops and field days that reached an audience of 15,000, conducted more than 25 technical training sessions, 14 media interviews, provided a pollinator demonstration with the Delta Center, a youth pollinator demonstration with Monsanto and numerous other presentations for various school, resource and civic groups. They also conduct quail monitoring and provide expertise to Scott County Quail, Oak Ridge and Sand Prairie quail focal areas.

NEW JERSEY

William S. Haines, Jr., president of the family-founded Pine Island Cranberry Company (1890) within southern New Jersey’s 1.1 million acre Pinelands National Reserve, was honored for his longstanding dedication to protecting the environment, especially company lands. Haines contracted for a forest stewardship plan, which received state approval in 2005. The plan allowed implementation of forest practices, including prescribed burning, thinning, seed tree cuts and shortleaf pine plantings. In 2011, Pine Island Cranberry was named the state’s Outstanding Forest Steward by the state Department of Environmental Protection. Management activities there created an ideal location to research the efficacy of translocating wild bobwhites from southern states. The company’s partners, including New Jersey Audubon, Tall Timbers Research Station, University of Delaware and the Division of Fish & Wildlife, worked with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources to obtain 240 wild birds over a three-year period beginning in 2015 for release at Pine Island. Results, combined with similar projects at two sites in Maryland, may have broad implications for restoring bobwhites in Mid-Atlantic states where declines have been among the most dramatic across the bird’s range, and will be pivotal to understanding the limits of translocation as a population recovery tool.

NORTH CAROLINA

Wildlife Resources Commission Technical Assistance Biologist John Isenhour’s quality of technical assistance to private landowners in the Piedmont region and his unique relationship of trust with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) that has resulted in a positive influence on federal conservation policy in the state earned him the 2017 Fire Bird Award for North Carolina. One of Isenhour’s private land clients won both the Governor’s Conservation Achievement Award and the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commisison’s Small Game Award. Additional private clients he advises are recognized as conservation leaders in their local communities. He was recruited to serve as a member of the NRCS statewide advisory team developing recommendations to improve the effectiveness of NRCS’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), the largest source of financial assistance for habitat conservation on private lands in the state, awarding nearly $1 million annually for forested and non-forested habitat. He aided in the development of EQIP forestry ranking criteria for the entire state, helping wildlife-friendly criteria become an integral part of the ranking process. His knowledge of and influence on Farm Bill programs and policies puts him in high demand to provide training and coaching for landowners, commission and NRCS staff.

“Perhaps one of (his) greatest successes has been his ability to enter the agricultural and forestry community and convince landowners that making a profit can be accomplished while also providing wildlife habitat,” according to his nomination.

OKLAHOMA

Quail Forever Regional Representative Laura McIver and the Oklahoma Quail Forever chapters (Tall Grass Heritage, North Fork, Indian Territory, Cherokee Strip and Central Oklahoma) were recognized for their contribution of more than $75,000 to address critical resource concerns and improve quail habitat quantity and quality. A few examples include: the removal of
50 acres of Old World bluestem and replacement with native grass in the Packsaddle Wildlife Management Area, along with the removal of 3.77 miles of fencing; purchase of a tree saw attachment for wildlife management areas in the southwest region; the purchase of an offset disc for Cross Timbers wildlife Management Area to maintain fire lines; two v-cutter attachments, transfer pump and water tender to be shared within the wildlife manage districts; a V-cutter grapple bucket attachment and the completion of a portable fire suppression skid unit to help control eastern red cedar encroachment in the Cooper and Fort Supply wildlife management areas; burn equipment for the Beaver Wildlife Management Area quail research project; the purchase of 12,500 sand plum seedlings to replace fescue and bermudagrass in the Cross Timbers Wildlife Management area; purchase and outfitting of prescribed burn trailers for the state’s Prescribed Burning Association for conducting burns statewide through local burn associations; purchase of a disk harrow for the Honobia Creek and Three Rivers management areas; a trailer to haul equipment for habitat manipulation at the Grady County and Lexington management areas.

PENNSYLVANIA

Some of the last known sightings of wild bobwhites in Pennsylvania were at the Letterkenny Army Depot, a munitions storage facility in the heart of historical Pennsylvania quail country. As the Pennsylvania Game Commission searched for a willing partner with the appropriate resources to help bring bobwhites back to the state, Letterkenny stepped up with their own Integrated Natural Resources Management Plan, which identified bobwhites as an important species. And one plan objective is to create and implement a bobwhite quail management plan. Currently in the process of completing a long-term agreement with the game commission, the depot will soon launch its first prescribed fire program to improve habitat conditions for bobwhites and other species. 

SOUTH CAROLINA

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Carolina Sandhills National Wildlife Refuge and its staff took Fire Bird honors for aggressive involvement in and support of a state bobwhite focal area, the Carolina Sandhills Bobwhite Focal Area, on refuge lands. Refuge staff have played integral roles in the state’s bobwhite efforts, with Refuge Manager Lyne Askins serving on the South Carolina Quail Council and Refuge Biologist Nancy Jordan participating on the South Carolina Quail Council Technical Committee, as well as developing a five-year plan for the focal area and helping monitor both the focal area and the required reference area, which is also within the refuge. New hedgerows now break up several expansive fields, management protocols for several timber stands have been changed, required burns have been implemented, winter disking completed, all by refuge staff or retirees.

“The South Carolina Bobwhite Initiative is very excited (the refuge) chose to be a part of the initiative and are extremely grateful for the amount of time, effort and fervor they have exhibited in implementing the practices, protocols and changes in management that have occurred since the Carolina Sandhills National Wildlife Refuge focal area was established,” said Michael Hook, state quail coordinator.

TENNESSEE

Over the past decades the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency Forest Management Work Unit has made significant contributions to the creation of early successional habitats and grassland restoration, with 6,000 acres of woodland and savanna restored on the Cumberland Plateau. The unit burns 2,000-plus acres per year, primarily related to the restoration of wild bobwhites. Recently, timber sales have been completed on three of four of the state’s “quail anchor areas,” creating or improving more than 1,000 acres of new quail habitat, and smaller scale timber harvests throughout the state have led to increased woodland, barren, glade and savanna habitat creation. Members of that unit are: Brian Chandler, Forest Management Program Leader; Dwayne Robinson, Wildlife Forester 3; Karl Kilmer, Wildlife Forester 2; Justin Hallett, Wildlife Forester 1; Bobby Buttram, Wildlife Forestry Tech 1; Lucas Hadden, Wildlife Forester 1; Justin Walden, Wildlife Forester 2; Kessler Yoder, Wildlife Forester 1; and Wes Tilley, Wildlife Forestry Tech 1.

VIRGINIA

A member of the state’s quail team since 2010, Jay Howell was instrumental in the development of NBCI’s Coordinated Implemental Program (CIP) for bobwhite focal areas in the 25 states. Howell helped lead the state to be one of the first to develop a pilot CIP focal area project and continues to lead those efforts. He has used innovative techniques in helping the state reach its bird and habitat monitoring goals, including the use of a drone to obtain “real time” aerial photos of habitat survey points, allowing a more accurate delineation of habitat polygons (patches) prior to field analysis and greatly speeding up the field surveys. Howell also developed new monitoring protocols in the assessment of bobwhite focal regions and landscapes, and developed an Access-based time accounting system to allow the state team to quickly generate reports on its efforts. Additionally, he served as the chair of the National Bobwhite Technical Committee’s Science subcommittee for two years.

NBCI Issues 7th ‘State of the Bobwhite’ Report

The National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative’s (NBCI) priorities for the 2018 Farm Bill, a review of what the initiative has accomplished under the first three years Pittman-Roberson (Wildlife

NBCI’s Bobwhite Almanac: State of the Bobwhite 2017

and Sport Fish Restoration Program) funding, and features on bobwhite restoration work in Arkansas, Florida, Missouri and South Carolina are a few of the highlights of the NBCI’s Bobwhite Almanac: State of the Bobwhite 2017.

At 88 pages, it is the largest State of the Bobwhite report since it was first published in 2011, and “is increasingly found in the offices of regional and national decision makers that can help move the needle for bobwhites,” said NBCI Director Don McKenzie. “It’s become a recognized force in the building of partnerships on behalf of bobwhite restoration, as well as providing a range-wide snapshot of population, hunting and conservation  status across the 25-state range.”

Additional content this year includes a look at how livestock could be a measurable factor in favor of bobwhites with a conversion of one-third of pastures into native forages and the application of prescribed grazing. Additionally, there is an analysis of the growth of NBCI’s Coordinated Implementation Program for bobwhite focal areas across the range.

An electronic version of the report is available at https://bringbackbobwhites.org/download/nbcis-bobwhite-almanac-state-of-the-bobwhite-2017/

About NBCI

Headquartered at the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture’s Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries, NBCI is an initiative of the National Bobwhite Technical Committee (NBTC) to elevate bobwhite quail recovery from an individual state-by-state proposition to a coordinated, range-wide leadership endeavor. The committee is comprised of representatives of 25 state wildlife agencies, various academic research institutions and private conservation organizations. Support for NBCI is provided by the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Program, state wildlife agencies, the Joe Crafton Family Endowment for Quail Initiatives, the University of Tennessee, Quail and Upland Game Alliance, Park Cities Quail and Roundstone Native Seed.

NBCI, FSA Finalize Cooperative Agreement On Behalf of Bobwhites

SANDY, Utah — The National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI) and the USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) finalized an agreement today that paves the way for a closer working relationship on behalf of bobwhite and grassland songbird restoration. The action came at a meeting of the NBCI Management Board during the annual conference of the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies at Snowbird Resort here.

NBCI is the coordinated effort by 25 state wildlife management agencies and a number of conservation groups and research institutions to restore bobwhite populations on a landscape scale, while FSA administers the largest

Jim Douglas, director of Nebraska Game & Parks and vice chair of the NBCI Management Board, finalizes agreement with FSA’s Beverly Preston.

private lands conservation program in the nation, the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP).

“NBCI will never achieve our vision of landscape-scale restoration of wild bobwhites without inclusion of private ‘working’ lands,” said NBCI Director Don McKenzie. “FSA administers the largest private lands conservation effort in the country, so having a mechanism that recognizes each other’s strengths and finds ways to pair those strengths to benefit bobwhites … as well as grassland songbirds and pollinators … can be a significant advance for all those species.”

The new agreement establishes a formal mechanism by which the two entities can cooperate and broadly outlines potential  endeavors, including the identification and development of cooperative projects, providing biological technical assistance as needed, assisting FSA in delivering CRP when involving native grass restoration, helping evaluate potential success of CRP initiatives that may involve native grass restoration, promoting CRP and other FSA conservation programs and initiatives and associated practices targeting native grass restoration. (The full agreement is available at https://bringbackbobwhites.org/download/nbciusda-fsa-mou-2017/ )

Manassas National Battlefield Park Next NPS Unit Joining Bobwhite/Grassland Restoration Efforts

The 5,000-acre Manassas National Battlefield Park in Manassas, Virginia, just 30 miles from the nation’s capital, is the next National Park Service (NPS) unit scheduled to work collaboratively with the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI) — and the Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries (DGIF)– on the landscape-scale restoration of grassland ecosystems and bobwhite quail.

“NPS managers look forward to building on the work at the first NPS Focal Area at Pea Ridge National Military Park, a collaborative project with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, at Manassas,” said NPS National Ecologist Jordan Spaak. “Participating in NBCI’s Coordinated Implementation Program (CIP) provides a unique opportunity to compare grassland habitat and its impacts on grassland obligate species, including bobwhite quail, across a large landscape. Virginia DGIF has been at the forefront of the CIP program, making them a great partner for the Manassas project,” Spaak said. “Manassas NBP can serve as a model of how to restore native warm season grasses, and maintain and preserve the cultural landscape,” said Spaak, who adds that many park units have expressed an interest in completing grassland restoration projects and serving as a CIP Focal Area.

“The park has already converted about 1,000 acres to native grassland in their efforts to restore a more historically correct landscape,” said NBCI Director Don McKenzie, “so the management staff is off to a great start. And, they still have a small population of wild bobwhites that likely can be boosted with basic management of the restored habitats. The park’s participation will help further expand our restoration efforts, create a potential new source population of birds, create new opportunities for the park’s nearly one million visitors to hear and see bobwhites, and to learn the story of the nation’s bobwhite, grassland bird and pollinator declines,” McKenzie said.

“Our department is excited to see this new NBCI Model Focal Area under development at Manassas National Battlefield Park, the first on a national park unit in Virginia,” said Bob Duncan, director of the Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries. “NBCI’s Coordinated Implementation Program will be a cornerstone to long-term quail recovery. The Park Service is bringing national level attention to the plight of the bobwhite quail and their efforts at Manassas will help highlight how even in an area surrounded by suburbia, with the right habitat management, the bobwhite quail can still thrive.”

The work is proceeding under an agreement between NBCI and NPS signed last year. It provides a formal mechanism for the two entities to work together, along with the respective NBCI state wildlife agencies, to collaboratively identify and restore native grasslands habitats on suitable park properties, with certain park units serving as formal bobwhite focal areas.

NBCI is working to establish large-scale “focal areas” where habitat—and the birds—can be restored to demonstrate that recovery of bobwhites and declining grassland songbirds and pollinators is possible given appropriate habitat management at the proper scale. Under its Coordinated Implementation Program (CIP) the minimum NBCI focal area size is 1,500 acres. At that size the areas has to be 100 per cent usable bobwhite habitat. (The average CIP focal area is more than 8,000 acres.) Certain consistent habitat assessments and bird monitoring protocols are also required. (For more information on the CIP, please visit our website for a four-page summary, https://bringbackbobwhites.org/download/popular-summary-nbci-coordination-implementation-program/ ).

About NPS

More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America’s 413 national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities. Visit us at www.nps.gov. NPS Contact: Jordan Spaak-Ecologist, National Park Service, Biological Resources Division, Natural Resource Stewardship and Science Directorate, 970-267-2145, Jordan_Spaak@nps.gov

About the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries: Our mission is to:
Conserve and manage wildlife populations and habitat for the benefit of present and future generations.
Connect people to Virginia’s outdoors through boating, education, fishing, hunting, trapping, wildlife viewing, and other wildlife-related activities.
Protect people and property by promoting safe outdoor experiences and managing human-wildlife conflicts.

About NBCI
Headquartered at the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture’s Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries, NBCI is an initiative of the National Bobwhite Technical Committee (NBTC) to elevate bobwhite quail recovery from an individual state-by-state proposition to a coordinated, range-wide leadership endeavor. The committee is comprised of representatives of 25 state wildlife agencies, various academic research institutions and private conservation organizations. Support for NBCI is provided by the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Program, state wildlife agencies, the Joe Crafton Family Endowment for Quail Initiatives, the University of Tennessee, Quail and Upland Game Alliance, Park Cities Quail and Roundstone Native Seed.

Three to be Honored for Quail Science Achievements During Eighth National Quail Symposium in Knoxville

KNOXVILLE, TN — The National Bobwhite Technical Committee (NBTC) and the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI) are honoring three individuals, one in memoriam, for their significant contributions to quail science over their careers during the Eighth National Quail Symposium (Quail 8) here next week.

Dr. Leonard “Lenny” A. Brennan and Dr. L. Wes Burger are receiving the National Quail Symposium Award of Excellence, and Dr. Robert “Bob” J. Robel is being honored with the National Quail Symposium In Memoriam recognition.

Currently a professor and endowed chair for quail research at Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute and Department of Animal and Wildlife Sciences at Texas A&M University-Kingsville, Dr. Brennan previously served as director of research at Tall Timbers Research Station in Florida. His career contributions include his leadership on the first-ever national quail plan in 1992, his editorship of The Journal of Wildlife Management, The Wildlife Society Bulletin and the award-winning book, Texas Quails: Ecology and Management, as well as various editing roles in the proceedings of Quail 4, Quail 7 and Quail 8. He also served in leadership positions on the steering committees of the Southeast Quail Study Group and the National Bobwhite Technical Committee, as well as authoring or co-authoring more than 180 scientific publications and more than 100 extension and popular articles. In 2016, Dr. Brennan received the NBTC Award of Excellence.

Currently associate director of the Mississippi State University (MSU) Forest and Wildlife Research Center and the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station in Starkville, Dr. Burger was previously a research and teaching professor at MSU and did graduate work studying bobwhites in Missouri. Career contributions to bobwhite conservation include his leadership of the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) Bobwhite Restoration Project and National Conservation Practice 33 monitoring program, his roles with the steering committees of the Southeast Quail Study Group and the NBTC, the Midwest Bobwhite Research Initiative, the Ames Plantation Quail Task Force, Tall Timbers Research Station, the NRCS Conservation Effects Assessment Project and the North American Bird Conservation Initiative. He authored or co-authored 14 book chapters, 52 symposia proceedings and 90 peer-reviewed scientific publications, with much of it focused on bobwhite ecology and management.

Dr. Robel (1933-2013), who was a professor emeritus at Kansas State University when he died, will be honored for his research on upland game birds, especially bobwhites and prairie chickens. In his 50 years on the university’s Division of Biology faculty, Dr. Robel mentored hundreds of students who are now in the wildlife field. Results of his and his students’ research have results in more than 250 peer-reviewed publications. His many career honors include the University of Idaho Centennial Distinguished Alumni Award and induction into the Alumni Hall of Fame, Utah State University College of Natural Resources Alumni Association Lifetime Achievement Award, Kansas Governor’s Conservationist of the Year award, Kansas  Outdoor Writers Association Proud Kansan Award, and the Kansas Chapter of the Wildlife Society’s Outstanding Professional Award.

The awards will be presented on Friday, the symposium’s concluding day.

 

 About NBCI

Headquartered at the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture’s Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries, NBCI is an initiative of the National Bobwhite Technical Committee (NBTC) to elevate bobwhite quail recovery from an individual state-by-state proposition to a coordinated, range-wide leadership endeavor. The committee is comprised of representatives of 25 state wildlife agencies, various academic research institutions and private conservation organizations. Support for NBCI is provided by the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Program, state wildlife agencies, the Joe Crafton Family Endowment for Quail Initiatives, the University of Tennessee, Quail and Upland Game Alliance and Park Cities Quail.  

NBCI Fills Vacant Spatial Analyst Position For Bobwhite Information Network Build-Out

 The National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI) has hired Molly K. Foley as its new IT Spatial Analyst

Molly Foley

charged with the continued construction and growth of the NBCI Bobwhite Information Network.  Foley replaces Derek Evans, NBCI’s first spatial analyst, to continue development of tools and content for NBCI’s technical website at the University of Tennessee, https://www.quailcount.org/.

Foley earned a B.S. in Wildlife Ecology: Research & Management from University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point in 2014 and a Master of Geographic Information Science & Technology from North Carolina State University in 2016. She has a variety of experience, including as a GIS teaching assistant, a habitat planning and conservation GIS technician, an ArcGIS and Python software tutor and a geospatial programming research assistant.

Among her responsibilities will be managing the NBCI 2.0 ArcGIS database, providing technical content from the Eighth National Quail Symposium, assisting states and partners in planning and implementing NBCI Coordinated Implementation Program focal areas, managing and analyzing data, and working with the NBCI science coordinator and the science subcommittee of the National Bobwhite Technical Committee on various other needs. Foley will be stationed with the Information Technology Services (ITS) unit of the University of Tennessee’s Institute of Agriculture in Knoxville.

“Molly will lead the continued creation of NBCI’s new Bobwhite Information Network, the first database that consolidates data on bobwhites from all 25 states, including bird monitoring and habitat tracking, and manages it for the benefit of all our partners,” said NBCI Director Don McKenzie. “We will be able to demonstrate and precisely measure grassland bird response to habitat management. Additionally, we appreciate the support of UTIA’s ITS personnel in partnering with us to continue building this critical component of our national initiative.”

 

About NBCI

Headquartered at the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture’s Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries, NBCI is an initiative of the National Bobwhite Technical Committee (NBTC) to elevate bobwhite quail recovery from an individual state-by-state proposition to a coordinated, range-wide leadership endeavor. The committee is comprised of representatives of 25 state wildlife agencies, various academic research institutions and private conservation organizations. Support for NBCI is provided by the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Program, state wildlife agencies, the Joe Crafton Family Endowment for Quail Initiatives, the University of Tennessee, Quail and Upland Game Alliance and Park Cities Quail.  

 

Ranchers Testify to Value of Prescribed Fire In NBCI’s New Video, “Fire Up Your Beef Production”

 

A new National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI) video attesting to the validity and value of prescribed burning in the Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska rangeland is eliciting positive reviews in pre-release screenings by range management groups.

This impactful video provides an inside look into the perspectives of ranchers and researchers that are practicing advanced and pioneering land stewardship for the betterment of the land and resources, and ultimately their livestock production,” said the Society for Range Management.

The video, Fire Up Your Beef Production, draws on the experiences of cattle producers in the region and is but one tactic in NBCI’s “reconnecting cattle with quail” strategy to restore wild bobwhite quail on a landscape scale across 25 states.

“NBCI’s driving purpose is bobwhite quail, long known as the ‘fire bird,’” said NBCI Grasslands Coordinator Jef Hodges. “But a healthy rangeland is fundamental to healthy bobwhite habitat.  As it so happens, there are solid economic reasons beyond wildlife habitat that ranchers should embrace prescribed fire on a regular basis to achieve a healthy rangeland. We identified a group of ranchers to tell their stories because ranchers listen to other ranchers.”

The video, in both long and short versions, is available for viewing at https://www.youtube.com/user/BringBackBobwhites/videos. Entities interested in obtaining copies for group screenings may contact Alyssa Merka at amerka@utk.edu for copies on DVDs or flash drives.

 

What They’re Saying About “Fire Up Your Beef Production”

 “This impactful video provides an inside look into the perspectives of ranchers and researchers that are practicing advanced and pioneering land stewardship for the betterment of the land and resources, and ultimately their livestock production. We, as a society, support increased awareness of the practices of prescribed burning to improve rangelands and encourage promotion of education that provides expertise in climate-soil-plant-animal complex in relation to human needs and uses of resources such as this.”

Society for Range Management

 Our ecosystem in the Southern Great Plains naturally developed with fire and grazing. It needs both fire and grazing to be healthy. Therefore, fire and grazing are processes that must be used correctly. We must use science-based information, practical knowledge, and common sense when prescribing and implementing fire and grazing. This video does a nice job of communicating and demonstrating the importance of these two processes that are absolutely essential to managing plant communities in Southern Great Plains.  

Russell Stevens, Range & Wildlife Consultant, Noble Research Institute LLC

 

… a great job …  It is good to see private landowners express their prescribed fire management views and understanding of the ecological processes at work by bringing fire back into the system.

Chuck Stanley, Rangeland Management Specialist, Central National Technology Support Center, Natural Resources Conservation Service

 

“Why burn prairie grasslands? Ranchers clearly state the benefits in this National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative video.  Increased livestock gains, better biodiversity, more wildlife- prescribed fire is the one practice that delivers all of these.”

Carol Baldwin, Ph.D., Great Plains Fire Science Exchange

Nation’s Top Quail Conservation/Research Talent Converges on Knoxville Later This Month

Knoxville, Tennessee will become the nation’s “quail capital” for a short time later this month as the country’s top quail experts convene in two back-to-back meetings downtown, the annual meeting of the National Bobwhite Technical Committee (NBTC) followed by the Eighth National Quail Symposium, aka “Quail 8.”   

Hosted by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and the University of Tennessee, the NBTC – whose members represent 25 state wildlife agencies, quail research institutions and private conservation groups – will conduct its meeting July 25-26 at the Holiday Inn Knoxville Downtown. On July 27-28, Quail 8, a national quail symposium conducted every five years, will follow at the same location and encompass research reports from around the country on various aspects of multiple species of quail.

The NBTC focuses its efforts on the coordinated restoration of populations of the iconic wild bobwhite, which have declined by 80 percent over the past 60 years. The decline is primarily due to disappearing habitat brought about by changes in agricultural, forestry and grazing practices over the decades. Many other species that share the same habitat, including numerous grassland songbirds and pollinators, have shown similar declines.

The committee, which numbers about 150 members, sets the agenda and technical objectives for the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI), headquartered at the UT Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries. Working with and for 25 state wildlife agencies for large-scale restoration of wild bobwhite quail populations, NBCI is the most comprehensive effort on behalf of a resident game bird in the history of wildlife management. Focused on creating opportunities and removing barriers at regional and national levels, the initiative has scored numerous successes on behalf of bobwhite habitat.

NBCI’s recent accomplishments include:

  • the acceptance of bobwhites in the federal Working Lands for Wildlife program with projects in 13 states to improve habitat on 232,000 acres by 2018;
  • an agreement with the National Park Service to identify and restore native grasslands habitats on selected park service units, the first being Pea Ridge National Military Park in Arkansas;
  • an agreement with the U.S. Forest Service to establish NBCI bobwhite focal areas on national forests in at least two southern states;
  • winning approval by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for automatic creation of 250,000 acres of bobwhite habitat on the corners of center pivot-irrigated crop fields (a $250,000,000 habitat restoration value), through the federal Conservation Reserve Program’s (CRP) Habitat Buffers for Upland Birds practice (CP-33), commonly known as “Bobwhite Buffers”;
  • A five-part national documentary, “Bobwhites on the Brink,” that aired on public television stations around the country;
  • NatiVeg, a smart phone/computer-based decision making tool for landowners and managers in the field who prefer to select appropriate native plants for their location and purpose rather than exotic species

Quail 8, a national symposium open to quail researchers around the nation and beyond, will feature nearly 100 presentations and posters featuring various aspects of quail management and research, and is expected to attract some 200 participants. The last symposium was in Tucson, Arizona in 2012. Hosts of Quail 8 are the University of Tennessee, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, NBCI and NBTC.

For more information about NBCI, please visit www.bringbackbobwhites.org. For more information regarding Quail 8 please visit https://www.quailcount.org/quail8/home.html.

About NBCI

Headquartered at the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture’s Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries, NBCI is an initiative of the National Bobwhite Technical Committee (NBTC) to elevate bobwhite quail recovery from an individual state-by-state proposition to a coordinated, range-wide leadership endeavor. The committee is comprised of representatives of 25 state wildlife agencies, various academic research institutions and private conservation organizations. Support for NBCI is provided by the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Program, state wildlife agencies, the Joe Crafton Family Endowment for Quail Initiatives, the University of Tennessee, Quail and Upland Game Alliance and Park Cities Quail.