(From the TribuneReview in Pennsylvania)
By Bob Frye
This truly is starting from square one.
Pennsylvania Game Commission went looking for wild, naturally reproducing populations of bobwhite quail in 2014. It found none. Soon, though, the agency hopes to bring them back. It has determined where and is working on how. All that will determine the when.
by Michael Hook, SCDNR Small Game Program Leader
Landowners participating in the program will be paid $150 per acre on top of CRP payments and revenue from timber harvests.
The South Carolina Bobwhite Initiative is happy to announce that the USDA Farm Service recently released the availability for the long-awaited CRP Tree Thinning Incentive.
The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) is a wildly successful program that is administered by the USDA Farm Service Agency. It has been in existence since the 1985 Farm Bill. The original intent of CRP was to reduce soil erosion, enhance water supplies with groundwater recharge, improve water quality, increase wildlife habitat and reduce damages caused by floods and other natural disasters.
Many of these practices were very beneficial to bobwhite quail, especially in the Midwestern states where CRP was widely implemented. In the Southeastern U.S., the results were not quite as positive for the bobwhites, whereas in the Midwest, CRP participants were planting native bunchgrasses and replanting grasslands. Most of the CRP acreage in the Southeast was put into loblolly pine stands. This benefitted quail and other wildlife for a while but, as the timber matured, the habitat became less suitable for wildlife. Wildlife biologists, foresters, and conservation biologists realized this rather quickly, but the corrective action came slowly.
It wasn’t until the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative answered the call and began pushing for assistance that change was brought about. Fortunately, the solution to the poor habitat quandary was an easy one- all it takes to improve the habitat in these monoculture loblolly stands is thinning to an appropriate basal area and adding a little bit of fire to the landscape. The NBCI went to bat for the Southeastern states and offered the solution of paying CRP participants for implementing mid-contract management on their properties. After several years and much to the joy of bobwhite enthusiasts across the Southeast, the 2014 Farm Bill authorized the use of these mid-contract management practices. And on Dec. 9, 2016, the USDA Farm Service Agency released the availability for the long-awaited CRP Tree Thinning Incentive.
“It was Christmas come early this year for those of us in the Southeast who had been waiting on this incentive,” SCDNR Small Game Program Leader Michael Hook said. “The National Bobwhite Technical Committee and the NBCI had been working on this project for several years and to see it come to fruition is quite exciting. I cannot wait to see the impact it has on the state’s bobwhite population.”
This tree thinning incentive comes in the form of additional money available to CRP participants who are willing to thin their pine stands to a wildlife-friendly basal area and utilize the use of fire or other approved management techniques to better their land for wildlife. Thinning and burning these monoculture pine stands will produce prime habitat for bobwhite quail, many species of song birds, southern fox squirrels, flatwoods salamanders, and even bees and butterflies. Not only will it create acres of pine savanna habitat that would otherwise not be available for these species, but it will also put extra money into the pockets of the landowners.
The $150-per-acre incentive money available for completing these practices is in addition to the existing CRP contract payments and any financial benefit derived from harvesting timber. There are limited funds available and the first sign-up period is short, so those interested are encouraged to speak to their local FSA representative as soon as possible. A landowner who is interested in the incentive needs to be signed up by Jan. 6, 2017.
Anyone with questions regarding the incentive can contact Michael Hook at
803-734-3940 or HookM@dnr.sc.gov.
From the Indiana DNR…
Songbirds, gamebirds, butterflies and bees are among the many animals that will benefit from a new DNR Division of Fish & Wildlife program to improve grassland and pollinator habitat.
CORRIDORS will focus on four priority areas in the state: Indiana State Wildlife Action Plan Conservation Opportunity Areas; rights-of-way on interstates and state and federal highways; 100-year floodplains of rivers; and areas adjacent to a body of water. Partners with DNR Fish & Wildlife include the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT), U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever (PF/QF).
People who own land in a priority area can participate by establishing habitat on their property through the CORRIDORS program. Qualifying landowners are eligible for technical and financial assistance. To get started, contact your DNR landscape or district wildlife biologist. A map with contact information is at wildlife.IN.gov/2716.htm.
Grassland and pollinator habitat is critical for the survival of many species, including monarch butterflies, bobwhite quail, ring-necked pheasants, Eastern meadowlarks, cottontail rabbits, native bees and the imperiled loggerhead shrike.
The DNR Division of Fish & Wildlife will provide technical assistance and, in some cases, incentive payments, and will coordinate efforts among agencies. INDOT will establish native grasses and plants where possible along rights-of-way of Indiana highways, increasing wildlife habitat while reducing maintenance costs. The NRCS will provide technical and financial assistance to private landowners through its Environmental Quality Incentive Program, improving both soil health and water quality. PF/QF will provide technical assistance through their Farm Bill biologists and promote the CORRIDORS program throughout the state.
If you aren’t a landowner but want to support the program, you can do so by spreading the word about the initiative and supporting DNR by purchasing licenses and a Gamebird Habitat Stamp.
For more information, visit wildlife.IN.gov/9405.htm
To view all DNR news releases, please see dnr.IN.gov.
Name: Erin Basiger
Phone: (317) 501-6272
Viewers of KTMU-TV in Topeka, Kansas will have the opportunity to watch This American Land’s “Bobwhites on the Brink” series later this month. The five-part series will air Sundays at 3:30 p.m. beginning Jan. 17. NBCI worked over a period of months with This American Land to help tell the story of the bobwhite decline in row crop, grazing land and forest settings, and the actions needed to restore the birds to these working lands.
The only thing the Pennsylvania Game Commission needs to begin its long-discussed bobwhite quail restoration effort is, well, quail.
Don’t be surprised if it doesn’t get them for a bit.
Across almost all of their historical range nationwide, bobwhites are struggling. Populations are in serious decline if not — as here — gone, said Don McKenzie, director of the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative, an organization working to bring back what was once America’s most widespread and perhaps most popular game bird.
Loss of habitat is to blame.
Iowa has received an additional 115,000 acres that can be enrolled in the Continuous Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) for critical wildlife and water quality efforts.
For landowners who have general CRP contracts expiring in 2017, this may be their only opportunity to re-enroll existing CRP back into the program. It is not clear whether there will be a general CRP signup in 2017.
The State Acres For Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE) program is part of the continuous CRP program with the goal of restoring high-priority wildlife habitat tailored to specific need. SAFE practices can be used to restore habitat for threatened and endangered species, species that have suffered significant population declines or species that provide significant social or economic value to the community.
Iowa’s existing SAFE programs, Gaining Ground SAFE – targeted to grassland birds and pollinators, and Pheasant Recovery SAFE – targeted at restoring pheasant habitat, each received additional allocations of 50,000 and 25,000 acres respectively. In addition to soil erosion prevention and water quality improvements, both SAFE projects provide an excellent opportunity for landowners to enroll land into CRP to establish quality wildlife habitat.
The Iowa DNR has created a webpage for landowners to learn more about federal and state programs available to them. The webpage includes a list of DNR staff who are experts at connecting landowners with programs and writing land management plans that benefit the landowner, wildlife and improve water quality. There is also a link to FSA where landowners can find information about their local FSA office. The landowner assistance webpage is at www.iowadnr.gov/crp.
In addition to the existing Iowa SAFE project announcements, an all-new SAFE project, called Iowa Early Successional Quail Habitat, has been approved for 40,000 acres.
The Iowa Early Successional Quail Habitat SAFE project, in addition to soil erosion prevention and water quality improvements, is designed to restore early successional habitat across Iowa’s southern quail range where it will be the most beneficial for bobwhite quail. This new SAFE will also be tremendously beneficial to native pollinators and Monarch butterflies.
Landowners may begin submitting applications on Jan. 9 for Gaining Ground SAFE and Pheasant Recovery SAFE. Applications for the new Quail Habitat SAFE will be accepted later in January.
A story by Bryan Hendricks on New Years Day in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette highlighted the recent approval of a multi-state “grasslands/bobwhite” proposal to NRCS and the potential impact of Arkansas’ $600,000 share.
NBCI led and coordinated the national effort to pull together the 9-state Working Lands For Wildlife grassland proposal to NRCS last summer, with Arkansas G&F being one of the most engaged state agencies in developing the national proposal. (NBCI also played a central coordination and support role for the multi-state pine savanna proposal submitted to NRCS at the same time. Both proposals were accepted by NRCS.)
These developments illuminate the value of all the state wildlife agencies and many other active supporters coming together and organizing under the auspices of the NBCI so that we can tackle opportunities and obstacles at regional and national scales.
NBCI, the 25 state wildlife management agencies that we represent and our other partners in conservation are pleased that FSA is providing these incentives that can benefit bobwhites and grassland birds by thinning and burning CRP pinelands.
JACKSON, Miss., Dec. 9, 2016 – In an effort to improve wildlife habitat and the health of private forest lands, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) today announced additional incentives available for Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) participants to actively manage forest lands enrolled in the program.
“Many CRP forests were initially established to conserve soil and protect water quality, but there is also a critical need to restore wildlife habitat” said Brad Pfaff, FSA Deputy Administrator for Farm Programs. “Over the years as trees grow and the forest canopy closes, the quality of wildlife habitat for many species declines. These new incentives are intended to reverse that trend, while also maintaining healthy forests.”
The announcement was made at a CRP forest site near Jackson, Miss. In addition to Pfaff, those in attendance included FSA Mississippi State Executive Director Michael R. Sullivan; Natural Resources Conservation Service State Conservationist Kurt Readus; and Office of Senator Thad Cochran Constituent Services Representative Jo Ann Clark.
Under the provisions of the 2014 Farm Bill, $10 million is available nationwide to eligible CRP participants. Those selected will be encouraged to thin, prescribe burn or otherwise manage their forests in order to allow sunlight to reach the forest floor. This will encourage the development of grasses, forbs and legumes, benefitting numerous species including pollinators and grassland-dependent birds such as the northern bobwhite.
“The program is a win-win for landowners and wildlife as it supports enhanced wildlife habitat on lands already removed from agricultural production, while promoting forest sustainability, soil conservation, and water quality protection,” said Pfaff.
Eligibility is limited to landowners and agricultural producers already enrolled in CRP with conservation covers primarily containing trees. Incentive payments, not to exceed 150 percent of the cost to implement a particular customary forestry activity as described, have been established. CRP participants meeting eligibility requirements and interested in making offers to participate should visit their local FSA county office.
For more information about FSA conservation programs, visit the FSA office at the local USDA service center or go to www.fsa.usda.gov/conservation. To locate the nearest FSA office, go to http://offices.usda.gov.
United States Department of Agriculture: Natural Resources Conservation Service
Contact: Curt McDaniel, Assistant State Conservationist for Programs
November 29, 2016
NEW FLORENCE, MO — The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is adding the northern bobwhite to Working Lands for Wildlife (WLFW), the agency’s targeted, science-based effort to help producers restore and protect habitat for declining species on farms, ranches and working forests.
“Agriculture and wildlife both thrive together through landscape conservation,” said J.R. Flores, NRCS state conservationist in Missouri. “We’re working with farmers to make bobwhite-friendly improvements on working lands that will help the species and benefit farming operations.”
Two of the 11 new projects announced today by NRCS Chief Jason Weller at a farm in New Florence focus on helping farmers enhance early successional habitat to aid in the bobwhite’s recovery. Farmers in Missouri are part of the project that targets grasslands, where NRCS is working with producers to replace non-native grasses with native grasses, forbs and legumes that benefit bobwhite and other wildlife, while creating alternative healthy grazing options for livestock. Other states include in Virginia, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, North Carolina, Ohio and Kentucky.
When habitat is restored for the bobwhite, many other species benefit, including turkeys, deer, rabbits, and many different songbirds. NRCS uses the bobwhite and other wildlife as indicators of the health of the ecosystem at-large.
With more than two-thirds of the continental United States under private ownership, wildlife depend heavily on working lands for habitat and food. Projects focus on declining species that have needs compatible with agricultural practices and rural land management and that can benefit from conservation on private lands. See a full list of new projects.
So far, WLFW has helped producers restore 6.7 million acres of habitat for seven target species. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) determined last year that Endangered Species Act protections were not necessary for these species largely because of the voluntary conservation efforts on working lands.
“The future of wildlife, agriculture and rural ways of life depend on our collective ability to transfer our Working Lands for Wildlife model to more species and working landscapes,” Flores said.
Through WLFW, NRCS strategically invests where conservation returns are highest and measures how wildlife respond to management activities to refine conservation efforts. NRCS provides technical and financial assistance to help producers adopt a variety of conservation practices on their land. NRCS staff help producers with a conservation plan and provide funding to cover part of the costs for adopting the practices. These practices are designed to benefit both the species and the agricultural operation.
To learn more about assistance opportunities, landowners should contact their local USDA service centers.
USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender.
MANHATTAN, KS–The Fire Summit 2016: Changing Fire Regimes, a regional conference on fire science in the Great Plains, is set for Dec. 7-9 at the Hilton Garden Inn Conference Center in Manhattan, Kansas.
“This meeting is for all landowners, fire managers, firefighters and agency personnel who work with fire in the Great Plains,” said Brian Hays, an associate director for the Texas A&M Institute of Renewable Natural Resources. “Fire is an inherent component of grassland systems of the Great Plains, so there is a need to share current fire science and management with these individuals as well as with rural fire districts and emergency managers”
The Summit is funded through a grant from the USGS South Central Climate Science Center, awarded to the University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State University and Texas A&M University. The event is co-sponsored by the Kansas Grazing Lands Coalition, Kansas State University Research and Extension, U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, Southern Climate Impacts Planning Program, Joint Fire Science Program and the Great Plains Fire Science Exchange.
“The Great Plains Fire Science Exchange exists to assist land managers and the fire community to make sound decisions based on the best possible information,” said Carol Blocksome of the exchange. “Through the exchange and this conference, we hope to strengthen collaboration within the fire community in the region in addition to having information available for policy makers.”
“Fire professionals from around the country will discuss relevant topics impacting prescribed fire use,” said Barth Crouch with Kansas Grazing Lands Coalition.
John Weir of Oklahoma State University said ”Topics will include fire history in the Great Plains, smoke issues, fire success stories, state prescribed burning association reports, future directions for fire, fire policy, partnerships using fire and fire weather.”
“We will also discuss weather and climate and its impact on fire through time,” said Mark Shafer with the University of Oklahoma.
Speakers include professionals from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Southern Climate Impacts Planning Program, Natural Resources Conservation Service and landowners among others.
Tickets are $100 for agency and university personnel and $40 for landowners and students. Interested individuals can register at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/fire-summit-2016-changing-fire-regimes-tickets-27490002337
The U.S. Geological Survey South Central Climate Science Center provided funding for this conference.