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NRCS Expanding Efforts to aid Bobwhite Quail

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United States Department of Agriculture: Natural Resources Conservation Service

Contact: Curt McDaniel, Assistant State Conservationist for Programs

Phone: 573-876-9423

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.

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USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender.

 

 

Fire Summit 2016 Set for Dec. 7-9 in Manhattan, KS

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.

Conservationists and Sportsmen Call for Expanded CRP Programs

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Hunters and anglers who agree that the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) works for wildlife, sportsmen, and landowners can now show their support for enhancing the program in the next Farm Bill. With the launch of CRPworks.org, a coalition of sportsmen’s groups—including the National Deer Alliance, Pheasants Forever, Quail Forever, and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership—is rallying conservation advocates who want to see better investments in the CRP.”During the latest CRP sign-up, landowners who demonstrated an overwhelming demand for voluntary conservation practices under CRP were met with the lowest acceptance rates in the program’s 30-year history,” says Dave Nomsen, vice president of governmental affairs for Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever. “That’s why we’re calling for sportsmen and women to support strong conservation provisions in the Farm Bill, including a larger and more robust CRP authorization that meets the demand from farmers, ranchers, and other landowners, who improve wildlife habitat and provide us with better recreational and access opportunities.”

Introduced in the 1985 Farm Bill, CRP once supported 37 million acres devoted to conserving soil, water, and wildlife habitat. But Congress has reduced the size of the program to just 24 million acres in the most recent Farm Bill. Today the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is turning down thousands of CRP applications from those who want to enroll millions of private acres in conservation.

The user-friendly website and advocacy app at CRPworks.org allows supporters to add their names to a petition asking lawmakers to reverse this trend, explaining that “without a strong CRP, the northern plains states would lose much of their duck breeding habitat, greater sage grouse in the West would be at greater risk of population decline, and brook trout would disappear from Eastern headwaters. Without CRP, 40 million sportsmen and women would lose access to private hunting and fishing grounds across rural America.”

Nick Pinizzotto, president and CEO of the National Deer Alliance, says, “Deer hunters know that CRP works for wildlife and habitat—we’ve got the big buck stories to prove it—so it’s important that sportsmen and women call for better investments in CRP and become a part of the solution, well ahead of the next Farm Bill. This website makes that process very easy.”

CRPworks.org will also house educational resources on the benefits of the program and the latest news about private land conservation. “CRP acres are often enrolled in access programs to provide public hunting and fishing opportunities on private lands, and where they’re not, CRP acres might provide critical wildlife habitat adjacent to the public lands that receive a lot of hunting pressure,” says Ariel Wiegard, agriculture and private lands policy director for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “This program has served as an important piece of landowners’ business plans and a vital part of working and wild landscapes for 30 years, so it deserves the attention of our lawmakers.”

Learn more about the game and fish species that have benefited from the Conservation Reserve Program here, and sign the petition at CRPworks.org.

NW AR Democrat-Gazette Report: New AGFC Chair ‘Committed’ to Bobwhite Revival

July 24, 2016

 

In his opening statement last Wednesday as the new chairman of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, Fred Brown of Corning committed to restoring bobwhite quail in Arkansas.

Brown said he has just two priorities in his final year on the commission, and quail restoration is premier. To that end he and director Jeff Crow will assemble a quail task force, appointing commissioners Ken Reeves and Ford Overton as co-chairmen. Reeves, of Harrison, is a lifelong quail hunter who has been vocal and active about directing the commission’s attention to restoring native upland grassland habitat.

“We’ve talked about quail a great deal, but we haven’t done anything, really,” Brown said. “I don’t know if we can bring them back, but we won’t know unless we try.”

Brown cited two other restoration success stories as precedents.

“Elk were exterminated, and we brought them back,” Brown said. “The bear population was wiped out, and now it’s a huntable population.”

Brown said the two most junior commissioners, Joe Morgan of Little Rock and Bobby Martin of Rogers, will be the most important players.

“They have six and seven years left, so they have the most time to work on it,” Brown said.

Brown acknowledged that chronic wasting disease has absorbed much of the commission’s attention this year, but he said the agency is capable of handling multiple projects simultaneously.

“I know CWD hit the agency, and I commend Wildlife [management division] and other people that came in and helped them,” Brown said. “At the same time we’ve got other things going on, and we can do more than one thing at a time. We’re going to get on this quail habitat thing.”

Overton said that Morgan will be a crucial contributor to quail restoration.

“Probably nobody knows more about quail hunting than Joe Morgan,” Overton said. “That’s what he grew up doing.”

Read entire story HERE.

N.J. helping quail make comeback

WOODLAND TOWNSHIP — In a forest clearing on a large cranberry farm, field technicians with New Jersey Audubon used electronic equipment to search for bobwhite quail.

The wild birds from Georgia were banded with electronic collars and released in the past two years, and a bobwhite nest was found earlier at the site, tucked inside tall grasses on a mound of topsoil.

It isn’t the prettiest or most natural part of Pine Island Cranberry Co.’s 14,000 non-cultivated acres in and around the Burlington County hamlet of Chatsworth. There are compost piles at the site, and a small airfield for agricultural planes.

But it’s the kind of disturbed habitat the bobwhite and other species, like prairie warblers, kestrels and pine snakes, love.

Read more about the NBCI member state’s project HERE.

Conservationists plan to save America’s shortleaf pine forests

MOBILE, Ala. (June 16, 2016) – A coalition of conservation experts, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies has announced the publication of a long-awaited five-year plan to stem the rapid decline of number of shortleaf pine-dominant forests. Released during the annual meeting of the Southern Group of State Foresters, the Shortleaf Pine Restoration Plan culminates two years of efforts by the Shortleaf Pine Initiative and is the first strategy produced to improve the shortleaf pine ecosystem across its entire range.

“This plan marks the first concrete steps in restoring these highly valuable shortleaf pine forestlands,” said Mike Black, director of the Shortleaf Pine Initiative. “Thanks to the work of our many partners, we now have a practical roadmap for restoration with scalable, achievable goals specifically tailored to the regional needs of the ecosystem.”

Shortleaf pine has a rich tradition as an important trade good in the history of the U.S., but due to poor management practices throughout the 1800s and competition from other tree species, the shortleaf pine range has dwindled from 70-80 millions in 1896 to a mere 6 million acres today. Ecosystems dominated by shortleaf pine also serve as an important habitat for five threatened or endangered species, such as the red-cockaded woodpecker, as well as 20 species of concern among conservationists.

Launched in the spring of 2013, the Shortleaf Pine Initiative is a collaborative, strategic and energetic response to the dramatic decline of shortleaf pine forests and associated habitats that once covered a vast area from eastern Texas to Florida and up the eastern seaboard to New Jersey. The Shortleaf Pine Initiative represents a broad range of public and private organizations as well as key state and federal agencies currently working in the shortleaf pine ecosystem.

You can read the plan HERE.

Iowa Quail Harvest Highest Since 2007

 

This past season Iowa’s quail hunters enjoyed their best hunting since 2007, according to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

Hunters harvested an estimated 28,400 quail in 2015, which was a 165 percent increase over 2014. The large increase in quail harvest was predicted by the August roadside survey which counted the highest number of quail in 21 years. 

“We expected to see more quail harvested based on the August roadside survey and our current trend of mild winters,” said Todd Bogenschutz, upland wildlife research biologist for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. 

Bogenschutz uses a population model that considers total winter snowfall, and spring rainfall and temperature data to estimate winter survival and nesting success, plus the annual August roadside survey that counts actual pheasants, quail, cottontail, jackrabbit and partridge staff see along the 218 30-mile routes.  

“We know, given certain snowfall and rainfall amounts, with a degree of certainty, how the upland populations are likely to react, based on 50 years of data. Given the mild winter and below normal rainfall, potential for upland birds looks good for the fall right now for the east central, southeast and south central regions. The western third had more rain and more snow so the potential looks less,” he said. 

“Anecdotally, staff and landowners have been reporting more roosters crowing and male bobwhite calling across the southern third of Iowa this spring, which is a sign of good overwinter survival. The best predictor will be this August when we conduct our roadside survey. But I like the direction the model is pointing.”

 

The Oaks & Prairies Joint Venture’s Grassland Restoration Incentive Program, or GRIP, is making a difference for bobwhites, grassland songbirds and butterflies … and the bobwhite is often the leading attractant for landowner participants. (The National Bobwhite Technical Committee presented OPJV their Group Achievement Award in 2014 for their commitment to integrated habitat conservation.) Check it out HERE.

Beginning this month, officials with Kisatchie National Forest in Louisiana (a 2014 winner of NBCI’s National Fire Bird Conservation Award) will launch an initiative to restore and increase the acreage of longleaf pine over the next couple of decades through partnerships with federal agencies and private landowners. Check it out HERE.