The National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI) has hired a researcher from Southern Illinois University (SIU) Carbondale, Derek Evans, as the program’s new data analyst. Evans will begin work April 16.

 
Derek Evans  

Evans has a B.S. and an M.S. in forestry from SIU, and brings several years of experience in field research and using a range of software programs and programming languages to build, access and automate natural resource databases. Among his responsibilities will be managing the NBCI 2.0 ArcGIS database, assisting states in planning and implementing NBCI focal areas, developing databases, programs and software tools that will aid states with NBCI focal areas and other projects, and working with NBCI Science Coordinator Tom Dailey and the Research Subcommittee of the National Bobwhite Technical Committee on various other needs.

Evans will be headquartered with the Information Technology Services (ITS) unit of the University of Tennessee’s Institute of Agriculture in Knoxville. “This is an exciting opportunity for our group” said Chief Information Officer Robert Ridenour. “ITS has been working in the GIS and spatial data development arenas and having Derek in our group will strengthen this position while providing him access to skills and tools to create groundbreaking data solutions for NBCI programs.”   

“This fills a critical gap,” said NBCI Director Don McKenzie. “Derek will take the lead in creating 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. We will be able to demonstrate and precisely measure grassland bird response to habitat management. And we appreciate the hard work and support of UTIA’s ITS personnel in making this work.”

To learn more about NBCI focal areas, visit http://bringbackbobwhites.org/strategy/nbci-2-0 and scroll down to Coordinated Implementation Program.

To learn more about NBCI 2.0 ArcGIS data, visit http://databasin.org/ and search on NBCI.

April 9, 2015

 

... Up to 779% Increase in State Focal Areas

The Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife’s new five-year benchmark report on their 10-year bobwhite restoration plan is evidence that large-scale habitat restoration is not only possible, but it is the answer to the bobwhite decline and should be viewed as a  model, says National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI) Director Don McKenzie.

Kentucky used basic habitat renovation techniques – but on a large scale -- primarily prescribed burning and herbicide applications, but also plantings of native grasses and wildflowers, mowing, disking and cattle grazing. In the state’s five formally monitored quail focus areas, bobwhite increases ranged from 14% in the Livingston County Quail Focus Area to 779% in the Hart County Quail Focus Area in the first five years.

“Kentucky’s approach is what the states have agreed, through NBCI, is the appropriate approach to genuine wild bobwhite restoration on a landscape scale,” said McKenzie. “Prior failures in numerous states have been typified by small-scale efforts that lacked proper implementation, maintenance and connectivity. Bobwhites require larger-scale, continuing habitat efforts across multiple states to be successful long-term on America’s landscape.  Kentucky’s efforts reestablish native vegetation and replicate or mimic the way people managed that vegetation in earlier times when bobwhites were abundant. I would urge anyone interested in bobwhites -- or the suite of songbirds or other wildlife species that depend on this kind of habitat -- to study Kentucky’s report and take its lessons to heart.”

“We couldn’t be more pleased by the progress in the first five years of the plan’s implementation,” said John Morgan, small game program coordinator. “Tremendous teamwork by department staff and partners made what many believed to be impossible, possible. Our short-run goals were to establish proof-of-concept that habitat at the right scale can work, and to generate a feeling of hope among Kentuckians.  We think we accomplished those objectives, but we have a long way to go to restore bobwhite to meaningful levels across the Commonwealth. “

“Our charge going forward is to get involved, get inspired, and get dirty,” said Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources Commissioner Gregory K. Johnson.  “You will find we have been very successful in areas where we focused on quail habitat creation, enhancement, and restoration on larger landscape scales,” said Johnson. “Nothing worth doing is ever easy; this is worth doing.”

Biologists say in the case of Livingston County they attempted to manage too much – 40,813 acres – as a focal area to be able to show quick results in just a five-year period with available resources. They have scaled the focus area down to 6,000 acres and made the remainder of the 40,813 acres the state’s first NBCI Bobwhite Focal Landscape.

Biologists say success of the Hart County area was tied directly to large-scale habitat improvement – nearly 3,000 of the 19,827-acres of the total focal area – brought about by landowner participation in the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP), which makes annual payments to landowners who voluntarily retire acreage … and, in this case, destroyed non-native fescue grass and re-planted native grasses and wildflowers. Biologists say it’s the largest grasslands restoration in the state’s history.

Other focus areas included: the 2,855-acre Shaker Village Quail Focus Area, a 150% increase; the 21,860-acre Peabody WMA Quail Focus Area, a 56% increase; and 14,517-acre Bluegrass Army Depot Quail Focus Area, a 52% increase.

The sixth of the state’s focal areas, the 14,416-acre Clay WMA Quail Focus Area, was not part of formal monitoring efforts during the first five years, but biologists say covey flush rates have jumped 300% since 2010.

The state’s full report can be viewed on NBCI’s website at  http://goo.gl/qqs6zr

 

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 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 University of Tennessee and Park Cities Quail.

The National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI) and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP) have joined forces in the nation’s capital to address national issues critical to wild bobwhite restoration.

“Many of the barriers to and opportunities for broad-scale restoration of bobwhites and grassland birds are rooted in decisions made – or not made – by the federal government, too often in the absence of credible information about bobwhite and grasslands wildlife conservation needs,” said NBCI Director Don McKenzie. “It is vital to the 25 NBCI states that key barriers and opportunities be effectively addressed.”

TRCP Senior Director of Science and Policy Tom Franklin will be the 25-state bobwhite initiative’s “face” in the nation’s

 
   

capital. A certified wildlife biologist, Franklin has extensive experience in conservation policy and is widely known in Washington, including as field director and policy director of The Wildlife Society for 22 years, and in his role on the Wildlife and Hunting Heritage Conservation Council advising the secretaries of the US Departments of Agriculture and Interior.

“TRCP is a coalition of many of the top conservation groups in the country and is a well-known and well-respected entity in Washington and around the country,” said McKenzie. “This new partnership enables NBCI to enlist the support and assistance not only of TRCP but also of numerous other conservation groups, while adding NBCI’s strengths to address common priorities of the alliance. And Tom Franklin has a lifetime of unparalleled conservation policy experience. Wild bobwhite restoration on a landscape scale -- which is what we’re about -- needs that level of experience and visibility to inform and educate decision makers.” 

"The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership is excited to partner with NBCI and help advance national policies that restore bobwhite habitat," said Whit Fosburgh, TRCP President and CEO.

Added Franklin, "Restoring abundant bobwhite populations to their historic strongholds is a challenge crucial to all who have shared the thrill of flushing a covey of bobs behind a pointing dog. I am pleased to join the NBCI team that is working tirelessly to ensure that we will again hear the bobwhite whistle throughout rural America."

The new national partnership is also facilitated and strengthened by a grant of private funds from the Park Cities Quail chapter of the Quail Coalition in Texas, said McKenzie. “Park Cities Quail’s mission focuses primarily on conserving Texas quail, but we greatly appreciate the organization stepping up with strong support of the NBCI and bobwhite conservation at this national level. This endeavor illustrates the comprehensive network of partnerships and collaboration nationally and among the 25 states necessary to meet a challenge as daunting as bobwhite restoration.”

“Through its fund raising and allocation of grants, Park Cities Quail, a chapter of Quail Coalition, is dedicated in its efforts to reverse the decline of the bobwhite quail,” said Jay Stine, coalition executive director.  “We understand the importance of having a voice in Washington, D.C., and feel that Tom Franklin will work with our same determination for our beloved bobwhite.  We are honored to be a part of this alliance by assisting with funding for an advocate for bobwhite quail in the nation’s capital.”

Franklin will fill the position of Agriculture Liaison for the NBCI, working as support staff and implementation leader for the Agriculture Policy Subcommittee of the National Bobwhite Technical Committee, the technical brain trust behind 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 range-wide leadership endeavor. The committee is comprised of representatives of 25 state wildlife agencies, various academic research institutions and private conservation organizations. Financial support for NBCI is provided by the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Program, state wildlife agencies, the University of Tennessee and Park Cities Quail. For more information, please visit www.bringbackbobwhites.org.  

About TRCP

Inspired by the legacy of Theodore Roosevelt, the TRCP is a coalition of organizations and grassroots partners working together to preserve the traditions of hunting and fishing. For more information, please visit http://www.trcp.org/.  

About Park Cities Quail

Park Cities Quail (PCQ) is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization run by Dallas, TX-area volunteers who are passionate about our sporting tradition and are determined to make it available to future generations. By being completely volunteer, we are able to donate virtually 100% of every dollar raised towards quail research and youth education. In the past eight years this group of individuals has raised and donated over $4,500,000 directly to our cause! PCQ also spawned Quail Coalition, a statewide organization which now boasts 13 chapters and over 4,000 members. For more information, please visit http://www.parkcitiesquail.org/.

The National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI) is increasing its emphasis on the restoration of native grasses in pasturesNew NBCI Grasslands Coordinator Jef Hodgesand on range management with the recent hire of a new “grasslands coordinator” to work with resource managers and constituent groups at national and regional levels.

Jef Hodges, a Missouri-based wildlife biologist with experience in the commercial native plant seed market as well as years of experience in leading bobwhite habitat development across a broad section of the U.S., will work to build partnerships among the livestock industry, forage/range groups and extension agents to bring wildlife benefits that come with native plants back to agricultural operations. He will also build an information clearinghouse on native grasslands, grazing lands, and prescribed fire.

A certified wildlife biologist, Hodges has a B.S. in Fisheries and Wildlife from the University of Missouri and worked with the Missouri Department of Conservation in native grass restoration, as a plant manager and marketer with a native seed company in Missouri, as a regional director and biologist (covering Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota and Wisconsin) with the former Quail Unlimited conservation group, and owner/manager of his own company, Total Resource Management, LLC. He is a certified technical service provider by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), serves on the NRCS State Technical Committee in Missouri, the Missouri Prescribed Fire Council and is a member of the Quail and Upland Wildlife Federation, Quail Forever, the Conservation Federation of Missouri and the Quality Deer Management Association. He was Quail Unlimited’s Top Regional Director in 1996 and Employee of the Year in 2000.

“My job will be to work at regional and national levels to integrate native grasses back into forage-producing and other open grassland landscapes,” said Hodges, “while emphasizing not only the various environmental and wildlife benefits of doing so but also the direct financial benefits to producers.”

“There are roughly 120 million acres of ‘improved’ pasture land across the bobwhite’s range, where native grasses have been replaced with non-native, shallow-rooted, thatch grasses like fescue,” said NBCI Director Don McKenzie.  “Not only are these aggressive introduced forage grasses bad for wildlife, especially quail, they are vulnerable to weather extremes.  Many cattle producers faced economic catastrophe in the 2012 drought, a story that made headlines around the country when they couldn’t feed their cattle or had to buy expensive hay from out of state or even had to sell their herds. We believe if these producers had put just a third of their pasture operations in deep-rooted, drought-resistant native grasses they would have had a different experience. And that’s one of NBCI’s key objectives in our commitment to habitat-based restoration of wild bobwhites.”

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 range-wide leadership endeavor. The committee is comprised of representatives of 25 state wildlife agencies, various academic research institutions and private conservation organizations. Financial support for NBCI is provided by the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Program, state wildlife agencies, the University of Tennessee and Park Cities Quail. For more information, please visit www.bringbackbobwhites.org.  

A policy long sought by the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI) -- and just this week approved by the Farm
Service Agency (FSA) – makes over 3.6 million additional acres in 24 of the 25 NBCI states eligible for the federal Conservation Reserve Program’s (CRP) Habitat Buffers for Upland Birds practice (CP-33), commonly known as “Bobwhite Buffers.”

 
 
   

Essentially, CP-33 (which was originally established in 2004 at the urging of NBCI) allows agricultural landowners to contract with FSA to use marginal borders of working cropland for grassland wildlife habitat in exchange for annual rental payments. Specifically, the policy change now allows inclusion of the un-irrigated corners of crop fields irrigated with center pivot irrigation systems without those corners being connected by field borders also enrolled in the program. Previously those corners had to be connected by 30-foot field border strips, an impractical requirement. FSA, which administers the program, said “studies suggest that the shapes of these patches and their proximity to each other create an attractive environment for the birds, even without the connecting strips.”

“After many years of effort we got the pivot-corner practice we have been asking FSA to authorize in the Continuous CRP!” said NBCI Director Don McKenzie. “This new practice is a direct result of persistent efforts by the NBCI and our founding group, the National Bobwhite Technical Committee, who led the national campaign for this practice. Although ultimate success of this practice depends on the level of landowner enrollment in priority bobwhite conservation regions, it has potential to be a very big deal for bobwhites and numerous other species in landscapes dominated by center-pivot irrigation.  It’s another major win for the NBCI, NBTC, state wildlife agencies and birds!!” FSA has already made some 250,000 acres available nationally to be enrolled in the new practice.

Every NBCI state except West Virginia can potentially benefit, with approximately 17.6 million acres of cropland irrigated with center pivot systems in 24 NBCI states.

Headquartered at the University of Tennessee’s Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries, NBCI is an initiative established by the National Bobwhite Technical Committee (NBTC) to elevate bobwhite quail recovery from an individual state-by-state proposition to a range-wide leadership endeavor. NBTC is comprised of representatives of 25 state wildlife agencies, academic research institutions and private conservation organizations. Support for NBCI is provided by the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Program, state wildlife agencies, the University of Tennessee and Park Cities Quail. For more information, please visit www.bringbackbobwhites.org,

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