Substantial progress is being made on the bobwhite restoration front through two national initiatives that some might find surprising – the restoration of native longleaf and shortleaf pine forests in their historic ranges. And the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI) is playing an integral role in both, says NBCI Director Don McKenzie.
On July 22, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will moderate a panel discussion in Washington, DC on the last five years of
progress in restoring the nation’s longleaf pine forests, a historically fertile ground for coveys of bobwhites. NBCI Forestry Coordinator Mike Black, in his role as chair of the Longleaf Partnership Council, will be one of the five panelists, “a reflection of NBCI’s active role in longleaf pine forest restoration,” says NBCI Director Don McKenzie.
“The bottom line is that after decades of decline and loss in net longleaf pine acreage, the net acreage for longleaf has begun to increase on a range-wide basis,” said McKenzie, “and that expansion is expected to continue. That’s good news for bobwhites.
“From the beginning, NBCI identified active, purposeful forest management, especially of southern pines, as the most potentially fertile ground for expansion of bobwhite habitat on a landscape scale, hence the NBCI ‘forestry coordinator’ position,” said McKenzie. “Decisions are made by the people who show up, and NBCI has been there representing bobwhites as decisions are made in these two initiatives. And that will pay dividends for bobwhite populations.”
Because of the enormous habitat potential, NBCI and bobwhites have been “at the table” consistently with both the longleaf pine initiative and the newer “shortleaf pine initiative,” with NBCI’s Black actively involved as “senior conservationist” with the shortleaf effort. The shortleaf initiative is expected to deliver a range-wide restoration plan in September. A job announcement has been posted for a director of that initiative, which will be headquartered at the University of Tennessee’s Institute of Agriculture, where NBCI is headquartered.
“Most people think of bobwhites in a strictly agricultural setting and that really isn’t the case historically,” said Black. “When fire-dependent longleaf and shortleaf pine forests blanketed millions of acres, those forests were often thick with bobwhites. The frequent fire necessary for both species’ seeds to sprout also created conditions favorable to native grasses and forbs, the ground level conditions required by bobwhites. These pines are slow growing, but also tremendously valuable in the market, which should interest landowners who want a financial return on their efforts but also value wildlife.”
Longleaf pine forests alone once encompassed more than 90 million acres of the North American landscape. Today, only three percent, or 3.4 million acres, remain and, yet, longleaf pine forests represent some of the world's most biologically diverse ecosystems, providing critical habitat for 29 threatened and endangered species. Also biologically diverse, shortleaf pine forests once covered 281 million acres in 24 states, but have been reduced to six million acres today.
Bobwhite experts from around the country will converge in West Des Moines, IA July 29-August 1 for the 2014 meeting of the National Bobwhite Technical Committee (NBTC).
Theme of the meeting is “Living on the Edge,” a reference to where the northern edge of the quail range meets the transitional edge between grasslands, forests and agriculture, according to Todd Bogenschutz, who is coordinating the event on behalf of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. Iowa is one of 25 member states of the NBTC, the technical group guiding the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI), and West Des Moines will be the farthest north the bobwhite group has convened for its annual meeting.
Expected to be a central topic is the new NBCI Coordinated Implementation Program (http://goo.gl/wcQJBh). It was adopted by the NBCI Management Board – representing state wildlife agency directors -- in March. The voluntary program lays out a specific, step-by-step roadmap for identifying and developing NBCI Bobwhite Focal Areas, along with measures of success, for impact on a landscape scale. And although the primary target is the bobwhite, the program’s impacts extend far beyond bobwhites to include a suite of declining songbirds, pollinators and other species. Six states, including Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri, Texas and Virginia, beta tested the approach in 2013 and are moving forward with implementation. Oklahoma and Nebraska are expected to join in, and other states are primed to make announcements as well.
“I think some people will perhaps be surprised at some of the states that step up to the plate on this new program, developed by the states themselves, to make restoration attempts at a landscape scale more clear cut, definable and measurable,” said NBCI Director Don McKenzie. “The NBCI states run the gamut from the second largest state in the U.S. to the second smallest, and they cover a landscape that varies from the cornfields of the Midwest to the rangelands of Texas and the longleaf pine of the South. The variety is incredible.”
A wide range of additional issues will also be discussed in the context of bobwhite conservation and habitat management, including forest management, agriculture policy, grassland and grazing lands issues.
NBCI will also debut its National Fire Bird Conservation Awards program in Iowa. The program gives state quail coordinators the opportunity to recognize an individual, group or entity that has made “significant contributions” to the advancement of “the habitat-based, landscape-scale restoration of wild bobwhites.” (The term “fire bird” was first coined by biologist Herbert Stoddard, who published the first comprehensive study of bobwhites in 1931 and made the connection between the bobwhite’s dependency on fire on the landscape in much of its range.)
“Landscape-scale habitat restoration is exactly what we are all about,” said McKenzie. “And if there are individuals, groups or entities that are assisting the effort at that level then we want to recognize and thank them, and we want the world to know their contributions. We can’t restore wild bobwhite populations alone. It’s going to take the cooperation of many others.”
NBTC membership consists of dues-paying students or professionals (minimum bachelors degree, or currently enrolled as a student in wildlife or related science or art) employed by a state, provincial or federal agency, conservation group, or private company that has an interest in the conservation of wild bobwhites, or is self-employed with a professional interest in the conservation of wild bobwhites.
The Wildlife Society (TWS) is also offering up to 30 hours of continuing education units (CEUs) for maintenance of the “certified professional wildlife biologist” title for those certified wildlife biologists participating.
Cost of registration, including membership dues, is $250. Eligible participants can register at http://meetings.iowatws.org.
Meeting sponsors currently include Iowa State Pheasants Forever/Quail Forever, the National Wild Turkey Federation, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the Quail Coalition and King Communications.
‘Most ambitious collaboration in bobwhite conservation history’ provides specific guidance for states to show sustainable success in 5-10 years
DENVER, Colorado – Meeting at the North American Wildlife & Natural Resources Conference here Thursday, the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI) Management Board, comprised of the wildlife agency directors or their surrogates from 25 states, voted to approve the first significant addition to the 2011 national restoration plan for bobwhite quail.
The board put its stamp on the NBCI Coordinated Implementation Plan (CIP), a specific methodology for coordinated, state-level implementation of the national strategy for landscape-scale restoration of bobwhites. And the plan’s benefits will extend well beyond bobwhites, to include grassland birds, pollinators, soil health, and water quality.
The plan was developed with participation and review by every NBCI state, and partners from academia, joint ventures and research institutes over the past two-plus years. In addition, the CIP protocols were beta tested by six states – Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri, Texas and Virginia – in 2013. Oklahoma is expected to launch this year and decisions of other states are pending.
The CIP aims to demonstrate in numerous locations that within 5-10 years, management, principally of habitat, can achieve a bobwhite population level that simultaneously meets the state’s NBCI 2.0 population goals for that area and is sustainable. The CIP defines the criteria for designing and implementing a NBCI Focal Area, and establishes a standard protocol for monitoring bobwhite and grassland bird population responses to prescribed management.
Minimum standards established by the CIP for NBCI Focal Area management and/or measurements include:
“We and the states understand that the future of bobwhite conservation depends on demonstrating very soon the validity of the NBCI 2.0 habitat-based strategy and doing so in multiple locations,” said NBCI Director Don McKenzie.
“The 2011 NBCI 2.0, including the mapping of habitat potential in every state, was a monumental step for bobwhites. And the many early efforts to implement the NBCI on the ground were necessary to enable us to now more methodically engineer the next generation of on-the-ground bobwhite conservation for increased chances of success,” McKenzie said.
“The CIP provides a detailed road map for states to accomplish that in a coordinated fashion in five to 10 years. And it gives conservation groups that are truly serious about landscape-scale restoration of wild bobwhites specific targets for their resources. This is the most ambitious collaboration in bobwhite conservation history.”
The full NBCI Coordinated Implementation Plan is available at: http://bringbackbobwhites.org/component/docman/doc_details/194-nbci-coordinated-implementation-plan-2014?Itemid=128
The bobwhite habitat potential ratings maps for each state are available at: http://bringbackbobwhites.org/strategy/habitat-potential-maps
Six States -- Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri, Texas and Virginia – Tested Concept in 2013
The recent adoption and implementation this year of a tested, coordinated multi-state program for recovering populations of wild northern bobwhite quail will illustrate “once and for all” that habitat issues are the fundamental basis for the species’ decline nationally, says Don McKenzie, director of the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI).
The NBCI Coordinated Implementation Program (CIP) was approved recently by the NBCI Management Board, representing the directors of 25 state wildlife agencies, at a meeting in Denver, CO.
“The program lays out a specific methodology for coordinated, state-level implementation of the national strategy and for specific measurements of progress,” McKenzie said. “And we appreciate, recognize and congratulate the six states that stepped up to test this approach in 2013.”
The implementation program was developed with participation and review by all 25 NBCI states, and partners from academia, the federal joint ventures program and research institutes over the past two-plus years. In addition, the program’s protocols were beta tested by six states – Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources, Missouri Department of Conservation, Texas Parks & Wildlife and Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries – last year. The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and Nebraska Game & Parks are also expected to launch the program this year, and decisions of several other states are pending.
The CIP aims to demonstrate quickly – 3-10 years -- and in numerous locations that management, principally of habitat, can achieve a bobwhite population level that simultaneously meets the respective bobwhite population goals for that area and is sustainable. The CIP defines the criteria for designing and implementing a NBCI Focal Area, and establishes a standard approach for monitoring bobwhite and grassland bird population responses to prescribed management.
Minimum standards established by the CIP for NBCI Focal Area management and/or measurements include:
“Unfortunately, there continue to be many distractions for the public in discussions about the widespread bobwhite decline,” said McKenzie. “We and the state wildlife agencies understand that the future of bobwhite conservation, of bobwhites themselves, depends on demonstrating very soon and on a large scale the validity of the NBCI’s national habitat-based approach.”
McKenzie said the 2011 NBCI 2.0 national strategy, which included the mapping of bobwhite habitat potential in every state, was a “monumental” advance for bobwhites, but it became apparent additional precision was needed. “The earliest efforts to implement the NBCI on the ground enabled us to more methodically engineer this next generation of on-the-ground bobwhite conservation necessary on a landscape level, which becomes an important addition to the 2.0 document,” McKenzie said.
“The NBCI Coordinated Implementation Program provides a detailed road map for states to accomplish state-level implementation in a coordinated fashion in five to 10 years. And it gives conservation groups that are truly serious about landscape-scale restoration of wild bobwhites specific targets for their resources.”
The complete NBCI Coordinated Implementation Plan is available at: http://bringbackbobwhites.org/component/docman/doc_details/194-nbci-coordinated-implementation-plan-2014?Itemid=128
The bobwhite habitat potential maps for each state are available at: http://bringbackbobwhites.org/strategy/habitat-potential-maps
The National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI) is welcoming new faces in the bobwhite conservation community as five of the 25 NBCI states have identified new “quail coordinators” to “reload” for efforts during the new year following recent vacancies.
“As the range-wide initiative to restore bobwhites, NBCI is pleased that states continue to remain committed to the bobwhite conservation challenge by refilling these vital quail coordinator positions,” said NBCI Director Don McKenzie. “We will miss our friends and colleagues who are moving on but look forward to working with the new people who are bringing valuable energy, skills and ideas to our quail community.”
Jeff Prendergast is the new small game specialist stationed at the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism’s Hays regional office. For more than two years, Prendergast worked as a biologist technician in southeast Kansas and most recently as a district biologist in northeast Kansas. He earned his B.S. and M.S. in Biological Sciences at Emporia State University.
In his new position Prendergast will be coordinating several small game surveys and representing KDWPT on the Midwest Pheasant Study Group and the National Bobwhite Technical Committee, and will be implementing the state’s quail plan along with Jim Pitman. He will also work with the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in their Hays regional office helping them design and implement wildlife-friendly conservation practices.
Scott Sudkamp is the new small game coordinator for Missouri Department of Conservation as part of the Species
and Habitat Unit in the Wildlife Division. Sudkamp will work with department staff and partners to improve coordination and focus of efforts to manage all small game, freeing Max Alleger to concentrate more on grasslands and thus enabling MDC to increase leadership in both arenas.
Sudkamp received his Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Biology and a minor in Botany from Eastern Illinois University in 1994 and completed his M. S. degree in Zoology/Wildlife at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale in 1997. His thesis, “A Landscape-Level Assessment of Upland Habitat in Illinois,” highlighted quail and offers a beneficial perspective in this new role. In 1998, he became assistant manager for a 28,000-acre wildlife management area and two smaller areas in the southeastern corner of the Texas panhandle for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
He began his MDC career in 2002 as a wildlife biologist on conservation areas around Lamar, working with grasslands and wetlands, providing workshops to the public, managing small game, and conducting youth hunts. Two years later, Scott became a Private Lands Conservationist serving Vernon and Bates Counties. He also served as the feral hog planning section chief for the Kansas City Region and worked on various teams including Grassland Strategic Management Plan Team, Quail Technical Committee, Grassland Review Committee, MOQuail Blog Team and Missouri Chapter of The Wildlife Society Professional Development Committee. Sudkamp co-authored Quail-Friendly Plants of the Midwest, http://extension.missouri.edu/p/mp903.
With a B.S. in wildlife and fisheries ecology from Oklahoma State and 23 years experience with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, Scott Cox is the new coordinator of the state’s upland game program and will be providing technical assistance to landowners and serving as a liaison on Oklahoma State’s quail research. Cox was previously a wildlife biologist managing the Spavinaw Hills and Oologah wildlife management areas, a research biologist responsible for hunting-related activities on the Beaver River, Optima and Schultz wildlife management areas and the Rita Blanca Grasslands, and a research biologist responsible for supervising a northern bobwhite mortality study in the western portion of the state. Cox has published various quail research studies.
Stan McTaggart has been a district wildlife biologist with the Illinois DNR working with waterfowl and upland hunting sites along the Illinois River in District 8. Before his position with the Illinois DNR, he worked for the Sangamon County Soil and Water Conservation District as a biologist and coordinator with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Landowner Incentive Program (LIP) in Springfield, IL and as a term biologist for the U.S. Forest Service on the Shawnee National Forest in Vienna, IL. McTaggart earned his undergraduate degrees at Southern Illinois University - Carbondale and his MS Degree at Eastern Illinois University.
South Carolina native and Clemson biological sciences graduate Willie Simmons is the new small game project supervisor and quail coordinator for South Carolina. Simmons has been with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources for over 20 years and has extensive experience with public and private land management. Most recently, Simmons worked in Region 3 as alligator coordinator, youth hunt and mobility impaired hunt coordinator. He also was active with heritage preserves, WMA properties, prescribed fire, pesticide application, and nuisance wildlife.
Simmons fills the vacancy created when Billy Dukes, former chair of the National Bobwhite Technical Committee, was named the state’s assistant chief of wildlife. Both Simmons and Dukes will be active with national technical committee and in the implementation of the state’s new quail restoration plan.