While the wild bobwhite quail population continues to struggle, the momentum to restore their populations range wide continues to grow with several important pieces falling into place over the last year, according to Don McKenzie, director of the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI).
In the new issue of NBCI’s Bobwhite Almanac, State of the Bobwhite 2013, McKenzie recounts the increasing number of active partnerships supporting habitat work, major donations to critical bobwhite support functions, the growing national coalition aimed at changing federal agriculture policy to benefit bobwhites and other grassland species, and NBCI’s official entry into the arena of mine reclamation for grasslands wildlife among other advancements.
South Carolina’s fall 2013 launch of a new initiative aimed at landscape-scale restoration of wild bobwhites is among several positive highlights for the species in the newest NBCI report. The Almanac details South Carolina’s upcoming push in 30 counties, aimed primarily at management activities on forested lands with the creation of forest/woodland savannas, and agricultural lands utilizing field borders and conversion of exotic grass pastures to native warm-season grasses.
The Almanac also examines the impact of federal agriculture policy on bobwhites, with NBCI Agriculture Policy Coordinator Kyle Brazil writing, “The continued existence of meaningful populations of bobwhites, as well as an entire suite of grassland birds, depends in large part on our ability to influence (federal) policy.
That policy has subsidized the planting of millions of acres of exotic grasses to the exclusion of native grasses and to the detriment of bobwhites and other grassland species. Integrating native grasses back into America’s pasturelands is one of NBCI’s major objectives in concert with other conservation groups.
NBCI Forestry Coordinator Mike Black also examines the enormous potential of forest management practices to positively affect quail populations.
“While we typically think of classic bobwhite habitat in an agricultural setting … our best habitat work on behalf of bobwhites will actually occur in the forested landscapes from New Jersey to Texas and Oklahoma to Florida,” contends Black. “Much of this is already occurring, often with very positive results for quail.”
The Almanac highlights examples of forest management that are increasing bobwhite populations, including shortleaf pine ecosystem restoration on the Ouachita National Forest in Arkansas and a similar project with longleaf pine on a wildlife management area in Alabama.
Also detailed in the Almanac is the effort by six states – Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri, Texas and Virginia – to pilot NBCI model focal areas that will, for the first time, couple large-scale habitat management with collaborative monitoring. The new report is available for viewing at www.bringbackbobwhites.org, and printed copies are available for purchase at http://bringbackbobwhites.org/donate-2/online-store.
The Southeastern Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies (SEAFWA) has voted unanimously to endorse member states’ fully funding the core operations of the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI) for an initial three-year period. This non-binding resolution paves the way for the states to build their national bobwhite restoration initiative to the full strength originally envisioned, while the fledgling Bobwhite Foundation attracts donors and eventually matures into the ability to fund the 25-state effort.
SEAFWA’s primary membership is the state wildlife management agencies of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia, and SEAFWA is the entity that originally launched the cooperative multi-state approach to restore wild bobwhite quail populations. Two other regional associations of state wildlife agencies – the Northeastern and Midwest – also endorse the NBCI, and several of their states actively participate.
NBCI Management Board Chairman and executive director of the Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries, Bob Duncan, said support for fully funding the initiative by state wildlife management agencies is appropriate because the bobwhite is a game bird for which the states have legal responsibility, the NBCI is an initiative “by the states for the states,” quail conservation is beneficial to a variety of other priority species in decline and NBCI staff can be most effective when concentrating on bobwhite conservation rather than fundraising.
“Unified, elevated support of the NBCI by the states also will inspire confidence in potential donors to the Bobwhite Foundation,” said Duncan.
To date, NBCI member states have chipped in to pay for the director position while the rest of the NBCI capacity is supported by short-term grants, such as from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Park Cities Quail chapter of the Texas Quail Coalition.
“The time is right for the states to step up en mass and raise their NBCI support to a higher level,” Duncan said. “Such leadership by the bobwhite states would send a clear signal to their partners and sportsmen that bobwhite restoration is a top priority. NBCI’s small staff has made enormous strides at the national and regional levels to help states identify and deal with obstacles and opportunities in the bobwhite restoration effort. But bobwhites didn’t disappear overnight and they won’t reappear overnight.
“What NBCI staff is doing for bobwhites is what no state can do alone … keep the species in the national conservation dialogue, and continue to identify national and regional opportunities to restore wild populations and do so with the cumulative weight of 25 states. NBCI needs to spend more time on behalf of bobwhites and the states, and less time trying to find continued funding. We also need to be much more active in grasslands issues, in mine reclamation issues, and in building and maintaining the online tools and national bobwhite databases the states need,” said Duncan.
Headquartered at the University of Tennessee, NBCI is a project of the National Bobwhite Technical Committee (NBTC) to elevate bobwhite quail recovery from an individual state-by-state proposition to a range-wide, policy-level leadership endeavor. The committee is comprised of representatives of state fish and wildlife agencies, academic research institutions and non-governmental conservation organizations. Policy guidance is provided by the NBCI Management Board, with each state wildlife agency director represented. NBCI is funded by the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation, two dozen state wildlife management agencies, the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Southern Company and the Park Cities Chapter of the Texas Quail Coalition.
Bob Duncan, executive director of the Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries, is the new chairman of the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative’s Management Board.
Duncan replaces Dr. Jon Gassett, commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources, who recently resigned to accept a position with the Wildlife Management Institute. The NBCI board is comprised of the commissioner/director of each of the 25 state wildlife agencies in the NBCI region, or their designees. Meeting twice a year, their role is to provide high-level policy guidance to the national effort to restore wild bobwhites.
Duncan, a Radford, Virginia, native who has spent 36 of his 40-year wildlife career with the department, served as chief of wildlife for 18 of those years after initial stints in both Kansas and Tennessee. A certified wildlife biologist, he has served as president of the Southeastern Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies and as president of the Southeastern Section of The Wildlife Society. The Virginia chapter of The Nature Conservancy recently honored Duncan with its Conservation Leadership and Partnership Award, and the Virginia Chapter of Ducks Unlimited named him Conservationist of the Year in July.
“The NBCI is providing critical national leadership and coordination for restoring wild bobwhites, a high conservation priority for Virginia and many other states,” said Duncan. “I’m excited and pleased for this opportunity to chair the NBCI Management Board that supports and helps guide this important state initiative, and work with the superb NBCI staff as we continue accelerating the pace of restoration.”
“While we are certainly sad to lose Jon Gassett’s leadership on our board,” said NBCI Director Don McKenzie, “Bob Duncan is a very respected, highly visible and influential figure in American wildlife management. He’s been very vocal about the importance of coordinated state efforts through the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative to restore wild bobwhites and we look forward to working closely with him in his new role.”
PORTLAND, OR -- The Buffalo, Missouri-based Quail and Upland Wildlife Federation (QUWF) stepped up support of national efforts to restore wild bobwhite quail populations recently, signing a formal agreement in support of the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI) during the annual meeting of the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies.
In the agreement, signed by QUWF Founder/Executive Director Craig Alderman and NBCI Management Board Chairman Dr. Jon Gassett during a regular meeting of the management board, the organization pledged to adopt and work with their local chapters to provide on-the-ground support of the NBCI Model Focal Area program in their respective states. The focal area approach is the new strategy being developed by the wildlife management agencies of the 25 NBCI-member states to increase wild quail populations at a landscape level.
“QUWF is dedicated to improving habitat for multiple species of upland game, from deer and turkey to quail and rabbits,” said Alderman. “Everything done to help quail also helps other upland species in some way, and this gives our chapters the opportunity to leverage our impact on the habitat.”
“From the beginning we’ve been very clear that the coordinated, on-the-ground support from our private conservation partners would be crucial in improving wild bobwhite quail numbers at the landscape scale,” said NBCI Director Don McKenzie. “NBCI and the states look forward to identifying specific focal areas in the bobwhite range where QUWF chapters can target on-the-ground support. This is another big step for wild bobwhite restoration.
Founded in 2009, the Quail and Upland Wildlife Federation, Inc. is a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) conservation organization that emphasizes and supports the work of its chapters to create and manage upland habitat at the local level. For more information or to join QUWF, visit the organization’s website at www.quwf.net.
Headquartered at the University of Tennessee, NBCI is a project of the National Bobwhite Technical Committee (NBTC) to elevate bobwhite quail recovery from an individual state-by-state proposition to a range-wide, policy-level leadership endeavor. The committee is comprised of representatives of state fish and wildlife agencies, academic research institutions and non-governmental conservation organizations. NBCI is funded by the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation, the state wildlife management agencies, the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, the Quail Coalition and Southern Company. For more information, please visit www.bringbackbobwhites.org
Texas Quail Group Supports NBCI Ag Policy Efforts with $75,000 Grant
The Dallas-based, non-profit Park Cities Quail (PCQ) organization has awarded the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI) $75,000 to support its efforts to educate federal agriculture policymakers in the nation’s capital regarding farm policy impacts on bobwhite quail and other wildlife species.
“The PCQ assistance is critical,” said NBCI Director Don McKenzie. “The way federal agriculture policy is made and implemented using our tax dollars may be the single most powerful influence on wildlife and wildlife habitat on private lands across America,” McKenzie said. “That policy can be a negative influence or it can be a positive influence. To date, unfortunately, it’s been more of the former for bobwhite quail and a long list of songbirds, pollinators and other wildlife species.
“Park Cities Quail’s support will help us continue our efforts in Washington on behalf of bobwhites, while we seek the additional support required to remain engaged long-term with USDA in, for instance, incorporating common sense changes such as drought-tolerant, wildlife-friendly native grasses in their policies. That could be the single biggest positive step for quail and other wildlife species in decades.”
The NBCI grant was one of 10 totaling $770,000 PCQ awarded to various efforts on bobwhites’ behalf. The funds were raised at the organization’s annual dinner and auction in March in Dallas, which draws 1,000 sportsmen annually. For more information on PCQ and other grants, please visit http://goo.gl/ioYTrX .