Michael Hook is the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources’ (SCDNR) new “quail coordinator” and Small Game Program Leader. Hook filled the position left by Willie Simmons, now a regional coordinator for the wildlife section. Hook will represent South Carolina on the National Bobwhite Technical Committee and play an active role in the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative on behalf of the state,
Hook obtained a B.S. in Resource Management at Clemson University and worked as an SCDNR wildlife technician at Crackerneck Wildlife Management Area and Ecological Reserve for four years, then began a stint with the Aquatic Nuisance Species Program while earning his M.S. in Environmental Resource Management at the University of South Carolina. Following a decade as the program’s field supervisor he recently rejoined the Wildlife Section as the Small Game Program Leader overseeing the quail, dove, rabbit and fox squirrel projects.
“Every morning when I come into my office and I see that big quail poster on my door, I think to myself ‘This is my job, this is what I get to do today’ and I just have to smile,” said Hook. “To be able to get back into the wildlife field is exciting in itself but to get to work with quail, a passion of mine in the field , is really the icing on the cake. It just doesn’t get any better than making a career out of something you love.”
Michael is an avid outdoorsman who fishes and hunts for whatever is in season. He and his wife, Amanda, have a three-year-old son, Holden, and a Boykin Spaniel, Molly, who earns her keep retrieving ducks and doves, kicking up quail and woodcock, and keeping the backyard free of squirrels.
Hook can be contacted at (803) 734-3940.
Steve Chapman, a Certified Forester and a Georgia Registered Forester with 30 years of experience and a reputation of working closely with Georgia Wildlife Division biologists to create
wildlife habitat in forested settings, has been selected as the new forestry coordinator for National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI).
Chapman will promote NBCI’s forested grassland habitat objectives for bobwhites and other grassland birds at national, regional and state levels, including serving as a liaison and technical resource for state, federal and other conservation entities, engaging the U.S. Forest Service at regional and national levels to increase opportunities for bobwhite habitat projects and working to improve forest management and prescribed fire policies in support of forested grasslands habitat range-wide.
A graduate of the University of Georgia’s Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources with a B.S. in Forest Resources, Chapman worked with the Georgia Forestry Commission for 27 years before launching his own habitat management services company. Chapman is active in the Society of American Foresters, serves on the board of his local chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation, was a principal in the development of the first Longleaf Academy, served on the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) State Technical Committee and was a member of the Southeastern Forestry and Wildlife Working Group.
“This is an amazing opportunity to be a part of something historic in wildlife conservation in this country and I’m excited to be a part of it,” said Chapman.
NBCI Director Don McKenzie said the role of the forestry coordinator is critical because NBCI has identified much of the potential for bobwhite habitat restoration to be on forested lands. “Our efforts in the forestry arena have already resulted in the formalization of the new Shortleaf Initiative as an independent entity, but we still have a lot more work to do to achieve our forest management-related habitat goals.
“For the first time in NBCI’s history we are fully staffed, all in positions identified as critical to our mission by the National Bobwhite Technical Committee. We now have a science coordinator, a communications director, an agriculture liaison in Washington, D.C., a grasslands coordinator, a spatial data analyst and now a new forestry coordinator…and some resources for them to be effective. This will allow us to pursue all of our habitat restoration strategies for wild bobwhites, especially the forest, grazing lands, cropland components, much more aggressively than before and be of greater value to the 25 NBCI member states,” McKenzie said.
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 coordinated, 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. For more information, please visit www.bringbackbobwhites.org and find us on Facebook, YouTube and Slideshare.
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
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) 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.
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
The National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI) is increasing its emphasis on the restoration of native grasses in pasturesand 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.”
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.