‘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
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.
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.
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.
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