NBCI News

NBCI Recognizes Individuals, Entities in Six States With 2015 National Fire Bird Conservation Awards

 GALLOWAY, New Jersey — The contributions to wild bobwhite restoration by entities and/or individuals in six National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI) member-states claimed NBCI National Fire Bird Conservation Awards during ceremonies at the annual meeting of the nation’s bobwhite experts here recently.

Award recipients are nominated by the respective NBCI-member state’s quail coordinator for their contributions to that state’s efforts toward habitat-based restoration of wild bobwhite populations on a landscape scale.

“NBCI provides this avenue for states to recognize and thank those making meaningful contributions to the science-based restoration agenda, and perhaps help encourage others to join their efforts,” said NBCI Director Don McKenzie. “We need as many individuals, agencies and organizations as possible actively contributing to this unified 25-state strategy.”

The award’s name symbolizes the historic reliance of bobwhites on fire in much of its range to maintain the landscape in an “early successional” stage, that is, in the native grasses, wildflowers and “beneficial weeds” providing bobwhites with suitable habitat. Both wildfires and fires intentionally set by landowners to clear farm fields and woodlots historically resulted in abundant habitat for bobwhites, as well as other wildlife. The term “fire bird” in relation to bobwhites was first coined by naturalist Herbert Stoddard, who researched bobwhites and worked to restore bobwhite habitat in the early 20th Century.

Today, “prescribed” fire under controlled conditions by trained professionals has become an increasingly important tool for helping create and manage habitat for bobwhites, as well as a suite of songbirds, pollinators and other wildlife that require early successional habitats to survive.

2015 award recipients were:

FLORIDA – Upland Ecosystem Restoration Project Steering Committee

Florida Fire Bird Award_FOR WEBFlorida’s Upland Ecosystem Restoration Project (UERP) Steering Committee has provided the leadership in increasing the use of prescribed fire on the landscape and having over 110,000 acres of public lands managed for bobwhites.

UERP is a cooperative partnership between the Florida Forest Service, Florida Park Service, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, U.S. Forest Service and Tall Timbers Research Station to improve populations of bobwhites and other declining species on public lands throughout Florida.

Florida leads the nation in the application of prescribed fire, issuing over 100,000 burn authorizations allowing landowners and state and federal agencies to conduct prescribed burning on an average of 2 million acres each year. Most importantly, a large percentage of these acres are burned on a 1 – 3 year frequency in an effort to maximize the early successional habitat these species require, a primary objective of the UERP Steering Committee.

UERP Steering Committee membersinclude: Jim Karels, director, Florida Forest Service; Parks Small, chief, Florida Park Service; Eric Sutton, assistant executive director, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission; Marianne Gengenbach, program administrator, Florida Division of State Lands; Dr. Bill Palmer, president/CEO, Tall Timbers Research Station; and

Lane Green, North Florida Prescribed Fire Council Steering Committee. 

KENTUCKY – Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill

Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill (SVPH) is one of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources’ (KDFWR) strongest allies in bobwhite restoration. Beginning in 2009, SVPH began the transition from the cattle business into a wildlife habitat management role, specifically focusing on bobwhite. Fast-forward six years and with more than 1,000 acres of high quality bobwhite habitat on the ground, SVPH is now known locally, regionally and nationally as one of the largest quail restoration success stories in the country.

KDFWR has used SVPH as a springboard to validate its 10-year quail restoration plan, “Road to Recovery.” The property has been a proving ground to demonstrate that habitat restoration truly is the answer to restoring wild bobwhite.  Kentucky was one of a few states to pilot test the NBCI’s Coordinated Implementation Program (CIP) protocol.  Prior to pilot testing, Shaker Village was the site for the first meetings to create the national CIP and was recently home to the first ever CIP training attracting representatives for 14 states to learn about the new protocol. 

In past years, hunting was not allowed on SVPH property. Today, quail, deer, and other small game hunters are regularly seen on the property, with all proceeds from the hunts going directly to manage and maintain the SVPH habitats.

LOUISIANA — Christian Winslow & Sandy Hollow WMA Burn Team

LA Fire Bird Award_FOR WEB

Cody Cedotal of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries accepts NBCI National Fire Bird Conservation Award on behalf of Christian Winslow & Sandy Hollow WMA Burn Team

Sandy Hollow Wildlife Management Area is the state’s only WMA dedicated to bobwhites.  Winslow and his colleagues with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries’ burn team assess habitat response and burn needs annually, then conduct prescribed burns using small patch burning at a rate of 2,000 acres annually — with plans to increase burn acres in future years.

Bobwhite numbers observed in annual summer whistle counts have trended upward since the early 2000’s in response to these efforts, and under Christian’s leadership other quail friendly practices are also increasing, including fallow disking, wildlife plantings, and timber harvests. The Sandy Hollow team created and maintains some of the highest quality bobwhite habitat in the state. Sandy Hollow burn team staff includes Tommy Bruhl, Jill Day, Calvin Waskom, Wade Fitzsimmons, Jake Tate, and Jason Childress.

 

MISSOURI — Kyle Hedges and Frank Loncarich

MO Fire Bird Award_FOR WEB

Frank Loncarich, left, accepts NBCI National Fire Bird Conservation Award on behalf of himself and Kyle Hedges from Missouri quail coordinator Scott Sudkamp

As Missouri Department of Conservation public land managers with responsibility for a combined 26,000 acres in southwest Missouri, Hedges and Loncarich have demonstrated convincingly that bobwhites can be a part of a native grassland management program built upon grazing and prescribed fire. While these tools are commonly applied for bobwhite management in range country, they have often been approached with hesitation and skepticism in the Midwest, where public – and often agency – perception is that grazing is inherently bad for natural resources. Their work has clearly shown that these powerful management tools can be applied in Midwestern landscapes with positive results for grassland flora and fauna. The pair also recently proposed and earned approval for a long-term study of the effects of different native-forages grazing management styles on bobwhite breeding ecology. Now midway through the study, this project shows promise to fundamentally change MDC’s approach to quail management on many public lands.

 

TENNESSEE – Clint Borum

Tennessee quail coordinator Roger Applegate, left, presents the NBCI National Fire Bird Conservation Award to Clint Borum.

Tennessee quail coordinator Roger Applegate, left, presents the NBCI National Fire Bird Conservation Award to Clint Borum.

As a biologist for Tennessee’s Landowner Incentive Program (LIP), Borum has integrated bobwhite quail habitat into most of the private lands contracts that he has managed, and he has emerged as one of best “bobwhite arsonists” in the state. Borum averages 12 prescribed burns per year to improve bobwhite habitats, and handles many technical assistance calls from landowners annually. He also has identified how to successfully integrate quail habitat into management plans for landowners whose primary interests are often deer and turkey.

 

VIRGINIA – Robert “Bob” Glennon

Bob Glennon, left, accepts NBCI National Fire Bird Conservation Award from Virginia quail coordinator Marc Puckett

Bob Glennon, left, accepts NBCI National Fire Bird Conservation Award from Virginia quail coordinator Marc Puckett

Retired from the US Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) after years as a plant materials specialist, ecologist, natural resource planner and manager of the National Farm and Ranchland Protection Program, Robert “Bob” Glennon has contributed his expertise to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries’ Quail Team for more than four years. His emphasis is on outreach and he routinely attends and displays posters oriented toward quail recovery at multiple conservation events annually. He is a routine contributor to the state’s Virginia Bobwhite Bulletin page on Facebook and has spent innumerable hours mentoring the team’s young biologists, helping them develop a superior knowledge of plants and herbicides, and the role they each play in quail management.

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Headquartered at the University of Tennessee’s Institute of Agriculture, 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. Funds for NBCI are provided from a variety of sources, including the respective state wildlife agencies, the Wildlife Restoration Program and Park Cities Quail.

August 13, 2015

Two Regions Designated ‘Legacy Landscapes’

GALLOWAY, New Jersey — Decades, and in one case a century, of good land stewardship and aggressive bobwhite management and research across millions of acres on opposite ends of the bobwhite range were recognized here recently as the 34-million-acre Rolling Plains of northwest Texas and western Oklahoma and the 700,000-acre Red Hills/Albany region of north Florida and southwest Georgia were each declared a Legacy Landscape for Bobwhite Conservation.

The National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI) and its technical advisory body, the National Bobwhite Technical Committee (NBTC), announced the designations during the annual meeting of the nation’s bobwhite experts.

Accepting the Legacy Landscape designation for the Rolling Plains region were Robert Perez of the Texas Parks & Wildlife Commission and Kyle Johnson of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. NBCI Director Don McKenzie is at right.

Accepting the Legacy Landscape designation for the Rolling Plains region were Robert Perez of the Texas Parks & Wildlife Commission and Kyle Johnson of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. NBCI Director Don McKenzie is at right.

“While most of the nation’s bobwhite managers are focused on restoring diminished bobwhite habitats and populations, it’s important to remember that some regions of the country have remained bobwhite bastions, said NBCI Director Don McKenzie.  “The national bobwhite community wants to recognize and encourage long-standing efforts to conserve and maintain the remaining vast areas of existing bobwhite habitat, whether through management practices or other decisions, that provide long-term viability of not only wild bobwhite populations but also many other associated species McKenzie said. “Both the Rolling Plains and the Albany/Red Hills regions are longstanding national models for such efforts and tradition, and we commend these regions, their landowners and others for this enviable status.”

Primary criteria for the Legacy Landscape designation includes an extensive area of ecologically “contiguous” habitat that has for decades or longer supported high densities of wild northern bobwhites, a long-term tradition of purposefully implementing or maintaining land use practices that support bobwhite habitat conservation, and landowners, hunters and other stakeholders who have demonstrated strong support for quail hunting, management and/or quail research over multiple decades.

The Rolling Plains region is generally described as the area about 100 miles either side of a line from Sweetwater, TX to Sweetwater, OK. This ecoregion’s landscape holds large sections of contiguous habitat that have long supported significant bobwhite populations, and landowners have implemented purposeful bobwhite habitat management for decades. About 60% of the Rolling Plains is rangeland and 30% is cropland. The major land uses are ranching (beef cattle) and farming (mostly dryland wheat and cotton). A strong and growing research network of several institutions has also become established in the last eight years.                                                                                                                                                                                                           

Greg Hagan of the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, (left to right) Dr. Theron M. Terhune of Tall Timbers Research Station and Reggie Thackston of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources accepted the Legacy Landscape designation for the Albany/Red Hills region.

Greg Hagan of the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, (left to right) Dr. Theron M. Terhune of Tall Timbers Research Station and Reggie Thackston of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources accepted the Legacy Landscape designation for the Albany/Red Hills region.

The Red Hills portion of the Albany/Red Hills region lies between the Aucilla and Ochlocknee rivers from Thomasville to the Cody Escarpment in Florida, while the Albany portion is located on the Dougherty Plain in southwest Georgia. This region is a unique, diverse landscape of expansive pine savanna harboring the largest bobwhite population in the southeastern U.S., with populations sustained at high densities across a contiguous managed landscape. More than 700,000 acres are managed across more than 200 properties (ranging from 300-20,000 acres) using frequent prescribed fire to mimic and restore the natural fire history. This is the only region in the Southeast that has consistently applied prescribed fire to the land in natural frequency for over 100 years and it is home to the best quality remnants of old-growth longleaf pine forests. Additionally, the region has nearly a century of bobwhite research which continues today.

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Headquartered at the University of Tennessee’s Institute of Agriculture, 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. Funds for NBCI are provided from a variety of sources, including the respective state wildlife agencies, the Wildlife Restoration Program and Park Cities Quail.

August 12, 2015

Nation’s Quail Experts Recognize Tall Timbers, Georgia DNR Work on Bobwhite Transplantation

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Dr. Theron M. Terhune of Tall Timbers Research Station and Reggie Thackston of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources accept the NBTC Award for Group Achievement

 

GALLOWAY, New Jersey — The development of an innovative transplantation or relocation policy for wild bobwhites by Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy (TTRS) and the Wildlife Resources Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources garnered an Award for Group Achievement from the National Bobwhite Technical Committee (NBTC) at its annual meeting here recently.

The entities were cited for “exemplifying collaborative efforts and thinking outside the box” in developing the ability – and process – for relocating wild bobwhites. This process is being viewed as a viable method in assisting areas or even states where wild birds have disappeared to jumpstart population recovery if there is sufficient quantity and quality of habitat.

“For years quail professionals routinely believed that wild quail transplantation had little potential to provide real gains for bobwhites,” said Past NBTC Chair and Awards Committee Chair Marc Puckett of Virginia. “Using techniques pioneered by the Albany (Georgia) Area Quail Project and TTRS in the late 1990s, they have developed an innovative approach that has resulted in the transplantation of 1,275 wild quail to five properties totaling over 18,700 acres in Georgia and Florida, and another 1,750 wild bobwhites to nine properties totaling over 70,000 acres in six other states.”

Headquartered at the University of Tennessee’s Institute of Agriculture, 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. Funds for NBCI are provided from a variety of sources, including the respective state wildlife agencies, the Wildlife Restoration Program and Park Cities Quail. 

August 12, 2015

National Quail Group Honors Kentucky Biologist

Individual Achievement Award_John Morgan_10  
   

GALLOWAY, New Jersey — John J. Morgan, small game program manager for the Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources, took home the National Bobwhite Technical Committee’s (NBTC) Award for Individual Achievement at ceremonies at the NBTC annual meeting here recently.

Described in the nomination as “a true leader in this field of quail conservation,” Morgan has not only led efforts to restore wild quail on Kentucky’s landscape but also has been instrumental in national bobwhite recovery efforts as well.

Morgan has served for years on the group’s research subcommittee, is current secretary/treasurer and incoming chair (2016) of the NBTC, has played a pivotal role in the development of the Coordinated Implementation Program (CIP) for the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI), and recently led his state in hosting a CIP habitat assessment training program for biologists from 14 other states.

A 10-year veteran of KDFWR, Morgan also helps coordinate private land habitat management activities in Kentucky. He has over 15 years of professional experience in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Florida, and Kentucky and is a certified wildlife biologist. He earned his undergraduate degree at Penn State and his Master’s at the University of Georgia.

NBTC is the technical advisory group to the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative, the habitat-based strategy of 25 state wildlife management agencies to elevate wild bobwhite restoration to regional and national levels. It meets annually to review progress and help identify opportunities and obstacles to bobwhite restoration.

Headquartered at the University of Tennessee’s Institute of Agriculture, 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. Funds for NBCI are provided from a variety of sources, including the respective state wildlife agencies, the Wildlife Restoration Program and Park Cities Quail.

August 12, 2015

National Sportsmen’s Advisory Council Urges Jewell, Vilsack to Support Bobwhite Restoration Efforts

National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI) efforts to restore wild bobwhites across their historic range received a boost on the national stage recently when the Wildlife and Hunting Heritage Conservation Council (WHHCC) urged Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to essentially adopt NBCI’s strategies on lands they manage or influence. The WHHCC is a  federally appointed group advising both departments and is composed of national hunting, conservation, industry and shooting sports leaders. The council said adoption and support of NBCI’s approach would “proactively avert problems that have occurred with other declining game bird species like Lesser Prairie-Chicken and Greater Sage-Grouse.” The council said while multi-state plans had been crafted to deal with those species because of the fear of an endangered species listing, that same situation with bobwhites could be avoided by being proactive.  To reestablish bobwhites in their historic agricultural and forested settings, the council offered four strategies:

  • establish diverse native grasslands and wildflowers on idled acres of marginal croplands and other rural landscapes
  • convert up to one-third of existing tame pasture acreage to native forage grasses good for cows and quail
  • actively manage pine and oak forests on private and public lands with a goal of promoting early successional forest/grassland habitats, including timber thinning followed by routine prescribed fire to restore open forest savannas
  • mobilize Department of the Interior and Agriculture personnel to support widespread restoration of habitat for bobwhites, other grassland birds and pollinator species
“…now is the time for federal actions to prevent future ‘listing anxiety’,” wrote John Tomke, council chairman. “Your departments have the opportunity to ensure the restoration of habitat for bobwhite quail, other declining grassland birds and pollinators on private croplands, rangelands and forest lands. In addition, many National Forests, National Parks, National Battlefields, Military Parks and National Wildlife Refuges are ideal places …” “The council is spot-on when they say these federal agencies can have a huge impact on populations of bobwhites, other grassland birds and pollinators on both private and public lands,” said NBCI Director Don McKenzie. “We appreciate the council’s support and would welcome proactive participation by both the Interior and Agriculture departments.” 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.  

 

SC Chooses New ‘Quail Coordinator’

Michael Hook

Michael Hook

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.Continue reading

Georgia Forester Named NBCI Forestry Coordinator

Steve Chapman, NBCI Forestry Coordinator

Steve Chapman, NBCI Forestry Coordinator

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.

Chapman, who will work from his office in Milledgeville, GA, can be contacted at schapm16@utk.edu  or 478-451-9114.

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 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.

NBCI Hires Data Analyst for New ‘Bobwhite Information Network’

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 Eveans

Derek Eveans

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 https://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

Kentucky’s Bobwhite Restoration Efforts Model National Strategy, Says NBCI Director

… 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.

Road to Recovery

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.”

presentation

Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources Commissioner Gregory Johnson and Deputy Commissioner Dr. Karen Waldrop (shown) updated the NBCI Management Board on the state’s bobwhite restoration at its meeting during the North American Wildlife & Natural Resources Conference in Omaha, Nebraska recently. The board is comprised of director-level representation from the wildlife agencies of the 25 NBCI member states and is a key policy group for the state-driven national initiative.

“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.

NBCI Fills New Grasslands Coordinator Position

The National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI) is increasing its emphasis on the restoration of native grasses in pastures
and 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 HodgesJef 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.  

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