NBCI News

Is USDA’s Nod to Native Grass Research Hopeful Sign for Wildlife, Producers, Consumers?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Native grasses on right, exotics on left during drought

The 25 state wildlife management agencies, various conservation groups and research institutes that together comprise the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI) areexpressing hope that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) newly-announced research on native grasses as part of drought risk management will lead to changes in the agency’s forage subsidy policies.

USDA announced 13 Conservation Innovation Grants for 2013 in April, and two of the grants link native, warm-season grasses to drought management solutions for livestock producers.  NBCI Director Don McKenzie says that could be significant because for decades USDA subsidies on millions of acres of private pasturelands have emphasized aggressive, non-native grasses that offer little habitat for wildlife and are vulnerable to drought.  Convincing USDA to adopt native, warm-season grasses as a replacement for up to a third of those subsidized acres is a major NBCI objective because of the positive impact on bobwhite quail and other wildlife, as well as producers — and consumers who end up paying higher prices for beef.

“USDA’s forage subsidy policies are one of the main causes of bobwhite quail decline rangewide,” said NBCI Director Don McKenzie, “as well as the decline of an entire suite of grassland songbirds. NBCI is working with USDA and a range of wildlife and conservation organizations to promote policies that benefit both producers and wildlife.”

The issue came into sharper focus in 2011-2012 as the drought left livestock producers across the country’s midsection with pastures full of drought-stricken cool-season exotics and no way to feed their herds. NBCI responded with a coalition of 30 conservation groups urging the USDA to shift a portion of their subsidies toward replanting drought-stricken pastures in drought-tolerant native forage grasses instead of the traditional exotics.

“If native grasses had been a substantial part of the agricultural mix we wouldn’t have seen so many producers in so much trouble during the drought,” said McKenzie, “… and we would have seen more quail and grassland songbirds. And taxpayers would not have to foot such a large bill for re-planting the same pastures that will again die during the next drought.”

One USDA grant of $398,714 went to a team of researchers at the University of Tennessee that included the Center for Native Grasslands Management and animal and plant scientists to study the integration of native, warm-season grasses in the “cow-calf production area” of Tennessee/Arkansas/Kentucky. The objective is to deliver “a comprehensive and transformative approach to forage production,” … (and to) “make a substantial impact on their ability to respond to droughts over the long-term.”  Grazing demonstrations will include a variety of native, warm-season grasses.

A second USDA grant of $400,153 went to Mississippi State University to demonstrate the drought mitigation impacts of native grasses utilized in both grazing systems and confined feeding operations for beef cattle compared with cool season forages.

Meanwhile, studies have already shown that native, warm-season forage grasses produce competitive amounts of hay per acre compared with the exotics, cost far less per acre to grow once established because of reduced fertilizer requirements, are longer-lived (lasting 15-20 years or more with proper management), that livestock actually prefer the native grasses over the exotics, and that the natives are extremely drought resistant.

Recently, the Arkansas Farm Bureau recently advised its membership to consider incorporating native, warm-season grasses as forage in the cover story of a recent issue of Arkansas Agriculture magazine. In addition, the Texas AgriLife Extension has published several works on establishing and managing native grasses in the Lone Star State, and several state wildlife agencies, including the Missouri Department of Conservation, the Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency have pages on their websites devoted to the subject.   

Earlier this month, even the New York Times touched on the subject when reporting on Texas ranchers’ struggle with drought impacts. However, one interviewee was Texas rancher Gary Price … who has continued his profitability through the 2011-2012 drought as his cows grazed on the native grasses he restored on his ranch after seeing how resilient they were. 

“Integrating native, warm-season grasses into livestock operations is simply a commonsense approach that’s good for producers, good for wildlife, good for consumers and good for taxpayers,” said McKenzie.

New Bobwhite Foundation Gets $1M Commitment

Joe Crafton with dog and bird

 

A bobwhite enthusiast in Texas kicked off fundraising for the new Bobwhite Foundation this week with a $100,000 endowment …and a promise to match up to $1 million in “endowed”

 
 
 
 

donations from any other source within the next two years.

Joe Crafton, founder and chair of Park Cities Quail in Dallas, made the announcement via video to a meeting of the Management Board of the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI) at the North American Wildlife & Natural Resources Conference in Arlington, VA Tuesday.  A graduate of the University of Tennessee, Crafton is CEO and president of CROSSMARK, a leading sales and marketing services company in the consumer goods industry headquartered in Dallas.

In his recorded video message to the NBCI Management Board, Crafton said he had grown up in West Tennessee hunting bobwhite quail on the ancestral farm with his father, who had grown up quail hunting there with his father. His father was devastated at the quail decline, but Crafton said he personally was “thrilled” to see populations of bobwhites when he moved to the Lone Star State, where he proceeded to establish the Park Cities Quail organization. The organization has raised more than $3 million for quail research in the state. Crafton was also instrumental in the founding of the Quail Coalition, linking 12 independent, private quail groups around the state.

Crafton said there are many good things going on for quail in various states, including Florida, Georgia, the Carolinas and Kentucky, and he wants to ensure those things are communicated and coordinated as best practices across the range and to the public. Repeating outdoor columnist Tom Davis’ description of the bobwhite situation as “our greatest wildlife tragedy,” Crafton said “there are a lot of people who would like to contribute and don’t know how … my father would have contributed to the Bobwhite Foundation if it had existed … I’m confident throughout the South and Midwest we have lots of passionate quail hunters who are doing their estate planning and can contribute to this cause.” Crafton said he was supporting the foundation in honor of his father.

“Bobwhite restoration is unlike any species restoration that’s been attempted,” said NBCI Director Don McKenzie. “Deer, turkey and elk were relatively simple and straightforward. Habitat existed and we moved animals there. Much like waterfowl restoration, bobwhite restoration is a habitat issue. “Bobwhites didn’t disappear overnight and they won’t recover that way either… which means it’s a multi-year challenge requiring a long-term commitment.  This is the first critical step in assuring that the bobwhite restoration effort has reliable funding to continue long-term. Joe’s passion for bobwhites and his willingness to launch the foundation’s efforts in memory of his father are immensely important, and we are extremely thankful for his leadership in this arena,” McKenzie said.

The Bobwhite Foundation is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization established to support the goals and objectives of NBCI, primarily by recreating habitat by “reconnecting” forest management with quail, cattle production with quail, pursing quail habitat possibilities on reclaimed mine lands and communicating to the public the urgent nature of the decline of habitat for quail and other wildlife species around the nation.

Virginia Wildlife, Forestry Agencies Team Up for Bobwhites

Virginia is stepping up its part in the overall national wild bobwhite quail restoration effort with an agreement between two state agencies to target pine forests in the state’s six “bobwhite focus areas” to create habitat for bobwhites and other wildlife, while improving commercial timber value.

 
Virginia Quail Focus Areas

The Virginia Department of Forestry, an original member of the Virginia Quail Council, is assisting the Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries, a member of the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI), to identify interested private, non-industrial forest landowners in the 15 counties that comprise the state’s six quail focus areas to embrace forestry best management practices conducive to bobwhites. The practices include both pre-commercial and commercial thinning of pine stands, planting of shortleaf pine seedlings and the use of an approved herbicide in controlling hardwood undergrowth. Approved landowners can earn up to $10,000 in cost sharing for their participation.

While many think of bobwhite quail in an “agricultural” setting, open pine stands, or “savannahs,” have historically been productive locations for bobwhites — as well as rabbits, turkeys, deer and numerous other bird species. Thinning pine stands allows sunlight to reach the ground, which stimulates the growth of native vegetation quail need for food, raising their young and protection from predators. Shortleaf pine is a slow-growing species, so planting it helps keep the pine stand open longer, requiring less maintenance to preserve it as wildlife habitat.

 
Pine Savannah in Virginia

“Most farms in Virginia have more timberland than open farmland,” explained Marc Puckett, the state’s quail coordinator and chair of the National Bobwhite Technical Committee. “With commodity crop prices at all-time highs, landowners are now even less likely to devote that agricultural space to bobwhites. But their woodlands do provide a management option.

“In addition, the management practices we’re supporting for quail in this project are actually good for timber health. So it’s a win for the landowner, a win for the timber and a win for wildlife. We’re fortunate to have a state forestry agency that recognizes and promotes these ideas. We hope the program will prove successful and develop long term support.”

Mike Black, forestry coordinator for the NBCI, enthusiastically endorses the Virginia effort, saying “There is no greater opportunity in the historic range of bobwhite quail for habitat restoration than the forested landscape, and reconnecting forests with quail is one of NBCI’s top priorities. We encourage state forestry entities in all 25 NBCI states to join in examining opportunities for wildlife habitat creation on both public and private forestlands in their respective states.”

Virginia’s bobwhite focus area counties where the landowner offer is valid include Bland, Wythe, Greensville, Southampton, Sussex, Culpeper, Greene, Madison, Orange, Rappahannock, Essex, King and Queen, King William, Halifax and Augusta.

The Virginia wildlife agency provides additional information about managing forests for wildlife at

http://www.dgif.virginia.gov/quail/managing-pines-smaller.pdf and http://www.dgif.virginia.gov/quail/forest-land-habitat-management.asp.

A New Voice in D.C. for Wild Bobwhites

The National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI) has hired a certified wildlife biologist from Texas, Kyle A. Brazil, as its new agriculture policy coordinator based in Washington, D.C.Brazil’s job is to be a voice in the Beltway for wild quail to help NBCI and allies effect national agriculture policy that is more favorable to wildlife and wildlife habitat on private agricultural lands.

Brazil previously worked as the quail & grasslands birds program leader for Audubon Texas, where among his many responsibilities was the implementation of the Texas Quail Conservation Initiative and the NBCI with other partners in the state. He also served stints with Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) as a regulatory wildlife biologist, with the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute at Texas A&M as a graduate research assistant (studying the relationship of habitat structure and bobwhite productivity at the landscape scale in south Texas) and as coordinator of the South Texas Quail Associates Program, and with the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation as a research technician and research intern.

Brazil also served on the TPWD’s Upland Game Bird Advisory Council, the USDA/NRCS Texas State Technical Advisory Committee and as a member of the Oaks & Prairies Joint Venture technical committee. He earned a BS in wildlife & fisheries ecology from Oklahoma State in 2002 and an MS in range and wildlife management from Texas A&M, Kingsville, in 2006.

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. Headquartered at the University of Tennessee, NBCI is funded by the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation, two dozen state wildlife management agencies, the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and Southern Company. For more information, please visit www.bringbackbobwhites.org

NC Biologist Honored for Work On State’s Bobwhite Quail Restoration Project

A North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) biologist who has played a leading role in establishing some of the finest bobwhite quail habitat in the state has been honored with the Wildlife Management Excellence Award from the Southeastern Section of The Wildlife Society.

Technical Assistance Biologist Benjy M. Strope of White Oak, NC, an 11-year NCWRC veteran, received the award at the Southeastern Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies annual conference in Hot Springs, AR recently for his success since 2006 in establishing and managing early-successional wildlife habitat in the expansive corporate farm setting of southeastern North Carolina. The 15,980-acre project is part of North Carolina’s efforts as a member of the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI) aimed at restoring wild bobwhites at a landscape level across 25 states. 

Over the years Strope secured and managed $566,000 in North Carolina Department of Justice Environmental Enhancement Grant funding to finance the “corporate” component of the state’s Cooperative Upland Habitat Restoration and Enhancement program in the area, measurably improving water quality while simultaneously improving wildlife habitat on 1,200 of those acres. Strope has also aggressively engaged the corporate agriculture community, primarily hog operations, to demonstrate on a landscape scale that fully profitable operations can go hand-in-hand with habitat improvements such as field borders, native grasses and timber stand improvements.

Not only does the area now have one of the highest density quail populations in the state, it also supports a variety of high priority or declining songbirds — including loggerhead shrikes, American kestrels, northern harriers, dickcissels, yellow-breasted chats, eastern meadowlarks, eastern kingbirds, blue grosbeaks and indigo buntings – that require such habitat. In addition, Strope conducts “Wildlife & Water Quality” workshops for corporate farmers, family farmers and resource professionals at least once each year.

 Strope conducting a prescribed burn

“Integrating natural resource management strategies into the management of large farms will continue to be a challenging but necessary process if agricultural producers are to address wildlife and environmental quality,” said NCWRC Wildlife Division Chief David Cobb. “This is a model that can be replicated in other areas of the state and on corporate farms across the nation. The Wildlife Management Excellence Award is fitting recognition of his hard work, dedication, and leadership.”

“What Benjy Strope and the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission have done is a model in creative thinking,” said NBCI Director Don McKenzie. “It illustrates how states can adapt to various challenges in their efforts to return bobwhites and other wildlife species to our landscape.”

Strope graduated from California University of Pennsylvania with a B.S. in Wildlife Biology in 1996 and worked for the Pennsylvania Game Commission, the Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries and the Foundation for California University before going to work for NCWRC in 2001. He was named the Division of Wildlife Management Biologist of the Year in 2011.

To read more about the project on NBCI’s website, go to http://goo.gl/9H1a8. For more information on the projects of the NCWRC go to http://www.ncwildlife.org/ .

NBCI Releases State of the Bobwhite 2012

NBCI’s Bobwhite Almanac: State of the Bobwhite 2012

Highlights New State Initiatives, National Native Grass Agenda

Although bobwhite quail populations are still declining, the good news is the momentum behind range-wide restoration efforts continues to strengthen, four more states have launched NBCI-based restoration initiatives and the conservation community has set its sights on a short-term objective that, when achieved, will have a near-immediate impact on quail and other grassland wildlife across hundreds of thousands of acres.

NBCI’s Bobwhite Almanac: State of the Bobwhite 2012 is the second annual report on the status of bobwhite conservation by the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative, the unified strategy of 25 state wildlife management agencies, an assortment of research institutions and private conservation groups to restore huntable populations of wild bobwhite quail.

The report asserts a change in USDA grazing lands policy to emphasize drought-tolerant, nutrient-rich and wildlife-friendly native grasses could have the largest near-term positive impact on public wildlife resources on private lands, while simultaneously insulating producers from the economic impacts of drought. USDA subsidies on millions of acres of pasturelands traditionally emphasize the planting of aggressive, non-native grasses that offer little habitat for wildlife and are vulnerable to drought. 

“Working with USDA to show them native grasses are not only suitable for livestock operations but also soil and water conservation purposes, and grassland bird habitat, is a top priority over the next year,” said NBCI Director Don McKenzie.

“We have assembled a coalition of 30 conservation groups, including the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies, the National Wildlife Federation, The Nature Conservancy, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, the National Wild Turkey Federation and all of the quail groups, to help us push an agenda that is good for the agricultural community, good for taxpayers and good for wildlife.

“In fact, if native grasses had been a substantial part of the agricultural mix we wouldn’t have seen so many producers in trouble during this year’s drought,” said McKenzie, “… and we would have had more quail.”

State of the Bobwhite 2012 also highlights the new bobwhite restoration initiatives of four states – Georgia, Kansas, Pennsylvania and Texas – as well as Kentucky’s new interactive “bluegrass prairie” exhibit featuring a quail aviary, and the U.S. Forest Service’s ambitious new savannah/grassland ecosystem initiative at Land Between the Lakes in western Tennessee and Kentucky.

In addition, there are conservation reports from all 25 NBCI states, details about a new range-wide bobwhite habitat inventory project and a report on the economic impact of bobwhite hunting. The new report is available on the NBCI homepage at www.bringbackbobwhites.org.

New Partnership to Help Restore Bobwhite Quail

EDGEFIELD, S.C. – A ground-breaking memorandum of understanding has been signed between the NWTF and the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative to help restore bobwhite quail populations.

The partnership between the NWTF and NBCI combines a network of quail enthusiasts with proven track records of restoring and enhancing upland habitat. Efforts will take place on projects within focal areas that address the most critical conservation needs of both wild turkeys and bobwhite quail. These areas will be developed on regional, state and local levels and utilize cutting edge geospatial technology and existing partnerships to identify and implement these critical habitat projects.

“This agreement will allow us to bring together our biologists and volunteer resources with the NBCI’s professional staff to benefit both wild turkeys and bobwhite quail,” said NWTF Chief Conservation Officer James Earl Kennamer, Ph.D. “This is a tremendous win-win opportunity for conservationists and hunters of all kinds. We welcome the challenge of working with NBCI to bring back bobwhite quail to their original numbers.”

Added NBCI Director Don McKenzie: “Targeted on-the-ground efforts of our private conservation partners that are coordinated with the states’ NBCI implementation strategy are absolutely critical to achieving the goal of restoring huntable populations of wild bobwhite quail at the landscape level. We’re extremely excited about NWTF, our largest private conservation partner, stepping up to the plate in this fashion.” 

The NWTF is best known for its 40 year history of working with wildlife agency partners, NWTF chapters and corporate sponsors to reestablish wild turkey populations across North America.  While the wild turkey restoration is all but completed, the NWTF remains committed to improving critical wild turkey habitats across the United States and Canada.

During the past 15 years, NWTF has established itself as the leader in upland habitat conservation and has been responsible for conserving and enhancing millions of acres of upland habitat through cooperative projects with its conservation partners.  These projects have benefited wild turkeys and a wide variety of wildlife species, including the bobwhite quail.

NBCI is a unified strategic effort made up of 25 state fish and wildlife agencies and various conservation organizations to restore critical native grassland habitats and huntable populations of bobwhite quail. NBCI provides national leadership, coordination and assistance to states and partners to accelerate implementation of efforts to restore bobwhite quail in its core range.  The NBCI is based out of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.

For more information about the NWTF, call 1-800-THE-NWTF, visit www.NWTF.org or follow on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/theNWTF.

For more information about NBCI, visit (865) 974-7281, www.bringbackbobwhites.org or follow on Facebook at www.facebook.com/bringbackbobwhites.

Krantz New WV ‘Quail Coordinator’

Ohio native Keith Krantz is West Virginia’s new “quail coordinator,” according to the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources (WVDNR). Krantz will work statewide on upland game management, including implementing early successional species habitat plans on state wildlife management areas.

With the state 80 percent forested, West Virginia is better known for woodcock and grouse than bobwhites. Although there are quail in the northern panhandle and big river counties, it never has been and never will be a prime bobwhite hotspot, says Krantz, especially since the most suitable habitat in the eastern panhandle has succumbed to development. But he also says “the department believes it’s important to support the efforts of our sister states even if we aren’t a prime player … and for us to do what we can for quail in our own state.”

Krantz represented West Virginia, a member of the National Bobwhite Technical Committee (NBTC) and supporter of its National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI), at the annual NBTC meeting last week in Abilene, Texas. The meeting is the one time each year when state quail biologists, researchers and upland conservation groups from around the country converge to compare notes and strategize for the next year.

Krantz is no stranger to West Virginia. With a B.S. in wildlife management from West Virginia University and an M.S. in biology with an emphasis in wildlife management from Eastern Kentucky University, he went to work for the department in 1993 managing two wildlife management areas. Beginning in 1999 he moved to providing environmental reviews on projects statewide and served as the statewide coordinator for NRCS’s Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, providing wetland, stream and wildlife management expertise to private landowners, NRCS and school districts, and coordinating wetlands research with federal, state and private entities. And prior to his work in West Virginia, Krantz worked for the Florida Game & Freshwater Fish Commission managing state wildlife management areas, including habitat manipulation using prescribed fire. Krantz can be contacted at    Keith.D.Krantz@wv.gov or by calling (304) 637-0245.

National Bobwhite Group Honors Three For Impacts on Quail Conservation

Dr. Ralph Dimmick

The National Bobwhite Technical Committee, representing 25 state wildlife agencies, conservation groups and research institutions, honored two individuals and a group with awards during its annual meeting in Abilene, Texas. 

In recognition of the 10th anniversary of the committee’s National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative, its first-ever Special Achievement Award went to Dr. Ralph Dimmick, a retired professor from the University of Tennessee with a prominent career in bobwhite research. Dimmick was the primary author of the original 2002 National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative that concentrated primarily on the 16 states of the Southeastern Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies. 

Dr. Theron Terhune 

Describing Dimmick as “the father of the NBCI,”  NBCI Director Don McKenzie said that “with his unique combination of academic credentials, big-picture vision and ability to adapt, he catalyzed a determined group of dedicated quail conservationists to launch a groundbreaking journey that continues to this day.” 

The committee’s annual recognition award to an individual went to Dr. Theron Terhune, the outreach & education coordinator at Tall Timbers Research Station & Land Conservancy, who was the primary architect of the new web-based NBCI 2.0. The massive revision of the original paper-based plan incorporates web mapping applications, conservation planning tools and a Biologist Rating Index, which categorizes 600 million acres of land for bobwhite habitat management suitability. Terhune has also been a longstanding member of the NBTC research subcommittee member and immediate past chair, leading a new collective effort to standardize and coordinate bobwhite monitoring efforts across the range. 

Citing its enduring track record advancing bobwhite management through long-term research, public involvement, collaborative work, and an array of both scientific and lay publications, the committee presented its Group Achievement Award to the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute (CKWRI) at Texas A&M University in Kingsville, Texas, with Drs. Fred Bryant, Leonard A. Brennan and Fidel Hernandez leading the quail efforts. 

Dr. Fidel Hernandez (right) with immediate past chair of the NBTC steering committee, Dan Figert, Kentucky

Since 2000, CKWRI has graduated five PhD and 12 MS quail students with another seven students working toward those degrees now, and launched the Quail Associates program, a network of 20 “citizen scientist ranch owners” who donate dollars and data to help understand annual changes in quail productivity across south Texas. CKWRI publications include Texas Bobwhites: A Guide to Their Food and Habitat Management, and Texas Quails: Ecology and Management. The institute also publishes an electronic newsletter and hosts a number of YouTube videos and quail “webisodes” covering various quail management topics.

In other business, the NBTC also installed new Steering Committee leadership for the coming year. The new chairman is Marc Puckett, small game project co-leader for the Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries; and chair-elect/secretary/treasurer is Chuck Kowaleski, Farm Bill coordinator for Texas Parks & Wildlife Department.

L to R: New chair-elect Chuck Kowaleski, new chair Marc Puckett, outgoing chair Dan Figert

New NBTC Steering Committee members are Craig Alderman with the Quail & Upland Wildlife Federation, representing private quail conservation groups; Catherine Rideout, representing Southeast Partners in Flight in the designated seat for nongame conservation partners; Larry Heggemann with the Central Hardwoods Joint Venture, filling the “at-large” seat;  Nathan Stricker with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources representing the Midwest Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies; and Dr. Leonard Brennan of CKWRI representing academic research institutions.

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, two dozen state wildlife management agencies, the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and Southern Company. For more information, please visit www.bringbackbobwhites.org

Standardizing Bobwhite Monitoring Tops Agenda For State Quail Coordinators from 23 States

Standardizing Bobwhite Monitoring Tops Agenda

For State Quail Coordinators from 23 States 

ABILENE, Texas – Twenty-three of 25 state quail coordinators from National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI) member states were among the participants this week in the annual meeting of the National Bobwhite Technical Committee (NBTC), the umbrella group of state wildlife management agencies and their partners overseeing the national initiative aimed at restoring huntable populations of wild bobwhites across their range.

“The attendance is remarkable considering the budget challenges states have,” said NBCI Director Don McKenzie. 

While much of the attention has naturally been focused on quail management in the host state of Texas, the coordinators’ primary challenge has been to develop a first-ever standardized and coordinated monitoring protocol for quail “focus areas.” The focus area approach and standardized monitoring of results are keys to the NBCI habitat-based strategy for restoring bobwhites maximizing limited resources.     

The NBTC Steering Committee’s goal is for each of the 25 NBCI states to participate with at least one NBCI focus area, according to McKenzie, which must be monitored for habitat gains and bobwhite response, not only to provide credible evidence of progress but also to enable improvements in conservation delivery.

“The lack of valid, credible and comparable monitoring data threatens the viability of the entire quail restoration movement because it deprives us of documented success stories, robs sportsmen of confidence and hope, and undermines agency resolve,” explained McKenzie. “NBCI has worked with the state quail coordinators to find a voluntary approach that is not only science-based but also actually quite doable by each state. Unity in bobwhite conservation delivery and monitoring across the range will make the NBTC’s national initiative one of the premier conservation partnerships in the country.”

The meeting ended today. The group will convene again next year in Roanoke, VA.

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, two dozen state wildlife management agencies, the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and Southern Company. For more information, please visit www.bringbackbobwhites.org

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