Toward this website’s role as the central source for all wild bobwhite conservation information, this page highlights current NBCI/NBTC-related messages, updates and news, as well as assorted other wild quail news items of potential interest from sources around the nation.
The use of prescribed fire as a land management tool has deep and ancient roots in South Carolina’s heritage. However, conducting prescribed burns is becoming increasingly challenging due to a variety of factors, according to a state wildlife biologist and forester.
Johnny Stowe, S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) representative to the South Carolina Prescribed Fire Council and a certified wildlife biologist and forester, said properly conducted prescribed burns (also called “controlled burns”) have multiple benefits. Stowe is also a landowner who burns his own land. Prescribed fires help restore and maintain vital habitat for wildlife, including bobwhite quail and other grassland birds, wild turkeys, white-tailed deer, gopher tortoises, and red-cockaded woodpeckers. Besides the many wildlife species that require fire-dependent habitat, many plants thrive only in regularly burned forests. The demise of the longleaf pine forest and associated grasslands, which once made South Carolina one of the best quail hunting states, is tightly correlated to the decrease of woods-burning. Also, plants like the insectivorous pitcher plants, sundews, and Venus’ fly trap—as well as many other plant species, some of them rare—require frequent fire.
“Fire-maintained lands also have a special unique beauty,” Stowe said. “The open, park-like vistas of properly burned lands appeal to many of us.”
Prescribed fire enhances public safety, according to Stowe, by reducing or even eliminating fuel loads, thereby making wildfire on that area impossible or unlikely for some time afterwards.
And wildfires are usually less destructive on areas that have been prescribed burned. Wildfires often either lose intensity or go out when they reach areas that have been prescribed burned.
Prescribed fire is also, along with hunting and agriculture, an essential part of the heritage and character of the South. Every culture that has ever lived in the South has had an ancient tradition of woods burning. The Indians transformed the Southern landscape for thousands of years with fire, and the Africans and Europeans brought with them from the Old World the time-tested practice of using fire to mold the land to their needs.
Sadly, one of the main threats to prescribed burning is the legacy of Smokey Bear. “Smokey is one of the best-known icons in the United States,” Stowe said, “and while part of Smokey’s message always has been, is, and always will be wise—that no one should carelessly or maliciously use fire under any circumstances—Smokey’s legacy is that several generations of Americans view forest fires as universally destructive.”
Another key threat to the Southern tradition of prescribed burning as a land management tool is South Carolina’s increasingly urban population. Many South Carolinians now come from backgrounds that did not expose them to rural land management activities such as burning, hunting and agricultural operations, according to Stowe. Often these folks do not appreciate the multiple benefits to society that these practices provide, nor the long-standing role that they play in the state’s natural and cultural history. Noted conservationist Aldo Leopold correctly observed that one of the dangers of not living on a farm is that you may get the idea that heat comes from the furnace and food from the supermarket.
Stowe says that one of the many public benefits of the DNR’s Heritage Preserves and Wildlife Management Areas is that they provide folks with a chance to see on-the-ground land management—how it works and why it is vital to protecting the state’s natural landscapes.
Wednesday, 02 25, 2015
1-800-858-1549, ext. 4458
FRANKFORT, Ky. – A new report detailing progress at the halfway point of Kentucky’s ambitious 10-year plan to boost quail populations in the state is now available to the public.
The five-year benchmark report shows large scale habitat work to provide quail better living conditions is paying off. In Hart County, for example, quail counts increased by 771 percent.
“In south-central Kentucky, we went from virtually no one hunting those areas to multiple reports of hunters flushing 11 coveys of quail a day – which has been unheard of for the past two to three decades,” said John Morgan, wildlife biologist for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.
Kentucky’s plan, titled the “Road to Recovery,” takes the giant approach to quail restoration.
“In the past, for many decades, our main focus was on releasing pen-raised quail. That’s what we thought we needed to do,” said Wildlife Biologist Ben Robinson, who co-authored the plan with Morgan. “After a lot of years and a lot of research, we figured out that didn’t really work.”
Realizing that simply releasing birds that were not hatched and raised in the wild wasn’t working, biologists instead focused on building a better home for wild quail by improving the landscape with habitat work.
“Most of these efforts were a shotgun approach,” Morgan noted. “They involved small areas of 10 to 100 acres. What this plan did was focus on thousands of acres in certain areas instead.”
In 2009, Kentucky Fish and Wildlife established six focus areas totaling 115,000 acres at Peabody Wildlife Management Area (WMA), Shaker Village, Clay WMA, Blue Grass Army Depot, and within Hart and Livingston counties.
What the plan attempts to do is recreate the landscape of Kentucky prior to 1900. This was a time when farmers allowed fields and fencerows to become overgrown and brushy, which provided ideal cover, food and habitat for small game such as quail.
Today’s farms have much more cleared fields to maximize production, while small landowners tend to plant fescue grass and keep the fields closely mowed for the sake of appearance. This recreational mowing eliminates badly needed habitat for wildlife.
Habitat work performed on private and public land under the quail recovery plan included burning fields to stimulate the growth of native grasses and plants; thinning thick stands of native grasses; disking fields to provide footholds for native plant seeds; and eradicating fescue. Workers also thinned edges where fields and tree lines met, to encourage brushy plant growth for wildlife habitat.
Birdwatcher Steve Kistler noted the birds returned quickly as areas of native plants expanded in Hart County. “They are once again easy to hear as we drive through the countryside … a nice conservation success,” he said in the report.
Robinson noted Shaker Village saw an increase of an estimated 10 coveys of quail to more than 50 coveys. A covey generally contains 10-12 birds.
“Shaker Village was one of our first successes and it played a critical role, serving as a proof of concept,” he said. “We proved that if enough habitat is in place, wild quail will respond.”
Morgan noted much work remains. “We want to establish one to two more focus areas while maintaining the ones that we already have,” he said. “Our vision is to create more success stories by telling people about the success that we’ve already enjoyed.”
The five-year benchmark report contains detailed assessment information about the challenges of carrying out the plan. Readers will find maps, statistics and in-depth information about each focus area.
The plan is available online at HERE. A limited number of individual copies may be obtained by calling the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Information Center at 1-800-858-1549 weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (Eastern time).
The department also employs private lands biologists to assist landowners with improving the wildlife habitat on their property. Consultations are free and do not obligate landowners to open their property to hunting.In some cases cost share assistance is available to do habitat improvements through state and local programs. Call Kentucky Fish and Wildlife for more information.
CAT SPRING - Jim Willis knows it isn't easy to love a prairie. The quilt of burnt orange and brown that covers his Colorado County land can't awe or inspire the way a canyon or mountain range does. But he can step onto his porch on a crisp morning, take a sip of coffee and hear the three-count whistle of the northern bobwhite quail.
Bobwhite quail populations in South Carolina and the Southeast have been declining steadily over the past 60 years due to major land use change and reduction in suitable habitat. The 27th Annual Wild Quail Management Seminar, sponsored by the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is designed to instruct landowners and land managers in the proper techniques of creating habitat that will support native populations of bobwhite quail.
"Properties that consistently carry medium-to high-density wild quail populations are actively managed to provide quail with all the habitat components necessary throughout the year," said Willie Simmons, DNR Small Game Project Supervisor. "These seminars are designed to improve quail habitat management skills and the information is presented so that anyone with an interest can implement these practices on their property regardless of size."
Field demonstrations and classroom instruction will focus on habitat practices including firebreak establishment, prescribed burning, forest management, brush control, discing for natural foods and supplemental food patch plantings. Presentations will be given on wild quail natural history, biology, diseases and parasites, predation and other factors that may be contributing to the population decline. An update on current research will also be presented.
Speakers will include wildlife and forestry professionals from state and federal agencies.
Over 1,385 people have attended the seminar since its inception in 1987. These sportsmen and sportswomen have positively affected thousands of acres across South Carolina by applying basic techniques to improve habitat on their lands.
The Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) is seeking two Lesser Prairie Chicken (LPC) Service Directors. These positions will be based in one of the five states within the range of the lesser prairie chicken - Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas or Colorado. The LPC Service Directors will provide support to implementing landscape conservation efforts like the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Range-wide Conservation Plan (RWP), work in close cooperation with the LPC Program Manager, collect biological data and carry out a variety of habitat development, maintenance and management tasks, assist in preparing summary reports and the annual budget, supervise staff and direct work flow, attend staff, program and project planning meetings and assure project goals are met. These positions serve as the primary leads for industry and landowner conservation efforts. Read the complete posting HERE.