The 10,000-acre Chickasaw National Recreation Area in south central Oklahoma has become the third National Park Service (NPS) unit to join forces with the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative — and in this case the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation — to restore grassland ecosystems, including wild bobwhite quail, grassland songbirds and pollinators, to the American landscape.
The work is proceeding under an agreement between NBCI and NPS signed last year that provides a formal mechanism for the two entities to work together, along with the respective state wildlife agencies. The purpose is to collaboratively identify and restore native grasslands habitats on suitable park properties, with certain park units serving as formal bobwhite focal areas. Pea Ridge National Military Park in Arkansas and Manassas National Battlefield Park in Virginia were the first two NPS units to join the effort.
Chickasaw, which allows hunting and already harbors some bobwhites, will develop a 5,000-acre bobwhite focal area. Spring call counts were conducted this year and covey counts (both required for NBCI’s Coordinated Implementation Program accreditation) are underway. The landscape is a mix of prairie and woodland types. Eastern red cedar trees have invaded the prairie areas and the park launched reclamation efforts two years ago, eliminating 1,000 acres of invasive cedar trees and conducting annual prescribed burns to maintain control and allow natural prairie regeneration. Another 1,000 acres of cedars have been targeted for removal. The park has also partnered with the Oaks & Prairies Joint Venture and hopes to interest a local university to assist with habitat assessment and bird surveys as well.
“National Park Service staff are excited to partner with NBCI, Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, and the Oaks and Prairie Joint Venture to launch another NBCI focal area at Chickasaw National Recreation Area,” said Jordan Spaak, an ecologist with the NPS Biological Resources Division. “The grassland and savanna systems at Chickasaw have responded very well to restoration and fire management efforts. We are seeing a plethora of wildlife species, including bobwhite quail, again utilize the park unit. This project highlights the importance of collaborations, as focal area designation efforts would not occur at Chickasaw without the willingness and interest of ODWC and the Oaks and Prairie Joint Venture to partner with the NPS. The NPS is excited and very appreciative of the efforts that have been contributed to the Chickasaw project.”
“The National Park Service has done an outstanding job over the years in managing for wildlife at the Chickasaw National Recreation Area,” said J. D. Strong, director of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “The initiative they undertook a few years ago to remove cedar trees and their ongoing prescribed fire work is as impressive as any habitat project in the state. This restoration work is not only good for quail, deer, turkey and other wildlife – they are also making for a safer and healthier ecosystem on the area. It is also exciting to have the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative join forces with us. I have no doubt that the new quail monitoring efforts will show that the work they are doing is making a real difference,” Strong said.
“This is another example of an NPS unit that has already begun taking the right steps and has a great deal of potential to significantly increase the bobwhite population,” said NBCI Director Don McKenzie. “In this case, there could be increased public hunting opportunities as well as a prime situation for telling the grasslands and bobwhite story to 1.2 million visitors a year.”
More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America’s 417 national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities. Visit us at www.nps.gov. NPS Contact: Jordan Spaak-Ecologist, National Park Service, Biological Resources Division, Natural Resource Stewardship and Science Directorate, 970-267-2145, Jordan_Spaak@nps.gov
About Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation
The mission of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation is the management, protection, and enhancement of wildlife resources and habitat for the scientific, educational, recreational, aesthetic, and economic benefits to present and future generations of citizens and visitors to Oklahoma.
Headquartered within the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture, 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 Joe Crafton Family Endowment for Quail Initiatives, the University of Tennessee, Quail and Upland Game Alliance, Park Cities Quail and Roundstone Native Seed.