NBCI, Supporters Score for Bobwhites in 2018 Farm Bill

The National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI) achieved its two top priorities in the 2018 Farm Bill — the inclusion of language encouraging USDA programs to use native vegetation, as opposed to exotic species, in its conservation programs, and an increase in the funding for Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) tree thinning and prescribed burning from $10 million in the 2014 bill to $12 million in the new bill.

The native vegetation language reads: “The Managers recognize the benefits of native vegetation to improve water and air quality and enhance soil health. By encouraging the adoption of native vegetation seed blends, USDA programs are supporting habitat restoration for the northern
bobwhite, lesser prairie-chicken, greater sage-grouse, other upland game birds, songbirds, monarch butterflies and pollinators. The Managers encourage the use of native vegetation where practicable.”

“We have contended for years that adoption of a native vegetation standard by USDA could be the single most important development in restoring bobwhites, other grassland birds and pollinators across their ranges,” said NBCI Director Don McKenzie. “Such an improved standard for public conservation money spent by USDA would be the game changer that finally tilts the playing field in favor of many declining species on private lands. On top of that achievement, we also succeeded in expanding the sorely needed CRP tree thinning and prescribed fire effort.”

NBCI created the Natives First Coalition to rally support for the use of native vegetation in the Conservation Title programs of the Farm Bill, organized field tours and briefings for key Congressional staff and conducted letter-writing campaigns with coalition members.

“There are many organizations and individuals that played a key role in helping make this happen,” McKenzie said. “Key among those were the House Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, & Forestry Chair Rep. Mike Conaway of Texas, Ranking Member Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota, Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, & Forestry Chair Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas, and Ranking Member Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, and their staffs, and more than 40 wildlife and plant conservation organizations, including Park Cities Quail in Dallas, TX, which also funds NBCI’s advocacy efforts in Washington. We thank them all.”

About NBCI

Headquartered at the University of Tennessee’s Institute of Agriculture/Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries, NBCI is a science and habitat-based 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 to restore wild bobwhites on a landscape scale. 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 & Upland Game Alliance, Park Cities Quail and Roundstone Native Seed.

 

National Bobwhite Initiative Looks Forward to Continued Progress with New NRCS Chief

The 25-state National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI) is welcoming Matt Lohr of Virginia as Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue’s choice for chief of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

“NBCI looks forward to continuing our cooperation with NRCS and Chief Lohr to reverse the decline of the northern bobwhite, other grassland birds and pollinators that depend on native grassland habitat on farms and ranches,” said NBCI Director Don McKenzie.

NBCI currently is working with NRCS’ Working Lands for Wildlife program that is restoring native grassland habitat for the northern bobwhite which has been declining precipitously due primarily to habitat loss. The Bobwhites in Grasslands project will affect more than 150,000 acres in 10 states, with state wildlife agencies and NRCS providing technical and financial assistance to landowners interested in converting pastures of introduced fescue to native grasses and wildflowers, along with developing prescribed grazing and burning plans. The Bobwhites in Pine Savanna project targets 82,000 acres in seven states and will provide assistance to landowners interested in restoring declining pine savanna habitat using native grasses, timber thinning and prescribed fire.

About NBCI

Headquartered at the University of Tennessee’s Institute of Agriculture/Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries, NBCI is a science and habitat-based 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 to restore wild bobwhites on a landscape scale. 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 & Upland Game Alliance, Park Cities Quail and Roundstone Native Seed.

Park Cities Quail Increases Support for NBCI’s National Presence, Impact

Left to right, Park Cities Quail Coalition Executive Director Jay Stine, NBCI Director Don McKenzie and Park Cities Quail Coalition committee member, Clay Huffstutter.

Long-time supporters of the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI), Park Cities Quail Coalition in Dallas, Texas, has increased its backing of the 25-state bobwhite restoration effort with the awarding of $100,000 for NBCI’s agriculture liaison position in Washington, D.C., for the next year.

“That amount, which is unrestricted dollars, will cover the entire cost of this full-time position in our nation’s capital,” said NBCI Director Don McKenzie, “as we continue to provide the only consistent, dedicated voice for bobwhites for favorable federal conservation policies. If it weren’t for Park Cities Quail Coalition’s commitment, NBCI would not have such a strong voice in D.C. making bobwhites a national issue. Unrestricted dollars are critical to this effort.”

“Without the representation of the NBCI, there is no voice in Washington, D.C., solely focused on the value of wild bobwhite quail,” said Park Cities Quail Coalition Executive Director Jay Stine. “Park Cities Quail Coalition fully recognizes this benefit, and has been increasingly supportive in their funding of the NBCI’s agriculture liaison position there.”

McKenzie said the Dallas-based conservation group’s backing is primarily responsible for NBCI’s ability to establish inroads for bobwhites with a host of federal agencies, including the Farm Service Agency and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the National Park Service and the U.S. Forest Service, all having positive impacts on thousands of acres of habitat restoration.

One example is the Bobwhites in Grasslands project with the NRCS, which targets over 150,000 acres in nine states, and will provide technical and financial assistance to landowners interested in converting pastures of exotic, endophyte-infected fescue to drought-tolerant native grasses and wildflowers, along with developing prescribed grazing plans. A similar bobwhite project is being implemented by NRCS on timberlands in six states.

“Park Cities Quail Coalition is thinking bigger than Texas and by doing so is literally having a huge impact on the nation’s wild bobwhite restoration landscape,” said McKenzie. “We appreciate their support, as should everyone dedicated to this effort.”

About NBCI

Headquartered at the University of Tennessee’s Institute of Agriculture/Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries, NBCI is a science and habitat-based 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 to restore wild bobwhites on a landscape scale. 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 & Upland Game Alliance, Park Cities Quail Coalition and Roundstone Native Seed.

About Park Cities Quail Coalition

Park Cities Quail (PCQ) is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization run by a group of Dallas area volunteers who are passionate about their sporting tradition and are determined to make it available to future generations. By being completely volunteer, we are able to donate virtually 100% of every dollar raised towards quail research and youth education. In the past eleven years this group of individuals has raised and donated over $8,600,000 directly to the cause! PCQ also spawned Quail Coalition, a statewide organization which now boasts 12 chapters and over 4,000 members. www.quailcoalition.org.

NBCI’s State of the Bobwhite 2018 Reports 24% Increase in Managed Bobwhite Acres Over Last Year

Now reported at nearly four million acres, bobwhite management across 25 states is up 24 percent over the 3.2 million acres reported the year before — or 771,345 acres added — according to NBCI’s Bobwhite Almanac: State of the Bobwhite 2018. That’s just one insight provided by the eighth annual report by the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI), its 25-member states and partners on progress in restoring wild quail to the landscape.

“Because habitat is managed for bobwhites doesn’t necessarily mean quail are there,” cautioned NBCI Science Coordinator/Assistant Director Dr. Tom Dailey in reference to the Bobwhite Habitat Inventory Index. “It means it’s suitable for bobwhites in the year it’s reported or will be in the near future. It can take some time after initial management for a population response. But habitat management is trending in the right direction.”

The positive impact of habitat is illustrated by focal areas enrolled in the NBCI focal area program (the world’s largest network of scientific bobwhite demonstration areas), which has 47 focal and reference areas in 19 states. There were 83.9 percent more bobwhites heard calling on the focal areas than on the reference areas during breeding season. These NBCI-enrolled focal areas range in size from 1,694 acres (Delaware) to 27,238 acres (Texas) and average 7,374 acres.

While NBCI-enrolled focal areas are large and require specific assessment and monitoring activities, other efforts are smaller and less formal. “Arkansas Golf Course Boasts Native Prairie, a Variety of Birdies,” details the efforts of a 27-hole golf course in Fort Smith, Arkansas, to reduce mowing expenses by restoring patches of native tall grass prairie … and now has its own bobwhite population to boot.

State of the Bobwhite 2018 also includes reports on the intricacies of wild bobwhite translocation in “Moving Wild Bobwhites, Not as Easy as it Sounds,” NBCI’s technical training program for the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s 10-state grasslands project for bobwhites, and bobwhite conservation reports from all 25 NBCI states.

Read the publication at  https://tinyurl.com/y8f25b6s.

 

About NBCI

Headquartered at the University of Tennessee’s Institute of Agriculture/Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries, NBCI is a science and habitat-based 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 to restore wild bobwhites on a landscape scale. 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 & Upland Game Alliance, Park Cities Quail and Roundstone Native Seed.

 

National Bobwhite Quail Group Honors Rideout, Joint Quail Conference Committee Members

Catherine Rideout, the official liaison between the National Bobwhite Technical Committee (NBTC) and Partners in Flight (PIF) since 2012 (the longest serving non-quail conservation organization representative in NBTC Steering Committee history) received the 2018 NBTC Leadership Award during the NBTC annual meeting in Albany, GA, recently.

Robert Perez presents the NBTC Leadership Award to Catherine Rideout at the 2018 NBTC Annual Meeting

Rideout joined NBTC (then the Southeast Quail Study Group) in 2003 at the Potosi, Missouri, meeting “out of professional interest spurred by a growing sense of responsibility to help build bridges between the quail and songbird communities, based on our tremendous mutual interests,” said NBTC Chair-elect Robert Perez. “She has worked diligently and professionally to broaden our minds and vision, continually striving for more and better integration of priority nongame grassland birds into quail conservation,” Perez said. “She co-coordinated a half-day bobwhite/songbird workshop at the Northeast and Southeast PIF meeting in Virginia Beach in October 2014, to foster better collaboration. In addition, due in part to her leadership as coordinator of the East Gulf Coastal Plain Joint Venture, open pine management for bobwhites and grassland birds remains a top conservation priority across that six-state geography.”

The 2018 National Bobwhite Technical Committee (NBTC) Group Achievement Award recognized the leaders of the 2017 Joint Quail Conference (JQC), in Knoxville, Tennessee, July 24-28, 2017. Committee members spent two years leading and implementing the largest gathering of professional quail biologists­—242 registrants—in more than a decade, providing a tremendous opportunity for communication between managers and researchers. The JQC also provided four products with national impact: the 23rd Annual National Bobwhite Technical Committee meeting; the 8th National Quail Symposium; Proceedings of the 8th National Quail Symposium; and the launch of the new e-journal, NBCI National Quail Symposium Proceedings.

Roger Applegate, Andy White, Alyssa Merka, Dr. Kelly Reyna, Molly Foley, Penny Barnhart, Dr. Thomas Dailey, and Beth Emmerich (left to right) receive the NBTC Group Achievement Award at the 2018 NBTC Annual Meeting (not pictured: Timothy White)

Committee members included Roger Applegate, Furbearer/Small Game/Wildlife Health program leader, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA); Penny Barnhart, accounting specialist, NBCI; Dr. Thomas Dailey, science coordinator and assistant director, NBCI; Andy Edwards, regional biologist, Quail Forever; Beth Emmerich, resource scientist, Missouri Department of Conservation, and chair of the NBTC Science Subcommittee; Molly Foley, data analyst, NBCI; Alyssa Merka, communications specialist, NBCI; Dr. Kelly Reyna, director of Sustainable Agriculture and assistant professor of Wildlife Management, Texas A&M – Commerce, and vice chair of the NBTC Science Subcommittee and academic representative on the NBTC Steering Committee; and Timothy White, wildlife biologist, TWRA.

 

NBCI National Fire Bird Conservation Award Winners

The vast array of approaches individuals and entities can bring to the table in the effort to return wild bobwhites to the landscape never ceases to amaze … and the fourteen 2018 NBCI National Fire Bird Conservation award winners are no exception.

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 “weeds” that provide bobwhites with suitable habitat. Both naturally-occurring fires 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 and other wildlife that require early successional habitat to survive

Award recipients are chosen 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. The awards are announced by the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI) at the annual meeting of the National Bobwhite Technical Committee, which was in Albany, GA this year.

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

And the 2018 winners are:

NBCI DIRECTOR’S NATIONAL FIRE BIRD CONSERVATION AWARD

Don McKenzie (left) presents the NBCI Director’s Fire Bird Award to Dr. Pat Keyser (right)

Presented periodically to “a person or group especially deserving of timely recognition and gratitude for uniquely valuable contributions supporting the NBCI’s “lead, leverage and enable” role in bobwhite conservation,” the 2018 NBCI Director’s Fire Bird Award went to Dr. Pat Keyser, director of the Center for Native Grass Management (CNGM) at the University of Tennessee.

NBCI Director Don McKenzie said Dr. Keyser is not only well known for his promotion of one of NBCI’s most important goals, the promotion of native grass forage in the East, but “arguably is the person most responsible for enabling the NBCI’s growth and maturation into a nationally capable initiative” by leading the effort to locate NBCI headquarters at the university when a request for proposals for a permanent home base was distributed in 2007.

“He sold the concept to his department head and the dean of agricultural research, and drafted the winning proposal,” McKenzie said. “Since then, UT, NBCI and CNGM have created an extraordinary synergy and landed a third closely related center – the Shortleaf Pine Initiative – while rewarding UT’s gamble on NBCI … and conversely rewarding the Southeastern Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies’ and the National Bobwhite Technical Committee’s gamble on UT. The state of bobwhite conservation would be smaller and weaker today but for that collective gamble.”

 

ALABAMA

Steven Mitchell (right) and Robert Perez (center) present a Fire Bird Award to ALPFC, accepted by Jeff Thurmond (left)

Appropriately enough, Alabama’s winner of the “fire bird” award is the Alabama Prescribed Fire Council. To proactively expand the use of prescribed fire in the state, the council last year implemented “Learn and Burn” workshops for landowners and professionals to receive “live fire” training from experienced prescribed fire managers. (Helping the council sponsor those workshops are the Alabama Forestry Commission, the Alabama Association of Consulting Foresters, Southeast Regional Partnership for Planning and Sustainability and the Chattanooga Fall Line Partnership.)

The council had three winter workshops, one for 85 people burning 2,641 acres on 10 burn units, another for 75 participants burning 2,233 acres on eight burn units and one for 50 participants burning 548 acres on five burn units. A dormant season nighttime burn attracted 25 participants who burned 207 acres on three burn units, and a growing season burn attracted 45 participants who burned 503 acres on six burn units. Additional workshops are planned.

“The ALPFC has taken a proactive stance in training interested landowners and professionals in a hands-on manner,” said Steven Mitchell, the state’s “quail coordinator.”

 

ARKANSAS

Marcus Asher (left) presents a Fire Bird Award to Clint Johnson (right)

In 2016, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) designated bobwhite restoration as an agency priority, but for this effort to be successful significant land use changes on private lands had to occur, one being the increased use of prescribed fire.

Clint Johnson, an AGFC private lands biologist, took a lead role in promoting and implementing prescribed fire on both private and public lands. On private lands he developed the “Learn to Burn” program, which is used by all private lands staff throughout the state to educate and encourage the use of prescribed burnings on private lands. Johnson developed the presentations and agendas for all workshops throughout the state, and coordinated and led 15 workshops attended by 300 landowners, resulting in more than 1,700 acres of private lands burned over two years.

Johnson additionally serves as an instructor at Arkansas’ statewide prescribed fire school, where he teaches new employees from the Arkansas Forestry Commission, AGFC and the Natural Resources Conservation Service about the safe, objective-driven use of prescribed fire. He helped develop AGFC’s prescribed burn qualifications and maintains records of employee completion and deficiencies to ensure all staff are qualified to participate on prescribed burn projects, and serves as one of AGFC’s “burn bosses,” frequently traveling the state in that role. He also annually submits and completes more contracted acres in the state’s Acres for Wildlife Program (provides seed, chemicals and equipment for bobwhite restoration) than any other private lands biologist in the state, while assisting landowners with details such as seeder and sprayer calibration, actual seed planting and tree thinning.

“Clint Johnson has been a valuable asset to not only the private section but also to the entire AGFC bobwhite restoration efforts,” said Marcus Asher, state quail coordinator.

 

DELAWARE

Craig Rhoads (right) presents a Fire Bird Award to Sean O’Connor (left)

While Sean O’Conner has helped burn over 1,200 acres of bobwhite and been responsible for planting warm season grasses and wildflowers, his biggest contribution has been in staff efficiency. O’Conner developed a system incorporating an iPad to monitor and collect data, “a huge improvement” over past data collection, which was all paper-based notes. All the data is linked to a central server accessible to any credentialed individual.

“This ability to access data from any computer has decreased the time to enter data and get burn permits, and increased the time actually working on the landscape,” said Justyn Foth, the state’s quail coordinator. “With a limited staff, efficiency is the most important source of being able to achieve the habitat goals we set each year.”

 

GEORGIA

Jess McGuire (left) presents a Fire Bird Award to GADNR Region 5 Game Management staff, accepted by Brent Howze (center) and Alan Isler (right)

The marching orders for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Resources Division’s Region 5 Game Management Section in 2015 were pretty “simple”…grow quail on four wildlife management areas (~17,000 acres) in southwest Georgia (a regional bobwhite focal landscape) with a primary goal of maximizing quality public hunting opportunities. Results? Approximately 325 acres of brood fields added, burn blocks decreased from a 250-acre average to 40 acres, growing season burns increased from a yearly average of 1,750 acres to 8,754 acres and an average basal area of 40 in pine uplands targeted, requiring coordination between the forest management unit, game management and non-game conservation entities.

Two WMAs have already reached the goal of a bird per two acres and staff size swelled from five to 11 with assistance from the Florida-Georgia Quail Coalition. The project ignited renewed interest in quail management and hunting throughout southwest Georgia, stimulating more private landowners to become involved.

 

KANSAS

Jeff Prendergast (left) presents a Fire Bird Award to Logan Martin (right)

Logan Martin went from being a “biotech” when he was hired in 2013 to a district biologist 2016 – and the state’s nominee for the Fire Bird Award this year. His district includes four counties in far southeastern Kansas where some of the best quail hunting in the state had been historically found and quail were king. The same area is now described as being “behind enemy lines” in the fight to maintain quail, where major changes in farming practices, introduction of cool season grasses and rapid succession were perfectly aligned to drive down populations.

The Kansas Quail Initiative was already underway when Martin began work with KDWPT. While there had been earlier initiatives, this one reduced the size of the focus areas and had significant funding dedicated to it from the department and partners. One of the two focus areas was entirely in Martin’s district, which offered both opportunity and challenge. The initiative’s coordinator left the department and, subsequently, his replacement as coordinator also left, leaving Martin, still a biotech, in charge. (That formal initiative has ended and is now in the assessment stage.)

Martin also has played a “major role” in the newly invigorated statewide private lands habitat program, Habitat First. In a state with very limited public land, KDWPT’s private lands programs have long been a major focus. However, because of its increasing complexity both to biologists and landowners, KDWPT chose to create a habitat committee to review, simplify and then grow the program. Martin was asked to lead marketing efforts for the new campaign, working with a contracted marketing firm in the development of a new brand and promotional materials for the program. During the process he ensured the bobwhite was included on the new logo and featured prominently on promotional materials. His experience led to representing the state on the communications subcommittee for the National Bobwhite Technical Committee (NBTC), providing a valuable link between Kansas, NBTC and the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI).

“Martin’s efforts to improve habitat within his own district but also look for ways to engage landowners across our state demonstrates his commitment to quail in Kansas and beyond,” said Jeff Prendergast, the state’s current quail coordinator and small game biologist.

 

KENTUCKY

Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources recognized Farm Bill Biologist Madeline Pratt, who joined the wild bobwhite restoration effort in 2012 to complete the first Coordinated Implementation Program (CIP) monitoring in the state and subsequently volunteered to complete an extra third year of monitoring due to the rapidly changing landscape of private lands in western Kentucky. “She has completed more CIP habitat monitoring points than anyone else in the country,” said John Morgan, the state’s coordinator of restoration efforts. “She has been pivotal in training efforts as well, sharing her vast wealth of knowledge in a “train-the-trainers” event in 2015 and again in 2018 at a multi-state CIP training event. Pratt averages almost 1,000 acres of prescribed fire annually, continues to support CIP monitoring with guidance and landowner contacts and conducts spring and fall bird monitoring on the state’s bobwhite focal area.

 

MISSOURI

Wildlife Ecologist Max Alleger’s work in the development of “Grazing Best Management Practices for Grassland Birds on Private Lands,” and the development and implementation of the Audubon Conservation Ranching Program “are significant efforts that have the potential to make landscape-level changes to grassland management and subsequent improvement in bobwhite habitat,” said David Hoover, the state’s quail coordinator.

The best practices document is designed to help private lands biologists understand grazing management principles and make basic grazing recommendations that meet production and conservation objectives. It includes a detailed list of best management practices that improve terrestrial and aquatic resources in a working grasslands setting and detailed information on grassland and pasture types common in Missouri. It also serves as a guide for determining when to consult with more experienced staff and grazing management professionals to help producers reach their production and conservation objectives.

The Audubon Conservation Ranching Program provides an additional market for cattle producers that utilize grazing practices that benefit grasslands birds, including bobwhites. The program is helping farmers and ranchers conserve grassland birds while improving their bottom line by leveraging the Audubon brand to establish a reliable supply chain and drive consumer interest in premium, conservation-friendly beef products, helping producers implement practical, beneficial conservation practices while participating in cost-share and incentive programs, developing market-based incentives that allow consumers to participate in conservation and producers to sell beef at a premium, and create better habitat on working grasslands.

 

OHIO

Tim and Sandy Shoemaker of Millstone Creek Farms near Hillsboro is the Buckeye State’s 2018 winner. The Shoemaker’s farm falls within Ohio’s Fallsville Quail Heritage Area, the state’s bobwhite focal area. For the past 18 months the couple has worked with the state’s wildlife management staff, the Natural Resources Conservation Service and others to incorporate native warm-season grasses into their rotational grazing system. The conversion began before the announcement of the quail Working Lands for Wildlife program across the fescue belt.

While the Shoemakers have a bit more than a year before they can start grazing their converted grass stands (so it can’t be called a success yet), they have been willing spokespeople for fescue pasture conversion for both beef production and quail habitat.

 

PENNSYLVANIA

Lewis Cameron (PGC), Raymond Harbaugh, Harold Kauffman, John Greenawalt, Craig Kindlin (LEAD Natural Resources Manager), Gerald Cline, and Tom Keller (left to right); not pictured: Michael Bowling, Raymond Etter, and Jeff Yeager

A munitions storage facility in Franklin County, Letterkenny Army Depot (LEAD) is in the heart of historical Pennsylvania quail country, the location of some of the last known bobwhite sightings and the state’s first Bobwhite Quail Focus Area where the state will begin recovery efforts in the bird’s northern range.

A group of LEADS Natural Resources Volunteers, including John Greenawalt, Jeff Yeager, Gerald Cline, Michael Bowling, Raymond Etter, Raymond Harbaugh and Harold Kauffman, have donated a day of labor each week to complete various habitat improvements. For over a year, this small but dedicated group has shown up at first light with tools in hand to tackle the day’s objectives. Most participants range in age from 60 to 90, and membership requires 140 hours per year in order to hunt, trap and fish on the facility. Most of the participants have over 400 hours. Most work days involve removing overstory with chainsaws, cutting, dragging and working in heavy vegetation in weather that is always very hot or very cold … and they bring homemade snacks to share at break.

“These are salt-of-the-earth people and without their dedication and hard work, this project would not be possible,” said Tom Keller, the state’s quail coordinator. “Because of (their) commitment to wildlife and especially the bobwhite, there is hope that Pennsylvania farms and fields will once again ring with the distinctive whistle of this important native species.”

 

SOUTH CAROLINA

A private Orangeburg County landowner in the middle of the Oak Lea Bobwhite Focal Area, Jack Vallentine, is South Carolina’s winner not just for personal participation in the South Carolina Bobwhite Initiative on his family land but because of his dedication to reaching out to other private landowners to get them involved, becoming a vocal leader for the project in his community. His proactive nature led to a request for him to be featured in a short video promoting the state’s initiative to other landowners, a video shown around the state. He is also an active participant in the initiative’s Facebook discussions and broadly shares new information from the initiative’s website.

“Jack Vallentine is a prime example of the type of individual that the SCBI needs to be successful,” said Michael Hook, the state’s quail coordinator.

 

TENNESSEE

Roger Applegate (left) presents a Fire Bird Award to Stephen Thomas (right)

A wildlife habitat biologist with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) in east Tennessee, Stephen Thomas works with the Natural Resources Conservation Service to deliver USDA conservation practices and serves as a member of TWRA’s Northern Bobwhite Restoration Team, formed in 2017 to guide bobwhite restoration statewide.

Over the past year, Thomas was charged with leading a “subject matter action team” that developed decision-making tools and processes for evaluating TWRA’s first NBCI Coordinated Implementation Plan bobwhite focal area.

“His technical expertise and leadership were critical to the success of this process,” said Roger Applegate, state quail coordinator.

 

TEXAS

Doug Jobes, Steve Riley, Matt Reidy, Mark Lange, and Robert Perez (left to right) accept a Fire Bird Award on behalf of GRIP Project Managers

Since 2013, the Oaks & Prairies Joint Venture’s (OPJV) Grassland Restoration Incentive Program (GRIP) has put 60,000 acres of grassland management practices on the ground in more than 100 projects at the edge of the quail decline in Texas. The Texas Parks & Wildlife Department’s Grassland Restoration Incentive Program project managers “have been invaluable in providing local knowledge of habitat conditions, potential conservation practices, technical guidance throughout the project and final evaluation of each project,” said Robert Perez, the state’s quail coordinator. “The program would not be possible without the hard work and the relationships the local managers built with private landowners and OPJV partners.”

Project managers include Jess Oetgen, Matt Reidy, Doug Jobes, Josh Turner, Mark Lange, Bobby Eichler, Charlie Newberry, Raymond Sims, Dan Davis, Laura Sherrod, Erin Wied, Dan Davis, Jamie Killian and Jon Hayes.

 

VIRGINIA

One aspect of quail conservation on private working lands is that monitoring and follow-up can be challenging. Virginia Working Landscapes (VWL), a program of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute with a focus on maintaining species diversity and conservation compatible with working lands, reached out to the state’s private lands biologists to offer help in assessing private properties where state quail team members had done significant wildlife habitat work. Their intensive efforts in a multi-county region led to specific research on the gains in wildlife diversity seen from quail habitat management. Additionally, their reports to landowners were instrumental in keeping landowners engaged, which, in turn, stimulated communitywide interest and “friendly competition” among landowners leading to more habitat creation. VWL staff have partnered with the state private lands team on numerous field days and outreach events, and routinely refer new landowners to private lands staff. In addition, they have become an instrumental partner in the establishment of a second NBCI focal area in Virginia, in conjunction with Manassas National Battlefield Park, attending a multi-day workshop on NBCI’s Coordinated Implementation Program (CIP) and offering to help with the intensive monitoring required by CIP.

 

 

 

 

NBCI to Present Webinar on Creating, Maintaining Bobwhite Habitat in Agricultural Landscapes Using CP33

The National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative will present a webinar at 1 p.m. (EDT) July 25 on how to use the CP33 – Habitat Buffers for Upland Birds, a practice in the Conservation Reserve Program, to create and maintain nesting and brooding habitat for quail and other grassland birds on less productive cropland field margins.

Northern bobwhite quail and many other grassland bird species have experienced significant population declines over the last several decades and the loss of native grassland habitat is one of the primary causes of these declines. The CP33 buffer practice can help maintain important native grassland habitat within an agricultural landscape. This webinar will discuss the CP33 practice requirements, their importance on the landscape and how best to establish, manage and maintain the habitat quality for quail and grassland birds.

Webinar presenter will be Lisa Potter, the private land programs supervisor with the Missouri Department of Conservation. She received a B.S. in Wildlife Biology from Kansas State University and a M.S. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from Iowa State University. Prior to her current role, Lisa had the opportunity to work directly with private landowners to assist them in achieving their wildlife habitat objectives. She continues to work on policy development and implementation of state and federal conservation programs in the continued effort to maintain wildlife habitat on private lands. Potter has been a member of the National Bobwhite Technical Committee since 2003 and currently serves as chair of the Agriculture Policy Subcommittee.

The webinar will be available at http://www.forestrywebinars.net/webinars/maintaining-quail-and-grassland-bird-habitat-in-the-agricultural-landscape-cp33-habitat-buffers-for-upland-birds. Continuing education credits are expected to be available for a variety of natural resource professionals.

About NBCI

Headquartered at the University of Tennessee’s Institute of Agriculture/Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries, NBCI is a science and habitat-based 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 to restore wild bobwhites on a landscape scale. 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 & Upland Game Alliance, Park Cities Quail and Roundstone Native Seed.

Georgia Names New State Quail Biologist

Dallas Ingram

Dallas R. Ingram, a seven-year veteran of the Bobwhite Quai Initiative in the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ private lands program, has been named Georgia’s new state quail biologist.

“Dallas has been a biologist with the Bobwhite Quail Initiative in the Georgia Private Lands Program since 2011 and has proven to be a great resource for both landowners and professionals,” said Game Management Program Manager Dr. Jessica McGuire. “Bobwhite quail are a high-profile wildlife resource in this state and we look forward to seeing her thrive in her new role.”

“We know Dallas and her work in Georgia, and we congratulate her on this new, expanded role,” said Don McKenzie, director of the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative. “We wish her every success.”

Ingram’s experience includes providing technical assistance, management plans and Farm Bill guidance for private landowners in 38 counties, managing fall quail covey counts and spring bird counts over 37,000 acres of habitat, managing bobwhite habitat on state wildlife management areas, working with other partner agencies and private conservation groups to promote and implement bobwhite management in the state, and serving as a member of the National Bobwhite Technical Committee and its communications subcommittee. (The committee will have its annual meeting in Albany, GA in August.)

Ingram has a MS in biology from Valdosta State University, a BS in Fisheries and Wildlife from the University of Georgia’s Warnell School of Forest Resources and an AS in biology from Abraham Baldwin Agriculture College.

NBCI Releases New How-To Video For Sericea Lespedeza Management

New NBCI video provides management strategies for sericea lespedeza.

To assist land managers in controlling of one of the most invasive, problematic, exotic weeds in northern bobwhite range, the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI) has released a new 8-minute video, An Integrated Approach to Sericea Lespedeza Management … and just in time to begin control treatments this year.

A native of Asia, sericea lespedeza was introduced for erosion control, mine reclamation and wildlife habitat in the late 1800s. There are beneficial native lespedezas and other exotic lespedeza species. The low-growing, herbaceous lespedezas are popular for forage and wildlife, but the tall, upright shrub-type are problematic, and none as invasive as sericea. With the ability for uncontrolled populations to increase up to 24% annually, sericea lespedeza poses a serious threat to wildlife habitat and native ecosystems.

“For all practical purposes, sericea is impossible to eliminate,” said NBCI Grasslands Coordinator Jef Hodges. “It thrives under common wildland management practices. It’s a perennial and is allelopathic, which means it creates a chemical barrier to other plants. Its hard seeds will last decades in the soil, but they provide little nourishment to wildlife. In 2003, it infested an estimated 8.3 million acres, so it’s a threat to cattle producers as well as wildlife managers. It can’t be totally eliminated but it can be controlled with an integrated approach of burning/grazing/mowing and herbicide application for the most severe infestations,” said Hodges.

The video is available for viewing at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jttBd6b4Ap8.

About NBCI
Headquartered at the University of Tennessee’s Institute of Agriculture/Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries, NBCI is a science and habitat-based 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 to restore wild bobwhites on a landscape scale. 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 & Upland Game Alliance, Park Cities Quail and Roundstone Native Seed.

NBCI Sponsors Webinar on Understory Herbicide Use For Bobwhites, Other Wildlife on May 31

The National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI) will sponsor a webinar on the appropriate use of understory herbicides as a component in the management for woodlands, especially southern pines, for bobwhite quail and other grassland wildlife species May 31 at 2 p.m. (Eastern).

“Promoting active forest management on public and private lands is a fundamental NBCI strategy in the landscape scale restoration of wild bobwhites,” said NBCI Forestry Coordinator Steve Chapman. “Herbicides are important in both forest and wildlife management in the South, and particularly when it comes to southern pines,” Chapman said. “But the heavy doses of herbicides typically used in commercial forestry operations aren’t needed when savanna restoration and wildlife habitat are the key objectives. This webinar will focus on minimizing herbicide use while maximizing the diverse native groundcover that bobwhites, songbirds, whitetails and turkeys require.”

Joining Chapman will be primary webinar presenter Ryan Mitchell of The Longleaf Alliance. Mitchell has a B.S. in Wildlife Science from Auburn University and worked with the Alabama Wildlife Federation to execute their longleaf restoration project through technical assistance to landowners. He is a past-president of the Alabama Prescribed Fire Council, a certified prescribed burn boss and a member of The Wildlife Society.

The webinar, which will be recorded for later viewing, can be accessed through the Webinar Portal for Forestry and Natural Resources, http://www.forestrywebinars.net/webinars/understory-herbicides-for-bobwhites-and-other-wildlife-1

About NBCI
Headquartered at the University of Tennessee’s Institute of Agriculture/Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries, NBCI is a science and habitat-based 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 to restore wild bobwhites on a landscape scale. 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 & Upland Game Alliance, Park Cities Quail and Roundstone Native Seed.