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National Prairie Day is June 6, 2020—Use New Online Public Prairies Directory to Visit MO Prairies

The Missouri Prairie Foundation® invites all to recognize and celebrate prairies in Missouri and throughout the nation. A new Public Prairies of Missouri Interactive Story Map, created by the Missouri Department of Conservation in partnership with the Missouri Prairie Foundation, is an online resource to help you plan your next visit to a Missouri prairie.

 
Jefferson City, MO (May 28, 2020)—Prairie is a defining landscape of the United States. From the prairies of the Great Plains and Midwest to the glades, coastal grasslands, and other related communities throughout the country, grasslands have benefited Americans in countless ways.
Today, our native grassland legacy has been dramatically reduced to scattered remnants of its once vast 160-million-acre domain across North America. These remnants, from pocket prairies with their beauty and diversity of plants, insects, birds, and other grassland wildlife, to the larger tracts that support cattle ranching, antelope, bison, and other large animals, remain vitally important to people for their contributions to water quality, soil health, carbon storage, forage protection in drought, and wildlife and pollinator habitat.

In 2016, the Missouri Prairie Foundation established National Prairie Day, registered on the National Day Calendar as the first Saturday in June. The goals of this special day are to enhance public awareness of what prairie is, educate about its value, and motivate and inspire all to support prairie conservation, restoration, and enjoyment. This year, National Prairie Day is Saturday, June 6, 2020. 

“All are invited to join us in recognizing National Prairie Day,” said Carol Davit, executive director of the Missouri Prairie Foundation, a 54-year-old non-profit prairie conservation organization and land trust. “National Prairie Day provides a day of focus across the United States to inspire learning, appreciation, and exploration of our national prairie heritage. We encourage visits to Missouri prairies accessible to public, which include prairies owned by the Missouri Prairie Foundation and other nonprofit organizations and agencies.” Please follow social distancing guidelines when visiting prairies.

A new online resource developed by the Missouri Department of Conservation in partnership with the Missouri Prairie Foundation will help with prairie trip planning. The web-based Public Prairies of Missouri Interactive Story Map is a directory to more than 90 original, unplowed prairies and some prairie plantings, each with special features that support an array of plants and animals, many restricted to prairie. 

“These prairies are rare gems of Missouri’s landscape,” said Wildlife Programs Supervisor Lauren Hildreth, who created the resource. “The Missouri Department of Conservation is pleased to offer the Public Prairies of Missouri Interactive Story Map to help more citizens explore their prairie heritage.” 
Learn more about National Prairie Day and how you can be a part of this special day across the nation at nationalprairieday.org


The Missouri Prairie Foundation is a 54-year-old conservation organization and land trust that protects and restores prairie and other native grasslands through acquisition, management, education, and support of prairie research. The organization owns 23 properties totaling more than 3,200 acres of prairie across the state and works with partners to inspire conservation of thousands more. The Missouri Prairie Foundation is also home to the Grow Native! native plant education and marketing program and the Missouri Invasive Plant Task Force.

The 5 Q’s: Carol Davit outlines significance of National Prairie Day in June

From the Joplin (MO) Globe

Carol Davit is the executive director of the Missouri Prairie Foundation and the editor of Missouri Prairie Journal.

Q: National Prairie Day is celebrated the first Saturday of June every year. Why is it important to celebrate this event in Missouri?

A: The Missouri Prairie Foundation founded National Prairie Day in 2016 to provide a day of focus across the United States to inspire learning, appreciation and exploration of our national prairie legacy, and to shine a spotlight on the success of national, regional, statewide and local prairie conservation efforts from coast to coast.

American prairie evokes our national spirit: expansive, exhilarating in its abundance, full of life and promise. Today — from the tallgrass prairie east of the Rockies and westward through mid- and shortgrass prairies that stretch to the Pacific coast — our native grassland legacy has been dramatically reduced to scattered remnants of its once vast 160 million-acre domain across North America.

However, these remnants remain vitally important to us. Original prairies are important seed sources for the native plant industry — prairie plantings for livestock forage, landscaping and other purposes provide many benefits, and we must protect original seed sources.

Prairies and prairie plantings protect water quality and streams by slowing and trapping stormwater. Prairies store enormous amounts of carbon in their roots and soil, which is critically important in a rapidly changing climate.

In the Midwest, no other ecosystem hosts more native pollinating insects than prairie. Because one-third of all our food crops are pollinated by insects, protecting native pollinator habitat is crucial to food security. Prairie plants are adapted to drought. Cattle producers have found that their livestock gain weight faster, and are healthier, when they eat prairie forage from pastures planted with prairie grasses and wildflowers rather than nonnative grasses — and prairie plants remain green and palatable in dry summers.

And the fact that prairies are diverse and beautiful is very important, too. Prairies renew our spirits.

Q: What efforts has the Missouri Prairie Foundation made over the years to preserve prairies statewide?

A: Over its 54-year history, MPF has acquired original prairie whenever funding has allowed, and made these properties available to the public to enjoy. Our first acquisition was in 1969, and our most recent was on May 15 of this year. We aim to continue acquiring more prairie whenever possible.

Since 2014, MPF has protected more acres of original, unplowed prairie than any other Missouri conservation agency or group in that time period, and we are proud of that. In 2018, our Penn-Sylvania Prairie in Dade County broke a world record for plant species diversity on a fine scale: In a 20-by-20-inch square, a total of 46 plant species was documented. MPF Director of Prairie Management Jerod Huebner, who works from his home base in Joplin, carries out exceptional prairie management.

Earlier this year, Jerod was named the Wildlife Conservationist of the Year by the Conservation Federation of Missouri. We are definitely proud of Jerod, and grateful for how hard he works to protect prairie for the benefit of all. We are also proud to have successfully advocated for the protection of prairie by state agencies and for federal policies that are grassland wildlife-friendly, and pleased to work with many partner groups who share in our mission.

Q: How do prairies impact wildlife?

A: There are many plants and animals that can live nowhere else on Earth except on prairies — for example, grass pink orchids and regal fritillary butterflies. Without diverse, original, well-managed prairies, they could disappear.

Prairies are also important habitat for many grassland-dependent species. Animals like meadowlarks, monarchs, bobwhite quail and slender glass lizards can live in a number of different grassy habitats, not just prairie, but prairie is indeed very important habitat for them. On a June visit to a prairie in southwestern Missouri, a hiker could expect to see pale purple coneflowers and pink beebalm blooming, step among the “chimneys” of grassland crayfish burrows, hear dickcissels and Henslow’s sparrows calling, watch a variety of butterflies floating by, and see many species of native bees busily gathering nectar and pollen from wildflowers.

Q: What can the public do to help preserve prairies?

A: Prairie belongs to all Americans — it is part of our shared heritage. Everyone can help safeguard this amazing natural resource by taking a hike on a prairie, learn about it and enjoy it; supporting conservation groups like the Missouri Prairie Foundation that work tirelessly to acquire, manage and permanently protect prairie; advocating for robust funding for state agencies that manage prairie; and by voicing support for federal agricultural and energy policies that protect rare prairie resources across the country. There are a number of private individuals who own prairie and proudly protect it, and they are to be commended.

Q: Where can remaining prairies be found in Missouri?

A: Most original, unplowed prairies that remain in Missouri are in the southwestern portion of the state because the ground is rocky, and many areas were, because of this, spared from plowing. However, there are prairie remnants throughout the state.

Missouri has a wonderful new online resource called the Public Prairies of Missouri Interactive Story Map. This is an online directory to more than 90 original prairies and some prairie plantings. It was developed by the Missouri Department of Conservation and the Missouri Prairie Foundation. This is a handy resource to locate prairies and learn about them as you plan a visit. The link is https://mdcgis.maps.arcgis.com/apps/MapJournal/index.html?appid=7a8aa8aa8a534f61b30ff606762227a1

We must protect prairies because they are irreplaceable. We can create prairie plantings, but we can’t replicate an original prairie in all its ecological intricacy. If a museum full of master paintings were to catch on fire, we would do everything we could to save it. Our prairies are disappearing, and they are even more precious than artwork because humans can create art, but they cannot create ecosystems.

We must act now to protect as much remaining prairie as we can — prairie wildlife, pollinators, plants, soil microbes. They all benefit us, and they also have inherent value. I invite everyone to learn more about prairie and the work of the Missouri Prairie Foundation at www.moprairie.org, follow us on social media and visit an MPF prairie.

Study Shows Targeted CRP Practices Can Boost Bobwhite Populations

New research indicates that the nation’s largest private lands conservation program, the USDA Conservation Reserve Program, or CRP, can magnify its impacts on bobwhite quail, grassland birds and other wildlife if it is applied to the landscape at scale and in locations already targeted by complementary management activities. The study was commissioned by the Farm Service Agency (FSA) and conducted by seven state wildlife agencies, NBCI and the University of Georgia (UGA).

“Although more study needs to be done, these results lend credence to belief that the impact of CRP can be maximized by targeting these programs to working landscapes that are already being managed and monitored,” said acting director of the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI) Dr. Pat Keyser.

“Now in its 35th year, CRP provides a win-win for both people and the environment by controlling soil erosion, improving water quality and―as we see here―increasing wildlife populations by creating critical habitats,” said USDA’s Farm Service Agency Administrator Richard Fordyce. “This study’s findings are exactly the kind of outcomes we aim for with CRP, proving that the program can lead to great conservation benefits.”

The research shows Farm Bill Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) practices applied on a landscape-scale or “focal area” approach, being demonstrated by the NBCI, have a 78% chance of improving breeding season bobwhite populations and a 95% chance of improving non-breeding season populations.

“Our objectives were to understand how CRP influences northern bobwhite populations at landscape scales to uncover any differences in the efficiency of CRP in focal landscapes versus CRP in unmanaged or reference areas,” said Dr. James Martin, associate professor of UGA’s Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources.

“Conservation Reserve Program practices that use native vegetation were much more productive in managed landscapes than unmanaged ones. For example, in a focal area landscape, preliminary results indicate that for every 5% increase in whole-field herbaceous-based CRP practices (e.g., CP2) in a landscape a bobwhite covey is added to the population.”

Dr. Martin said the size of the landscape mattered depending on the season, with any CRP field farther than 1.2 miles away from a local population had no influence in breeding season, while during non-breeding season a CRP field up to five miles away positively impacted the local population.

“This study highlights the importance of the landscape-scale, targeted approach to conservation in farmlands,” said Dr. John Yeiser, UGA research associate, adding the study also demonstrated that CRP in isolation is less efficient than in clusters, and that there may be variability in the impacts of CRP in different regions depending on the amount or arrangement of resources that are complementary to those added by CRP practices.

Participating states with NBCI focal areas were Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma and Texas. NBCI’s focal area program requires a minimum of 1,500 acres of managed habitat, an unmanaged reference or control area for comparison and formal habitat and bird monitoring practices. Fifteen focal and reference areas totaling more than 150,000 acres were involved in the study.

For more detail read the full report at https://bringbackbobwhites.org/download/fsa-bobwhite-report/.

For more detail about the Conservation Reserve Program, visit https://www.fsa.usda.gov/programs-and-services/conservation-programs/conservation-reserve-program/

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.

Media Contact: John Doty, jdoty3@utk.edu

NBCI Seeks New Director

Applications for the position of director of the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI) are now being accepted with a review of applications beginning April 17 and continuing until the position is filled, according to the University of Tennessee and the NBCI Management Board.

The NBCI director is responsible for “providing national leadership for the implementation of the 25-state initiative,” which is based in the Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries at the UT Institute of Agriculture in Knoxville.

“We especially seek to attract an individual with experience in administration and budget management of wildlife conservation agencies and/or conservation non-profit organizations. Experience in government conservation policy is preferred, especially at the regional or national levels,” according to the job posting.

Requirements are a Master’s Degree or equivalent of education, training and experience in wildlife conservation, wildlife management, ecology or a related field, however, a degree in business administration or management, in combination with extensive conservation knowledge, would be considered. Preferred candidates will have knowledge of conservation agency, non-profit or business administration, fundamentals of avian wildlife ecology, biology and habitats (specifically northern bobwhites), fundraising, financial management, accounting and contracting.

More details and online application may be accessed at https://tiny.utk.edu/DirectorNBCI.

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.

Media Contact: John Doty, jdoty3@utk.edu

Northern Bobwhite: Saving an Iconic Bird, Its Habitat, and It’s Wildlife Neighbors (American Bird Conservancy)

This is the story of a bird in a tailspin.

Back in the 1980s and early 1990s, the Northern Bobwhite was a fairly common bird here in southwestern Missouri. I remember nearly falling off my startled horse when flocks of 25 or 30 birds would flush out of the overgrown pasture I would often ride in. The “old timers” used to tell me that they recalled encountering flocks twice that size. Sadly, it’s now been several years since I’ve seen or heard any quail around where I live.

The Northern Bobwhite, like several other species of nonmigratory gallinaceous gamebirds in the United States, has suffered severe declines across much of its range, especially in the Midwest and South, and it is dramatically receding from the northeastern part of its range. While the species is included in planning by Partners in Flight, a multi-species trinational landbird conservation enterprise, it also has its own initiative, the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI), plus the associated technical arm, the National Bobwhite Technical Committee (NBTC).

As the NBCI turns 25, I’m grateful to be working together with many partners to save quail, their grassland habitats, and the myriad plants and animals that share these important landscapes. Never has there been such a critically important time to come together to try to save these birds.

Northern Bobwhite. Photo by Dennis W. Donohue/Shutterstock

 

Recently, I was invited to join the NBTC steering committee to represent American Bird Conservancy and the Central Hardwoods Joint Venture (CHJV), for which I am Coordinator.

I brought my non-gamebird perspective, knowing full well that saving bobwhites means saving many other birds that share the species’ grassland and brushland habitats. My tenure began with a meeting of the steering committee this past January. More recently, in July, I attended a much larger gathering of NBTC members, where some of their achievements were more broadly highlighted. I feel confident that this group of staff from primarily state wildlife agencies and nongovernmental organizations has found, and continues to find, creative ways to improve conditions for the beloved gamebird, as well many of the nongame species in somewhat parallel decline.

I can attest that the Central Hardwoods Joint Venture has also been concerned with the plight of the bobwhite since our partnership’s inception over 18 years ago. Migratory Bird Joint Ventures (JVs) are public-private partnerships in which state and federal wildlife and land-managing agencies and nongovernmental conservation organizations collectively work to reverse declines and support sustainable populations of bird species of conservation concern at eco-regional scales. Although the implication is that JVs only focus on migratory birds, there are quite a few species in need of conservation attention — including the Northern Bobwhite — that don’t migrate long distances but also receive conservation action via JV activities. In fact, we have had the NBCI represented on our JV board by its Director, Don McKenzie, who will soon be leaving his post.

Northern Bobwhites may be declining for different reasons in different places, with threats including conversion to row crop agriculture and nonnative pasture grasses, fire suppression, and heavy cattle stocking rates.

Northern Bobwhite pair. Photo by Dennis W. Donohue/Shutterstock

Knowing bobwhites need a mix of native grasses, forbs, and shrubs within their year-round home range, NBCI staff have for years worked to get a “Native’s First” policy in the USDA “Farm Bill” that provides millions of dollars of incentives to private landowners to implement bobwhite-friendly management practices on their lands. For the first time, after many years of effort, language that prioritizes the planting of natives over nonnative vegetation was included in the Farm Bill that passed last fall. This alone will help many grassland species of conservation concern, as well as helping to drought-proof grazing lands and improve soil health.

Along with getting USDA to prioritize native vegetation in their incentive programs, the NBCI long ago recognized that landowners who work their lands for their livelihoods must be able to make as much or more money from incorporating natives as not. The NBCI Grasslands Coordinator and working group, in conjunction with the Center for Native Grasslands Management at the University of Tennessee, have developed detailed guidelines for how native grasses can be used, both in rotation and continuous grazing systems, and they have shown that the weight gains of cattle that result are as good or better than with nonnative forage grasses such as Bermuda and Tall Fescue. They are working hard to get that message out so that enough producers make the switch on the vast acreages we need to recover the Northern Bobwhite, Eastern Meadowlark, Grasshopper Sparrow, and other bird species of conservation concern.

In addition to working on improving grazing lands, the NBCI partners with researchers at universities like Mississippi State who are looking at how “precision ag”— the mapping of things like projected crop yields per unit of investment in fertilizers, irrigation, etc. — can be used to identify parcels where the return on investment doesn’t justify those costs, or where the farmer suffers little or no loss if those acres are planted in bird-friendly vegetation.

Another contribution to grassland bird conservation lies with the NBCI’s aim that on-the-ground habitat improvements must be structured in a way that can provide the varied kinds of food and cover that the birds need throughout their annual cycle. Being nonmigratory, the bobwhite needs open native grasslands in spring and summer for nesting and brood-rearing, but also proximity to shrubby patches where the overhead vegetation helps keep them cool in summer, covered from snow and ice in winter, and able to escape predators in any season.

Northern Bobwhite. Photo by Greg Lavaty/www.texastargetbirds.com

The NBCI’s Science Committee also strongly recommends that areas targeted for quail conservation be large enough to sustain 800 or more birds in the fall, in order to maintain viable populations in any given area, with the minimum area of high-quality habitat being at least 1,500 acres on no less than 25 percent of the landscape in a “focal area.” Other species of grasslands birds of conservation concern, like Henslow’s and Grasshopper Sparrows, are “area-sensitive” as well, needing very large tracts of habitat rather than small, isolated patches, to successfully reproduce. Unfortunately, those needs often get overlooked in efforts to “just get some habitat” on the ground. Kudos to the NBCI for directly pinning their habitat recommendations to the biology of their species of interest.

In addition to the guidelines for establishing focal areas, the NBCI’s Science Committee developed an innovative and detailed monitoring system that links bird population responses to the amount and configuration of habitat within each focal area, comparing them to results at paired control sites. The data collected are analyzed with an eye to improving the design of future conservation and monitoring efforts, so actions get more results over time.

As I’d mentioned before, bobwhites have and need a lot of friends. The circle seems to be growing. All of this planning and policy work would be for naught without a dedicated cadre of professionals who are well-trained to get the habitat on the ground. State “quail biologists” have been working in their respective states on behalf of quail from the beginning of the NBCI, but in recent years, partnerships with nongovernmental organizations like Quail Forever and the National Wild Turkey Federation have produced a small army of “Farm Bill biologists” able to reach out to even more private landowners with information about state and federal private lands incentives programs that can help to improve habitat for bobwhite in areas where public lands are scarce or managed for different resource concerns.

While all this good work is indeed targeted at recovering the Northern Bobwhite, upon which the NBCI has a hard focus, much of the habitat work benefits other grassland wildlife, including the birds of conservation concern mentioned above, plus many others. The challenge now is to keep the momentum going so that some “critical mass” of habitat is achieved. That way, I hope, the quail’s familiar call will once again echo throughout rural landscapes across its range.

Jane Fitzgerald is an ABC Vice President and the Central Hardwoods Joint Venture Coordinator.

 

Arkansas Golf Course Boasts Native Prairie, a Variety of “Birdies”

Arkansas Golf Course Boasts Native Prairie, a Variety of “Birdies”

It began as a simple quest by a self-described “Oklahoma country boy” to reduce the maintenance costs on the 27-hole Ben Geren Golf Course in Fort Smith, Arkansas, which had a maintenance crew barely large enough to maintain 18 holes. The result was a gem in the Natural State’s second-largest city that is attracting a broad spectrum of interest, from Arkansas Audubon to the Southeastern Grasslands Initiative to Future Farmers of America classes, the state’s botanist, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and others. And at least two coveys of bobwhites, one at each end of the course, have also taken up residency here.

“There’s a whole lot more than golf going on here now,” says course superintendent Jay Randolph. This wasn’t Randolph’s first rodeo… or golf course. Upon arriving in early 2016, “I knew we needed to reduce mowable acres,” said Randolph, who grew up in the Osage plains of Oklahoma hunting prairie chickens and bobwhites. And he was just 15 hours away from a wildlife biology degree from Northeastern State University when he jumped to Oklahoma State to earn a degree in horticulture (with a specialty in turf grass) and launch a golf course management career.

During his search for potential solutions at Ben Geren, he discovered the 275-acre course was set amid what was once the 10,500-acre Massard Prairie, a large, tall grass prairie of native grasses and forbs that had been reduced by development to only 200 scattered acres. He also discovered the course even had a few tiny scraps of prairie, scraps that were being consistently mowed as part of facility maintenance…

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Groups: Use of Native Plants in NRCS Standards Would Benefit Soil, Water, Wildlife

Native plants can protect soil, water, and air quality while also providing needed habitat for monarch butterflies, upland game birds, pollinators, and many other wildlife species.”

WASHINGTON — More than 85 groups yesterday asked the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service to prioritize the use of native plants in the conservation programs they manage. The National Wildlife Federation, the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative, the Izaak Walton League of America, and the Missouri Prairie Foundation were among the groups that weighed in on the agency’s review of its National Handbook of Conservation Practices.

“We are too frequently missing out on the important benefits native plants provide,” said Aviva Glaser, director of agriculture policy for the National Wildlife Federation. “Native plants can protect soil, water, and air quality while also providing needed habitat for monarch butterflies, upland game birds, pollinators, and many other wildlife species. We encourage USDA to make this switch to prioritizing diverse native plantings in conservation practice standards in order to maximize the resource benefits of our limited conservation dollars.”

USDA soil, water, and forage conservation practices historically often rely on introduced, non-native plants rather than native species. A total of 86 national, state, and local organizations submitted joint comments to USDA arguing that prioritizing the use of native plants would improve water quality and soil health while providing habitat for pollinators and other wildlife.

“Incorporating native vegetation in USDA conservation practices could be the most important development in restoring bobwhites, other declining grassland birds and pollinators across their ranges,” said National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative Director Don McKenzie. “Such an improved use for public conservation money spent by USDA would be the game changer for many declining wildlife species.”

Studies have shown native plants provide equal or better benefits for soil conservation, water quality, carbon sequestration, ecosystem function, and livestock forage, while also providing excellent habitat for wildlife and pollinators. Increased use of native plants could benefit a wide range of species, including northern bobwhite, lesser prairie-chicken, greater sage-grouse, other upland game birds, songbirds, monarch butterflies and other pollinators.

“The Missouri Prairie Foundation and many other conservation groups and businesses in Missouri are pleased to have the opportunity to support this initiative,” said Carol Davit, Executive Director of the Missouri Prairie Foundation and its Grow Native! program. “Native plants in conservation practices benefit the land and wildlife, benefit the farmer, and the taxpayer.”

“Native plants are adapted to a region’s soil and climate, so they should be easier to maintain and more likely to survive. Using native plants in all USDA conservation programs will help ensure that the conservation practices funded with our tax dollars will deliver on the water quality and other benefits promised,” said Duane Hovorka, Agriculture Program Director, Izaak Walton League of America.

More information: NRCS practice standards – 86 groups encourage native plant use

 

A Day in the Life of a Northern Bobwhite: Texas A&M Natural Resources Institute

Many wildlife species have complex behaviors and utilize their habitat in ways we still do not fully understand. While the mysteries of the wild intrigue most any outdoors lover, they do pose challenges when it comes to the management of sensitive or declining species.

Quail in Texas, more specifically the iconic Northern Bobwhite (Colinus virginianus), are among the species we still have much to learn. While small in size, this bird plays a big role in ecosystem dynamics and is often dubbed the “canary of the prairie,” as their presence is an indicator for ecological health. Despite public interest and general affinity for the bobwhite, populations continue to decline throughout its historic range, concerning landowners, scientists and wildlife enthusiast alike. Many research efforts, such as the Reversing the Decline of Quail in Texas Initiative, are underway to better understand and promote conservation and land management activities to help this vital species.

Tracking technology has been at the forefront of major quail research discoveries, as it allows researchers to access a quail’s day-to-day movement and fine scale habitat use. Many studies use GPS transmitter technology, a relatively recent advancement in wildlife tracking, which allow researchers to directly download daily quail movement data from a remote location. Once downloaded and processed, the data can be mapped out to describe a story of the quail’s daily whereabouts, including time spent in different locations. From here, data is paired with on-the-ground realities, such as habitat cover type and density, to help draw conclusions on how quail interact with their environment.

Our Texas Land Trends program group created this month’s featured map to display the movement of one GPS collared Northern Bobwhite over a three-day period in October. Let us review the map to see where and why this quail moved.

Read more about a day in the life of a bobwhite.

The Perfect Cover Crop is Native Range: BeefProducer.com

Native range matches rainfall and environment and gives the highest production when managed right.

Native range has long got a bum rap because people didn’t understand how to manage grassland, but in fact it was and is the ultimate grassland crop.

Kansas NRCS rangeland management specialist Doug Spencer calls native range “the perfect cover crop,” which seems fitting in this age when cover cropping is all the rage and is on the tip of so many tongues.

Sadly, there is little true native range left and most of that scattered from Texas to Nebraska, but the lessons it can teach us are useful and much of it could be restored in time.

Spencer lists several assets of native range. It’s a list which should make cover croppers exclaim, “Oh if only we had that!”

1. Native range is an efficient water user.

2. It is highly diverse, with dozens or hundreds of species.

3. It has a deep, productive root system.

4. It forms multiple relationships with mycorrhizal fungi.

5. It requires no fertilizer.

6. It reseeds itself or regrows entirely from root stock.

7. It is drought resistant.

8. It is beneficial for wildlife

and pollinators.

9. It is safe for grazing.

Read more at https://www.beefproducer.com/pasture/perfect-cover-crop-native-range?fbclid=IwAR22Pg8EST4ss7yI7MPAWxFdlIOzk2h-4Kzn2prhY23nIyl_rptYmCnKIYQ

 

 

NJ Developing New Prescribed Burn Guidelines Following New Legislation

TRENTON – The New Jersey Forest Fire Service is developing new guidelines for prescribed burning following the signing of legislation by Governor Phil Murphy providing the service with more tools to conduct these operations that are critical to protection of public safety and forest-health management.

Prescribed Burns

“The legislation the Governor signed last week provides the Forest Fire Service with more flexibility in determining the objectives of prescribed burns and provides clearer goals for owners of private property and nonprofits to utilize controlled burns to manage the health of ecosystems,” said Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Catherine R. McCabe.

Every year, the New Jersey Forest Fire Service has a goal of setting prescribed burns on about 20,000 acres of state-owned and other lands. These burns, also known as controlled burns, can take place in both forested and grassland areas and are critical to reducing fuels such as leaves, pine needles, fallen trees and branches, and shrubs that can act as tinder, causing wildfires to become difficult to control. These burns also improve ecosystem health and diversity by removing competing and invasive plant and tree species and enhancing wildlife habitats.

Among the key components of the legislation is an expansion of the definition of burn objectives to specifically allow for controlled burns to achieve ecosystem diversity, such as creation of wildlife habitats, and not just as a tool to reduce hazardous fuels.

The legislation also sets reasonable liability expectations for operations conducted by the Forest Fire Service and any other owners of wild lands. In addition, the legislation strengthens the ability of the Forest Fire Service to assess and address wildfire dangers on wild lands. Under the legislation, the Forest Fire Service may collect fees when appropriate on land not owned by the state to carry out management activities.

The Forest Fire Service worked closely with numerous stakeholders, including nonprofits, environmental organizations and outdoor sports organizations to help the Legislature craft the legislation, which passed unanimously in both houses. Governor Murphy signed the measure, A1675, into law on Aug. 24.

“New Jersey has long had a vigorous and strong prescribed burning program that is respected across the nation and is often studied by other wildland managers, scientists and firefighting agencies,” said State Firewarden Gregory McLaughlin. “This legislation will make the program even stronger and more effective. We plan to begin implementing many of the new measures in the next prescribed burning season.”

In New Jersey, the prescribed burning season typically takes place during the late fall into the late spring or early winter, depending on weather conditions. Operations are conducted at this time of year to take advantage of favorable weather conditions, such as lower relative humidity and cured fuels. These conditions are more conducive for managing burns so that they better consume targeted vegetation and debris.

Sometimes, however, extremely wet conditions during the prescribed burning season may limit the ability of the Forest Fire Service to achieve its acreage goal. The new law provides the Forest Fire Service more flexibility to conduct burning operations at other times of year when conditions are favorable to achieve other resource management objectives.

Nearly all wildfires in the state are caused by people, usually by accident, carelessness, recklessness and even arson. The Forest Fire Service must carefully weigh risks of fire suppression against the potential for wildfires to cause property damage and endanger lives. The best tools the Forest Fire Service has at its disposal are public education campaigns informing the public about wildfire safety and prescribed burning operations.

During prescribed burns, Forest Fire Service personnel use handheld torches to set smaller fires to burn away fallen leaves, pine needles, fallen branches and other debris on the forest floor. Personnel consider wind, moisture and other conditions in setting the fires.

Wildfires can have the greatest impact in areas where people live in or near forests, grasslands and other natural areas. The sprawling Pinelands region in southern New Jersey is especially prone to wildfires because its ecosystem is adapted to depend on periodic wildfires for releasing of seeds for reproduction. Controlling the buildup of fuel in this region helps keep the forests healthy.

The peak wildfire season in New Jersey is in the early spring, when weather conditions tend to be dry and windy and the forests haven’t leafed yet, exposing debris, leaves, needles and shrubs to the drying effects of the sun. Other peak seasons are in the early fall, when weather conditions can also be dry, as well as particularly dry periods during the summer.

The New Jersey Division of Parks and Forestry and the Forest Fire Service work to provide the public with advance notice of prescribed burning operations. When in doubt about the source of smoke or if a fire is part of a prescribed burning operation, call 9-1-1 or 1-877-WARN-DEP (1-877-927-6337).