News from the NRCS
The Bobwhite Quail in Florida is in trouble. In fact, populations across Florida and throughout the southeastern US have dropped from an estimated 31 million to only 5.5 million in the past 50 years. That’s 80 percent of the population just gone.
Habitat loss is the leading contributing factor to the quail’s demise. Bobwhites need frequently burned open pine savannas and rangelands to provide food, nesting and brood habitat and escape cover. Thinned pine stands (< 60 sq ft. /ac) and lower density pine plantings (< 500 trees / acre) are important to provide an open canopy that allows sunlight to the ground for food and nesting and brood habitat. Clumps of bunch grasses such as bluestems, Indian grass and wiregrass provide excellent nesting sites. Forbs such as ragweed, partridge pea and beggars tick provide food, cover and the bare ground essential for travel and finding seed. Shrubby areas with plants such as green briar, blackberry, plum thickets and yaupon provide quail escape cover from predators, protect them from cold or heat, and can be used as loafing sites.
Throughout Florida, changes in farm and timber practices have left little room for bobwhites. Pine stands are too thick with brush to provide habitat for quail. Many farms that once provided nesting and escape cover have cleared fence rows and left little ground for nesting and brood rearing. Former rangelands in the Panhandle have been converted to Bahia or Bermuda pasture which provide minimal benefit to bobwhites.
But these trends can be reversed. By applying a few practices, landowners can restore habitat by frequent prescribed burning, cutting back brush, thinning dense pine stands or disking.
Through a special 2017 signup ending May 19, the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is helping landowners restore quail and other pine savanna species that share the northern bobwhite range. NRCS will take applications for 2018 if you do not make the May 19 deadline. If you are interested in learning more, contact your local NRCS district conservationist at www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/fl/contact or FWC private lands biologist at www.myfwc.com/conservation/special-initiatives/lap/contact-us .
More information on Bobwhite Quail is available at the NRCS Wildlife Habitat Management Institute, www.whmi.nrcs.usda.gov, the National Bobwhite Quail Initiative, www.bringbackbobwhites.org , Quail Forever, www.quailforever.org , or The Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, www.myfwc.com .
SOMERSET, NJ, March 21, 2017 – USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is now accepting applications from farmers and landowners in seven New Jersey counties who are interested in installing conservation practices to help restore pine savanna, a critical wildlife habitat of the Northern Bobwhite. With a decline of suitable habitat, the bobwhite quail population in eastern North America has declined by more than 85% since the 1960s.
Northern Bobwhite, commonly referred to as bobwhite quail, is a state-identified target species of the Working Lands for Wildlife (WLFW) partnership, an NRCS initiative that brings partner groups together to develop a collaborative approach to conserve habitat on working lands.
Through this WLFW effort, NRCS can provide technical and financial assistance to eligible landowners to implement a variety of conservation practices to restore northern bobwhite quail habitat. Restoration projects will include developing and implementing forestry plans that include activities such as tree thinning and prescribed burning to improve forest health.
Landowners in Ocean, Burlington, Camden, Gloucester, Salem, Cumberland and Atlantic Counties are eligible to apply. Eligibility requirements for NRCS programs set forth in the 2014 Farm Bill will apply.
NRCS accepts applications on a continuous basis but makes funding selections at specific times. For funding consideration in 2017, please submit an application before April 21, 2017. To apply or learn more, please contact your local USDA service center. In Ocean County, Burlington County, and Camden County, call NRCS at the Columbus Service Center 609-267-1639, ext. 3; in Salem County and Gloucester County, call NRCS at the Woodstown Service Center 856-769-1126; and in Atlantic and Cumberland Counties, call NRCS at the Vineland Service Center 856-205-1225, ext. 3.
NRCS provides financial and technical assistance to help agricultural producers with erosion control, water management, water quality, and other resource concerns through conservation programs authorized by the Farm Bill. USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Office of Adjudication, 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (866) 632-9992 (Toll-free Customer Service), 800-877-8339 (Local or Federal relay), (866-367-8642 (Relay voice users).
(From the TribuneReview in Pennsylvania)
By Bob Frye
This truly is starting from square one.
Pennsylvania Game Commission went looking for wild, naturally reproducing populations of bobwhite quail in 2014. It found none. Soon, though, the agency hopes to bring them back. It has determined where and is working on how. All that will determine the when.
by Michael Hook, SCDNR Small Game Program Leader
Landowners participating in the program will be paid $150 per acre on top of CRP payments and revenue from timber harvests.
The South Carolina Bobwhite Initiative is happy to announce that the USDA Farm Service recently released the availability for the long-awaited CRP Tree Thinning Incentive.
The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) is a wildly successful program that is administered by the USDA Farm Service Agency. It has been in existence since the 1985 Farm Bill. The original intent of CRP was to reduce soil erosion, enhance water supplies with groundwater recharge, improve water quality, increase wildlife habitat and reduce damages caused by floods and other natural disasters.
Many of these practices were very beneficial to bobwhite quail, especially in the Midwestern states where CRP was widely implemented. In the Southeastern U.S., the results were not quite as positive for the bobwhites, whereas in the Midwest, CRP participants were planting native bunchgrasses and replanting grasslands. Most of the CRP acreage in the Southeast was put into loblolly pine stands. This benefitted quail and other wildlife for a while but, as the timber matured, the habitat became less suitable for wildlife. Wildlife biologists, foresters, and conservation biologists realized this rather quickly, but the corrective action came slowly.
It wasn’t until the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative answered the call and began pushing for assistance that change was brought about. Fortunately, the solution to the poor habitat quandary was an easy one- all it takes to improve the habitat in these monoculture loblolly stands is thinning to an appropriate basal area and adding a little bit of fire to the landscape. The NBCI went to bat for the Southeastern states and offered the solution of paying CRP participants for implementing mid-contract management on their properties. After several years and much to the joy of bobwhite enthusiasts across the Southeast, the 2014 Farm Bill authorized the use of these mid-contract management practices. And on Dec. 9, 2016, the USDA Farm Service Agency released the availability for the long-awaited CRP Tree Thinning Incentive.
“It was Christmas come early this year for those of us in the Southeast who had been waiting on this incentive,” SCDNR Small Game Program Leader Michael Hook said. “The National Bobwhite Technical Committee and the NBCI had been working on this project for several years and to see it come to fruition is quite exciting. I cannot wait to see the impact it has on the state’s bobwhite population.”
This tree thinning incentive comes in the form of additional money available to CRP participants who are willing to thin their pine stands to a wildlife-friendly basal area and utilize the use of fire or other approved management techniques to better their land for wildlife. Thinning and burning these monoculture pine stands will produce prime habitat for bobwhite quail, many species of song birds, southern fox squirrels, flatwoods salamanders, and even bees and butterflies. Not only will it create acres of pine savanna habitat that would otherwise not be available for these species, but it will also put extra money into the pockets of the landowners.
The $150-per-acre incentive money available for completing these practices is in addition to the existing CRP contract payments and any financial benefit derived from harvesting timber. There are limited funds available and the first sign-up period is short, so those interested are encouraged to speak to their local FSA representative as soon as possible. A landowner who is interested in the incentive needs to be signed up by Jan. 6, 2017.
Anyone with questions regarding the incentive can contact Michael Hook at
803-734-3940 or HookM@dnr.sc.gov.
From the Indiana DNR…
Songbirds, gamebirds, butterflies and bees are among the many animals that will benefit from a new DNR Division of Fish & Wildlife program to improve grassland and pollinator habitat.
CORRIDORS will focus on four priority areas in the state: Indiana State Wildlife Action Plan Conservation Opportunity Areas; rights-of-way on interstates and state and federal highways; 100-year floodplains of rivers; and areas adjacent to a body of water. Partners with DNR Fish & Wildlife include the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT), U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever (PF/QF).
People who own land in a priority area can participate by establishing habitat on their property through the CORRIDORS program. Qualifying landowners are eligible for technical and financial assistance. To get started, contact your DNR landscape or district wildlife biologist. A map with contact information is at wildlife.IN.gov/2716.htm.
Grassland and pollinator habitat is critical for the survival of many species, including monarch butterflies, bobwhite quail, ring-necked pheasants, Eastern meadowlarks, cottontail rabbits, native bees and the imperiled loggerhead shrike.
The DNR Division of Fish & Wildlife will provide technical assistance and, in some cases, incentive payments, and will coordinate efforts among agencies. INDOT will establish native grasses and plants where possible along rights-of-way of Indiana highways, increasing wildlife habitat while reducing maintenance costs. The NRCS will provide technical and financial assistance to private landowners through its Environmental Quality Incentive Program, improving both soil health and water quality. PF/QF will provide technical assistance through their Farm Bill biologists and promote the CORRIDORS program throughout the state.
If you aren’t a landowner but want to support the program, you can do so by spreading the word about the initiative and supporting DNR by purchasing licenses and a Gamebird Habitat Stamp.
For more information, visit wildlife.IN.gov/9405.htm
To view all DNR news releases, please see dnr.IN.gov.
Name: Erin Basiger
Phone: (317) 501-6272
Viewers of KTMU-TV in Topeka, Kansas will have the opportunity to watch This American Land’s “Bobwhites on the Brink” series later this month. The five-part series will air Sundays at 3:30 p.m. beginning Jan. 17. NBCI worked over a period of months with This American Land to help tell the story of the bobwhite decline in row crop, grazing land and forest settings, and the actions needed to restore the birds to these working lands.
The only thing the Pennsylvania Game Commission needs to begin its long-discussed bobwhite quail restoration effort is, well, quail.
Don’t be surprised if it doesn’t get them for a bit.
Across almost all of their historical range nationwide, bobwhites are struggling. Populations are in serious decline if not — as here — gone, said Don McKenzie, director of the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative, an organization working to bring back what was once America’s most widespread and perhaps most popular game bird.
Loss of habitat is to blame.
Iowa has received an additional 115,000 acres that can be enrolled in the Continuous Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) for critical wildlife and water quality efforts.
For landowners who have general CRP contracts expiring in 2017, this may be their only opportunity to re-enroll existing CRP back into the program. It is not clear whether there will be a general CRP signup in 2017.
The State Acres For Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE) program is part of the continuous CRP program with the goal of restoring high-priority wildlife habitat tailored to specific need. SAFE practices can be used to restore habitat for threatened and endangered species, species that have suffered significant population declines or species that provide significant social or economic value to the community.
Iowa’s existing SAFE programs, Gaining Ground SAFE – targeted to grassland birds and pollinators, and Pheasant Recovery SAFE – targeted at restoring pheasant habitat, each received additional allocations of 50,000 and 25,000 acres respectively. In addition to soil erosion prevention and water quality improvements, both SAFE projects provide an excellent opportunity for landowners to enroll land into CRP to establish quality wildlife habitat.
The Iowa DNR has created a webpage for landowners to learn more about federal and state programs available to them. The webpage includes a list of DNR staff who are experts at connecting landowners with programs and writing land management plans that benefit the landowner, wildlife and improve water quality. There is also a link to FSA where landowners can find information about their local FSA office. The landowner assistance webpage is at www.iowadnr.gov/crp.
In addition to the existing Iowa SAFE project announcements, an all-new SAFE project, called Iowa Early Successional Quail Habitat, has been approved for 40,000 acres.
The Iowa Early Successional Quail Habitat SAFE project, in addition to soil erosion prevention and water quality improvements, is designed to restore early successional habitat across Iowa’s southern quail range where it will be the most beneficial for bobwhite quail. This new SAFE will also be tremendously beneficial to native pollinators and Monarch butterflies.
Landowners may begin submitting applications on Jan. 9 for Gaining Ground SAFE and Pheasant Recovery SAFE. Applications for the new Quail Habitat SAFE will be accepted later in January.
A story by Bryan Hendricks on New Years Day in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette highlighted the recent approval of a multi-state “grasslands/bobwhite” proposal to NRCS and the potential impact of Arkansas’ $600,000 share.
NBCI led and coordinated the national effort to pull together the 9-state Working Lands For Wildlife grassland proposal to NRCS last summer, with Arkansas G&F being one of the most engaged state agencies in developing the national proposal. (NBCI also played a central coordination and support role for the multi-state pine savanna proposal submitted to NRCS at the same time. Both proposals were accepted by NRCS.)
These developments illuminate the value of all the state wildlife agencies and many other active supporters coming together and organizing under the auspices of the NBCI so that we can tackle opportunities and obstacles at regional and national scales.