The USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Texas will be working with partners on the recently announced 2015 NRCS Texas Bobwhite Quail Initiative, aimed at increasing the amount of high-quality native grassland and savannah habitats by at least 255,000 acres over a four year period for bobwhite quail and related declining wildlife species. The initiative targets more than 60 Texas counties.
Bobwhite quail populations have declined over the past 40 years, mainly due to the loss of rural lands and habitat fragmentation. Private landowners have a great opportunity through this initiative to make desired habitat improvements on their land, which in turn will benefit and increase quail populations, as well as other wildlife species. Bobwhites play a valued role in the ecosystem cycle of life and are a barometer of changes in other grassland bird populations. Conservation management that improves quail populations will also benefit a wide array of declining songbird species such as Loggerhead shrike, dickcissels, grasshopper sparrow, and meadow larks to name a few.
Quail can also provide an opportunity for revenue for landowners and rural communities through hunting, recreation, and ecotourism. Their presence not only increases the aesthetics of the land, but may also increase the real estate value. Wildlife tax exemptions might also be attained through the county tax appraisal office by having a conservation or wildlife plan.
“For many, the enjoyment of hearing and seeing wildlife is one of the many reasons people own land,” said Salvador Salinas, Texas NRCS state conservationist. “For others, it may be the enjoyment of a rural lifestyle where hunting or wildlife photography is important or being able to pass the land onto future generations in better condition than when it was acquired. Whatever the reason, with more than 83 percent of Texas land privately-owned, the landowner is in the driver’s seat when it comes to taking action to conserve, enhance and beautify their land for wildlife.”
The NRCS will provide technical assistance to those desiring a blueprint to follow aimed at conserving, protecting and improving their land and natural resources. The blueprint is a conservation plan that is developed with a landowner free of charge and can be tailored to the development of Bobwhite quail habitat on their place. A conservation plan will increase your ranking for funding when applications are requested. Applications are taken year round, but certain funding deadlines are announced throughout the year.
Conservation plans can include:
- Aerial photo, map or diagram of your land
- Soil map and soil descriptions that are site specific to your land
- Insightful resource inventory data of your land, which can include potential forage or crop production estimates, livestock carrying capacity estimates, plant identification, and recommended seeding rates
- Recorded list of your objectives and a conservation plan and schedule for achieving those objectives
All plans are confidential. Their purpose is to provide a roadmap to help you achieve your goals as well as your farm or ranch objectives. The bonus of improving your land through conservation stewardship benefits not only you, your family and future generations, but also the community with cleaner air, water, improved water quantity and quality, enhanced wildlife habitats and populations, and an overall a healthier place to live.
The initiative is a result of a partnership effort with various conservation-minded groups. Along with NRCS, partners include the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), Oaks and Prairies Joint Venture’s Grassland Restoration Initiative Program (GRIP), University of North Texas Quail Program (UNT Quail), Western Navarro County Bobwhite Quail Restoration Initiative (WNBRI), Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute (CKWRI) and the Rio Grande Joint Venture (RGJV), and Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs).
For more information visit your local USDA-NRCS office or visit www.tx.nrcs.usda.gov.
South Carolina DNR News
February 23, 2015
Benefits of prescribed burning are many, but managers finding it harder to burn
The use of prescribed fire as a land management tool has deep and ancient roots in South Carolina’s heritage. However, conducting prescribed burns is becoming increasingly challenging due to a variety of factors, according to a state wildlife biologist and forester.
Johnny Stowe, S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) representative to the South Carolina Prescribed Fire Council and a certified wildlife biologist and forester, said properly conducted prescribed burns (also called “controlled burns”) have multiple benefits. Stowe is also a landowner who burns his own land. Prescribed fires help restore and maintain vital habitat for wildlife, including bobwhite quail and other grassland birds, wild turkeys, white-tailed deer, gopher tortoises, and red-cockaded woodpeckers. Besides the many wildlife species that require fire-dependent habitat, many plants thrive only in regularly burned forests. The demise of the longleaf pine forest and associated grasslands, which once made South Carolina one of the best quail hunting states, is tightly correlated to the decrease of woods-burning. Also, plants like the insectivorous pitcher plants, sundews, and Venus’ fly trap—as well as many other plant species, some of them rare—require frequent fire.
“Fire-maintained lands also have a special unique beauty,” Stowe said. “The open, park-like vistas of properly burned lands appeal to many of us.”
Stowe can be reached via e-mail at StoweJ@dnr.sc.gov or by calling (803) 419-9374 in Columbia. For more information on prescribed burning assistance, call your local S.C. Forestry Commission office or visit the South Carolina Prescribed Fire Council.
Prescribed fire enhances public safety, according to Stowe, by reducing or even eliminating fuel loads, thereby making wildfire on that area impossible or unlikely for some time afterwards.
And wildfires are usually less destructive on areas that have been prescribed burned. Wildfires often either lose intensity or go out when they reach areas that have been prescribed burned.
Prescribed fire is also, along with hunting and agriculture, an essential part of the heritage and character of the South. Every culture that has ever lived in the South has had an ancient tradition of woods burning. The Indians transformed the Southern landscape for thousands of years with fire, and the Africans and Europeans brought with them from the Old World the time-tested practice of using fire to mold the land to their needs.
Sadly, one of the main threats to prescribed burning is the legacy of Smokey Bear. “Smokey is one of the best-known icons in the United States,” Stowe said, “and while part of Smokey’s message always has been, is, and always will be wise—that no one should carelessly or maliciously use fire under any circumstances—Smokey’s legacy is that several generations of Americans view forest fires as universally destructive.”
Another key threat to the Southern tradition of prescribed burning as a land management tool is South Carolina’s increasingly urban population. Many South Carolinians now come from backgrounds that did not expose them to rural land management activities such as burning, hunting and agricultural operations, according to Stowe. Often these folks do not appreciate the multiple benefits to society that these practices provide, nor the long-standing role that they play in the state’s natural and cultural history. Noted conservationist Aldo Leopold correctly observed that one of the dangers of not living on a farm is that you may get the idea that heat comes from the furnace and food from the supermarket.
Stowe says that one of the many public benefits of the DNR’s Heritage Preserves and Wildlife Management Areas is that they provide folks with a chance to see on-the-ground land management—how it works and why it is vital to protecting the state’s natural landscapes.
From the Park City (KY) Daily News: The Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources hopes to motivate fowl enthusiasts to help restore the Bobwhite quail population through the Peabody Bobwhite Rally on Saturday at Peabody Wildlife Management Area, 1 Goose Lake Road, Drakesboro. NBCI Director Don McKenzie is scheduled to give an update of national restoration efforts as part of the day’s agenda. Click HERE to read more detail in the Daily News.
Click HERE to read USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service’s latest post on their Drought Assistance webpage. Check on the July 23 entry that outlines the benefits of native grasses, a subject NBCI continues to promote in D.C. for the benefit of bobwhites on private lands.
Click HERE to see any/all of the seven videos from the annual meeting of the National Bobwhite Technical Committee in Roanoke available on NBCI’s YouTube channel.
Click here to read America’s Longleaf interview with NBCI Forestry Coordinator Mike Black as one of the leaders in the longleaf restoration effort and as the incoming chairman of the Longleaf Partnership Council.
There’s good news about bobwhites in the Albany and Red Hills areas in the just-released issue of the Tall Timbers electronic newsletter. Click Here.
Check out a Missouri Quail Forever habitat project as captured by the Field & Stream Hero for a Day project here.
The Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute has announced its “5th Quail Short Course and Restoration Workshop,” September 11-12, 2013 at the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Center
1730 W Corral, Kingsville, Texas. For more details about the agenda, including discussions on quail habitat, quail ecology, population counts go HERE.
It’s early, but some folks in Texas are optimistic regarding quail populations. Check out the most the newest newsletter from the Rolling Plains Quail Research Ranch HERE.