NBCI News

National Bobwhite Technical Group Honors Kowaleski Posthumously

The National Bobwhite Technical Committee (NBTC) posthumously honored a 19-year veteran of the group during its 26th annual meeting, originally scheduled for Arkansas but conducted virtually instead. Chuck Kowaleski, of Texas, received the 2020 NBTC Leadership Award for his significant, long-term contributions to the bobwhite restoration cause.

“Chuck helped shape the future of bobwhite conservation management in the United States, was a strong advocate for the NBTC mission, and made significant contributions to habitat conservation efforts nationwide,” said NBTC chair Robert Perez with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD). “And with his life experience, it’s no wonder that Chuck never passed up a teachable moment.”

Kowaleski was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Liberia, West Africa, a high school biology teacher, an urban biologist, and managed Texas Project Wild teacher trainings, all before joining the NBTC. When Kowaleski became the TPWD Farm Bill Coordinator in 2001, he joined the Southeast Quail Study Group, the forerunner of the NBTC. His contributions included serving as chair and vice chair of the Agriculture Policy Subcommittee, and chair and treasurer of the NBTC Steering Committee.

During his tenure as the TPWD Farm Bill coordinator, Chuck partnered with a variety of organizations to implement programs creating special focus areas benefitting various wildlife species, including bobwhites. Those areas provided $35.3 million in federal cost share to 1,208 landowners in habitat improvements for priority species on 1.79 million acres. Over 325,000 of those acres were specifically for bobwhites.

“Chuck provided a direct connection to the national Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (AFWA), as chair of AFWA’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program Working Group,” said Perez. “He also provided invaluable leadership for NBTC’s work to establish a national Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) policy favoring the use of native plants in Farm Bill programs and native grasses as federally subsidized replacements for drought-susceptible, exotic pasture grasses that USDA traditionally promotes. Over the years, Chuck provided expert guidance and counsel to our committee regarding Farm Bill programs, including those with multiple benefits for landowners, farmer/ranchers, and wildlife. Chuck always spoke up for what was right, was the first to lend a hand, and was more than willing to listen to your concerns and offer sound advice.” Numerous NBTC meeting attendees also took the opportunity to share memories of their interactions with Kowaleski.

Kowaleski received many accolades for his dedication to conservation before retiring in 2019, including the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies’ Wildlife Biologist of the Year Award in 2014 and the Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever Conservation Service Award in 2017.

Shane Mahoney Headlines Annual Meeting Of Bobwhite Quail Experts Next Week

Internationally known natural resource conservation speaker Shane Mahoney, of Newfoundland, will provide the plenary address to the National Bobwhite Technical Committee (NBTC) Tuesday, July 28 during its meeting through Thursday. The group will also hear Bridgett Costanzo with the Natural Resources Conservation Service on “The Role of Working Lands for Wildlife in Landscape Conservation.”

Originally scheduled for Arkansas, the 26th annual meeting has been moved to a virtual platform.

Representatives from state wildlife agencies, research institutions and private conservation organizations, NBTC created the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI). It serves in an advisory capacity for NBCI’s work at the regional and national levels on behalf of landscape scale restoration of wild bobwhite quail.

During the week participants will meet in subcommittees based on areas of expertise and interest to cover science, forestry, grasslands/agriculture and communications, and will report their findings to the steering committee at the meeting’s conclusion. State quail coordinators will also meet among themselves during the week to consider additional ways NBCI might assist in furthering their respective state-based restoration efforts.

Native Grasslands Alliance Makes Debut for National Prairie Day

A new alliance of organizations dedicated to the voluntary restoration of native grasses on working lands in the U.S. is launching this week in conjunction with National Prairie Day celebration, Saturday, June 6, founded by the Missouri Prairie Foundation.

The Native Grasslands Alliance (NGA) includes organizations whose core missions include a commitment to restore native grasslands vegetation on agricultural/working landscapes. The NGA will work to provide a unified voice, one that can amplify the message about the importance and value of native grasslands.  Outreach efforts by the NGA will focus on federal/state lawmakers and agencies, the agriculture education sector, and key citizen and non-profit conservation groups across the country.

Among the NGA’s founding members are the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, the Southeastern Grasslands Initiative, Truax Company, Inc., the National Wildlife Federation, Center for Native Grasslands Management, Missouri Prairie Foundation, Roundstone Native Seed, Chesapeake Valley Seed and the Quality Deer Management Association.

The alliance has grown out of the Natives First Coalition, an effort launched by the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI) to educate those associated with the development of the 2018 Farm Bill about the contributions native grasses make to agriculture, wildlife, water and air quality, and soil conservation and health. Seeking a voluntary, non-regulatory native vegetation policy in USDA agricultural conservation programs, the effort resulted in recognition of the contribution of native vegetation in the conference managers’ report and instructions to use natives when “practicable.” Subsequently, a subset of coalition participants identified the need for a more organized, diverse and formal group to continue building on that momentum.

“Although there are tremendous local and regional efforts promoting native grasslands, the grassland community has lacked a national, coordinated, unified voice illuminating the value of native grasslands,” said acting NBCI Director Dr. Pat Keyser. “The Native Grasslands Alliance provides that voice to elevate the status and ultimately the adoption of native grassland vegetation into working landscapes. The NGA isn’t just about working landscape though, we also recognize the importance of preserving what’s left of critical, remnant native grasslands and restoration where possible.”

The new alliance is focused around four working groups; policy, research, technical education and awareness. Organizations are encouraged to participate in one or more of the groups.

“We’re asking individuals to encourage their respective organizations to join the NGA. Individuals may join the NGA Community to keep up-to-date on NGA activities and participate in working groups,” Dr. Keyser said.

For more information and to join, organizational representatives should visit www.nativegrasslandsalliance.org.

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 Centralizes Bobwhite Seminars for Easy Reference

The National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI) has collected on its website links to five educational webinars related to the latest science-based habitat management strategies for bobwhite quail for easier user access. NBCI sponsored the webinars, sometimes with other partners and presenters, over the past several months. The webinars reflect some of NBCI’s key strategic priorities in wild bobwhite restoration.

“These webinars, which were originally broadcast for us and then housed by Southern Regional Extension Forestry, remain a valuable resource for wildlife managers, foresters and land managers,” said Dr. Pat Keyser, NBCI Interim Director. “And there is turnover of personnel involved in the bobwhite management arena, as in any other field, so there is always a new and continuing audience for these efforts.”

There are five available webinars:

  • Managing Oak Forests for Bobwhite Quail (Dr. Dwayne Elmore, Oklahoma State University)
  • Maintaining Quail and Grassland Bird Habitat in the Agricultural Landscape (Lisa Potter, Missouri Department of Conservation)
  • Understory Herbicides for Bobwhites and Other Wildlife (Ryan Mitchell, The Longleaf Alliance)
  • Native Vegetation Investments Pay Conservation Dividends (Jef Hodges, National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative)
  • Forest Management for Northern Bobwhite Quail (Steve Chapman, National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative)

All five webinars can be accessed at https://bringbackbobwhites.org/category/the-bobwhite-library/webinars/. (Continuing education credits are still available for Managing Oak Forests for Bobwhite Quail.)

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

Illinois Hires New Quail Coordinator

Bob Caveny, of Carlinville, Illinois, is the Land of Lincoln’s new agriculture and grassland wildlife program manager in the state’s Department of Natural Resources. In that role he will also serve as the state’s “quail coordinator” in the state’s support of the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI), a strategic, unified effort by 25 state wildlife agencies to restore wild bobwhite quail.

New Illinois state quail coordinator, Bob Caveny

Caveny joins the state’s wildlife program after serving as agricultural lands manager within the Office of Lands. Prior to that he worked as the conservation stewardship program manager in the Private Lands program, the Illinois Recreational Access Program coordinator for the Sangamon Soil and Water Conservation District, and as a regional wildlife biologist and Farm Bill biologist for Pheasants Forever in Indiana and eastern Illinois, respectively.

Caveny has a BS degree from Eastern Illinois University in Environmental Biology and a MS degree from Texas A&M University in Wildlife Biology. In his spare time, he enjoys hunting, fishing, and managing habitat.

“State quail coordinators are an integral part of implementing the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative, serving as a liaison between our range-wide efforts and their respective state agency. The coordinator also keeps us aware of issues specific to the state”, said Interim NBCI Director Dr. Pat Keyser. “Illinois’ history as a tallgrass prairie state and the ongoing native grassland restoration activities in Illinois hold much promise for benefitting bobwhites and many associated grassland wildlife and pollinator species.  “We’re excited the position has been filled with an individual with a strong background in private lands management and Farm Bill programs. Public lands alone will not bridge the gap if we are to achieve landscape-scale restoration goals.”

For more information on key NBCI strategies, visit https://bit.ly/2wsT74d   

‘Bobwhites in Pine Savanna’ Workshop January 30 in Marianna, FL

The National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI) and partners will host the Tri-State Bobwhite Symposium for professional land managers and landowners Thursday, January 30, 2020, in Marianna, FL.

It is the second Working Lands for Wildlife–Bobwhites in Pine Savanna workshop funded by the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and is expected to draw attendees from three states. The program goal is to restore pine savanna on 82,000 acres across seven states using thinning, prescribed fire, and native grass restoration. Federal funding is available to landowners who choose to pursue pine savanna management on that designated landscape.

“Private lands are a critical and necessary component for landscape-scale restoration of wild bobwhites, which is what NBCI is all about,” said NBCI Forestry Coordinator Steve Chapman. “Active management of pine forests on those lands, while still meeting landowner objectives, is a key NBCI strategy, and 82,000 managed acres will show the dividends of this approach.”

Dr. Jess McGuire, Quail Forever’s Working Lands for Wildlife bobwhite coordinator, added that “in order to achieve this level of restoration, wildlife professionals must be trained in the nuances of bobwhite management.”

The workshop will be from 9am–2pm at the University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) office, located at 2741 Penn Avenue, Suite 3, Marianna, FL 32448. Preregistration by January 23 is required by contacting jmcguire@quailforever.org or online at http://bit.ly/tristatequail.

Additional partners include Quail Forever, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy, University of Florida Extension, and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Through multiple agreements, NBCI, in collaboration with Quail Forever and Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources/University of Georgia, will provide at least one of these workshops in each of the seven states identified in the project geography. Those states include Alabama, Florida, Georgia, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia. Partners will also produce educational materials detailing management techniques and the results of intentional, targeted pine savanna management for bobwhites as part of the overall project

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, Park Cities Quail and Roundstone Native Seed.

NBCI Issues 9th ‘State of the Bobwhite’ Report … Missouri Sets 40-Year Record for Bobwhite Density

The cover of the State of the Bobwhite 2019 gives a nod to the once iconic nature of the bobwhite quail in American culture with a photo of the flushing bobwhite Henry Ford had designed as an option for his Model A. To him the bobwhite represented the quick takeoff/getaway capability of his new automobile. (Heather Inman)

The myths associated with prescribed fire, a member state that set a 40-year record for bobwhite abundance in one of its bobwhite focal areas and the final adoption of wild bobwhite translocation guidelines are all featured in the new State of the Bobwhite (SOTB) 2019, published annually by the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI) to provide a range-wide snapshot of the bird’s population, hunting and conservation status.

Prescribed Fire, Extinguishing the Myths delves into the growth of prescribed fire in the 25 states comprising the core bobwhite range, while tackling various myths that have led to resistance among some audiences to embrace the fundamental management technique.

Missouri’s NBCI Coordinated Focal Area Implementation Program, achieved the state-determined target quail densities on both the 5,574-acre Bee Ridge Focal Area (one bird per two acres) and the 5,242-acre 2C Focal Area (.91 birds per acre) for multiple years. NBCI’s minimum population density requirement for sustained survival is 0.2 birds per acre, while minimum density for hunting is 0.5 birds per acre. The 2C density figure is a 40-year record for Missouri.

The 25 NBCI states managed 3,764,671 acres for bobwhites in 2018, according to the NBCI’s 2019 State of the Bobwhite report. The figure is down about 200,000 acres from the previous year due to a sizeable decline in USDA Farm Bill programs, according to member states, however, the report indicates a stability in management of state agency lands and a continued high level of management on private lands, whether led by state agencies or partners.

The 74-page report also highlights individuals and entities from 10 states who made contributions to range-wide restoration of wild bobwhites sufficient to earn them the NBCI National Fire Bird Conservation Award and explores a Tennessee state park that is not only “for the birds” but uses the bobwhite as the key indicator species for their management activities. It also offers a “tip of the hat” to the historically “iconic” nature of the bobwhite with the report cover featuring the flushing bobwhite radiator cap of the Ford Model A, an option ordered and overseen by Henry Ford himself to adequately represent the quick take-off capabilities of his new Model A.

To examine a digital version of the 2019 State of the Bobwhite, please visit https://tinyurl.com/y479fg6c.

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.

Contact: John Doty, Communications Director, jdoty3@utk.edu, (865) 974-7281

NFWF Grant Allows NBCI to Accelerate Analysis of Bobwhites in Longleaf Pine Efforts

The National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI) will use a new $147,568 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) Longleaf Stewardship Fund – matched by four other sources for a total of $295,165– to aggressively accelerate the analysis of data – and learning — from current bobwhite management efforts in the longleaf pine ecosystem.

The four areas involved– Boggy Hollow on the Conecuh National Forest in Alabama, Silver Lake West in Georgia, Kisatchie/Vernon on the Vernon District of the Kisatchie National Forest in Louisiana and Big Woods/Piney Grove in Virginia – are all under the umbrella of NBCI’s Coordinated Implementation Program (CIP) for focal areas. Participation requires collection of a great deal of data from each area – and its corresponding reference/control area — at various times of the year. Information includes habitat surveys, fall bobwhite covey counts and spring breeding bird counts for various species in addition to bobwhite quail, all collected from the states and managed by NBCI’s data analyst, Molly Foley. The project will help accelerate the analysis of data and development of statistical models by James Martin and John Yeiser at the University of Georgia relating bobwhite abundance to habitat amount, landscape characteristics and management actions in the longleaf pine setting. Correlations made in this study between bobwhite density and habitat management activities may dictate what direction states in the longleaf pine region should go in order to increase bobwhite abundance more quickly on their landscapes.

“The bottom line is this project will provide a faster track for adaptively managing habitat in the longleaf ecosystem for achieving desired bobwhite populations and learning more rapidly from management actions,” said NBCI Director Don McKenzie. “We appreciate NFWF recognizing the value of our work to date and investing to help speed the restoration of wild bobwhites on the landscape, including the longleaf pine ecosystem.”

The grant will also provide workshop opportunities for participants to discuss results from the various focal areas and determine future management actions and research needs.

The NFWF grant is being matched by a total of $147,597 in cash and/or in-kind services from the University of Georgia, the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and NBCI.