NBCI News

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.

National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative Honors 12 with National Fire Bird Conservation Awards

Once again, the various ways to support landscape-scale restoration of wild bobwhite quail were on display with the 2019 National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative’s (NBCI) National Fire Bird Awards ceremony in Carbondale, IL, recently.

The award represents the historic and continuing reliance of bobwhites on fire in much of its range to maintain the landscape in the appropriate plant successional or structural stage, that is, in the native grasses, wildflowers, “weeds” and shrubby cover that provide bobwhites with suitable habitat. Both naturally-occurring fires and fires intentionally set by Native Americans for improved game populations and landowners to clear farm fields and woodlots historically resulted in abundant habitat for bobwhites, as well as other wildlife. The term “fire bird” in relation to bobwhites was first coined by naturalist Herbert Stoddard, who researched bobwhites and worked to restore bobwhite habitat in the early 20th Century.

Today, “prescribed” fire under controlled conditions by trained professionals has become an increasingly important tool for helping create and manage habitat for bobwhites, as well as a suite of songbirds and other wildlife that require early successional habitat to survive.

Award recipients are chosen by the respective NBCI-member state’s quail coordinator for their contributions to that state’s efforts toward habitat-based restoration of wild bobwhite populations. The awards are announced by the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI) at the annual meeting of the National Bobwhite Technical Committee, which was in Carbondale, IL, this year. Occasionally, the NBCI director will issue special recognition in the form of the NBCI Director’s Fire Bird Award.

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

Director’s National Fire Bird Conservation Awards

L to R, Jef Hodges, Don McKenzie, Tom Franklin

McKenzie recognized NBCI staffers Agriculture Liaison Tom Franklin and Grasslands Coordinator Jef Hodges for their respective roles in helping get native vegetation language placed in the Conference Report of the 2018 Farm Bill, a priority for several years and a game-changer for bobwhites and other grasslands wildlife:

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

 State-Based National Fire Bird Conservation Awards

Arkansas – Randy Brents

Since his hiring as the state’s first prescribed fire manager in 2014, Randy Brents has overseen more than 184,000 acres of prescribed fire statewide, with 9,256 acres within designated quail emphasis areas in the state. While not physically implementing every acre personally, he oversees the agency’s prescribed fire planning and implementation procedures statewide, including providing standardized procedures, direction and guidance for the planning and implementation of prescribed fire on all agency lands, including new guidelines for minimum training, minimum necessary experience and health standards for those employees participating in the prescribed burn program. His partnerships include being the Arkansas representative for the Southern Fire Exchange, a member of and instructor for the Arkansas Wildland Fire Academy, a member of the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission’s Quail Team and an integral part of the restoration and management teams of the state’s seven quail focal areas.

“Randy’s been a driving force in the shift from solely dormant season prescribed burns to a burn season that mimics historical fire patterns … and is a great asset to the habitat program, the wildlife management division, the agency and the wildlife of Arkansas,” said Marcus Asher, state quail coordinator.

Delaware – Brenna Ness

Brenna Ness

Prior to Brenna Ness’ hiring in 2016, Delaware Wild Lands — a land trust that owns and protects over 21,000 acres of land in the state, (http://www.dewildlands.org/) had no land steward/conservation programs manager for its properties in New Castle County. Ness is tasked with managing thousands of acres across the county, but focuses on quail management activities on those areas adjacent to Delaware’s NBCI Coordinated Implementation Program (CIP) focal area, burning 200-250 acres of saltmarsh and upland early successional habitats to control woody vegetation, exotic/invasive and promote native forbs and warm-season grasses. She converted 16 acres of exotics to native wildflowers on three properties and will convert 30 more acres this fall.

To combat erosion and improve water quality, Ness installed grassed waterways with native grasses and forbs that will provide habitat for quail and other grassland birds. She recently standardized all the organization’s agricultural crop leases to require field buffers, especially those adjacent to water resources. She also engaged Delaware Wild Land’s hunters and farmers to develop a strategic mowing plan that will promote winter cover for wildlife. In 2017, Ness initiated fall covey counts on her areas and this spring initiated their first spring breeding bird survey following the NBCI CIP protocol for monitoring bobwhites.

“This is important for internally comparing data within the state and for the potential future inclusion of some of Delaware Wild Lands tracts in Delaware’s CIP focal area,” said Justyn Foth, the state’s quail coordinator.

Kansas – John Johnson

John Johnson has had an impact far beyond his management of a single wildlife area. Johnson’s work as a contract habitat specialist at Fall River Wildlife Area led in 2012 to responsibility for the nearby 3,000-acre Woodson Wildlife Area, which straddles the transition from the Cross Timbers region to the Flint Hills region. Consequently, the western half is open prairie and the eastern half is dominated by post and black jack oaks, presenting two different habitat types to manage. He found a funding partner and began an oak savanna restoration, including thinning, glades creation and permanent firebreaks, which allowed the woods to be burned in smaller, separate plots. Invasive trees have been aggressively removed from the rangelands and the burning and grazing rotations redesigned so the timing of fire (spring/summer/fall) and the timing and intensity of grazing pressure is constantly changing to maximize habitat diversity. Johnson established habitat and bird monitoring (including fall covey counts), and established utilization exclusion devices within grazing units to monitor pasture utilization rates. Extensive plant surveys track plant diversity changes across the area.

Johnson has expanded the footprint of management beyond the wildlife area by hosting multiple field days and presented many programs to not only department personnel but also to private landowners, noxious weed directors and various professional meetings.

“With his background in range management, he speaks the language of the ranchers and has influenced many local land managers to adopt more quail and wildlife-friendly practices on their own ground,” said Jeff Prendergast, the state quail coordinator submitting the nomination. “He has been able to do this by demonstrating how the rest rotations that increased diversity for birds are also improving the producer’s bottom line, effecting landscape-level changes.”

Kentucky – Kentucky Bobwhite Specialty License Plate Board

(Jack Porter, Ed Shuman, Richard Hines, Dave Howell, Mae McCay)

Kentucky released the Bobwhite Specialty License Plate in 2008 as a voluntary specialty license plate offered to the state’s drivers. Ten dollars of the initial and renewal registration becomes a donation for bobwhite projects. The board reviews grants for these projects annually and makes decisions on which to fund up to $5,000. To date, the board has funded more than 50 projects totaling nearly $250,000, including seed programs with landowners, research on Peabody Wildlife Management Area and Bluegrass Army Depot, Livingston National Bobwhite Focus Area, Shaker Village, and most recently two vehicle wraps for department trucks.

“The license plate board has been pivotal in funding projects that leverage other funds,” said John Morgan, state quail coordinator. “The board is progressive and supports bold ideas, highlighted by funding projects that benefit bobwhites through marketing and public relations efforts of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. Each board member spends countless hours sorting through grant applications and awarding funds to deserving efforts on a volunteer basis. No other non-profit in the state has contributed more directed funding to bobwhite projects outlined in the state’s Bobwhite Restoration Plan than the license plate, contributing $30,000 annually to projects, most which fall directly in line with NBCI principles. Their vision, leadership and volunteerism embody the spirit of the Fire Bird Award.”

L to R, David Hoover, Rick Rath

 Missouri – Rick Rath

Rick Rath is a private lands conservationist with the Missouri Department of Conservation and responsible for the SAC River District of Cedar, Dade and Lawrence counties. The geography is dominated by grassland and woodlands. Most of the grassland is in very poor condition, comprised of continuously grazed fescue. His district also encompasses thousands of acres of Missouri’s priority grassland conservation opportunity areas and parts of the 2 Quail Restoration Landscapes, the goal of which is to restore native grasslands and provide early successional grassland habitat, says David Hoover, the state’s coordinator of quail efforts.

Rath began knocking on doors, finding key landowners in his district and winning their trust. Rath explains the benefits of using natives and proper grazing systems, then demonstrates them on his own farm where he and his family live. He has mastered the intricacies of Farm Bill programs and how they can help landowners achieve their goal. Rath conducted 235 farm visits over the past year, resulting in 44 LAP (state cost-share program) agreements totaling nearly $80,000, 28 EQIP and RCPP contracts totaling over $503,000, two landowners awarded Audubon Prairie Bird Initiative funding of over $23,000 and three landowners with USFWS Partner projects totaling nearly $19,000.

“These impressive results came from knocking on doors, working odd hours, answering the phone on weekends and evenings, holding multiple workshops, highlighting landowners employing great habitat practices and being vested in his community,” said Hoover. “Rick’s work with multiple landowners converting fescue to native grasses and forbs, prescribed burning, the development of bird-friendly grazing systems, deferred haying and exotic species removal has resulted in positive changes at a landscape scale that are a model for other staff that work with private landowners.”

 Oklahoma – Alva Gregory (in memoriam)

Alva Gregory

Although Alva Gregory passed on May 1, 2019, at 55, Tell Judkins, the state’s quail coordinator, said “northwestern Oklahoma lost one of its greatest wildlife warriors and “it’s important for all, including his family, to know that the lands impacted by his efforts will live on for years to come.”

Gregory worked for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation for 31 years and was previously recognized as Wildlife Technician of the Year in 2017, Habitat Coordinator of the Year in 2013, and received the Oklahoma Chapter of the Wildlife Society’s Oklahoma Award for his contributions to wildlife management in 2018. He worked at Beaver River WMA, Packsaddle WMA and finally in the Woodward office as the Northwestern Oklahoma Habitat Coordinator, building relationships with landowners that allowed habitat improvement for numerous grassland birds, and working to promote the reconnection of upland bird species to the landscape in agricultural and cattle production.

In 2018 alone Alva met with more than 37 landowners in 16 counties for an impact on more than 45,400 acres, presented to the Natural Resources Conservation Service, US Fish & Wildlife Service, National Wild Turkey Federation, Dewey County Commission, the Northwest Cattlemen’s Association and he assisted with field days by Oklahoma State University’s Extension Office.

“Northwestern Oklahoma is known by many as true quail country, but without the influence of Alva Gregory, I’m not sure that would be the case,” said Judkins. “I often tell people if you see a property in northwest Oklahoma that has no cedar trees you have Alva to thank for it.”

Pennsylvania – John M. Wakefield

The chief of the Wildland Fire Logistics and Training Division for the Pennsylvania Game Commission, John Wakefield has been an avid supporter of the state’s quail restoration efforts from the beginning. Understanding that prescribed fire would play a crucial role both during habitat establishment and maintenance over the long term, Wakefield took the lead on fire planning and development for the first bobwhite focus area – Letterkenny Army Depot.

“Trying to convince senior staff of a military installation to put fire over hundreds of thousands of pounds of missiles and bombs to manage habitat is not an easy sell,” said Thomas Keller, state quail coordinator. Wakefield answered questions, worked with everyone involved and coordinated a test fire over an empty underground storage container to demonstrate to depot manager the safety and control with which fire could be conducted. He helped develop a solid burn plan and began coordinating prescribed burns, keeping everyone involved and engaged, according to Keller.

“From a biologist’s point of view, John has been fantastic to work closely with as he is open and interested in how we can tailor fire to assist quail management on a detailed scale, focusing more on quality that quantity.” While Wakefield oversees a burn program that conducts more than 10,000 acres of prescribed fire annually he has always made the Letterkenny project a priority, personally acting as “burn boss” for every fire.

South Carolina – Enoree Ranger District/Sumter National Forest

In the early 2000s, a group of concerned agencies discussed the possibility of creating more and better habitat for grassland birds. The Indian Creek project gathered steam, successfully integrating public and private lands. When it came to choosing an NBCI CIP focal area, it was a natural fit. In the last year, however, the Enoree Ranger District of Sumter National Forest adopted several practices that have proven quite beneficial to bobwhites.

For instance, small burn blocks are often not feasible for an agency that has to manage thousands of acres, however, the Enoree District was willing to try 50-100-acre burn blocks with the CIP focal area. The experiment was a success, proving not only beneficial to bobwhites with premium habitat creation but also providing the district more opportunity to burn because they could burn smaller blocks when conditions would not allow larger burns.

The district is also proactive in identifying partners to assist with other management issues. Within the last year the USFS signed agreements enabling the Enoree Ranger District to work with state agencies to decrease the time it takes to perform timber harvests. Agreements include Good Neighbor Authority agreement with the SC Forestry Commission and the SC Department of Natural Resources, and a stewardship agreement with the latter agency.

Finally, the district initiated a solution to one of the traditional issues in quail management, connectivity. Systematic timber harvests are proposed to connect several areas managed for open pineland, grassland birds and prairie, connecting the Indian Creek Focal area to other large open land habitat areas and creating a landscape-level change. The required amendment process to their resource management plan is underway.

Tennessee – Kyle Brazil

University of Tennessee PhD candidate Kyle Brazil designed the state’s sole NBCI/CIP focal area at Wolf River Wildlife Management Area (WMA) over the past year. Brazil supervised the technicians that collected the required data and entered the data into the NBCI system.

“The CIP is an important step toward restoration of quail in Tennessee because it now puts some true focus on the species,” said Roger Applegate, state quail coordinator. “We would not have a CIP without Kyle. The CIP has already generated funding interest both inside and outside the agency and it is now a model for how we should approach WMA management.”

Virginia – The Nature Conservancy/Virginia

One of the biggest proponents of prescribed fire in Virginia, The Nature Conservancy has promoted and hosted numerous workshops, played key roles in the Department of Forestry’s coordinated annual fire academy, mentored new fire practitioners for numerous partners, assisted multiple partners in managing multiple thousands of acres of pine savanna with prescribed fire, and acquired 3,200 acres to establish Piney Grove Preserve, which is Virginia’s largest block of pine savanna habitat and is home to an expanding red-cockaded woodpecker populations in southeastern Virginia (and also benefiting bobwhites and other species). Additionally, they provided financial support for the state purchase of 15,000 acres of land for longleaf pine restoration, they assist with establishing and managing of the largest privately-owned longleaf pine tract in Virginia, and staff serves as leaders in the interagency Longleaf Cooperators of Virginia.

In partnership with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and the Virginia Department of Forestry, TNC’s Piney Grove Preserve, DGIF’s Big Woods Wildlife Management Area and the Department of Forestry’s Big Woods State Forest comprise Virginia’s Piney Grove—Big Woods NBCI CIP Focal Area. The Nature Conservancy has embraced the CIP, actively participating in monitoring which shows the quail population is increasing, and expanding the use of prescribed fire and other management techniques on the area each year.

 

 

National Bobwhite Technical Group Recognizes Nick Prough

The National Bobwhite Technical Committee (NBTC) presented Nick Prough, chief wildlife biologist with the Quail and Upland Wildlife Federation, its Leadership Award at the group’s annual meeting in Carbondale, IL, recently. The award recognizes an NBTC member that exemplifies leadership, productivity and professionalism in advancing the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI) as demonstrated within the previous three years prior to the nomination.

John Morgan, left, and Nick Prough

Prough’s work with the group dates to the early 2000s as a young private lands biologist developing land management plans to help Missouri landowners restore bobwhites. His efforts resulted in one of the first counties in the nation to reach the NBCI 1.0 habitat and bird goals. He turned to the non-profit world where he excelled at working with members, landowners and partners, helping build a new non-profit solely centered on “turning the dirt” under a multi-species brand called the Quail and Upland Wildlife Federation.

“Over the last three years as a member of NBTC, his expertise and leadership were demonstrated on the NBTC Steering Committee and, most importantly, the Grasslands Subcommittee,” said John Morgan, chair of the awards committee. “Under his leadership products and collaboration flourished. He shepherded the balance between rangelands and pasture interests, which has always been a challenge. Relevancy and proactive application of the products were his core tenets. Some of the committee’s latest work centered on grazing publications for the East and the West that outline bobwhite-friendly management. What could stand as one of the NBTC’s most impactful accomplishments was initiated during his tenure. He was a critical part of the Natives First team championing support from partners, garnering political support, initiating grassroots activism and offering guidance along the way. The NBTC just wouldn’t be the same without him.”

About NBCI
Headquartered at the University of Tennessee’s Institute of Agriculture/Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries, NBCI is a science and habitat-based initiative of the National Bobwhite Technical Committee (NBTC) to elevate bobwhite quail recovery from an individual state-by-state proposition to a coordinated, range-wide leadership endeavor to restore wild bobwhites on a landscape scale. The committee is comprised of representatives of 25 state wildlife agencies, various academic research institutions and private conservation organizations. Support for NBCI is provided by the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Program, state wildlife agencies, the Joe Crafton Family Endowment for Quail Initiatives, the University of Tennessee, Quail & Upland Game Alliance, Park Cities Quail and Roundstone Native Seed.

National Bobwhite Technical Committee Convening at Southern IL University for 25th Anniversary Meeting

Bobwhite experts and habitat managers from around the 25-state core range of the northern bobwhite quail will congregate at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, IL for their 25th annual meeting next week. The National Bobwhite Technical Committee (NBTC) is expected to draw more than 100 participants from state wildlife agencies, research institutions and private conservation groups around those 25 states.

Target of their efforts is continued implementation of the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative, aimed at the landscape-scale restoration of wild bobwhite quail, an iconic game bird that has declined precipitously over the past decades because of changes in the way land is managed for agriculture, ranching and timber products. Habitat has disappeared for not only bobwhites but also a suite of other wildlife as well.

Participants meet yearly in various locations and focus their efforts on federal agriculture policy and current issues related to grasslands, forestry, science and communications. The meeting is being hosted by Quail Forever, along with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Bobwhite quail are identified as a species of greatest conservation need in the state’s Wildlife Action Plan.

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 Forever, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Farm Service Agency, Music City Chapter of Safari Club International, Park Cities Quail and Roundstone Native Seed.