NBCI's Bobwhite Almanac, State of the Bobwhite 2013


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While the wild bobwhite quail population continues to struggle, the momentum to restore their populations range wide continues to grow with several important pieces falling into place in 2013. the increasing number of active partnerships supporting habitat work, major donations to critical bobwhite support functions, the growing national coalition aimed at changing federal agriculture policy to benefit bobwhites and other grassland species, and NBCI’s official entry into the arena of mine reclamation for grasslands wildlife among other advancements.

South Carolina’s fall 2013 launch of a new initiative aimed at landscape-scale restoration of wild bobwhites is among several positive highlights for the species in the newest NBCI report. The Almanac details South Carolina’s upcoming push in 30 counties, aimed primarily at management activities on forested lands with the creation of forest/woodland savannas, and agricultural lands utilizing field borders and conversion of exotic grass pastures to native warm-season grasses. The Almanac also examines the impact of federal agriculture policy on bobwhites and the enormous potential of forest management practices to positively affect quail populations. The Almanac highlights examples of forest management that are increasing bobwhite populations, including shortleaf pine ecosystem restoration on the Ouachita National Forest in Arkansas and a similar project with longleaf pine on a wildlife management area in Alabama.

Also detailed in the Almanac is the effort by six states – Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri, Texas and Virginia – to pilot NBCI model focal areas that will, for the first time, couple large-scale habitat management with collaborative monitoring.

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NBCI's Bobwhite Almanac, State of the Bobwhite 2013

  1. 1. Bobwhite NBCI’s State of the Bobwhite 2013 Almanac South Carolina Launches New Initiative The Bobwhite Brigade Federal Agriculture Policy & The Future of Bobwhites Forest Management One of the Best Bets for Bob Arkansas’ Ouachita NF Virginia’s Pine BMPs Alabama’s Barbour WMA
  2. 2. Bobwhite NBCI’s Almanac State of the Bobwhite 2013 © National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative. 2013. D.F. McKenzie, T.V. Dailey, K.M. Puckett, K.A. Brazil, M.W. Black, and J. G. Doty. NBCI’s Bobwhite Almanac, State of the Bobwhite 2013. National Bobwhite Technical Committee Technical Publication, Knoxville, TN. 46 pages.
  3. 3. NBCI’s Bobwhite Almanac/State of the Bobwhite Report is an annual publication of the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI) to provide a range-wide snapshot of population, hunting and conservation status of the northern bobwhite, Colinus virginianus, as well as a sampling of major efforts underway to reverse the bobwhite decline. This report is made possible by the financial support of participating state agencies, the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation, and the University of Tennessee. NBCI is an initiative by and for the National Bobwhite Technical Committee—25 state wildlife management agencies, along with numerous conservation groups, research institutions and federal partners—to provide national leadership, coordination and capacity to catalyze large-scale, strategic restoration of native habitats as the long-term means to restore widespread populations of wild bobwhite quail and, consequently, other species dependent on native grassland habitat. NBCI is headquartered at the University of Tennessee. NBCI Staff NBCI State Quail Coordinators Director Don McKenzie Communications Director John Doty Editorial Assistant/Graphics Heather Inman NBTC Steering Committee Chairman Marc Puckett, Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries Chair-Elect Chuck Kowaleski, Texas Parks & Wildlife Department Past Chair Dan Figert, Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources Craig Alderman, Quail & Upland Wildlife Federation Dr. Leonard Brennan, Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute Andrew Burnett, New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife Larry Heggemann, Central Hardwoods Joint Venture Dr. Pat Keyser, Center for Native Grasslands Management Don McKenzie, National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative Catherine Rideout, Southeast Partners in Flight Missouri Max Alleger Nebraska Jeff Lusk New Jersey Andrew Burnett Georgia James Tomberlin Reggie E. Thackston Agriculture Policy Coordinator Kyle Brazil Arkansas Clifton Jackson Florida Greg Hagan Forestry Coordinator Mike Black Mississippi Rick Hamrick Delaware Matt DiBona Science Coordinator/Assistant Director Dr. Thomas Dailey Alabama Carrie Threadgill North Carolina Mark Jones Illinois Mike Wefer Indiana N. Budd Veverka Iowa Todd Bogenschutz Kansas Jeffrey Prendergast Jim Pitman Kentucky John Morgan Louisiana Jimmy Stafford Jeff Duguay Maryland Bob Long Nathan Stricker, Ohio Department of Natural Resources Reggie Thackston, Georgia Department of Natural Resources Jim Wooley, Quail Forever Oklahoma Jena Donnell Pennsylvania Scott Klinger South Carolina Billy Dukes Tennessee Roger Applegate Texas Robert Perez Virginia Marc Puckett Jay Howell West Virginia Keith Krantz COVER PHOTO: Our sincere thanks to wildlife biologist and photographer Dr. John Brunjes, KY Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, for his cover photo contribution (www.johnbrunjes.com). www.bringbackbobwhites.org 2 • NBCI’s Bobwhite Almanac Ohio Nathan Stricker
  4. 4. TABLE OF CONTENTS P. 4 Introduction P. 20 Federal Agriculture Policy P. 6 Quail Tracks P. 22 Show Me the Quail! P. 8 South Carolina Launching Broad Push for Wild Bobwhites . . . P. 24 The Bobwhite Brigade Forest Management P. 10 One of the Best Bets for Bob P. 13 Arkansas’ Ouachita NF P. 16 Virginia’s Pine BMPs P. 26 State Conservation Reports P. 40 NBCI Adds Ranches, Plantations to Inventory P. 46 NBCI State Agencies List & Acronyms P. 18 Alabama’s Barbour WMA State of the Bobwhite 2013 • 3
  5. 5. T INTRODUCTION his 3rd annual State of the Bobwhite marks a notable year. Last year was the 10-year anniversary of the NBCI; thus, 2013 effectively is the first year of the second decade of concerted, range-wide bobwhite conservation in the US. If that note sounds anti-climactic, consider that this introduction to our 2012 Almanac ended with: “The big question for the next 10 years is whether the [National Bobwhite Technical Committee] and the entire bobwhite community can muster the resolve, demonstrate the leadership, combine our resources, and build the effective teamwork—up, down and across the board—that is essential for our ultimate success.” This year, 2013, begins that next 10 years, during which the bobwhite community will answer that big question. The bobwhite restoration movement continues to build range-wide momentum on myriad fronts: • The NBCI is increasing partnerships— o The Habitat Inventory includes more state management data than ever before, and millions of acres of some of the best quail habitat in the world were added from the nation’s leading quail institutes; o Developed and signed memoranda of agreement with more organizations and agencies, to stimulate cooperation on quail and grassland projects; o Participated for the first time ever in the National Wild Turkey Federation Technical Committee meeting and national convention. • The NBCI received a major donation from a quail organization, the Park Cities Quail chapter of the Texas Quail Coalition, to support our federal-level agriculture policy conservation program. • The first major endowed donation was made by Joe R. Crafton, Jr. to the new Bobwhite Foundation: an initial $100,000 gift, with a public challenge to match all other endowed gifts up to $1 million total from Mr. Crafton. • Major forest management initiatives are building steam with NBCI leadership, to restore quail habitats in pine and oak woodlands. • NBCI is building a national conservation coalition promoting greater emphasis on native vegetation for USDA conservation programs, to benefit grassland wildlife and pollinators. • The 2013 NBTC Annual Meeting, hosted by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries in Roanoke and attended by more than 100 biologists, featured participation by the agency’s Executive Director and some of its Board members. • The inaugural meeting of the NBTC Mined Lands Subcommittee marks the official entry of the NBCI into the reclamation arena, working with stakeholders to strategically foster improved grassland bird habitat conditions on larger acreages of mined lands. • The NBCI published the Seventh National Quail Symposium proceedings in February, and posted all previous proceedings on the NBCI website, www.bringbackbobwhites.org. • The NBCI’s Bobwhite Almanac, State of the Bobwhite report continues to grow and improve, providing an annual assessment of the condition and progress of the U.S. bobwhite conservation movement. Highlights include 25 state conservation reports, an annual inventory summarizing total bobwhite management activity, and numerous features showcasing major projects benefitting quail. • The NBCI Model Focal Area Program project will be completed by the end of 2013, and endorsed by the NBCI Management Board by March 2014, ready for implementation by all NBCI states and partners. 4 • NBCI’s Bobwhite Almanac
  6. 6. Two major new NBCI developments highlight our work to address the big question of this second decade. First, a new process of stepping down the NBCI 2.0 from a national vision of priority geographies to individual focal areas—the NBCI Focal Tiers—will be unveiled at the NBCI Management Board in September. Quail restoration efforts of various sizes that fit within nested priority tiers—small focal areas within bigger focal landscapes, within large focal regions—will be eligible for branding as NBCI-sanctioned projects and could receive priority consideration for support. This concept adds real value to on-the-ground bobwhite conservation efforts that are coordinated with the NBCI. Second, the NBCI Model Focal Area Program (NMFAP) expounds on the smallest tier, focal areas, creating one of the largest and most ambitious bobwhite conservation endeavors in history. The NMFAP’s purpose is to demonstrate and learn effective habitat-based strategies for restoring sustainable bobwhite populations at a scale bigger than average farms but small enough to be manageable in the near term. Hundreds of NBTC biologists worked 18 months on a consensus framework of standards and guidance for 25 states to effectively implement bobwhite and grassland bird focal areas. The NMFAP includes standards for strategic design, habitat assessment and bird monitoring, raising the bar for effective NBCI implementation. Six states pilot tested parts of the NMFAP in spring 2013, while more than half of the states are willing to begin implementation soon. See “Show Me the Quail!” in this report for more information on this milestone NBCI program. The seriousness with which the NBCI states and partners embrace the NBCI Focal Tiers and the NBCI Model Focal Area Program will be indicative of whether the bobwhite community as a whole will “muster the resolve, demonstrate the leadership, combine our resources, and build the effective teamwork—up, down and across the board—that is essential for our ultimate success” in restoring widespread, huntable populations of wild quail. The NBCI offers hope that we can. Don McKenzie Director, NBCI K. Marc Puckett Chair, NBTC Steering Committee WA MT ME ND VT MN OR ID NH WI SD NY WY RI MI IA PA NE NV UT IL CO CA IN MO OK NM VA KY MD NC AR SC MS TX NJ CT DE TN AZ NBCI States OH WV KS MA AL GA LA FL State of the Bobwhite 2013 • 5
  7. 7. Quail Tracks Joe Crafton Aids Launch Of Bobwhite Foundation With First Contribution A $100,000 endowment and a promise to match up to $1 million in endowed donations from any other source within two years was the highlight of the new Bobwhite Foundation in 2013. Bobwhite enthusiast Joe Crafton, CEO and president of Dallas-based CROSSMARK, a leading sales and marketing services company in the consumer goods industry, and founder and chair of Park Cities Quail in Dallas, made the commitment in memory of his father, with whom he had hunted bobwhites on their ancestral farm in west Tennessee. “Bobwhite restoration is unlike any species restoration that’s been attempted,” said NBCI Director Don McKenzie. “Deer, turkey and elk were relatively simple and straightforward. Habitat existed and we moved animals there. Much like waterfowl restoration, bobwhite restoration is a habitat issue. “Bobwhites didn’t disappear overnight and they won’t recover that way either … which means it’s a multi-year challenge requiring a longterm commitment. This is the first critical step in assuring that the bobwhite restoration effort has reliable funding to continue long-term. Joe’s passion for bobwhites and his willingness to launch the foundation’s efforts in memory of his father are immensely important, and we are extremely thankful for his leadership in this arena,” McKenzie said. The Bobwhite Foundation is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization established to support the goals and objectives of NBCI, primarily by recreating habitat by “reconnecting” forest management with quail, cattle production with quail, pursing quail habitat possibilities on reclaimed mine lands and communicating to the public the urgent nature of the decline of habitat for quail and other wildlife species around the nation. To watch Crafton’s recorded announcement, go to http://bit.ly/176C8wH. 6 • NBCI’s Bobwhite Almanac Brief, But Important NBCI Online Store Open for Business In addition to a few items of branded merchandise, NBCI is building a modest collection of the best bobwhite and associated habitat titles available. Among the titles are: Longleaf, Far as the Eye Can See; Looking for Longleaf; Beef, Brush and Bobwhites; Forgotten Grasslands of the South; and On Bobwhites. Check out the NBCI store at: http://bringbackbobwhites.org/donate-2/onlinestore. University of Tennessee Center Presses Native Grass Research During the past year, the Center for Native Grasslands Management (CNGM) at UT maintained an active research program addressing basic information that Extension needs regarding use of native grasses in forage systems. Research also addressed the opportunity presented by the biomass industry. While large-scale commercialization has not materialized yet, maintaining engagement and influencing management approaches before they become entrenched is important given the prospective scale (35-55 million acres, centered on the Mid-South) of the impact. Research also focuses on oak/shortleaf woodland/ savannah restoration. These natural grassland communities were likely the dominant grasslands in the region and still hold much promise for wildlife conservation through development of high quality habitat that has been minimally impacted under modern agricultural production systems. Finally, CNGM is pursuing a number of wildlife studies including those evaluating patch-burn, continuous and rotational grazing, large-scale switchgrass production, northern bobwhite ecology on reclaimed surface mines, and breeding bird use/occupancy in restored woodlands/ savannahs. Outreach remains a key aspect of the work at CNGM with a focus on Extension leaders/agents, other natural resource professionals, and producers. The CNGM maintains active participation in field days, cattlemen’s meetings, inservice trainings, technical publications, and, especially in 2012 as a result of the drought, outreach through the popular and trade media. For more information, go to http://nativegrasses.utk.edu.
  8. 8. NJ Forms Habitat Team New Jersey has put together a New Jersey Habitat Improvement Team following a “Native Species Habitat Partner Survey” designed to determine the level of interest in grassland habitat restoration efforts in Cumberland, Gloucester and Salem counties. The survey was circulated among 47 federal & state agencies, nongovernmental organizations and utility companies. Sixteen positive responses were received from the Atlantic Coastal Joint Venture, NJ Conservation Foundation, NJ Natural Lands Trust, NJ Outdoor Alliance, NJ State Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs, NJ State Agriculture Development Committee, NJ Division of Fish & Wildlife, NJ State Forest Service, Central Jersey Chapter of Pheasant Forever, NJ Ruffed Grouse Society, Quail Forever, South Jersey Quail Project, USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service, USDI Fish and Wildlife Service, University of Delaware and the Xerces Society. The NJHIT mission is to “conserve, enhance and augment New Jersey’s native habitats to maximize their long-term ecological, recreational and economic value” and the goals are “to maintain New Jersey’s rich variety of plant and animal communities at stable, healthy levels and to protect the soil and water on which they depend; to educate all New Jerseyans on the value and needs of our renewable, natural resources; and, to maximize the recreational and commercial use of New Jersey’s flora and fauna for both present and future generations.” Thanks to Our Sponsors! Park Cities Quail Invests In NBCI’s D.C. Efforts The Dallas-based, non-profit Park Cities Quail (PCQ) organization has awarded the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI) $75,000 to support its efforts to educate federal agriculture policymakers in the nation’s capital regarding farm policy impacts on bobwhite quail and other wildlife species. “The PCQ assistance is critical,” said NBCI Director Don McKenzie. “The way federal agriculture policy is made and implemented using our tax dollars may be the single most powerful influence on wildlife and wildlife habitat on private lands across America,” McKenzie said. “That policy can be a negative influence or it can be a positive influence. To date, unfortunately, it’s been more of the former for bobwhite quail and a long list of songbirds, pollinators and other wildlife species. “Park Cities Quail’s support will help us continue our efforts in Washington on behalf of bobwhites, while we seek the additional support required to remain engaged long-term with USDA in, for instance, incorporating common sense changes such as drought-tolerant, wildlife-friendly native grasses in their policies. That could be the single biggest positive step for quail and other wildlife species in decades.” State of the Bobwhite 2013 • 7
  9. 9. South Carolina Launching Broad Push for Wild Bobwhites, Other Grassland Birds A state steeped in the culture and tradition of wild bobwhite hunting as much as any in the country—South Carolina— is implementing a new National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI)-based plan aimed at population recovery in the Palmetto State. The plan will focus on landscape-scale strategies to maximize results and resources rather than individual scattered tracts. Although the plan was presented to the DNR board in a public meeting earlier this year, it won’t launch in a big way to the public until this fall as biologists put pieces in place. They have already established four “NBCI focal regions” utilizing a national assessment of habitat potential, and are working to identify at least one “focal area” of a 1,500-acre minimum size within each of those four regions for intensive management, using public lands as anchors. The four regions are: NBCI Pee Dee Focal Region—Nine counties (Chesterfield, Marlboro, Dillon, Darlington, Florence, Marion, Horry, Williamsburg and Georgetown) in eastern South Carolina with 2.1 million acres ranked as high or medium potential for restoration and with 37% percent upland pine and 28% cropland as the major cover types. Significant public lands include the Sand Hills State Forest, Carolina Sandhills National Wildlife Refuge, McBee Wildlife Management Area, Marsh Wildlife Management Area, Woodbury Wildlife Management Area and Lewis Ocean Bay Heritage Preserve/ Wildlife Management Area. Full implementation of habitat opportunities would result in nearly 19,000 additional coveys, or 31% of the statewide goal. NBCI Central Focal Region—Seven counties in the coastal plain (Lee, Sumter, Clarendon, Calhoun, Orangeburg, Dorchester and Berkeley) with 1.5 million acres with high or medium potential, with 37% upland pine and 27% cropland as the predominant vegetation. Significant public lands include Bonneau Ferry Wildlife Management 8 • NBCI’s Bobwhite Almanac Area, Canal Wildlife Management Area and Manchester State Forest, including Oak Lea Wildlife Management Area, and Santee Cooper Wildlife Management Area, and portions of Francis Marion National Forest. Full implementation of habitat opportunities would add nearly 13,000 coveys or about 21% of the statewide goal. NBCI South Focal Region—Six counties in the coastal plain (Barnwell, Bamberg, Allendale, Hampton, Colleton and Jasper) with 49% upland pine and 14% cropland as the predominant vegetation types. There are existing private quail conservation areas along with the public Webb Center Wildlife Management Area, Palachucola Wildlife Management Area, Hamilton Ridge Wildlife Management Area and Donnelley Wildlife Management Area. Full habitat implementation would create nearly 11,000 new coveys or about 17% of the state’s goal. NBCI Piedmont Focal Region—Eight counties (Union, Laurens, Newberry, Saluda, Greenwood, Abbeville, McCormick and Edgefield) with 2.2 million acres ranked as having high or medium potential with 43% upland pine and 22% upland hardwood as predominant vegetation. Public lands include Belfast Wildlife Management Area and portions of the Sumter National Forest. Full habitat management implementation would add over 10,000 coveys or about 16% of the statewide goal. “We’ve formally established these NBCI focal regions based on the analysis of bobwhite habitat potential,” said Billy Dukes, former small game project leader (and quail coordinator), now assistant chief of wildlife. “We’ll be working on identifying at least one focal area within each region, including all the associated habitat and population monitoring protocols established
  10. 10. by the national initiative to directly link population growth to habitat improvements. “We’ll use public lands as anchors for the focal areas within these regions and build out from them with landowner cooperatives. That process has already started and is made easier by the fact that nearly all the individuals that will be involved were part of the original NBCI effort to review and rank the habitat potential of lands. We have strong relationships with them.” In South Carolina that habitat creation will pursue two primary targets. Forested land comprises 65% of the acres categorized as having high or medium potential for bobwhite restoration, followed by agricultural lands at 19%. That means the primary opportunities for recovering South Carolina’s populations will be in forest/woodland savannah creation and management, and farm field management utilizing field borders and conversion of exotic grass pastures to native warm season grasses. “The habitat creation and management aspect is doable through partnerships, and the partnerships will be essential,” asserts Dukes, who is already reaching out to potential partners, including the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) whose headquarters is in the state. NWTF executed an agreement with NBCI last year to target resources to help selected states with quail focal areas where it would also benefit turkeys. “The challenge will be in doing the proper monitoring of habitat and bird response. That will require manpower and will,” Dukes said. In addition to the focal regions and focal areas, establishing a State Quail Council and a Bobwhite Quail Technical Committee to advise the council, placing biologists in the offices of the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service and rebuilding the Department of Natural Resources’ own internal capacity are also all on the “to do” list. The state, for instance, is expected to hire a full-time quail biologist as part of that capacity. Of course, South Carolina isn’t alone in plummeting numbers of bobwhites … or of other species of grassland and early successional/shrub breeding birds, for that matter. It’s the same across the range. In South Carolina, estimates put the decline in the state at 6.1% annually since 1966 and those losses are attributed directly to the decline in quantity and quality of early successional habitat across the state. Biologists peg current quail density in all upland habitat types in the state at just over 306,000 birds, or 25,512 coveys … or one covey per 499 acres. Current quail density in those areas of the state ranked by NBCI as having “high” or “medium” potential for bobwhite habitat management (9.15 million acres) is estimated at about 279,000 birds or 23,234 coveys … or one covey per 394 acres. NBCI predicts that if prescribed management was applied to all the “high” and “medium” areas over 61,000 coveys would be added, with a resulting density of one covey per 108 acres. The habitat decline isn’t affecting only quail. In fact, thirteen of the 17 species in South Carolina that depend on the same habitat as bobwhites are showing declining trends. And there are similar trends across the bobwhite range. If the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources can rebuild habitat for bobwhites—a resident game bird for which they have specific legal responsibility—the other bird species will simultaneously reap the benefits. You can read the new South Carolina quail initiative, Northern Bobwhite Habitat Restoration in South Carolina: Challenges and Opportunities in the 21st Century, in its entirety on the NBCI website at http:// bit.ly/16LfMlu. State of the Bobwhite 2013 • 9
  11. 11. Forest Management One of the Best Bets For Bobwhite’s Future T he loss of suitable habitat from changing land use practices—most notably more intensive agriculture, urbanization and a dramatic decline in the use of fire—across the entire historic range of bobwhite quail has had a crushing impact on a once iconic species … as well as numerous songbirds, pollinators and other species. While we typically think of the classic bobwhite habitat in an agricultural context (and indeed this will remain an opportunity given federal policy changes), our best habitat work on behalf of bobwhites will actually occur in the forested landscape from New Jersey to Texas and Oklahoma to Florida. Much of this is already occurring, often with very positive results for quail. Bobwhites thrive in forested stands that have been thinned to allow sunlight to reach the forest floor and where these same stands have received a frequent application of prescribed fire. It matters little whether the forest is an open post oak savannah, or one of the various species of southern yellow pine such as loblolly, longleaf, shortleaf and others. The combination of sunlight and fire is what produces the under story habitat crucial to bobwhites, that magical mix of grasses, forbs (weeds and wildflowers), woody shrubs and sufficient bare ground for bobwhites to put one foot in front of the other. This is habitat that is easily incorporated into the southern pine landscapes where fire can be applied through the life of a forest stand without damage to timber for later harvest. Although excellent bobwhite habitat can be created under all species of southern yellow pine, loblolly and slash are typically planted with a stronger focus on timber production. On the other hand, longleaf and shortleaf produce exceptionally good timber as well, and are more commonly planted/managed for a greater range of benefits, including wildlife, on both public and private lands. Longleaf and shortleaf stands with sufficient sunlight to the ground and application of prescribed fire can provide unsurpassed bobwhite habitat, making stands of those species perfect targets for bobwhite restoration efforts. America’s Longleaf Restoration Initiative (http:// www.americaslongleaf.org) and the Shortleaf Pine Initiative (http://www.shortleafpine.net) are two major forest and wildlife habitat efforts that are active across much of the 25 state NBCI range. These initiatives have 10 • NBCI’s Bobwhite Almanac By Mike Black NBCI Forestry Coordinator many stakeholders and a wide range of objectives, but all include the promotion of pine establishment, thinning and prescribed fire. Both initiatives are focused primarily on public land opportunities first, followed by private lands. This policy fits well with the NBCI objectives for habitat development and improvement on the forested landscape of public lands since they have more capacity to establish, manage, thin and burn, especially on a large, landscape scale. Additionally, they demonstrate to other public and private landowners successful management methods while providing public access for hunting. Longleaf pine originally covered over 90 million acres in a vast seven-state swath from Virginia to Texas. Shortleaf pine occurred across 22 of the 25 NBCI states, but has been reduced by over 50%—especially in the A young longleaf pine
  12. 12. Longleaf historic range map, left. Shortleaf historic range map, right. eastern range. Due to frequent burning by Native lands under ecosystem restoration and management Americans and European settlers to mimic the positive policies, and also provide an excellent opportunity to landscape and wildlife impacts of natural fire, longleaf private landowners to produce both high quality timber and shortleaf were common species across the landscape and wildlife habitat under proper management. in nearly pure to mixed stands. Both species thrived Also, the excellent sawtimber value of longleaf with frequent fire and these forests were common in and shortleaf fits the changing objectives on nonthe region, supporting both high quality forest products industrial private forestlands toward longer sawtimber as well as exceptional wildlife habitat. Longleaf and rotations rather than shorter pulpwood rotations. shortleaf were often found in open savannah and Successful tactics for managing all southern woodland forests and provided outstanding habitat for yellow pine species for bobwhite quail are to maintain Bobwhite quail and other flora and fauna that required open stands, in balance with other forest management grassland and early successional habitats. “In ‘pine barrens’ most of the day. Low, level, sandy Longleaf pine, tracts; the pines wide apart; the sunny spaces between shortleaf pine and bobwhite quail have all seen full of beautiful abounding grasses, Liatris, long, wandsignificant losses. Bobwhite like Solidago, saw palmettos, etc., covering the ground quail alone have seen an 80% decline in the last 40 in garden style. Here I sauntered in delightful freedom, years on a range wide basis. meeting none of the cat-clawed vines, or shrubs, of the According to the National Bobwhite Conservation alluvial bottoms.” Initiative Plan (www. —John Muir, 1867 bringbackbobwhites.org), the greatest opportunity to restore wild bobwhite quail is in the forested portion objectives, through early and frequent thinning, and the of their historic range. Unlike agricultural lands, which liberal use of prescribed fire. Basal areas of 20 at the low will see ever increasing demands for utilization, forested end to 70 at the high end can be considered. Fire return lands have the unique opportunity to be managed for intervals should vary, but average a two-year schedule— longer-term benefits such as timber production and three at the higher end. Longer fire return intervals can wildlife habitat. The historic stands of longleaf and be used on areas of less precipitation and slower forest shortleaf pine provided exceptional quail habitat when succession. thinned and burned, so the success and the restoration of The management of longleaf and shortleaf longleaf, shortleaf and bobwhites will go hand-in-hand. pine stands in a savannah to woodland gradient, The combined range of longleaf pine and including the frequent use of prescribed fire, presents an shortleaf pine covers nearly 95% of the forested portion unprecedented opportunity to assist in the recovery of of the historical range for bobwhite quail. Both pine bobwhite quail, provide habitat for other early and late species have created new interest on federal and state successional species, produce high quality wood products State of the Bobwhite 2013 • 11
  13. 13. and timber values, and meet an array of other objectives on private and public lands. A professional forester, Mike Black’s full-time job is forestry coordinator for the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative. He also serves as senior conservationist with the Shortleaf Pine Initiative and the incoming chair of the Longleaf Partnership Council. Two excellent books are available on longleaf pine and the longleaf ecosystem, “Looking for Longleaf, The Fall and Rise of an American Forest,” by Lawrence Earley, and the fantastic “Longleaf, As Far as the Eye Can See,” by writers Bill Finch, Rhett Johnson, and John C. Hall with Beth Maynor Young’s breathtaking photography. Both are available for purchase on NBCI’s online store at http://bringbackbobwhites.org/donate-2/ online-store. Arkansas shortleaf pine “The bobwhite might probably be called the ‘fire bird,’ so closely is it linked ecologically with fire in the coastal pinelands.” —Herbert Stoddard While Stoddard made the connection of fire with quail specifically in the coastal areas, fire is and always has been a critical factor in “re-setting the biological clock” in plant succession across America. Whether from natural causes initially or from humans mimicking nature through the centuries for the wildlife benefits, fire is critical in creating and maintaining habitat required for a wide diversity of wildlife, from bobwhites to bison. 12 • NBCI’s Bobwhite Almanac
  14. 14. There are many “active, purposeful forest management” projects on the ground across the range that are showing promise for bobwhites. Not all of them have “bobwhite” in the title. Here are three examples. Bobwhites Thriving on USFS’s Ouachita National Forest in Arkansas/Oklahoma O ne of the best examples of active, purposeful forest management in the bobwhite range may be in the 1.8 million acre Ouachita National Forest in Arkansas and Oklahoma. The original 155,000-acre Shortleaf Pine/Bluestem Grass Ecosystem Restoration project here “got started almost by default,” but it has local quail hunters—and nature enthusiasts of all stripes—delighted. And the effort has grown, essentially, to a 300,000-acre commitment to restoration of this ecosystem. Although today much of the east-west ranging mountain chain is crowded, closed canopy forest, it wasn’t always. Researchers found that the earliest visitors to the region described a landscape dominated by open shortleaf pine, pine-hardwood and mixed-oak forests with a rich collection of fire-dependent native grasses, wildflowers and “weeds” underneath. Elk, bison and white-tailed deer were abundant. Over the years, that forest-grassland ecosystem disappeared, thanks initially to the wholesale harvesting of the virgin timber, followed by strict fire control and overall lack of management directed at ecosystem health and preservation. Then, along came “RCW” … the red-cockaded woodpecker. Its listing as an endangered species in 1970 required federal agencies to pay attention and begin managing for its survival. The Ouachita’s efforts to do so, beginning first with management of individual RCW’s cavity trees on the forest, is the “almost by default” part of the story. “A lot of foresters here had a lot of foresight,” said Warren Montague, a Forest Service biologist on the Ouachita. Because of the woodpecker’s specific habitat State of the Bobwhite 2013 • 13
  15. 15. requirements (open pine forests with frequent fire that provides a generous supply of insects and seeds), “there was a lot of prescribed burning and timber management going on in the ‘70s.” Simple management of existing individual cavity trees used by the RCW wasn’t working, so what happened, Montague said, is that forest management techniques came under the microscope. Sitespecific studies examining all parts of the puzzle were launched. They enlarged their RCW management efforts to include “aggregates” of cavity trees, then added buffer zones to that. Today, through a series of amendments to their specific forest plan about one-third of the forest dominated by pine forest types—or about 17 percent of the entire national forest—is essentially committed to shortleaf/bluestem ecosystem restoration. “The approach,” said Montague, “is much more on an overall landscape scale, an evolutionary thing as a result of RCW management.” Management more or less attempts to mimic historical disturbance conditions utilizing both commercial and non-commercial thinning and prescribed burns on a three-year rotation, mostly during the dormant season but increasingly during the growing season. Average size of the burn units is 600 acres, but can be as large as 8,000 acres. There’s also a modified approach to wildfire control. If a fire is beneficial to the resource and doesn’t threaten lives or property, it is allowed to run its course. “We haven’t quite achieved a three-year fire rotation given budget, personnel and weather variables,” said Montague, “but we’re doing pretty well. The frequency and intensity of the burns are the keys to knocking back the woody component in the mid-story and understory. We’ll do an occasional growing season burn, and even increase frequency of burns if we’re working in an area that affords us the opportunity.” While the woodpecker is the target species in much of this work, bobwhite quail populations are also used as an indication of success. And they “have had pretty darn good feedback from hunters” on that measurement. “All I can tell you is that where we have one or two-year-old burns you find good numbers of quail,” said Montague. “And there are a number of local folks who spend a lot of time hunting here. This is the Ouachita Highlands Region, so its mountain hunting and it’s tough, but the quail populations are high and maybe some time the season will be lengthened.” Montague said extending the season might also attract more people into the area to see “what this kind of management can do”… and then they could help spread the word. RCWs and bobwhites aren’t the only birds to benefit. Increases have also been documented in nine species of ground/shrub-foraging species, including the yellow-breasted chat, brown- “A lot of foresters here had a lot of foresight ... there was a lot of prescribed burning and timber management going on in the ‘70s.” 14 • NBCI’s Bobwhite Almanac
  16. 16. of opposition from various special interest groups. The Ouachita’s ecosystem restoration proposal was no exception. In this case, however, they had useful tool now known as the Buffalo Road Pine/Bluestem Tour. Developed in the earlier days of RCW management efforts, this self-guided tour, supported with a brochure and explanatory signs, was used by the Forest Service for guided tours for the different interest groups. Individuals could see all the steps in the management process and see the consequences for themselves. The result was that when the Ouachita prepared an Environmental Impact Statement on their proposal for shortleaf/bluestem ecosystem restoration on a landscape scale, there were only seven public comments registered. All seven were supportive. (The tour continues to be very popular among visitors. For a “virtual” Buffalo Road tour please visit http://1.usa.gov/14l37SP.) The forest’s partners in the effort reflects the broad spectrum of support and include the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission, Oklahoma Biological Survey, Audubon of Arkansas, The Nature Conservancy, the National Wild Turkey Federation and the Ouachita Timber Purchasers’ Group. headed cowbird, Carolina wren, northern cardinal, wild turkey, indigo bunting, chipping sparrow and shrub nesting species American goldfinch and prairie warbler. A Birder’s Guide to Arkansas featured the project area as a unique opportunity to view RCWs, brown-headed nuthatches and Bachman’s sparrows. Restoration efforts increased preferred deer forage six fold, and improvements in soil composition and vegetative diversity have also been recorded. Active, purposeful forest management, especially on national forests at any scale, has a history Ouachita Timber Purchasers Ouachita National Forest Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program (CFLRP) Shortleaf - Bluestem Community CFLRP Focus Areas ¬ « ¬ « ¬ « ¬££ «¤¤ 154 27 23 Ouachita National Forest ¬ « £ ¤ 64 65 286 ¬ « 10 271 60 § ¦ ¨ 40 ¬ « ¬ « ¬ « 7 ¬ « ¬ « 89 9 10 27 § ¦ ¨ § ¦ ¨ 430 630 £ ¤ 59 £ ¤ ¬ « ¬ « 70 ¬ « 298 £ ¤ 430 259 ¬ « 5 £ ¤ ¬ « 71 £ ¤ 27 270 367 £ ¤ 270 ¬ « 8 £ ¤ 67 § ¦ ¨ 30 £ ¤ 70 £ ¤ 67 ¬ « ¬ « 35 £ ¤ 270 ¬ « 9 £ ¤ 167 8 ¬ « 3 19 ¬ « £ ¤ ¬ « 41 £ ¤ 259 ¬ « 3 ¬ « 32 27 I 67 ¬ « ¬ « 10 20 51 ¬ « 8 Map Area 53 278 5 £ ¤ 53 £ ¤ ¬ « 0 26 27 70 7 51 ¬ « 24 ¬ ¬ « « ¬ « ¬ ¬ « « 30 ¬ « ¬ « 24 40 19 Miles ¬ « 24 ¬ « 8 79 CFLRP Focus Areas £ ¤ State of the Bobwhite 2013 • 15
  17. 17. Virginia O Debuts Forest Management Practices With Private Landowners n a smaller scale—and in another dimension of the world of active, purposeful forest management—the Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries has partnered with the Virginia Division of Forestry (VDOF) in supporting a set of “best management practices” for pine to support development of quail habitat on private, nonindustrial lands in its six bobwhite focal regions. And all while increasing commercial timber value. The Forestry Quail Habitat Recovery CostShare Program, which debuted this year, was limited to landowners in the 15 counties that comprise the six regions and was open for enrollment only a short period of time. But it brought pine management activities beneficial to quail and other wildlife to 300 privately owned acres. “With commodity prices as high as they are it’s more difficult to convince farmers to do a lot for quail,” said Marc Puckett, the state’s “quail coordinator” and chair of the National Bobwhite Technical Committee. “We thought it would be a good way—and a good time— to see if we could interest any private timberland owners to do some things to improve quail habitat. “Specifically,” Puckett explained, “the four BMPs we are funding include pine thinning in stands that range from 5 to 25 acres, pre-commercial thinning, midrotation herbicide release of pines and planting of shortleaf pine. The benefits of these practices are significant to Herbicide application extends all the benefits of pine stand thinning 16 • NBCI’s Bobwhite Almanac
  18. 18. wildlife habitat diversity and forest health. We offer the funding to incentivize landowners to manage pine stands throughout their life cycle. “Pre-commercial thinning can be particularly important where pine stands have been allowed to regenerate naturally and are too thick for forest health, providing virtually no wildlife habitat. Pine stand thinning opens up the forest canopy, allows sunlight to hit the forest floor and stimulates herbaceous plant growth, which greatly improving wildlife habitat and can set the stage for prescribed burning if so desired. Thinning also promotes forest health so it is a win-win. “We are also incentivizing the planting of short-leaf pine stands because they are generally slower to reach canopy closure, and longer lived so more conducive to multiple thinnings through time, more likely to require use of prescribed fire in management, and more easily managed for the creation of pine savannah habitats that are more conducive to wildlife. Increasing acres of short-leaf pine in Virginia also improves diversification in the forest economy and forest health. “And by using the proper herbicides in midrotation pine stand management, the benefits of thinnings can be maintained longer, more sunlight is allowed to reach the forest floor, herbaceous plants are favored over competing hardwood saplings and wildlife habitat can be maintained longer,” Puckett said. Based on the 300 acres enrolled in a very short time period—four months—Virginia is extending the agreement another year and expanding the enrollment period but the dates aren’t set. “We’re very pleased that VDOF is stepping up to assist us with this initiative again, but they’ve been a great ally on our quail plan, which they signed on Day 1 five years ago.” “Our field foresters tell me they have some projects waiting in the wings for next year,” said Dean Cumbia, director of resources management for the state forestry agency. “That’s pretty encouraging.” “The benefits of these practices are significant to wildlife habitat diversity and forest health.” State of the Bobwhite 2013 • 17
  19. 19. Bobwhites Responding to Longleaf Restoration I On Alabama’s Barbour WMA f the red-cockaded woodpecker deserves any credit for the expanding quail populations on the Ouachita National Forest in Arkansas, the southern pine beetle might want to take a bow for what’s happening on the Barbour Wildlife Management Area in Barbour and Bullock counties in southeast Alabama. In that portion of the WMA, which is being managed for longleaf pine restoration, there are a “tremendous number of deer,” quail hunters are happy because of covey increases (nine separate coveys were flushed during one 400-500 acre prescribed burn), rabbits are doing what rabbits do best, and a whole suite of bird species, including Bachman sparrows, American kestrels, prairie warblers and field sparrows, are all on the increase. A visitor can stand in one place and hear both a bobwhite and a Bachman sparrow. That is, in fact, what NBCI Director Don McKenzie recently experienced. The first 8,000 acres of this 28,000-acre WMA were purchased in 1949 for “quail research,” according to Drew Nix, a forester with the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF). A year later, the state launched a seedling nursery for bicolor lespedeza, that era’s “silver bullet” for quail being heavily promoted at the time by the then-Soil Conservation Service, now the Natural Resources Conservation Service. In 1952, the wildlife division started stocking deer and turkey and opened the area to deer hunting in the early ‘60s. There was little active timber management, even into the ‘90s … but there were tons of bicolor seed spread far and wide. Compartments 1, 2, 3, 5, and 6 in the longleaf restoration area in the northern part of Barbour WMA have been harvested. Compartments 1, 2, 3, and 5 have been reforested, and compartment 6 will be planted this planting season. Compartment 4 is being harvested and will receive a bicolor spray next spring, hardwood control treatment in Summer ‘14, planted Fall ‘14 & Winter ‘15. Compartment 7 will marked, cruised, sold and harvested in ‘13 & ‘14 with the anticipation of reforestation occurring in 2016. 18 • NBCI’s Bobwhite Almanac
  20. 20. The NWTF partnered to assist with seedlings, site prep and planting of areas on Barbour WMA and for enhancement and management of existing longleaf stands. Then came the southern pine beetle. The beetle’s devastation resulted in thousands of acres of pine trees being cut and salvaged. And quail and turkey responded. But it quickly became apparent it wouldn’t last. There “was no forest regeneration to speak of,” said Nix, because the bicolor lespedeza quickly invaded the cutover areas, shutting down even the growth of native grasses and legumes. “There was a tremendous amount of bicolor,” Nix said, while sweetgum and water oaks reclaimed the uplands. (While bicolor can be a good late-season food source, it provides little else for quail, including nesting habitat. Native species provide all habitat components, but are out-competed by bicolor, which grows thick, tall and fast.) In 1996, they began experimenting with herbicides for bicolor control and planting longleaf pines. It took seven to eight years to discover what herbicides in what combinations would work. In 2006, they launched what they “loosely call” their longleaf initiative, a plan to reclaim 4,000 acres in the northern section of the WMA as a longleaf savannah. The first of seven compartments was cut in 2007. The sixth compartment was cut this year and the seventh will be cut next summer. Management tactics depend on vegetative response. “We get a flush of growth,” said Nix, “nearly all bicolor. In June, we do an aerial site spray targeting bicolor. In August or September we’ll run a hot fire through and the following spring we’ll use a broadleaf herbicide for hardwood brush control tank mixed with another herbicide for seedling bicolor control. We’ve had good success with native legumes and grasses coming back. We follow that up with tree planting, then with a burning cycle. The cycle varies but usually a cool season burn after the first season or two, and sometimes herbaceous, weed control to allow the longleaf to get out of the ‘grass’ stage. From then on it depends on how the site responds with woody understory.” Incidentally, this isn’t the only forest management with observed bobwhite response occurring in the state, according to Nix. Many other areas outside of the Northside of Barbour WMA have been restored to longleaf. Any site that is harvested is assessed for the potential to be restored to longleaf. Similar forest management work with either longleaf or shortleaf is occurring on other wildlife management areas, including 2,500 acres of longleaf in southwest Alabama and some “large-scale” shortleaf/ bluestem restoration in northwest Alabama on WFF and Forever Wild land Trust property on Freedom Hills and Lauderdale WMA’s, WFF property on the Cumberland Plateau at James D. Martin-Skyline WMA, and on the Bankhead National Forest. “Even the state parks are doing what they can and the State Lands Division is doing a tremendous amount on Forever Wild property,” said Nix. “What hampers us (the department) is that while there are 750,000 acres in wildlife management areas, WFF only owns 90,000. Forever Wild Land Trust owns 200,000 and the rest is leased from the feds, private corporate landowners, the forestry commission and others. “We’re trying to march on…” State of the Bobwhite 2013 • 19
  21. 21. Can Save Bobwhites … or Seal Their Fate A s I write this in August 2013, the future of the 2013 Farm Bill is in question. The Farm Bill is the main mechanism by which federal agricultural conservation programs are authorized. While the Farm Bill is far from perfect, failure to pass some version of it this year would be a setback not only to wildlife conservation but also to conservation of natural resources in general. David Peters Federal Agriculture Policy by Kyle Brazil, NBCI Agriculture Policy Coordinator fescue. The Brazil family farm was no exception. I doubt my grandpa could have anticipated the detrimental effect that planting Bermudagrass would have on his favorite bird. If he had, perhaps he would have decided against it. Then again, the economics of forage production were different back then. Fertilizer cost next to nothing and the Soil Conservation Service (now the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service) was pushing the new, “improved” Normally you only get one chance to shoot a grass. The fact that USDA would also pay most of the bobwhite. This particular bird was breaking the rules. planting cost probably sealed the deal. This ability to My cousin and I had recently received one of the most affect major business decisions of farmers and ranchers coveted of all boyhood possessions—a pellet gun. makes federal agriculture policy a powerful tool. Like Despite the summer heat, we most landowners, my were out testing our hunting grandpa was pragmatic: “Whether bobwhite quail populations and marksmanship skills. The a farm, first and foremost, bobwhite hen we chanced upon stand or fall is heavily influenced by had to “make you a gave us plenty of opportunity living.” federal agricultural policy.” to adjust our unskilled aim. In the past, the Eventually, we got it. bobwhite community We took the hen to has taken a laissez-faire approach to federal agriculture Grandpa, an avid quail hunter, for his approval. To our policy. Perhaps this is because for the better part of a surprise, instead of praise we received admonishment. century small-scale agriculture, combined with lessWhat commenced was my first lesson in wildlife efficient technology, seemed to produce abundant quail management. Grandpa sternly yet lovingly explained that populations regardless of intent. Those days are gone. the hen didn’t flee because she was protecting her chicks, Whether bobwhite quail populations stand which likely had been “holed-up” nearby. By killing or fall is heavily influenced by federal agricultural the hen in the summer, we had inadvertently killed the policy. For years, those policies have prompted farmers equivalent of an entire fall covey. Quail were too scarce and ranchers to replace native grasses with a host of for a mistake like that. introduced, sod-forming species—and to inadvertently The road to scarcity for northern bobwhites has decimate bobwhite populations and other grassland bird been paved in part with the promotion and subsidization populations as a result. The good news is that it now of introduced grasses such as Bermudagrass and tall 20 • NBCI’s Bobwhite Almanac
  22. 22. makes ecological AND business sense to restore native grasses. The problem is that federal agriculture policy has not caught up to that reality. It is up to the quail and grassland bird community and other natural resources conservationists to make sure it does. Federal agriculture policy dictates how public funding is applied to private agricultural lands. Multiple agencies, such as the U.S. Department of the Interior, have private lands conservation programs, but USDA impacts by far the most acres and has the most funding for private agricultural lands conservation. There are many legitimate reasons for applying public funds to private lands. In addition to food and fiber, necessities for everyday life such as clean air and drinking water are heavily influenced by actions taken on private land. Wildlife, a publicly owned resource, is dependent on the availability of habitat on private lands across much of the nation. Conserving these resources is not free, and can be expensive. The Farm Bill—revised and reauthorized by Congress about every five years—largely determines the powers and programs that USDA can use to assist private landowners. Beyond legislative authority, the regulations and procedural guidelines adopted by the agencies responsible for implementing the authorities become vitally important. In reality, the Farm Bill is to federal agriculture policy as the pirates’ code is to behavior on outlaw ships—it’s really more what you’d call “guidelines.” How these guidelines are interpreted by the agencies is what becomes policy that affects landowners’ decisions on the ground. The continued existence of meaningful populations of bobwhites, as well as an entire suite of grassland birds, depends in large part on our ability to influence policy. Federal policy can be a tool to restore bobwhite habitats and populations, or it can continue to contribute to the problem. History proves this point. Introduced grasses dominate the current agricultural landscape across the bobwhite’s range, to the detriment of most grassland birds, largely because of federal agriculture policy. For decades, USDA promoted and subsidized the conversion of millions of acres of diverse native grass and shrublands to monocultures of Bermudagrass, Bahiagrass, tall fescue, and other “improved” grasses that provide poor quail habitat. Oceans of quail habitat slowly became islands of habitat. While the purpose of this widespread conversion was to provide high-quality forage that could be grazed more heavily than native grasses, a side effect was loss of vegetative diversity and wildlife populations. Successfully reversing the bobwhite decline will require the restoration of millions of acres of native habitat on private lands. Only the federal government, and specifically USDA, has the manpower, influence, and funding to impact private land use on that scale. Unfortunately, since quail don’t migrate and they’re not on the endangered species list, they do not get the same protection, attention or funding that ducks, shorebirds, or wolves get from the federal government. There is no federal impetus to pass laws, form policies, or fund projects to protect bobwhite habitat or provide for their life history needs. The quail community must take this task upon itself. In doing so, we must be pragmatic—which means that we must understand that in order for conservation to work on private lands, it must also work for the landowner. The good news is that economics increasingly are on the quail’s side as well. The profitability of introduced grass grazing systems depends on cheap inputs such as fertilizer and herbicide. The price of these inputs has skyrocketed, reducing or eliminating their profitability. Native warmseason grass systems, which require neither fertilizer nor herbicide and are drought resistant, remain profitable. Many landowners are now restoring native grasses purely as a business decision. Furthermore, a growing body of literature shows that native warm-season grasses, the primary nesting cover of bobwhites, also provide soil and water conservation benefits comparable to introduced grasses. This begs the question of why—if native grasses provide economically viable high-quality, drought tolerant forage, equal or greater soil and water conservation benefit, AND wildlife habitat—does USDA not put more emphasis on planting them and provide equitable subsidies for doing so compared to the introduced grass alternative? If my grandfather were given the same choice today between native and introduced grasses, I believe he would choose to stick with his native forages so that he could have both cattle and quail. State of the Bobwhite 2013 • 21
  23. 23. Show Me the Quail! Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri, Texas and Virginia Launch Pilot NBCI Model Focal Areas Dr. Tom Dailey John Morgan Ken Duren NBCI Asst. Director/Science Coordinator KY Dept. of Fish and Wildlife Resources OH Dept. of Natural Resources M any quail hunters, landowners and biologists are stymied by dwindling and disappearing bobwhite populations. Quail biologists in the 1960s observed declining habitat conditions, including intensified farming, increased use of exotic pasture grasses and naturallyoccurring replacement of grasslands by forests, and prophesied the demise of quail that we now lament. Although other factors such as weather affect short-term quail abundance, the only viable long-term solution is habitat. The recently published final report by Mississippi State University (MSU) on the increase in quail abundance resulting from CP33 practices (Habitat Buffers for Upland Birds, http://bringbackbobwhites.org/newsroom/ nbci-news-releases) demonstrates how effective fieldlevel habitat management can be, even in intensive agricultural settings. This specific report did not, however, address sustainability of quail populations. Other work at MSU, University of Georgia and Oklahoma State University has identified the need for larger-scale habitat conservation, thousands of acres, to ensure that bobwhites will thrive through the worst natural conditions (weather, climate, predation, disease, etc.). As described in the 2011 State of the Bobwhite Report (page 6), state agency bobwhite habitat focal areas numbered >100, size ranged from 300 to 2.3 million acres, and 45 of the areas were producing statistically valid estimates of bobwhite abundance. Reports of success, however, have been few, and communication of results, what is working, what is not, has only slowly emerged. 22 • NBCI’s Bobwhite Almanac In spring 2012, the National Bobwhite Technical Committee (NBTC) Steering Committee asserted that the viability of range-wide bobwhite conservation depends on demonstrating the validity of the habitatbased strategy, and soon, within 5-10 years. A credible demonstration will require achieving bobwhite managed density goals in multiple areas through habitat management. The NBTC Steering Committee, after receiving input from the NBCI Management Board, state agencies and NBTC members, believes that focal areas are the best tool for demonstrating bobwhite recovery successes through habitat delivery. State agency quail biologists crafted quail abundance goals as part of the NBCI 2.0 quail plan (http://bit.ly/17hm2SN) as a measure of recovery, and the plan called for an adaptive management approach for identifying what habitat approaches are working, and what is not working. Adaptive management is often referred to today as Strategic Habitat Conservation, a cyclical process of habitat conservation planning, implementation, and learning. Over the past 18 months, hundreds of biologists tied to the NBTC have worked on a draft implementation plan, the NBCI Model Focal Area Program. There have been four face-to-face meetings, including two special state agency quail coordinator sessions at the annual NBTC meeting, a hundred conference calls, countless email discussions, and a survey of state quail coordinators’ views and experiences regarding quail population monitoring. The habitat foundation of the NBCI Model Focal Area Program is that NBCI focal areas should have concentrated bobwhite habitat and be able to sustain
  24. 24. Eric Niewoehner a bobwhite population through populations ups and downs resulting from natural conditions, regardless of the surrounding landscape. Research points to focal areas containing at least 1,500 acres of year-round suitable habitat and this habitat would comprise at least 25% of the focal area. These numbers translate to a 1,500-acre NBCI focal area if all the suitable habitat is side-by-side (contiguous, 100% coverage of habitat). This could be a diverse grassland, shrubland or woodland. In highly-altered landscapes where farming dominates, production fields are not suitable for bobwhites for part of the annual life cycle, and thus that portion is not counted towards the 1,500 acres. In these cases the scenario often will be a 6,000-acre focal area with 1,500 acres of year-round habitat to meet the minimum criterion of 25% suitable habitat. Beyond habitat management and evaluation, the tenet of NBCI focal areas is that bobwhite population response, usually abundance, be measured. Because NBCI focal area habitat will benefit many species, song birds will also be measured in spring. The NBTC Steering Committee’s goal is for each of the 25 NBCI states to participate in this collaborative effort with at least one NBCI focal area and reference area. NBCI focal areas must be monitored for habitat gained and bobwhite response—not only to provide credible evidence of progress, but also to enable learning so that effective programs can be replicated across the landscape. Rigorous standardized or coordinated monitoring of focal areas across NBCI states will provide learning opportunities and supporting evidence for habitat-based bobwhite conservation, even if a subset of NBCI focal areas does not reach their managed density goals. Comparison with reference areas will allow for states to control for extrinsic factors (e.g., severe weather events) and will allow states to attribute bobwhite population gains more directly to habitat work. State participation in this collaborative focal area effort is purely voluntary. Six state agency quail coordinators launched pilot NBCI focal areas in spring 2013, including Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri, Texas and Virginia. At the conclusion of the 2013 annual NBTC meeting, a total of 14 states reported their willingness to establish a NBCI focal area within three years and eight supported creation by spring 2014. For the first time in the NBCI’s history and the history of bobwhite quail, large-scale habitat management will be coupled with collaborative monitoring—a landmark moment. The next steps are reporting progress to the NBCI Management Board in September, completion of the plan in December, and formal adoption by the NBCI Management Board in March 2014. The Kentucky example shows a 5,837-acre NBCI Pilot Focal Area with observation points for habitat assessments and listening for singing birds and bobwhites in June and bobwhite covey calls in October. This Focal Area is on private land, and landowners are restoring grassland in a crop land landscape. It is expected that during the Focal Area life, 10 years, the minimum 1,500 acres of suitable habitat will have been achieved. State of the Bobwhite 2013 • 23
  25. 25. The Bobwhite Brigade … swimming, canoeing and basket weaving, it isn’t T wenty-one years ago this December, Texas Cooperative Extension wildlife specialist Dr. Dale Rollins, an ardent disciple of the bobwhite with a Ph.D. in wildlife ecology, was driving from a San Angelo Lions Club presentation to an evening talk to 4-H leaders in Childress, over 200 miles due north. Somewhere between the Pearl of the Conchos and the namesake of the Tennessean who was primary author of the Texas Declaration of Independence, he began thinking how, given the demand, he could spend his entire career driving from place-to-place giving three “conservation awareness” talks daily. And then it struck him … why couldn’t motivated high school students be trained to give these “Conservation 101” presentations … and become “lifetime ambassadors for wildlife conservation” in the process? “Driving down the highway was literally when the epiphany of the Bobwhite Brigade came to mind,” says Rollins, who went on to found the Rolling Plains Quail Research Ranch in Rotan 15 years later. “I thought about it for a couple of days, then called around to some colleagues to bounce the idea off them.” This year, 2013, is the 21st anniversary of the first Bobwhite Brigade and two decades of awards and accolades for the effectiveness of a one-week “summer camp” light years apart from others of the genre in senior-level college coursework in ecology, media skills, psychology, leadership and more. The Brigade curriculum reveals the unusual grafting of what Rollins describes as “the best of boot camp with the best of a 4-H camp.” Participants (or “cadets”) are grouped into “coveys.” Covey leaders are adults (who may or may not know anything about quail), assistant covey leaders are previous cadets chosen for their understanding of the camp’s philosophy and rigor, and their performance during and after the camp they attended. Coveys are up by 7 a.m. or before, “marching” and performing their assigned “cadences” before breakfast. When you think “cadence,” think… Texas ranchers they’ve got class Bobwhite quail nest in bunchgrass. Cattle grazing is okay, If it’s done the proper way. Or A quail’s life is full of tests, Many critters break up their nests. Possums, skunks, and raccoons too, It’s enough to make a bobwhite blue. myriad ways … starting with full immersion in the subject matter and very high expectations for the teenaged participants. In fact, of the 100 hours cadets are there, they are “up and at it” 85 of them. The approach and philosophy is in stark contrast to that of public schools, which Rollins contends have “as a rule, dumbed down content to reach the masses.” He describes the camp’s content as 24 • NBCI’s Bobwhite Almanac (They’ve got a million of ‘em, folks.) The long days are packed with short presentations—in keeping with this audience’s attention spans for such—on a diversity of subjects. There’s quail behavior and biology, quail politics and economics, radio telemetry, photography, plant collecting and pressing, constructing tri-fold displays, firearms safety, habitat evaluation, range management, media interview skills,
  26. 26. PowerPoint presentation skills, hunting’s role in conservation, team building and critical thinking skills —all interspersed with hands-on activities with all the subjects. And, oh yeah … how to write thank-you notes. And even those will be graded before camp is over. Within two hours of arriving, cadets dissect quail to Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird” … the refrain of which they’ve declared the national anthem of quail management … and they may wake up to the “Ride of the Valkyries” or the “Texas Aggie War Hymn.” Or as Rollins phrases it, the camp is “fueled by adrenaline, good food and rock & roll…we’ve perfected the art of getting everything possible from a 15-year-old.” A week of swimming, canoeing and basket weaving, it isn’t. “It was always intended to recruit and train ambassadors for wildlife conservation in the broadest sense,” Rollins says. “We want to push kids, train them, excite them, educate them in natural resources conservation and give them media skills, presentation skills, leadership skills and team skills. Graduating cadets are then expected to return to their communities and have a public profile, giving conservation presentations and keeping a notebook of their accomplishments. They can then compete to return to camp as assistant covey leader and be eligible for one of the six $500 to $1,500 college scholarships offered to the assistants at the conclusion of each camp. “We do get some biologists out of it, certainly. But that’s not our goal. We want outdoor conservation disciples for the remainder of their lives and careers. We might just be training a judge or a senator … or a future head of the Farm Service Agency,” Rollins says. “In their first hour of the camp I tell them that we will transform them from coal to diamonds. Their initial name tag, in fact, is a plastic baggie with a piece of charcoal in it, pinned to their lapel. Diamond creation requires time, heat and pressure. We don’t have much time so we increase the heat and pressure. “And you know what? Contrary to what we were advised when we were designing our curriculum and daily schedule for the Bobwhite Brigade, these high school kids respond to the regimen, the competition, the pace and the expectations.” The cadets have come from across Texas. And Arkansas. And Kansas. And Georgia, Michigan, New Mexico, North Dakota and Oklahoma. Anyone from age 13 to 17 is eligible. In fact, Rollins encourages every NBCI state to consider recruiting a couple of young folks to participate. And in the end, a half-dozen of the best, who have stuck with it, walk away each year with college scholarships. And an understanding of science-based conservation they will pass on to others throughout their lives. In other words, think… Hail o hail Bobwhite Brigade Conservation on parade Mama, Mama can’t you see, What this camp has done for me! Success breeds imitation and the 501(C)3 Bobwhite Brigade became the forerunner of the Texas Brigades, which now also includes the bass, buckskin, ranch and waterfowl components. The Texas Brigades is a cooperative effort of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, Texas Wildlife Association, Texas Wildlife Association Foundation, Texas Parks & Wildlife, USDA-NRCS, and Texas Chapters of Quail Coalition. The Brigades are supported by numerous individuals, private businesses, foundations, and other non-profit organizations. Cost of the bobwhite camp is $400 but there are many sources of assistance. For information on the Bobwhite Brigade, please visit http://www.texasbrigades.org/ Camps/Bobwhite-Brigade. For a video testimonial, visit http://goo. gl/TFGNjP. (Photos courtesy of Bobwhite Brigade.) State of the Bobwhite 2013 • 25
  27. 27. STATE CONSERVATION REPORTS T his section contains highlights of bobwhite conservation in 2012-13 as reported by NBCI state quail coordinators. Detailed information on 2013 population and hunting prospects are available on state agency web sites, many of which are embedded in the electronic version of this report which will be posted on www. bringbackbobwhites.org. State quail coordinator contact information can be found at the end of each report. Bobwhite conservationists in 2012-13 continued aggressive and innovative restoration and management. As usual, habitat work was dominated by USDA programs. State agency and partner efforts to improve wild bobwhite populations are supported by key approaches, categorized as 1) specific state programs and plans, 2) evaluation of management effectiveness, 3) research and 4) outreach. Some highlights from state conservation reports for these categories are listed below. Conservation Highlights: • USDA Farm Bill programs: See reports for Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, Mississippi, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia. Iowa is the only NBCI state using the USDA Voluntary Public Access program to improve bobwhite habitat. • State Agency Habitat Programs: Alabama, Longleaf Pine Ecosystem Restoration Initiative; Arkansas, Acres for Wildlife; Florida, Upland Ecosystem Restoration Project; Georgia, Bobwhite Quail Initiative/ Focal Landscapes; Indiana, Quail Habitat Incentives; Iowa, Adopt a Wildlife Area; Kentucky, Green River Conservation Texas Parks and Wildlife Department received authority to spend an additional $4M of state funds for quail habitat focal area development during the next two years. 26 • NBCI’s Bobwhite Almanac Reserve Enhancement; Louisiana, East Gulf Coastal Plain Prescribed Burn Initiative; Mississippi, Fire on the Forty; Missouri, Quail Emphasis Areas, Missouri, Quail Forever staff partnership; North Carolina, Cooperative Upland Habitat Restoration and Enhancement; and Tennessee, Quail Forever staff partnership. • Wild quail restoration plans: South Carolina’s new NBCI-based plan; Missouri revising 10-year NBCI-based plan; Delaware, Maryland and New Jersey working toward participation in the NBCI Model Focal Area Program with quail population monitoring, landowner attitude surveys and formation of partnerships (e.g., New Jersey Habitat Improvement Team). Also, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department received authority to spend an additional $4M of state funds for quail habitat focal area development during the next two years—these ear-marked quail funds resulted from a 2005-era game bird stamp that had been accumulating because spending had not been authorized. • Evaluation of management effectiveness: many states measure quail population response to management, and some include grassland birds in monitoring. Monitoring was done in 2012-13 in Alabama, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, Texas and Virginia. Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio, Texas and Virginia volunteered to serve as pilot testing areas for development of the NBCI Model Focal Area Program.
  28. 28. • Research: Florida, effects of scale of fire on quail; Georgia, bobwhite population response to supplemental feeding and predator management; Illinois, CRP; Indiana, quail behavior; Kentucky, patch-burn grazing; Oklahoma, quail ecology, including predators, disease and aflatoxicosis; Texas, quail translocation, wild strain parent-reared quail stocking, quail genetics, dispersal, and productivity, disease, parasites and toxins. because of long-term declines in habitat and quail populations, quail are losing relevancy in some state programs. In the east, New Jersey and Delaware conservation reports reveal first-ever zero counts for bobwhites in statewide breeding bird surveys, and North Carolina ended statewide bobwhite population monitoring. Similarly, bobwhite abundance is so uncertain in Pennsylvania and West Virginia that their quail coordinators could not complete the NBCI Habitat Accomplishments Inventory because they could not meet the minimum criteria of existence of wild bobwhite • Outreach: key programs continued, populations. including Missouri’s Covey Headquarters The trends for quail hunting likewise Newsletter and Grass is Greener promotion, continue to be negative, with New Jersey continuing New Jersey’s Quail in the Classroom a statewide closure of wild bobwhite hunting, program, North Carolina’s Upland Gazette Delaware shortening its hunting season by 30 days and Kentucky’s Bobwhite Battalion (harvest of wild bobwhites had declined from 10% FACEBOOK and Salato quail exhibit. Three of reported harvest in last decade to zero in most major new developments in outreach include recent harvest survey), and Indiana reporting the an entire issue of Outdoor possibility of a reduction in huntingOklahoma magazine season length. Quail hunting has Three major being devoted to been reduced in many states to new developments in the Oklahoma individuals willing to travel long Department distances and/or to take advantage outreach include an entire of Wildlife of local limited wild quail hunting issue of Outdoor Oklahoma Conservation’s or use of released-domesticated new quail habitat bobwhites. Quail hunting, as magazine being devoted to management the Oklahoma Department of measured by state agency surveys, guide, Missouri’s has increasingly shifted to Wildlife Conservation’s new released-domesticated bobwhites. Bee Ridge private land focus area Over the past three SOTB quail habitat management being featured in reports, the proportion of guide, Missouri’s Bee Ridge the State of The domesticated quail in state Birds 2013 Report private land focal area being agency harvest surveys is as on Private Lands follows: Georgia, 97% (783,795 featured in the State of The (North American domestic quail); Missouri, 25%; Birds 2013 Report on Private New Jersey, 97%; Alabama, 91% Bird Conservation Initiative), and Lands (North American Bird (462,500 domestic quail) (2013 New Jersey’s SOTB); Delaware, 100% (2013 Conservation Initiative), Bobwhite SOTB); and Virginia, 82% (85,184 Calendar. domestic quail) (2013 SOTB). and New Jersey’s Bobwhite Regardless of the proven lack Calendar. Negative Trends Continue of value of released-domesticated Amid the many efforts bobwhites for population restoration to improve conditions for bobwhites, (see Quail VII published papers by Thackston once again we find bobwhite populations, hunting et al. and Kinsey et al.), these birds are serving an and habitat at record lows. In the west, a 20important role in dog training and quail hunting. year low in quail abundance was reported for Oklahoma. Severe weather, drought or above average precipitation or temperatures, are to blame for short-term population declines. However, State of the Bobwhite 2013 • 27
  29. 29. Alabama—Alabama Department of Conservation & Natural Resources Population: Alabama quail populations have decreased annually by 3% over the last 5 years. Hunting: From the 2011-2012 hunter survey results, Alabama had an estimated 4,800 wild quail hunters who harvested approximately 47,000 wild birds. There were an estimated 9,400 pen-raised quail hunters who harvested approximately 462,500 pen-raised birds. On Wildlife Management Areas there were a total of 1,004 man-days of quail hunting with 1,134 wild quail harvested in 2011-2012. Management: Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) continues to manage for quail with the following programs: • WFF is continuing Longleaf Pine restoration on approximately 5,000 acres on Barbour WMA and Fred T. Stimpson Sanctuary. Also, a prescribed burning program is taking place on these two areas to restore grassland habitats. Shortleaf Pine restoration continues on 1,850 acres on WFF and Forever Wild lands on Lauderdale and Freedom Hills WMAs. • The WFF Landowner Incentive Program, Longleaf Pine Ecosystem Restoration Initiative, continued with funds received from USFWS partnership funds for projects with private landowners in high priority areas. During the past year, 1,643 acres were restored and a prescribed burning program will be implemented on these projects for the next 30 years. Additionally 400 acres of prescribed burning was conducted for 2012. • A monitoring program continues at Barbour WMA and Fred T. Stimpson Sanctuary to look at effects of longleaf restoration on quail and songbird populations. This year Freedom Hills WMA shortleaf restoration and James D. Martin and Mud Creek WMA’s native warm season grass areas were added to the monitoring program. Both breeding bird surveys and fall covey counts are conducted annually on these properties to assess bird populations. • Alabama State Parks, in partnership with WFF, is working with both Quail Forever and NWTF on habitat projects at Wind Creek State Park consisting of longleaf pine restoration and enhancement of existing longleaf. NBCI State Quail Coordinator: Carrie Threadgill, Wildlife Biologist, carrie.threadgill@dcnr.alabama.gov Arkansas—Arkansas Game & Fish Commission Population: Arkansas’s quail population has declined by approximately 70% over the past 30 years. Hunting: No hunting statistics have been collected in Arkansas in recent history. Management: The agency continues to operate under a statewide quail plan and as a partner with NBCI. Quail management highlights include: • Management of about 6,200 acres of CP33 Buffers and 5,411.4 quail-friendly acres in CP38E/Safe Grass. • An effective push to increase Native Warm-Season Grass establishment on pastures through our Acres For Wildlife Program. • Outreach seminars and workshops to the general public as well as agency professionals. • Partnered with other conservation organizations to enhance or restore over 10,000 acres of glade/woodland and grassland habitats on several Wildlife Management Areas. NBCI State Quail Coordinator: Clifton Jackson, cjackson@agfc.state.ar.us Delaware—Delaware Division of Fish & Wildlife Population: 2011 statewide BBS bobwhite abundance index was 0.0 bobwhite per route—the first time no bobwhite have been detected on any BBS routes in Delaware. Bobwhite have declined an average of 10.1% per year during the long-term period 1966-2011. This decline is even more pronounced when examining the most recent short-term, 11-year period (2001-2011), during which bobwhite declined an average of 20.6% per year. Hunting: Delaware’s 2011-12 estimated harvest was 4,821 quail. Total estimated number of hunters was 396. Of note, estimated take of pen-raised, released birds comprised 100% of the estimated total harvest—the first time this has ever been observed. In recent years, harvest of wild birds has accounted for 10-11% of overall harvest. Management: Our agency continues to operate as a partner with the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI). In addition, we are continuing a comprehensive planning effort to identify quail focal areas, where management and research efforts would be directed. Quail management highlights include: • Conducted intensive biological surveys in June and July to document the presence and distribution of bobwhite within potential focal areas and adjacent control areas. • Completed a human dimensions survey to assess landowner attitudes. Survey respondents were generally very favorable towards restoring habitat on their property for bobwhite. • Revised our focal areas based on results from biological and human dimensions surveys. Focal areas will include both private lands and State Wildlife Areas where habitat may be managed intensively for quail. • Remaining obstacles include securing stable funding and incentivizing a private lands habitat program that would be competitive with current CREP programs and commodity prices. • Enhanced and restored 386 acres of quail habitat on State Wildlife Areas through hedgerow creation, burning, brush control, and invasive species control. • Restored 35 acres of early successional habitat on private lands for bobwhite quail. • Changed regulations to shorten the length of Delaware’s quail season. The season will now end the first Saturday in January, effectively shortening the season by 30 days. The intent of this regulatory change was to remove late season harvest pressure which was likely additive to quail mortality. NBCI State Quail Coordinator: Matt DiBona, Wildlife Biologist, matthew.dibona@state.de.us 28 • NBCI’s Bobwhite Almanac
  30. 30. Florida—Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission Population: Florida’s bobwhite population has declined by approximately 82% since 1966. Hunting: Annual bobwhite harvest has declined from 2.7 million in 1970 to about 210,000. No recent hunter/hunting statistics are available. Management: Florida’s restoration and management of bobwhites continues to operate under a State Strategic Plan for Northern Bobwhite Restoration that is integrated with the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative. Bobwhite management highlights include the following: • To advance Florida’s strategy, the Upland Ecosystem Restoration Project (UERP) was developed in 2006 as a cooperative effort between the state’s four primary land management agencies (Fish and Wildlife Commission, Florida Forest Service, Department of Environmental Protection, and U.S. Forest Service) and Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy. The primary objective of UERP is to prioritize, design, and implement on-the-ground management to improve populations of northern bobwhite and other grassland species on public lands throughout Florida. • UERP comprises over 100,000 acres of public land and has generated over $400,000 of outside funding for increased land management activities. In addition to management, what makes UERP unique is it provides a statewide view of the issues, facilitates communication within and among agencies, and all partners share a common vision of improving populations of northern bobwhite. • Collectively, under UERP and other efforts, Florida has over 175,000 acres of total area of quail habitat on public land under favorable management for bobwhites and other grassland species. These public land areas are collectively managed by the four primary land management agencies (noted above). In addition, Tall Timbers Research Station oversees 218,008 acres of total area of quail habitat on private land. • Completed over 200 fall covey call counts and habitat and species monitoring for other grassland species on public land bobwhite focal areas. • Research: In the second year of a multi-year cooperative project between FWC, Tall Timbers Research Station, University of Georgia, and Mississippi State University on the Babcock-Webb WMA (Charlotte County, FL). The primary goal of the project is to examine the effects of scale of fire on breeding season survival, reproduction, movements and survival post burn. NBCI State Quail Coordinator: Greg Hagan, Greg.Hagan@MyFWC.com Acres  of  Quail  Habitat  Management   NBCI  STATE  AGENCY  BOBWHITE  HABITAT  MANAGEMENT  INVENTORY  INDEX   2012   Florida   Total  243,920  Acres  Managed   180,000    158,055     160,000   140,000   120,000   100,000   85,530     80,000   60,000   40,000   20,000   0   335   FL  FWCC  Private  Land   FL  Public  Land   FL  Tall  Timbers  RS  &  LC   FL  Public  &  Private  Partner  Programs   State of the Bobwhite 2013 • 29
  31. 31. Acres  of  Quail  Habitat  &  Management   Georgia—Georgia Department of Natural Resources Population: Georgia’s bobwhite population has declined by more than 85% since 1966. Hunting: 2006-2009, hunter numbers remained stable; estimated quail harvest increased 30%. Proportion of pen-reared birds in the harvest increased 59% (130,645); wild quail harvest declined by 79% (27,416). Management: Georgia WRD’s quail restoration efforts are transitioning from the initial phase of the Bobwhite Quail Initiative (BQI) to implementation of the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI) 2.0 via Georgia’s BQI: 2013-2023. Plan release projected for Fall 2013 and will target our restoration efforts into spatially explicit sub-county Focal Landscapes. Quail management highlights include: • For 2012, 20 BQI financial incentive Cooperators enrolled 38 crop fields and 6 pine stands. Cooperators established 41 miles of field borders and with other BQI practices positively impacted more than 2,400 acres on working farms and forests across 15 Upper Coastal Plain counties. These represent the last of BQI financial incentive contracts and expired at the end of 2012. • Farm Bill habitats include: • CRP Longleaf—200,000 acres. • CP33—2,222 acres. • CP38 Pine Savannah Restoration—8,500 acres with additional 3,000 acres recently allocated. • WLFW Gopher Tortoise FY12—$5.7 million total: planned 8,800 acres of Longleaf Planting, 19,000 acres of Prescribed Burning, and 14,700 acres of Timber Stand Improvement (pre-commercial/commercial thinning and/or hardwood midstory removal via herbicide). • Wild quail translocation permits have been granted to expedite restoration on 5 sites. • Current bobwhite research includes monitoring bobwhite population response to supplemental feeding and predator management at DiLane WMA. • Georgia is one of the NBTC states piloting the NBCI Focal Area Monitoring Program. This includes monitoring bird populations and surveying habitat at Silver Lake Wildlife Management Area and accompanying reference area located in Mitchell County. NBCI State Quail Coordinators: Reggie Thackston, reggie.thackston@dnr.state.ga.us, and James Tomberlin, james.tomberlin@dnr. state.ga.us NBCI  STATE  AGENCY  BOBWHITE  HABITAT  MANAGEMENT  INVENTORY  INDEX  2012   Georgia   Total  390,247  Acres  Managed   Total  Area  of  Quail  Habitat   Acres  Managed   600,000   520,065   500,000    377,047     400,000   300,000   200,000   100,000   0    13,680      1,007     *GA  DNR  Private  Land   Incen>ve   GA  DNR  Public  Land   25,000  13,200       Jones  Center  at   Ichuaway   GA  DNR  &  Private  Partner  Programs   *Enrolled  in  incen>ve/compliance  program   30 • NBCI’s Bobwhite Almanac Tall  Timbers  RS  &  LC  
  32. 32. Illinois—Illinois Department of Natural Resources Population: We conduct roadside counts very similar to the BBS. In 2012, observers recorded an average of 0.84 quail per stop (up 20%). Quail were recorded at 36.0% of the stops (up 16%). The difference between 2011 and 2012 were not statistically significant. Hunting: Our harvest estimates are based upon results from the 2011-12 Illinois Hunter Harvest Survey. Surveyors added questions that asked hunters about their harvest of game farm birds. Even though they had been instructed to report only wild bird harvest in past surveys, it appears that game farm birds may have been inflating past year’s totals. Consequently, we cannot honestly compare previous years’ surveys with the 2011-12 data. This year, an estimated 12, 668 hunters harvested 46,633 wild quail. Quail hunters averaged 0.87 quail per trip. Management: IDNR continues to operate under a statewide wildlife action plan where quail are considered a species in greatest need of conservation and as a partner with NBCI. Quail management highlights include the following: • Over 2,500 acres are under SAFE contracts in focal areas within the quail range. • FSA approved the expansion of our SAFE boundaries and the addition of shrubland wildlife focal areas in October 2012. SAFE is presently open for enrollment. • The Conservation Reserve Program is by far the greatest source of potential wildlife habitat in Illinois. Illinois has 996,551 acres of CRP, a 33,899 acre reduction from last year. We have 61,354 acres enrolled in CP33. • Justin Shew completed the third year of monitoring in his research project, “Avian Response to Mid-Contract Management on Smooth Brome and Native-Grass-Dominated Conservation Reserve Program Fields in Northern Illinois”. NBCI State Quail Coordinator: Michael Wefer, Wildlife Field Operations Section Head/acting Ag and Grassland Wildlife Program Manager, mike.wefer@illinois.gov Indiana—Indiana Division of Fish & Wildlife Population: Preliminary results of the 2013 statewide bobwhite whistle count index indicate a significant 24.3% increase from 2012, climbing from 0.57 to 0.71 birds/stop. The results also show there was no change from the 5- and 10-year averages, but a significant 37.2% decline from the 25-year average. Among Indiana’s three bird conservation regions (BCR), only the Central Hardwoods BCR in southern Indiana has more than 1 bird/stop (1.31). Hunting: 15,000 small game harvest questionnaires were sent to Indiana license holders following the 2012-2013 hunting season. Questionnaires have been returned, but the data has yet to be analyzed (expect results in the 2014 SOTB report). Data from the 2010-2011 hunting season survey showed an estimated 15,080 bobwhite hunters (+7.7% vs. ‘08-’09) harvested a record low 19,866 bobwhites (−6.5% vs. ‘08-’09). Management: Within the Indiana Division of Fish and Wildlife, the Private Lands Unit, Public Lands Unit, and Wildlife Science Unit are working to improve quail habitat and management. Bobwhite management highlights during the 2012 calendar year include the following: • The Private Lands Unit continued working with landowners to create habitat using increased incentives in 11 Quail Habitat Priority Areas. • The Private Lands Unit added 284 acres of CP33 for a total enrollment of 13,878 acres and added 706 acres of bobwhite-specific CP38 for a total enrollment of 7,654 acres. The unit also added an additional 1,271 acres of quail friendly habitat through the Henslow’s and grasshopper sparrow-specific CP38. • The Public Lands Unit added 445 acres of new quail habitat (converted forest and fescue) and improved another 3,080 acres (2377 acres burned, 370 acres in food plot, 183 acres disked, and 150 acres sprayed) on eight fish and wildlife areas using funds dedicated to their Early Successional Habitat Initiative. • The Wildlife Science Unit continues monitoring population trends and harvest, and researching the impacts of disturbance on northern bobwhite productivity and dispersal at Glendale FWA. In 2013, the Wildlife Science Unit will evaluate its current population monitoring and will likely move toward NBCI coordinated population monitoring. • The Division of Fish and Wildlife has proposed changes to the bobwhite hunting season which includes a start date of November 1st and a reduction in the season length to 45 days in approximately nineteen counties in central Indiana. NBCI State Quail Coordinator: Budd Veverka, Research Biologist, bveverka@dnr.in.gov State of the Bobwhite 2013 • 31
  33. 33. Acres  Habitat  Management   Iowa—Iowa Department of Natural Resources Population: 2012 statewide bobwhite August roadside index of 0.39 quail per 30-mile route was 63% above the 2011 index. This is 38% and 72% below the 10-year and long-term (50-year) averages, respectively. Hunting: During the 2012-13 hunting season an estimated 8,769 hunters (down 7%) harvested 20,474 quail (up significantly) compared to 2011-12 season. Management: Iowa Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) manages bobwhite by partnering with multiple agencies, NGOs and private citizens, as well as the NBCI. Quail management highlights include the following: • Iowa is one of six states testing the NBCI focal area concept in the spring of 2013. Focal and reference areas of 6,000 acres each have been identified with bird and habitat monitoring techniques being evaluated. • To address concerns about low pheasant and quail populations the IDNR and state Pheasant/Quail Forever chapters have joined forces to enhance habitat on and around core wildlife properties. The Adopt a wildlife area program has identified 39 priority sites with 10 sites likely to have quail as a priority focus. • Iowa has a 46,500-acre allocation of CP33 Buffers of which 25,148 acres have been enrolled. • Bobwhites are a species of conservation importance identified in the State Wildlife Action Plan. • The Iowa Upland Game Bird Advisory Group recommended that restoration activities for bobwhite should focus on habitat restoration and better landowner marketing. • USDA Voluntary Public Access funds are being used to create more CP33 and CP38 practices that will create quail habitat and will be open for public hunting. NBCI State Quail Coordinator: Todd Bogenschutz, todd.bogenschutz@dnr.iowa.gov NBCI  STATE  AGENCY  BOBWHITE  HABITAT  MANAGEMENT  INVENTORY  INDEX  2012   Iowa   Total  24,939  Acres  Managed   16,000   14,000    13,682     12,000   10,000   8,000    6,264     6,000    4,993     4,000   2,000   0   Agency  Public  Land   32 • NBCI’s Bobwhite Almanac Agency  Private  Land   Private  Lands  -­‐  PF  Farmbill   Biologists