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Bobwhite Quail At a Crossroads, Says New 25-State Report

BRANSON, Missouri — Declaring that conservation efforts on behalf of bobwhite quail and other native grasslands birds are “far inadequate” to stop their decline in the U.S., a national coalition of 25 state wildlife agencies has issued a new situation assessment and a call for decisive action. The report was unveiled at the annual conference of the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association.

“A much larger, long-term commitment by all states and conservationists is imperative to overcome the half-century decline in bobwhite habitats and populations,” according to the first ever State of the Bobwhite: Grassland Conservation at a Crossroads from the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI). “Bobwhites are slipping through our fingers, and time is not on our side. We have the expertise; now we need to muster the resolve.”

Bobwhite quail populations have plummeted as much as 80 percent over the past half century by some estimates, while entire suites of songbirds that depend on the same habitat of native grasslands and shrublands have recorded similar declines.

In the first-ever regional bobwhite report, the NBCI and the NBCI Management Board, comprised of wildlife agency directors and private conservation leaders, say the following actions are required over the next 12 months as initial steps to recovering quail and other grassland species:

  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture should “step up to the plate” to become a more positive force in the restoration of native grasslands and bobwhite quail, specifically by adopting a policy making native plant species, instead of aggressive exotics that provide poor habitat, the first choice when the department subsidizes with public money plantings on private lands.

“This is probably the single most important thing that can be done across much of the country for America’s native grasslands and the wildlife that depend on them, including bobwhite quail and a whole host of songbirds,” said NBCI Director Don McKenzie.

  • Each of the 25 NBCI-member states in the core bobwhite range should adopt and adapt the new national bobwhite Conservation Planning Tool (NBCI 2.0) to their respective state, if they haven’t done so already, and inform the public of their intention.
  • States should highlight the range-wide National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative in their state wildlife magazine, and explain the challenges in the context of their state and how the state is addressing them.
  • All individuals should join a native grassland habitat-related conservation organization immediately, whether the group emphasizes quail, turkey or songbirds.
  • All individual quail and grassland wildlife enthusiasts should also support their respective state’s quail management efforts by calling the state quail coordinator and offering personal involvement, political connections or financial support, as well as attendance and vocal support at meetings of the state wildlife commission or board.
  • Individuals need to communicate to their Congressional delegation the need to support Farm Bill conservation programs, which are being cut disproportionately relative to other Farm Bill provisions.

The 37-page State of the Bobwhite is the first-ever coordinated attempt to assess state-by-state the status of bobwhite populations, hunting activity and conservation efforts across all 25 member states of the NBCI. And although bobwhite numbers continue to decline, the report does highlight a number of positive actions at the state level. Examples include:

  • Pennsylvania and West Virginia are preparing inaugural bobwhite conservation plans;
  • There are now 180 state agency-led bobwhite focus areas in 12 states;
  • Bobwhites have been included in efforts aimed at increasing wildlife diversity through ecosystem restoration in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma and South Carolina;
  • There are new prescribed fire initiatives benefitting bobwhites in Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas;
  • Notable public outreach programs are underway in Delaware, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia.

To read the entire report, go to http://www.bringbackbobwhites.org/about-bobwhites/state-of-the-bobwhite.

Headquartered at the University of Tennessee, NBCI is an initiative of the National Bobwhite Technical Committee (NBTC) to elevate bobwhite quail recovery from an individual state-by-state proposition to a range-wide, policy-level leadership endeavor. The committee is comprised of representatives of state fish and wildlife agencies, academic research institutions and private  conservation organizations. NBCI is funded by the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation, two dozen state wildlife management agencies, the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and Southern Company. For more information, please visit www.bringbackbobwhites.org

Quail Forever is a conservation partner in the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI). Read more NBCI blog posts here.

Learn more about the NBCI at www.bringbackbobwhites.org.

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