Although bobwhite quail populations are still declining, the good news is the momentum behind range-wide restoration efforts continues to strengthen, four more states have launched NBCI-based restoration initiatives and the conservation community has set its sights on a short-term objective that, when achieved, will have a near-immediate impact on quail and other grassland wildlife across hundreds of thousands of acres.
NBCI's Bobwhite Almanac: State of the Bobwhite 2012 is the second annual report on the status of bobwhite conservation by the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative, the unified strategy of 25 state wildlife management agencies, an assortment of research institutions and private conservation groups to restore huntable populations of wild bobwhite quail.
The report asserts a change in USDA grazing lands policy to emphasize drought-tolerant, nutrient-rich and wildlife-friendly native grasses could have the largest near-term positive impact on public wildlife resources on private lands, while simultaneously insulating producers from the economic impacts of drought. USDA subsidies on millions of acres of pasturelands traditionally emphasize the planting of aggressive, non-native grasses that offer little habitat for wildlife and are vulnerable to drought.
"Working with USDA to show them native grasses are not only suitable for livestock operations but also soil and water conservation purposes, and grassland bird habitat, is a top priority over the next year," said NBCI Director Don McKenzie.
"We have assembled a coalition of 30 conservation groups, including the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies, the National Wildlife Federation, The Nature Conservancy, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, the National Wild Turkey Federation and all of the quail groups, to help us push an agenda that is good for the agricultural community, good for taxpayers and good for wildlife.
"In fact, if native grasses had been a substantial part of the agricultural mix we wouldn't have seen so many producers in trouble during this year's drought," said McKenzie, "... and we would have had more quail."
State of the Bobwhite 2012 also highlights the new bobwhite restoration initiatives of four states - Georgia, Kansas, Pennsylvania and Texas - as well as Kentucky's new interactive "bluegrass prairie" exhibit featuring a quail aviary, and the U.S. Forest Service's ambitious new savannah/grassland ecosystem initiative at Land Between the Lakes in western Tennessee and Kentucky.
In addition, there are conservation reports from all 25 NBCI states, details about a new range-wide bobwhite habitat inventory project and a report on the economic impact of bobwhite hunting.
The printed report is also available in an electronic version, which features links to an assortment of additional information, atwww.bringbackbobwhites.org
NBCI is a project 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. Headquartered at the University of Tennessee, 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