Chapter Spotlight: Smoky Mountain Chapter Supports Conservation through Intern Program

Staff Photo

Smoky Mountain chapter of Quail Forever established the Quail Forever Intern Program

By Phil Bastron & Bill Smith

Located in Knoxville, TN, home of the University of Tennessee (UT), the Smoky Mountain chapter of Quail Forever has found a meaningful way to promote careers in conservation, and in turn, support bobwhite quail restoration efforts in the Volunteer State. In partnership with UT Associate Professor Chris Graves and Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency Biologist Bill Smith, the chapter established the Quail Forever Intern Program, which they have supported for eight years. Smith, who serves as the wildlife manager at the nearby Kyker Bottoms Refuge, credits the Smoky Mountain chapter for their eagerness to help. “When the chapter approached me to ask how they could help, I stated that what I really need is manpower,” said Smith. “I manage 15,000 acres across four management areas, and only had one full time technician. I badly needed more boots on the ground.” From this conversation, the intern program was born.

Interns are selected from students in the Department of Forestry, Wildlife, and Fisheries at UT. Thanks to funding support from the Smoky Mountain chapter, they work with TWRA to plan and implement projects that benefit quail and other wildlife. Alumni of the program continue to make an impact for quail in the state. Don Chance, the program’s first intern, now serves as the Land Manager of the second largest WMA in Tennessee, Catoosa WMA. Another former intern, David Lowman, went on to work as a Farm Bill biologist for Quail Forever in Nebraska before returning to Tennessee to serve in his current role as the Quail Forever Coordinating Forester. Paul Underwood, Quail Forever’s newest addition to the team in Tennessee, also served as an intern supported by the Smoky Mountain Chapter.

Others are completing degrees and conducting important research for bobwhite quail and other wildlife. Smith is optimistic about the next generation of conservationists thanks to efforts like Smoky Mountain’s intern program. “It makes me so very proud seeing this up-and-coming generation move into positions knowing the importance of early successional communities for species from bees and butterflies to bobwhites and black bears to wild turkey and whitetails! I am also proud to be associated with the Smoky Mountain chapter of Quail Forever, as they are putting their efforts and funding on the ground and sponsoring future biologists and bobwhite research in the Volunteer State.”

Thanks to chapters like Smoky Mountain, the future is looking brighter every day for bobwhite quail in Tennessee!

Phil Bastron is Quail Forever's Regional Representative for North Carolina, Eastern Tennessee and Virginia.

Bill Smith is a Wildlife Manager with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency

This story originally appeared in the spring issue of Quail Forever Journal. If you enjoyed it and would like to read more great upland content, become a member today!