Working Lands for Wildlife Hitting Its Stride For Bobwhites

1dfab730-f9a6-4ce4-82a2-9de99f5e665f By Jessica McGuire

After a year, Working Lands for Wildlife Farm Bill biologists across several states are making a difference.

In 2018, the northern bobwhite became a 2.0 Working Lands for Wildlife (WLFW) focal species.  The USDA- NRCS model for delivering conservation aims to improve both agricultural and forestry productivity while creating habitat for wildlife and encouraging functional ecosystems.

Quail Forever saw an opportunity to get more boots on the ground to aid in this effort and deliver on its mission to create more upland habitat across the bobwhite’s range. Biologists have initially been hired in seven states: Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri, New Jersey, Ohio, and South Carolina.

Austin Damminger, from New Jersey, hit the ground running in a state where it is extremely difficult to find wild quail. With a tenacious spirit he has strengthened partnerships to create quail and pollinator habitat in the Pine Barrens and beyond. One of his projects is on a YMCA camp in the Pine Barrens that is utilizing NRCS’s Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) to establish habitat on over 500 acres. This year they were able to burn 300 acres.
 
Brandon Underwood, a biologist in Kentucky, has been getting his feet wet with CRP status review checkouts in addition to his work with WLFW-EQIP. One of his more exciting field visits was at a 72-acre conservation cover planting for upland wildlife habitat management conducted in 2016. This planting is a prime example of the use of native warm season grasses, forbs, and wildflowers for upland wildlife habitat. The farm is a stopping point within the Working Lands for Wildlife Bobwhite Grassland Project area for Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife during their breeding bird survey and bobwhites are always present and calling within this CRP planting.

Quail Forever in Georgia has three positions through the WLFW agreement with NRCS and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (GADNR), Wildlife Resources Division, Bobwhite Quail Initiative. In addition, the WLFW Bobwhite Coordinator is based in Georgia. 

As in the other states, biologists have been busy writing conservation plans for not only bobwhite, but for pollinator habitat and the gopher tortoise.

Outreach is also a critical part of WLFW program delivery, and everyone was keeping busy prior to Covid-19. One of the highlights was Northern Bobwhite Day, which was celebrated on February 24th. QF worked with teaching staff at Lee County Middle School West to develop conservation curriculum for seventh graders and outreach materials.
 
The effort culminated with a well-attended lecture at Chehaw Park in Albany, GA. Dr. Jessica McGuire (QF WLFW Quail Coordinator), Dallas Ingram (GADNR State Quail Coordinator), and Clay Sisson (Tall Timbers Albany Quail Project) presented.

Jessica McGuire is Quail Forever's WLFW Coordinator