Local Quail Conservationists Are Our Foundation

Local Quail Conservationists Are Our Foundation
By Don McKenzie, NBCI Director

National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative
National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative

Knoxville, TN –-(Ammoland.com)- Local-level quail conservationists are the foundation of the movement to restore bobwhites.

No matter how tall the states may stand in pursuit of their quail stewardship duty, the states cannot succeed without the full partnership of a vigorous grassroots support base.

A central theme of the NBCI and of our strategy for restoring bobwhites range-wide might now be coming into focus. I call it the NBCI “pyramid strategy,” which aims to address head-on the societal reality that bobwhite restoration has less to do with science and technology than it does with people, politics and money.

One of the greatest strengths of bobwhite conservation is we are loaded with brilliant scientists and managers who have amassed an impressive record of knowledge and experience about quail biology and management. Conversely, our weakness is our tepid organizational skills to make effective use of all the people who are crucial to our success. The NBCI aims to begin fixing this weakness, by catalyzing a “quail machine,” of people who collaborate synergistically among all three essential levels – local, state and national.

For decades, dedicated people – striving under the handicap of limited leadership, collaboration or strategy at any higher level – have made valiant efforts at local levels to restore quail. Such efforts have been undertaken by an array of conservationists such as landowners, local chapters of sportsmen’s groups and individual agency biologists. Except for scattered hotspots, almost all of these efforts have fallen short, and bobwhite populations range-wide continue to slide.

This outcome to date implies nothing about the foundationally important role of local quail conservationists. Indeed, even in the biggest-picture view of the future, the largest piece of the necessary quail machine is the local level, at the bottom of and supporting the rest of the pyramid.

The local level is the prime niche of such vital partners as chapters of non-government quail organizations: Quail Unlimited, Quail Forever, Quail and Upland Wildlife Federation, Quail Coalition and even the National Wild Turkey Federation, as well as myriad other valuable conservation groups too numerous to list. It also is the realm of private-lands biologists – sponsored by agencies, organizations and foundations – whose role is to assist private landowners who wish to improve their habitat. And, of course, the local level is where the land and the habitat are, and the people who own and manage them, whether private or public.

Some of the key roles that local quail conservationists can and must play to make the NBCI quail machine work include:

  • Be a catalyst — urge state wildlife agencies to develop or strengthen NBCI-based initiatives;
  • Support those agencies energetically, when they do step up;
  • Provide grassroots political support for quail conservation, at state and national levels;
  • Raise funds to boost joint projects that add value to and build upon a state NBCI step-down strategy;
  • Rally more and more hunters, birders, producers, garden clubs, scouts, etc. to the cause;
  • Engage and assist landowners, especially in priority quail restoration areas;
  • Provide physical management assistance to landowners, to get the work done.

As my long-time friend and mentor, Reggie Thackston (Georgia Wildlife Resources Division), reminds me from time to time, “If it doesn’t eventually happen on the ground, it doesn’t matter.”

The local level is where it hits the ground for bobwhites. Without grassroots capability and organization and power at that level, nothing else we do will matter.

The states, and the NBCI, need local quail conservationists. We all need each other.

The National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI) is the unified strategic effort of 25 state fish and wildlife agencies and various conservation organizations — all under the umbrella of the National Bobwhite Technical Committee — to restore wild populations of bobwhite quail in this country to levels comparable to 1980. Visit: www.bringbackbobwhites.orgg