National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative – Without The States We Are Nothing

National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative – Without The States We Are Nothing

Even as this post aims to highlight the central importance of the states to the future prospects for restoring bobwhites, our thoughts and prayers go out to those in many of those states – including Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, Mississippi and Arkansas — who have lost family members or friends, or have seen their or their neighbors’ homes and businesses destroyed during waves of violent weather this spring. In fact, 328 people across those seven states died just last week in the nation’s deadliest tornado outbreak since the Depression. While my family has spent a lot of time in our own “fraidy hole” ducking multiple close tornadoes in central Arkansas, the impact personally has otherwise been limited. Rising waters forced the evacuation of my office and equipment storage areas. My brother watched helplessly as a giant tornado gutted his hometown of Tuscaloosa. So many other others have not been as fortunate. Let’s all keep those folks in our thoughts.

National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative
National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative

Knoxville, TN –-( Bobwhites are the legal authority and responsibility of the state wildlife agencies. That’s just the way it is for resident (non-migratory) species of wildlife.

The federal government has no formal role or responsibility … unless bobwhites get listed under the Endangered Species Act. No one wants to go there.

The NBCI started out in 2002 as a strategic plan of the states, but has become much more. The plan started the ball rolling in earnest; since then, collaborations have made it snowball to the national level. At first glance, the NBCI now may appear to have developed a life of its own – a national operational center, a national staff, and a national Management Board – like a free-standing organization, maybe even poised to compete with other quail organizations.

The reality, however, is fundamentally different. The state fish and wildlife agencies across the bobwhite range are the core of bobwhite conservation responsibility and leadership. The NBCI remains an initiative of those states. I state this so clearly not because my position as NBCI Director is funded by those states; rather, my position is funded by those states because the NBCI is their initiative.

The NBCI currently has united 25 states; in addition, all three of the main regional associations of state fish and wildlife agencies —the Southeastern, the Northeastern and the Midwest— have formally endorsed the NBCI. This scale of state engagement for quail is unprecedented. Without that active state core, the NBCI is nothing. In fact, without that core of state responsibility, leadership, engagement, capacity and drive, nothing else and no one else matter much in the big picture.

There always will be a few hotspots where bobwhites thrive due to the good work of other dedicated conservationists at local or district levels. However, from a range-wide perspective, the states are the key. Restoration on anything bigger than a hotspot scale requires two basic things to happen:

  • (1) the states must rise to the challenge, en masse and within their own states; and
  • (2) all other bobwhite conservationists must rally to catalyze, support and strengthen the states.

The NBCI’s mission is to restore bobwhites across their range. However, the NBCI exists, first and foremost, to serve the collective states in pursuit of that mission. In the process, the NBCI occasionally may urge, nag and nudge; and sometimes will be perceived by the states as an annoyance or even as a burden. But in the end, the NBCI exists to help raise their game – our game – and will succeed only to the extent that it adds value to the states in restoring quail. Likewise, the big-picture success of all our other valuable quail conservation partners are linked to the engagement and the success of the states.

As we strive to build our long-term capacity to restore bobwhites range-wide, strategic thinking is essential. Every single bobwhite conservation partner—whether state, federal, non-government organization, corporate or private—has strengths; but no partner has every strength or enough strength, and no single one of us can restore bobwhites by ourselves at anything much beyond local levels. Coming articles will outline some highlights of how the bobwhite world can assemble its strengths to strategic advantage, to maximize synergy and minimize competition.

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: