By Donald F. McKenzie
New Jersey – Bobwhite conservation friends,
You’ve all heard my mantra that the future of bobwhite conservation is about “people, politics and money;” I write today to do my part to help foster a constructive national conversation about money. As we approach the annual meeting of the National Bobwhite Technical Committee (NBCI) in New Jersey, I request that you read and contemplate the attached letter.
The Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies recently assembled a “Blue Ribbon Panel on Sustaining America’s Diverse Fish and Wildlife Resources,” ( https://www.fishwildlife.org/blueribbonpanel ) and charged it with “creative thinking” to develop recommendations that will “expand investment in fish and wildlife conservation beyond those who are currently paying into the system.”
In response to a solicitation from the Panel for input, I submitted the below letter containing NBCI’s recommendation for a serious discussion about establishing a national upland game bird hunting and conservation stamp. On a short deadline, I coordinated in advance with the NBCI Management Board’s Executive Committee and with the NBTC Chair for guidance and approval, and worked with NBCI staff and the NBTC Chair in developing and reviewing the letter.
Admittedly, this recommendation for a national upland game bird stamp is neither creative nor does it expand funding sources beyond those currently supporting fish and wildlife conservation. Instead, this recommendation aims to fill a glaring gap in the current user-pay US conservation funding model. The stark contrast between the inspired conservation leadership and investment made for many decades by the waterfowl hunting community versus the bare minimum approach of the upland game bird hunting community is no longer defensible, in my view.
Never mind the obvious—but meaningless, for this discussion—differences between ducks and bobwhites; if the waterfowl hunters can do it, the upland game bird hunters can do it … and should.
Money drives everything. Conversely, lack of sustainable money impedes everything, including the best strategic conservation initiatives. The states, to their credit, have developed several strategic conservation plans for upland game birds over the last several years, but without new funding, most of those plans cannot be aggressively implemented. The primary exceptions today are the sage-grouse and lesser prairie-chicken initiatives, that now are subjects of intense and well-funded (by federal money) efforts … motived by fear of imminent listings under the federal Endangered Species Act. Fear-driven, salvage conservation is not a constructive or acceptable mode of operation. The time is right to take the next big, constructive step in upland game bird conservation.
I wish to publicly thank the folks at www.UltimateUpland.com for starting this national conversation this spring, as well as for their leadership and commitment to upland game bird conservation.
I view it as a NBCI responsibility now to provide leadership to recognize and push big ideas such as this at the national level, to advance game bird and habitat conservation. If this idea gains any national traction, the ensuing discussions certainly will be lively and complicated, and will necessarily involve many stakeholders including state and federal agencies, conservation organizations, sportsmen and politicians.
At best, the political process will take years, but the prospective outcome could make such an effort worthwhile.
At worst, if this concept fails to gain support and traction, opponents bear a responsibility and a burden to offer a better funding alternative for upland game bird conservation; for without additional dedicated, sustainable funding, the future of bobwhite and other upland bird hunting is tenuous.
I look forward to further discussions about this concept at the annual NBTC meeting in New Jersey, and beyond.
Donald F. McKenzie, CWB
2396 Cocklebur Road
Ward, AR 72176
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.org