column By: Staff | April, 18
Woodcock Limited of Michigan is excited to be involved in the chapter’s first habitat project, which includes five separate sites in Gratiot County totaling 138 acres. The project will link private properties currently enrolled in the Hunting Access Program with the 16,684-acre Gratiot-Saginaw State Game Area (SGA).
“The five sites in particular become a corridor of winter cover, nesting cover, brood-rearing cover and a sustainable food source, and their collective importance to wildlife cannot be overstated,” noted Gratiot Conservation District Biologist Kurt Wolf in proposing the project. “The lack of timber harvest and forest management in the Gratiot-Saginaw SGA has decreased the necessary elements for successful breeding and nesting habitat. Large tracts of old growth forests, and removal of hedgerows and brush for agricultural practices, have reduced transition zones (edges) needed for courtship, nesting and feeding. Because of these factors, the sites have become less attractive for male woodcock displays and female nest selection.”
The project will take place in two phases with early-successional habitat work planned for two of the sites in particular, where work will be done to establish multiple stages of vegetative succession from zero to 20 years encompassing all habitat requirements needed during each life cycle of the American woodcock. Some of the work will involve creating grassy openings used by males during their “sky dance” mating rituals and then continuing rotational mowing to keep the openings usable.
“Woody plants will be mowed 15 feet from the existing wood-line to create transition zones along the forest edge. Alternating cuts 50 to 100 feet wide will allow for future habitat work on a five-year rotation. Woody vegetation will be mowed using the forestry mulching head, and thick grasses will be mowed with brush hogs or treated with grass-specific herbicides. The maintenance on the sites should be long-term, and the benefits provided by this project should be in perpetuity,” added Wolf.
For more information: www.woodcocklimited.org, 570-435-3487, email@example.com.
Societies Report 2017 NGWH Results
The Ruffed Grouse Society and American Woodcock Society held their 36th annual National Grouse and Woodcock Hunt (NGWH) on Oct. 12 and 13, 2017, in and around Grand Rapids, Minnesota. Compared to those from 2016, the harvest results obtained by RGS wildlife biologists show decreases in ruffed grouse and American woodcock.
The 108 participating hunters harvested 124 ruffed grouse during the two-day hunt (62 on Day 1 and 62 on Day 2), a 30 percent decrease from the 2016 harvest of 175 ruffed grouse. Each hunter harvested an average of 0.5 grouse per day, 50 percent lower than the average of 1.4. Dry weather and strong south winds provided difficult scenting conditions for hunters with bird dogs.
Hunters also harvested 333 American woodcock, a 14 percent decrease over the 2016 harvest of 384. Each hunter harvested an average of 1.54 woodcock per day in 2017 compared to 1.9 in 2016, and this is a 26 percent decrease from the average of 2.1 woodcock harvested per day.
Said RGS President and CEO John Eichinger, “Each year, the data collected gives us a chance to better understand these two important game birds. The information accumulated throughout the history of this event represents one of the longest, continuous efforts for collecting scientific data of a target species within a specific region.”
The late Gordon W. Gullion, universally acknowledged as the world’s expert on ruffed grouse, immediately recognized the scientific potential of the NGWH when the event was first held in 1982. Gullion understood that because it is conducted in the same locale, at the same time each year and using the same methods, it provides an outstanding opportunity to study the annual variation of the local ruffed grouse population and how that variation relates to the 10-year cycle.
For more information on RGS/AWS habitat programs: www.RuffedGrouseSociety.org.
NBCI an Active Participant in Farm Bill Discussions
Tom Franklin, NBCI Agriculture Liaison
The Farm Bill unquestionably provides the most important opportunity to establish bobwhite habitat on the nation’s private lands. The current Farm Bill allocates $57.6 billion to conservation of soil, water and wildlife through its conservation title. Granted, not all of this benefits quail directly, but much of it does. Programs like the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) environmental quality incentives program may provide quality Early Successional Habitat (ESH). And the Farm Service Agency’s (FSA) Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), which currently conserves 24 million acres, provides ESH through practices like habitat buffers for upland birds (CP-33). These programs are proven bobwhite habitat creators.
The Farm Bill is reconsidered by Congress every five years and is due to expire in 2018. Updating the current bill, last passed in 2014, provides an opportunity to make it even better for quail and other wildlife. The debate on Capitol Hill is underway. And the quail community, working through NBCI state wildlife agencies, Park Cities Quail and other partners, is stepping up to the challenge to advance bobwhite conservation on private lands.
The NBCI is weighing in with its recommendations that were prepared in cooperation with the national bobwhite technical committee. We are sharing these ideas with congressional policymakers to explain why native grassland habitat protection and restoration practices in the Farm Bill are necessary to stem the precipitous decline in bobwhite populations and how quail, other wildlife, pollinators and water quality can benefit from them.
In addition to increasing the cap on CRP, these are NBCI’s top three priorities for quail habitat protection, restoration and management:
Natives First – NBCI’s signature, game-changing initiative would establish a native vegetation standard as the default choice for all USDA conservation programs. If authorized, Natives First would end the longstanding USDA practice of subsidizing invasive exotic forages and other introduced vegetation, such as Bermuda grass, KR bluestem and other old-world bluestems.
Short-Term Rotational CRP – Another NBCI innovation, this concept would establish a higher-habitat disturbance variant of CRP that would foster higher quality quail habitat over a longer portion of CRP contracts. This concept would also render obsolete the insufficiently implemented “mid-contract management” provisions of many CRP contracts. We are building on the early successional quail habitat practice established recently in Iowa via the State Acres for Wildlife Practice (SAFE) that is approved for 40,000 acres. The Iowa project is designed to restore early successional habitat where it will be the most beneficial for bobwhite by restoring top-quality winter, nesting and brooding habitats.
Forest Thinning/Burning Incentives – Across the majority of bobwhite range, forest management provides some of the best bobwhite habitat restoration opportunity. Because active forest management and prescribed burning have been suppressed over recent decades, incentives are needed to help restore the practices. More than any other organization in Washington, D.C., NBCI promotes aggressive forest thinning followed by frequent prescribed fire to create ideal bobwhite savanna habitat in forested landscapes.
NBCI is spreading the word about bobwhite needs in the Farm Bill. On the eastern shore of Maryland, congressional staff, wildlife conservation organizations and USDA officials participated in a tour at Chino Farms, the site of the state’s highest bobwhite density. There was a high degree of unity about the value of native grassland restoration enabled by Farm Bill programs. This tour signaled NBCI’s early entry into the Farm Bill debate.
Stay tuned to www.bringbackbobwhites.org for more information as we continue leading the national advocacy for quail conservation in the Farm Bill.