column By: Upland Almanac Staff | January, 21
National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative
New Director Announced
“I’ve known John for a long time and have always been impressed with his ‘get things done’ attitude, strong work ethic and ability to bring people together,” said Paul Johansen, chair of the NBCI Management Board and chief of the Wildlife Resources Section of the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources. “John has an almost contagious energy and is absolutely the right person at the right time needed to solidify the NBCI foundation and grow it in new directions.”
“I’m so excited to have John Morgan at the helm of the NBCI,” said Robert Perez of Texas, recent past chair of the National Bobwhite Technical Committee (NBTC), “especially during these transitional and uncertain times. John is a proven leader in the conservation community with a strong sense of vision and purpose. I can’t think of anyone more qualified to take the NBCI mission to the next level. John has the skills needed to strengthen the initiative, bring new partners to the table and blaze new trails,” Perez said.
Morgan’s visibility in the bobwhite world came about as the result of his two most recent roles in Kentucky and his volunteer leadership in the national restoration effort. As small game coordinator, he led the development and implementation for Kentucky’s high profile 10-year bobwhite restoration plan, as well as a wide variety of partnerships with private conservation groups and government entities for the plan’s implementation.
As a University of Tennessee adjunct professor, he built a partnership to conduct the Peabody Research Project, one of the largest bobwhite telemetry projects in the history of the mid-South, capturing over 2,000 bobwhites during a five-year period. Morgan also was instrumental in launching the Bluegrass Army Depot Patch Burn Grazing Project, the first experimental design of native warm-season grass pastures in the East under a patch-burn framework, including grassland bird and cattle weight gain surveys. Subsequently, he led the development of the Grasslands Conservation Initiative, a partnership built around another groundbreaking quail research project, one designed to reveal the relationship of cattle and bobwhites in the East, and a proactive collaboration with adjacent landowners to advance working lands conservation. He also chaired the NBTC’s steering committee for two years.
New NBCI Focal Area, First in Mississippi
The NBCI’s newest bobwhite focal area – the fourth in a national forest and the first for Mississippi – has been designated within the 378,000-acre De Soto Ranger District, located between Hattiesburg and Biloxi.
The new 3,549-acre Leaf River Focal Area is located within the 42,000-acre Leaf River Wildlife Management Area (WMA) on the forest’s De Soto Ranger District. The Leaf River Refuge that would eventually evolve into the WMA was established for the purpose of deer population recovery in 1939, a time when bobwhites were abundant. In a reversal of fortune, it will now aid quail population recovery. The designation brings the number of NBCI focal areas to 26 across 20 of the 25 NBCI member states, encompassing 163,748 acres.
The focal area is paired with a nearby 3,591-acre “reference” area, a requirement for all NBCI focal areas. It will enable comparisons of bobwhite abundance between the reference area, which will continue with standard habitat management techniques for the WMA, and the focal area, which will manage more specifically for bobwhite quail.
The Mississippi project is a joint effort of NBCI, the National Forests in Mississippi De Soto Ranger District, the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, the Longleaf Alliance, University of West Florida and Camp Shelby Environmental.
Ruffed Grouse Society and American Woodcock Society
Peters Hired as Communications and Marketing Director
As a result, our team just completed a national Communications and Marketing Director search. Despite financial challenges of the pandemic, this is a position we simply could not afford to leave vacant.
The caliber of candidates was incredible, and we would have been fortunate to have any one of them join us. Following many great discussions, we are thrilled to announce that Ashley Peters is now leading our communications programs. Her first order of business was to improve the connection with the supporters and chapters who are the backbone of this organization.
Ashley comes to us from Audubon’s Upper Mississippi Flyway Initiative where she managed communications, policy and engagement for a regional office that oversaw 30,000 members, 25 chapters and dozens of partners. Her experience keeping members of a nonprofit well informed is among the many reasons she rose to the top as a candidate. Not to mention her passion as a hunter and a conservationist.
With Ashley on board, we will have greater capacity to push toward these key goals:
• Better communication among staff, leaders, members and partners
• Communication to mass audiences about forest management for wildlife
• Storytelling that invites all conservationists and hunters to the table
Please join us in welcoming our new Communications and Marketing Director Ashley Peters and, as always, thank you for your dedication to healthy forests, abundant wildlife and our conservation ethic.
Backcountry Hunters & Anglers
Walker Conyngham, Communications Coordinator
From passage of the Great American Outdoors Act to reauthorization of the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, Congress stepped up to send critical conservation bills to the desk of the president. Conservation policy wonks, foundations and invested hunters and anglers could spend weeks trying to figure out what created the perfect recipe of political conditions necessary for these successes. Or we could sit back, celebrate and try to keep the Big Mo rolling on into 2021 and the 117th Congress.
Let’s recap the progress made for our public lands and wildlife as we headed into 2020. Congress concluded a year that included passage of the Dingell Act – which permanently reauthorized the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and passed other important conservation measures – by advancing the Modernizing the Pittman-Robertson Fund for Tomorrow’s Needs Act (H.R. 1865). This legislation passed in December as a provision in the fiscal year 2020 omnibus spending package and provides state fish and wildlife agencies the flexibility to better recruit, retain and reactivate hunters and recreational target shooters.
Prior to enactment, the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Fund dollars – excise taxes on ammunition, firearms and archery equipment – were granted to states to invest in wildlife conservation, public access, hunter education and sustainability and other programs that promote hunter safety. H.R. 1865 preserved those successful programs, extends their reach and facilitates the development of new efforts that promote outdoor recreation and safe opportunities for public access to shooting sports. It helps secure the future of our North American Model of Wildlife Conservation.
In August, we saw passage of the Great American Outdoors Act, with which you are no doubt familiar thanks to tireless advocacy by Backcountry Hunters & Anglers (BHA), Pheasants Forever, Quail Forever and a host of other sportsmen’s and conservation groups. This legislation accomplished key priorities for hunters and others; namely, securing full and dedicated funding for LWCF – our nation’s most successful and longstanding public access program – and dedicating $9.5 billion over the next five years to addressing maintenance backlogs on public lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service and Bureau of Indian Education. This landmark bill has far-reaching significance for outdoorsmen and women across the country. (For further details, please see “For the Birds,” Winter 2020.)
In fall of 2020, Congress passed the America’s Conservation Enhancement Act (S. 3051), which includes reauthorization for the North American Wetlands Conservation Act and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Establishment Act in addition to providing funding to address chronic wasting disease, invasive species and fisheries management.
Broadly, all of this legislation bears fruit for upland hunters, whether it’s in the form of increased public access, habitat improvement or additional funding for recruiting new hunters into the fold. To be honest, I don’t know whether to be shocked that Congress got its act together to pass these bills or relieved that our country still finds common ground in our outdoor traditions, natural resources and hunting and fishing heritage.
There are lessons here for BHA, for our partners and for everyday sportsmen and women who choose to stay tuned in to the happenings in the halls of power. I sit here writing this after a week of pheasant hunting. Yesterday, my 3-year-old headstrong Brittany chose to retrieve a bird to hand for the first time in his career. And then the second. And the third. I was surprised, relieved and excited all at once, and I did everything I could to reward that choice and hopefully inspire him to keep it up. Let’s do the same for our legislators by thanking them for supporting our work – and holding them accountable when they don’t.