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    For the Birds

    National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative
    The Only Thing Constant is Change
    John J. Morgan, NBCI Director

    Whether for bobwhite quail or people, we live in a world of constant change. Weather, seasons, vegetation, challenges and opportunities, among endless others, exist in an ever changing movement of what we can simply label “life.”

    The life of the bobwhite is centered on a “disturbance” rotation. Things like fire, disking, herbicides, grazing and timber harvest can change the environment in ways that favor bobwhite. Those events yield bugs, brambles, bare ground and bunch grasses that meet their needs to live and prosper. Change is mandatory for bobwhite.

    For more than 27 years, the NBCI partnership has been laser-focused on making the world a better place for the prince of game birds. Our 25-member state wildlife agencies, federal agencies, universities and diverse array of nonprofit partners collaborate to bring back bobwhite for the ultimate goal of hunting. We have made tremendous progress such as established Farm Bill practices, labeled bobwhite a Working Lands for Wildlife Species, created a national documentary and built the largest coordinated focus area program in U.S. history. But bobwhites are still declining.

    It is time for us to change. Our work is not resonating with enough people. Each day, we lose a bobwhite hunter, and rarely is that day paired by the birth of a new bobwhite hunter. The effort of the NBCI is truly focused on habitat development especially on private lands. People care about habitat, but for many different reasons. Our messages for the last 27 years have been aimed at far too small an audience. To mold landowners’ or producers’ views, we must sell them on ideas that best resonate with their passion, not ours.

    Our partnership is evolving to a broader and more relevant vision. Bobwhite will absolutely remain the icon. They are charismatic, and their telltale “bob-white” whistle is easily recognizable and rarely fails to bring a smile to the listener. Farmer, landowner, bird watcher and hunter can appreciate them. More urban members of society can better appreciate a critter than “habitat” or “soil,” for example. Our pivot will focus on linking bobwhite to societal interests. Habitat can yield improved water quality, soil health, air quality and even human health and wellness. Bobwhite can be the measure or indicator of a “healthy” and purposefully managed landscape for the benefit of people and the land.

    We believe conservation can be good business. Society is demanding sustainability in production of food and fiber resources for the future. Conservation practices designed to meet that objective can seamlessly be intertwined with bobwhite habitat. We have a tremendous opportunity to restore native grasslands in the eastern U.S. through pasture and hay production. Buffers and fallow fielding can enhance row crop production, and prescribed grazing plans can elevate range management. Forest management is often driven by recreational interests, so bobwhite can be an active player there as well. The pieces fit!

    Don’t let this change fool you. Our passion for bobwhite hunting burns brightly. I’m a lifelong hunter sporting a new side-by-side 20-gauge and a trusty wire-haired pointer, Raina. One of our guiding tenets will continue to be bringing back bobwhite for hunting interests. But if we hope to succeed, then we must change. I believe in one truth when it comes to bird hunting — if there are birds, there will be bird hunters. We are going to do whatever it takes to make sure birds remain part of that equation!

    Ruffed Grouse Society and
    American Woodcock Society
    Amicus Brief Filed in Support of Indiana’s Hoosier National Forest Habitat Project

    The Ruffed Grouse Society & American Woodcock Society led a coalition of conservation groups that filed an amicus brief in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Indiana, related to the Houston South Vegetation Management and Restoration Project (Houston South Project) within Hoosier National Forest. The U.S. Forest Service faces a lawsuit that aims to shut down the project; RGS & AWS is not a party on the lawsuit, but the brief supports the Houston South Project and its objectives to restore habitat for ruffed grouse and other wildlife. The State of Indiana officially listed the ruffed grouse as a state endangered species on Dec. 16, 2020.

    “This filing is critical for supporting a keystone project located in the heart of Indiana’s remaining ruffed grouse habitat range,” said Brent Rudolph, RGS & AWS Chief Conservation and Legislative Officer. “The Houston South Project is an important first step, but we have a long way to go in restoring ruffed grouse habitat. Young forest habitats on Indiana federal lands have declined 90% since 1986. Lawsuits and misunderstanding of the ecological importance of young forest habitat are the greatest barriers to the advancement of much-needed active forest management to sustain wildlife populations.”

    Ecologists and wildlife experts have identified loss of young forest habitat as a significant contributor to population declines of grouse and other wildlife species. Young forestlands across Indiana have declined 71.8% since 1986, according to Forest Inventory and Assessment (FIA) data compiled by the U.S. Forest Service.

    The 2006 Hoosier National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan (Forest Plan) establishes a goal for 4% to 12% of the area to consist of young forest habitat. However, there are currently no forest stands of this desired age class on the proposed Houston South Project area. The amicus brief notes that diverse wildlife populations would benefit from the Houston South Project and other efforts to reach this goal.

    “Through our extensive work on deer and habitat management across North America, we know that the Houston South Project would enhance ecosystem health and the habitat components critical for the region’s white-tailed deer,” said Torin Miller, the National Deer Association’s Director of Policy. “We’re happy to join the amicus brief in supporting the Houston South Project, and we’ll continue to encourage active forest management for the benefit of deer and hunters at local and national scales.”

    “Active forest management is critical to creating and maintaining healthy forests and quality habitat for wildlife, and we are pleased to join the amicus brief to support Indiana’s wildlife and hunting traditions that benefit from sustainable timber management,” said Jeff Crane, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation President. “The lack of active management on the Hoosier National Forest has dire consequences for young forest wildlife species, and we are optimistic that the efforts of the hunting conservation community will lead to increased levels of habitat management for the benefit of wildlife.”

    “We as hunters and anglers choose to be participants in the natural world that surrounds us. We take fulfillment, recreation and food from the landscape, and, in turn, we have to give back,” said Sam Shoaf, Indiana Backcountry Hunters and Anglers Board Member. “A landscape scale project like the Houston South Project is just the type of undertaking that we should support. Houston South has a broad scope and stands to benefit everything from deer to pollinators and oaks to erosion issues. We owe it to the next generation of conservationists to restore our native ecosystems so that they can enjoy what we have and more.”

    The U.S. Forest Service concluded nearly 15 months of environmental studies and analysis, public scoping, field review and consultation with the Forest Plan and published the Decision Notice on the Houston South Project on Feb. 14, 2020. The final proposed actions under the Houston South Project were found to be in compliance with all Executive Orders, the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, National Historic Preservation Act, Wilderness Act, National Forest Management Act and all standards and guidelines established in the Forest Plan. Unless implementation is delayed under the pending lawsuit, the project may begin any time following publication of the Decision Notice, and the work is expected to take several years to complete.

    For more information on this project: ruffedgrousesociety.org/houstonsouth.

    Pheasants Forever/Quail Forever
    Ambitious National Campaign to Conserve
    9 Million Acres

    Thanks to a habitat stamp established by the South Dakota legislature, Conservation Reserve Enhancement Plan lands in the state – open to the public for hunting – will be funded to the max, 100,000 acres. (Photo/courtesy of Pheasants Forever)
    Thanks to a habitat stamp established by the South Dakota legislature, Conservation Reserve Enhancement Plan lands in the state – open to the public for hunting – will be funded to the max, 100,000 acres. (Photo/courtesy of Pheasants Forever)
    In an historic effort to protect and conserve North America’s upland habitats, Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever have launched their comprehensive, $500 million “Call of the Uplands” national campaign. The bold plan encompasses habitat conservation, education and outreach, and national advocacy strategies to conserve 9 million acres, engage 1.5 million outdoor participants, and enact landscape-level national policy for wildlife and rural communities.

    Throughout the pheasant, quail, and native grouse ranges of the United States, more than 53 million acres of grasslands have vanished over the last decade, and less than three percent of the nation’s 90 million historical acres of longleaf pine woodlands remain intact today. These catastrophic habitat losses have contributed to precipitous population declines for pheasants (-27%), quail (-82%), and other grassland bird species (-40% decline) since 1966.

    “Conversion of grasslands have quickly transformed this important ecosystem into the Amazon rainforest in our backyard; the unprecedented number of acres and biodiversity wiped from the landscape over a relatively short period have created a pivotal moment for wildlife, hunters, conservationists, farmers and all Americans interested in a bright future filled with abundant natural resources,” stated Howard Vincent, president and CEO of PF/QF. “We have a window in time to flip the script before it’s too late – Call of the Uplands is the catalyst for this change.”

    The goals of Call of the Uplands:

    Habitat Conservation

    • Strive to establish, enhance, and restore 9 million acres nationwide

    • Permanently protect 75,000 acres through the acceleration of fee-title acquisition and conservation easements

    • Increase private lands technical assistance for the delivery of voluntary conservation programs nationwide

    Education and Outreach

    • Reach 1.5 million participants with new and expanded programs to engage them in outdoor recreation, shooting sports, hunting, and habitat conservation

    • Host 300 Learn-to-Hunt events annually to recruit, retain, and reactivate hunter conservationists

    • Deliver the organization’s newly developed Hunter Mentor Training Program for first-time adult hunters in 25 states throughout the country

    Advocacy

    • Elevate Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever as the voice of sportsmen and women in the Farm Bill, pushing for an expanded Conservation Reserve Program acreage authorization of 40 million acres, in addition to advocating for other robust programs under the conservation title

    • Enact landscape-level national policy for wildlife and rural communities, including a new initiative for grasslands expansion

    • Increase legislative activities for important state policy issues, participate in state/federal sportsmen’s caucuses, and help development community programs for that are mutually beneficial for agriculture and conservation

    To learn more about Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever’s monumental campaign to conserve America’s upland landscapes, visit pheasantsforever.org and click on the “Call of the Uplands” window to review current initiatives, watch the launch video, or contribute in various ways to a future filled with diverse grasslands, plentiful wildlife, and increased public access opportunities

    Full Enrollment for South Dakota’s Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program

    Through its “Build A Wildlife Area” program, Pheasants Forever and its supporters have announced the addition of 208 acres adjacent to the McAndrews Wildlife Area in Jackson County, Iowa. The project stretches over a third of a section in eastern Iowa and will provide incredible upland hunting and other public access opportunities. (Photo/courtesy of Pheasants Forever)
    Through its “Build A Wildlife Area” program, Pheasants Forever and its supporters have announced the addition of 208 acres adjacent to the McAndrews Wildlife Area in Jackson County, Iowa. The project stretches over a third of a section in eastern Iowa and will provide incredible upland hunting and other public access opportunities. (Photo/courtesy of Pheasants Forever)
    Earlier this year, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem announced positive news for landowners, farmers and upland hunters by enacting full enrollment of the state’s Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) up to 100,000 acres. The move, a game changer for the outdoor community, routes new habitat stamp funding from hunting and fishing license sales to add another 25,000 acres of public access and critical habitat in “The Pheasant Capital.”

    The 2020 legislative session enacted the state’s first habitat stamp, the estimated $5.7 million generated from which was earmarked for habitat development on public lands and waters and to create public access on private lands.

    “Build a Wildlife Area” Program Protects 208 Acres in Eastern Iowa Pheasants Forever and its dedicated partners are proud to announce the addition of 208 acres adjacent to the McAndrews Wildlife Area in Jackson County, Iowa. The new Build a Wildlife Area project was spearheaded by a joint effort between the Twin Rivers, Clinton County and Dubuqueland Pheasants Forever Chapters.

    This “Petersen Addition” features restored tallgrass prairie, mature woodlands and ponds. The property supports a wide range of wildlife including pheasants and quail, turkey, deer, waterfowl and nongame species. It’s located within a short driving distance of several major urban areas including Dubuque, Cedar Rapids, Iowa City and Davenport.

    Wolfe Publishing Group