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    For the Birds

    North American Grouse Partnership

    Steve Belinda, Executive Director

    Greetings fellow grouse enthusiasts! As summer turns to fall, work for the upcoming grouse seasons finds us in preparation for the field days ahead. Practicing on your wing shooting, dog training, hunt planning and getting the honey do’s done so that the time spent afield is well earned occupy our time. In my house, I have been working to train a new yellow Lab, Luke (named after Luke Skywalker of Star Wars), for the upcoming bird seasons in Montana. I am also teaching my daughter, too, so she can hunt upland birds with Luke, me and the older dog in addition to hunting deer and elk. Fun times ahead for our family.

    Over the past few months, the North American Grouse Partnership (NAGP) has been working hard to resurrect the “Prairie Grouse Partnership (PGP),” a coalition of our conservation partners focused on the conservation of the prairie grouse species (greater prairie chicken, lesser prairie chicken and sharp-tailed grouse) and native prairies. Formed in 2009 after the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies approved the Grassland Conservation Plan for Prairie Grouse (Grassland Plan), which provides a blueprint for grassland habitats for prairie grouse, the PGP has four objectives: implementation of the Grassland Plan through the conservation of prairie habitats, the successful implementation of lesser prairie chicken conservation efforts, promoting native grouse and native prairie conservation in the upcoming 2018 Farm Bill and developing landscape conservation plans for greater prairie chicken and plains/prairie sharp-tailed grouse. Together with steering team partners (Pheasants Forever/Quail Forever, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Mule Deer Foundation, Ecosystem Management Research Institute and American Bird Conservancy), we are developing a strategic plan and recruiting additional organizations, businesses, industry, landowners, government agencies and individuals who want to work together for native prairie conservation and ensure a lasting future for prairie grouse.

    NAGP Lesser Prairie Chicken: (Photo/Dick Wilburforce)
    NAGP Lesser Prairie Chicken: (Photo/Dick Wilburforce)

    The NAGP, the only conservation group that advocates for all North American grouse species, has been working hard with key officials in the Trump administration to ensure that grouse conservation remains a high priority for Secretary Zinke (Interior) and Secretary Perdue (Agriculture) whose agencies and programs oversee millions of acres of grouse habitats. Meetings specifically on greater sage grouse and lesser prairie chicken have been the focus, and we are working to ensure that as federal policy changes, grouse can benefit. We have also been working with state agencies on these two species, providing expertise and advice to strengthen state conservation efforts.

    NAGP Sharptailed Grouse Display: (Photo/Mark Williams)
    NAGP Sharptailed Grouse Display: (Photo/Mark Williams)

    NAGP is also looking for your help. We have a few vacancies on our Board of Directors and spots available on our Council of Scientists and the newly formed Policy Advisory Committee. If you believe you can help grouse and want to join NAGP in these efforts, please contact me at sbelinda@grousepartners.org or check out our website at www.grousepartners.org for more information.

    NAGP believes we must work to conserve the birds, the landscapes in which they are found and the human connections to each. We believe that when native grouse species are doing well, it represents America at its best! So add your voice – join or donate to NAGP today at www.grousepartners.org.


    National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative

    NBCI Partnerships Building More Habitat for Bobwhites

    The National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI) is continuing to build a national bobwhite conservation movement, by developing a variety of partnerships and new sources of support that are having significant success on the landscape-scale restoration of wild bobwhites.

    Park Cities Quail

    Recently, NBCI announced the Director’s NBCI National Fire Bird Conservation Award for one of those partners, Park Cities Quail, based in Dallas, Texas. The award recognizes the group’s “enormously positive” impact on new quail habitat development on the landscape scale in the Lone Star State and across the bobwhite range.

    “The commitment of the Dallas-based Park Cities Quail organization to fund NBCI’s agriculture liaison position in Washington, D.C., has had an enormously positive impact on policies that promote the development of new quail habitat in Texas and elsewhere,” said NBCI Director Don McKenzie.

    Texas alone has nearly 24,000 acres of new quail habitat because of NBCI’s advocacy for a change in CRP policy by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency. (The change allowed the unirrigated corners of fields using center pivot irrigation systems to be automatically accepted into the program’s CP33 practice without requiring the corners being connected by field borders.) The national impact so far is over 45,000 acres and is expected to climb.

    NBCI’s Washington presence was also critical in bobwhite quail being approved by the chief of the Natural Resources Conservation Service as a national priority species “in need of conservation” under the Working Lands for Wildlife program. That announcement came in November last year and is targeting 232,000 new acres in 13 states by fiscal year 2018. Many states are already launching the program.

    “Park Cities Quail illustrates the local and national impact a private quail conservation group can have with strategic support at the national level,” McKenzie said. “We are recognizing and thanking them for that support with this award. We also want all other bobwhite enthusiasts around the range to understand the impact this group is having and appreciate their contributions to the cause as well.”

    From left, Howard Vincent (President & CEO of Quail Forever), Don McKenzie (NBCI Director) and Tim Caughran (Director of Field Operations, Quail Forever) gather for the MOU signing between Quail Forever and the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative. (Photo/Anthony Hauck)
    From left, Howard Vincent (President & CEO of Quail Forever), Don McKenzie (NBCI Director) and Tim Caughran (Director of Field Operations, Quail Forever) gather for the MOU signing between Quail Forever and the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative. (Photo/Anthony Hauck)

    Quail Forever

    Earlier this year, NBCI also inked an agreement with Quail Forever. It establishes a framework of cooperation between Quail Forever and NBCI to work jointly with state agencies and other groups to promote the restoration of early successional habitat, including support of NBCI Bobwhite Focal Areas established under its Coordinated Implementation Program (https://goo.gl/4Lt4Gn).

    U.S. Forest Service

    Because some of the most effective work for bobwhites can occur within the forested landscape, NBCI is working with the U.S. Forest Service Southern Region office to dedicate portions of those national forests (South Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana, Alabama) for bobwhite habitat management. The goal is to have these areas become NBCI Focal Areas following the NBCI Coordinated Implementation Program. Biologists and managers believe having focal areas on these public lands will provide a core area of good early successional habitat to entice surrounding private landowners to participate and provide additional public recreational opportunities.

    NBCI also recently met with staff from the USFS Eastern Region office and the Mark Twain National Forest, along with other partners in Missouri, to discuss possible opportunities for managing for early successional habitat on national forests within that region, especially on national forests in Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio.

    “Neither individual states nor organizations nor NBCI can restore bobwhites alone,” says McKenzie. “It requires partners at every level stepping up and contributing in their unique way in a strategic manner, whether it’s dollars, political support, on-the-ground habitat work – or all three.”

    Ruffed Grouse Society and American Woodcock Society

    Annual Report Available

    The Ruffed Grouse and American Woodcock societies (RGS and AWS) released the 2016 Annual Report, a comprehensive marketing piece featuring mission progress on all programs including habitat, membership, communications, development, recruitment, finances and fundraising. The report is available to download in PDF form for members, educators, sponsors, advertisers and the public on www.RuffedGrouseSociety.org.

    “The Ruffed Grouse Society and American Woodcock Society are extremely proud of our accomplishments as shown in this annual report, and we couldn’t have progressed without our dedicated sponsors, members, chapters and volunteers,” said RGS & AWS President and CEO John Eichinger.

    The Report includes a brief history of the RGS back to nonprofit formation in 1961 and 2016 news highlights including being recognized as a Charity Navigator 4-star charity, the RGS and AWS strategic planning meeting, RGS testimony in Congress, the Driftless Area Forest Symposium, the pilot Women’s Intro to Wingshooting, magazine APEX award and the Grouse Camp Tour media event.

    Habitat highlights included over $4.5 million total project funding through all sources and over $200,000 dedicated for habitat through the RGS Drummer Fund all in 2016. The Report shows RGS has grown 29 percent in membership since 2011. The conservation policy chapter features RGS efforts in Congress regarding wildfire suppression legislation, the issue of public land sales, the RGS and AWS Petition for Rulemaking and involvement with the American Wildlife Conservation Partners. For communications, the organization promotes the Ruffed Grouse Society magazine, digital efforts through the website, video and Grouse Camp Tour and the 2016 digital new member drive gaining 1,500 new members. Funding and efforts for the New Hunter Mentor Program and Women’s Intro to Wingshooting program work to move the needle for new hunter recruitment and retention.

    “RGS and AWS are gaining essential momentum in all mission programs, and you can be sure that we will continue to be the voice for young forest habitat in the future,” Eichinger concluded.

    RGS and AWS Create Leadership Academy

    The Ruffed Grouse and American Woodcock societies (RGS and AWS) have created the RGS & AWS Leadership Academy, a weeklong experience that engages and empowers young adults to become conservation ambassadors to ensure the future of healthy forests, abundant wildlife and sporting traditions. For the Academy, RGS and AWS search for highly motivated individuals who are interested in the outdoors, wildlife and natural resource conservation and who wish to share that interest with others.

    Enrollment for the academy is limited to 20 students, ages 12 to 17. Attendees must have a hunter safety certificate, and the cost of the program is $400 per person.

    The academy features hands-on wildlife, habitat management and conservation skills and education. During the week of camp, youths work in teams and learn leadership skills through team building activities, individual educational presentations and team presentations. Lessons include what it takes to create habitat to sustain a huntable harvest of ruffed grouse and woodcock, how to determine the age and sex of game birds, how to use a GPS and compass and necessary tools when going out in the woods for a hunt.

    Hunting with and without dogs is part of this academy. Attendees will learn hunting dog breeds, healthcare and nutrition. Attendees will also learn about types of shotguns, shells and hunting safety, and shooting at the range with certified safety instructors is included in the course.

    Attendees will be exposed to television and radio interviews and will be asked to create PowerPoint presentations and displays to use for community outreach presentations after the field school. Each attendee creates an educational tri-fold to take home with them for use with outreach in their communities.

    The inaugural Academy was planned for July 23–28, 2017, at the Ralph A. MacMullan Conference Center, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, in Roscommon, Michigan.

    For more information on the RGS & AWS Leadership Academy: www.ruffedgrousesociety.org.

    Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever

    New Walk-in Hunting Access Program in Colorado

    In light of changes to the Conservation Reserve Program, Colorado Parks and Wildlife has partnered with Pheasants Forever (PF), the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program (through Natural Resources Conservation Service), High Plains Land Conservancy and Muley Fanatics Foundation to provide “Corners for Conservation” – more than 700 acres of grassland wildlife habitat and 82 new hunting spots in Phillips, Sedgwick and Kit Carson counties.

     Said Bob Broscheid, director of Colorado Parks and Wildlife, “We are excited about the new opportunities to partner with Colorado landowners and Pheasants Forever to provide vitally important wildlife habitat and ensure hunting access for Colorado sportsmen and women.”

     This joint habitat initiative provides a starting point to address the decline of Colorado’s grassland habitat while providing benefits for key wildlife species such as ring-necked pheasants, grassland songbirds and pollinating insects. Corners for Conservation projects will be open to public hunting through the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Walk-in Access Program with new acres being enrolled for fall of 2017. Interested small game hunters can locate these new sites in the state’s Walk-in Hunting Atlas.

    Quail Forever & NBCI Formalize Delivery of Range-Wide Bobwhite Conservation Plan

    Quail Forever (QF) and the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI) have established a partner commitment to quail conservation efforts by signing a Memorandum of Understanding through the year 2022.

     “We believe the unified range-wide strategy being implemented by the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative and its 25 partner state wildlife agencies represents the brightest future for quail populations in the United States,” stated Tim Caughran, director of field operations for QF. “Quail Forever is elated to be a partner in this endeavor, and we have confidence in our local chapters and growing membership to strengthen the initiative moving forward.”

    As part of the agreement, QF will contribute to NBCI range-wide efforts through the following means:

    •    Work with NBCI and its state partners to engage QF chapters in an effort to support local habitat projects and research

    •    Implement bobwhite conservation partnerships on private and public land utilizing QF’s local model and Farm Bill biologist partnership where applicable

    •    Strategize with NBCI to improve and strengthen Farm Bill conservation programs that promote early successional habitat within the historical range of the northern bobwhite

    •    Support state wildlife agencies and the NBCI Coordinated Implementation Program (CIP), adopting CIP quail focal areas and executing wildlife habitat projects where applicable

    Woodcock Limited

    Woodcock Limited (WL) works with local, state and federal organizations to promote woodcock research, habitat management, harvest management and educational efforts to advance the public’s knowledge of the woodcock and its management needs. The work we do benefits more than 65 species, and we are the only international conservation organization solely dedicated to the welfare of the American woodcock across its range.

    Most of us who pursue the migratory woodcock dream of following the bird during its long journey south. Well, while most of us keep dreaming, that’s exactly what charter WL member Stephen Tubach of Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania, will do. As the winner of our first Follow the Flight Membership Raffle, Tubach, along with his guest, will be hunting this fall at Leen’s Lodge in northern Maine, Quail Hollow Kennel in the Cape May area of New Jersey and, finally, Grand Bois in the famed Atchafalaya Basin in Louisiana. It’s a package of experiences as varied and as unique as the bird itself.

    WL is excited to welcome the many new members who joined through the raffle – and we couldn’t be happier for the winner! Stay tuned for more raffles like this one.

    The Pennsylvania Chapter’s annual SHRB Award for 2017 will be used on habitat reclamation in Bradford County. Over the years this award has improved habitat in many of the regions in the state, from Lebanon County in the southeast over to Crawford County in the northwest – almost to the Ohio state line. This year’s award marks the second time the award has been earmarked for the northeast region. It’s gratifying to see the proceeds from our fundraising dinners being used to create habitat in the same area where the funds were raised. It’s just one of the ways we operate which sets WL apart from other organizations.

    The Eleventh American Woodcock Symposium will be held at the Ralph A. MacMullan Conference Center in Roscommon, Michigan, from Oct. 24–27, 2017. It’s been eleven years since the last symposium and given the information being gleaned by new research since 2006 – particularly from the telemetry work – it should be a tremendous event with a great amount of information being exchanged between the various biologists. These symposia increase our knowledge of the American woodcock, and WL is excited to help sponsor this important event.

    WL looks forward to continuing to welcome new members and new chapters as we join together in our efforts to create a mosaic of sustainable habitat to aid the American woodcock across its range. For more information on our organization or on any of the items mentioned here: www.woodcocklimited.org, info@woodcocklimited.org or      570-435-3487.

    Wolfe Publishing Group