Quail Unlimited closed its books for the last time, ending a 31 year run of working to restore bobwhite populations across the country. Some would argue (and some continue to) that a fair chunk of this time wasn't spent working toward that end, but comments in this vein should be directed toward the management, not the membership. A lot of work was done by faithful QU members over the years, and hunters continue to reap the benefits.
I'll admit I was a little confused by the various press accounts and the video of the announcement and all the talk around how the old QU would now fit into Quail Forever. I called Bob St. Pierre, VP of Marketing for QF/PF and asked exactly what the relationship was between QF and Quail Albany and the former QU staffers.
"Five former staffers of QU have been retained on a contract basis to help set up QF chapters. One media report labeled Bill Bowles the QF Southeast Regional Director and that is inaccurate. These staffers have three to ten month contracts."
As for Quail Albany: "That is a former chapter of QU. We hope to have them sign a chapter charter with QF, but at this time that hasn't happened."
QF did purchase the membership list of QU and as part of that deal received an endorsement encouraging the suddenly former members to take a look at what QF has to offer. Bob went on to say that he hoped members of QU would research QF through sources such as Charity Navigator and stressed that their model of chapters retaining control of 100% of the money raised would appeal to them.
One of the more common complaints I heard from QU members over the years, and the South TX chapter was as vocal as any about this, was that they would raise money, send it to HQ, and only see a fraction of it for local projects. There's something fundamentally wrong with this. When local people go to a local banquet and give their hard-earned dollars to the cause, it shouldn't be shipped off to help someone's favorite covert two time zones away. Annual dues, sure, those should go toward the national effort and lobbying and such. But funds raised locally should stay there, and that is the model QF (and PF) embrace.
A tremendous amount of time and energy in QU's leadership went toward keeping the ship afloat. This is effort that could have - or should have - been put toward restoring bobwhite populations. At least some of these resources will now be liberated in that direction. Consolidation of the bobwhite restoration effort will result in less duplication of effort and elimination of some overhead expenses whose funding dollars can now be pushed into conservation.
All of this is the practical side of things, the good, the bad, and the shameful on a fact basis. On a personal level, I'm a bit sad to see QU come to this end. I wrote a column for their magazine for several years (gratis) and met quite a few devoted bobwhite enthusiasts during that time, many of whom are still hard at work for the cause in one capacity or another.
Some QU members will no doubt fade away, disillusioned by the past few years. This is unfortunate considering the state of the bobwhite and the challenges facing the sport but to some degree it is understandable and emphasizes the collateral damage caused by mismanagement. As if we need a reminder after the last five years on Wall Street, boards and executives have tremendous responsibility to make sound, conservative decisions that ensure the survival and prosperity of their organizations. This is no place for boneheads, yet somehow they persist alongside colossal egos.
Still, you'd hope that every member would sign on with QF or at least with a local effort and continue the work that attracted them to QU in the beginning. This is not a movement that can afford to lose the support of a single soul, especially over the mistakes of a relative few.
For the record, I'm currently a member of QF and hold absolutely nothing against QU. Their hearts were in the right place.