Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Great Bobwhite Revival - Round Two

It's been slightly over a year since I posted an update on this topic. Probably a bit too early to hang a "Mission Accomplished" banner on the aircraft carrier but tangible progress is not hard to find.

On March 23rd of last year I stood before the board of our state's Department of Natural Resources and outlined a process that would get the ball rolling on a statewide bobwhite restoration effort. The pitch, developed with great assistance from a staff biologist, stressed that this would be a collaborative effort between public and private entities, that the DNR would lead the effort, and that the initial stage, the formation of a comprehensive plan, would not cost anything.  We're extremely fortunate to have such a qualified, dedicated quail biologist heading up our state's small game program and truth be told, I was simply the pitchman in the deal.

In my eyes, the most encouraging part of that day was having one board member address the others and say, "The DNR's done a great job bringing deer to the state, bringing turkey back...what are we doing for the quail?"  The board unanimously approved development of the plan. Fast forward twelve months and that plan is circulating among DNR staff in draft form, awaiting final comments and revisions before it is presented to the board.  Barring a request for a complete re-write at that time, the plan could hatch into a full-on fledgling project later this year.

Where do we go from here?

An ongoing challenge will be funding. Eventually the project will require some bucks and the question turns to where that money will come from. Like many states ours not only has a budget shortfall, it has a legislature determined to avoid balancing that budget or, heaven forbid, creating a surplus. Private sector money will be a critical component in the first five years, possibly for longer than that, and building this network of donors and sponsors will be almost as important as planting field borders and prescribed burning.

At some point the project will have to hit a critical mass of supporters to become the landscape-scale success we all hope for. This road map hasn't been drawn yet but I've spent quite a bit of time scribbling ideas. What we'll have to develop is something that people want to be a part of, and ideally something they don't want to be left out of. It will have to radiate a certain cool factor.

Some of you may have seen this video from the TED talks about starting a movement. I've watched it a dozen times and still can't make it all the way through without laughing, possibly a side-effect of having been to a few too many music festivals.

We're still shy of the point where people will be ridiculed for not joining in, but we're definitely past the lone nut stage.

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