Monday, December 13, 2010

QU one year later

It's been a little over a year since things officially unraveled at Quail Unlimited.  Most of you remember the apocalyptic headlines about furloughs, bankruptcy and criminal misdeeds, some of which turned out to be true and some merely embellished rumors.  It's kind of rare that a wildlife organization gets wrapped up in a scandal complete with accusations, federal investigations, and a founding member being unceremoniously ushered out the door.  This is usually the territory of politics and investment banks, not habitat outfits.

From an objective point of view things had to change.  Financial mismanagement, a board that was maybe a bit reluctant to press for answers they didn't want to hear, and a membership distrustful and at times resentful of the organization's leadership  were slowly starving QU of oxygen.  New President Bill Bowles seems genuinely intent on rebuilding trust by maintaining transparency and re-opening direct contact with the membership.  The clubby, elitist perception is slowly disappearing.

What does the future hold for a group like QU?  Internal issues aside, the question is whether there is a place for a national organization devoted to improving quail habitat, much less three national organizations with the same mission.  The non-profit world tends to be a Darwinian one and I'd imagine this question will be answered soon enough.

The bigger question is what the future of quail recovery looks like in general.  Are the national organizations becoming less and less relevant?  Is the objective better suited to local efforts?  There's a strong case for a model where funds are raised and used locally and habitat efforts are coordinated by state wildlife departments, not national conservation organizations.  Using the NBCI as a guide, state departments coordinate efforts between volunteers, landowners, federal agencies, donors and hunters to leverage these resources into the best possible results.  If national organizations are to be players in this scenario, they'll have to put self-promotion aside, something  easier said than done.  Ask any chief if he's interested in being an indian.

Don McKenzie, head of the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative, wrote a well-crafted plea earlier this year for all parties to work together for the common good (the link to this document isn't currently working).  Putting their own survival instincts aside will prove difficult in my opinion.  Turf battles quickly consume time and money that would/should be better spent improving habitat and could ultimately be their death knell.  Here's hoping they can reinvent themselves for the cause.


  1. I'm posting under my Afghan nom de plume, but I'll be back with my regular handle later. Anyway, how does QU's structure compare to that of the RMEF? They seem to do both local and national quite well.

    Best Regards,
    Albert “Afghanus” Rasch
    In Afghanistan: It's Been a Long Road

  2. Albert, first off a big thanks for all you do supporting our troops. When you're that far from home, mail is as necessary for your well-being as food, clothing and shelter.

    I'll admit right off the bat that I'm not overly familiar with the RMEF other than knowing their mission. On paper, I'd imagine their structure is similar to QU's: chapters in the field operating under the umbrella of an HQ office. The difference lies in the fine print of how that relationship is defined.

    At the crux is the amount of chapter-raised money that is sent to HQ. I've read several different figures and given the accounting problems at the time it's hard to confirm a number, but up until November '09 something like 30+% of money raised in the field by QU chapters was being retained by HQ. I also read that chapters were required to send ALL of the money they raised to HQ and some portion of it would eventually be distributed back to them. Some of the larger chapters were owed a lot of money when it all hit the fan. This is money that should have been put to work in the field.