Monday, January 23, 2012

The Great Bobwhite Revival - Opening Round

Underdogs and longshots don't start out with all of the cards in their favor.  A few months ago I posted about the NBCI's call to action, a short list of tasks (see bold face below) avid quail hunters can engage in to swing some of the odds back in favor of the troubled bird. On paper it doesn't look nearly as impossible as it's proven over the last 10-20 years. Channeling my inner Quixote I grabbed a lance and set out to challenge these windmills of bobwhite, hoping not to make a complete ass of myself in the process.

Here's where we stand to date:

Support your state's quail initiative

For several years I've kept in touch with our state's small game project coordinator, Billy Dukes, about the bobwhite restoration efforts at the DNR.  Billy's an extraordinary quail biologist and an all-around good guy.  His department has been decimated (it's down to Billy and a secretary) by the last few rounds of budget cuts, yet he's still found time to put together a very viable plan for the bobwhite restoration efforts in our state.  What's been missing is support outside of the agency.  It has to do with how a project is presented to the board.  If presented by staff members with no external support it can come across as a pet project funded by taxpayers.  If constituents - hunters and fishermen who pay taxes- make the request it comes across in an entirely different light.

A call to a board member resulted in the recommendation that I get on the agenda for one of their monthly meetings and make our request.  That's it?  That's all I have to do?  Alluringly simple, although the actual approval of our request was neither guaranteed nor implied.

As the plan is still being tweaked and hasn't been presented to the board yet I'll reserve any details.  I will say that the most appealing part of the plan is the lack of any request or requirement for funding by the DNR, something that should make it instantly appealing.  Any win that a government agency can chalk up without compromising another of its programs or placing it further in debt should get plenty of support.  Notice I've now said should twice. Political no-brainers sometimes have a way of becoming brainers.  Still, I like our chances.

Tell your local Congressional delegation to prioritize Farm Bill conservation programs

The Queen Mother of windmills
I fired off letters to my congressman and one of our senators specifically requesting that they give equal priority to wildlife conservation.  I considered sending emails but thought, possibly erroneously, that a tangible message might hang around on a desk longer than an email.  Typically such a letter generates a stock "Thank you for your interest in ______ " response followed by reassurances that said representative highly values constituent input and will diligently look into the issue at hand.  This is why they have all those staffers and interns.  My letters must have generated intense debate, research and philosophical discussion of the highest magnitude, much of which continues as I write this post, as so far I've received zero response.  I'm not worried. If they don't respond they're going to have to beg for that $5 contribution to their re-election funds.

I'm happy to share the content of these letters with anyone who wishes to do the same. Caveat emptor: since these have generated absolutely no response they may not have pressed the right buttons.

Join a grassland habitat-related conservation organization immediately

Yes it says immediately, but I'm deferring to the second half on this one.  Throwing $40-45 at each of the main bobwhite conservation groups would be the easy way to check this off the list.  Given the amount of work we have ahead of us and the precious nature of every dollar bill, I'd much prefer to put my $$ behind the ones that are going to play ball with us here in SC.  It sounds selfish, I know, but oddly it's the only way to get changes on a range-wide scale.  Everyone should insist that the lion's share of their donations be used locally.

As we get further along in the quail initiative all of the players will have an opportunity to participate.  And I'll return the favor of those that do.

So there we have it, relatively pain-free up to this point but the hard work hasn't truly started yet.  It's going to be an interesting trip.

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