Sunday, March 25, 2012

Well whaddaya know

Ever have that dream when you walk into a high school or college exam and it's already half over?  Same feeling I had on Friday when I showed up a half hour early, or so I thought, for the 10am board meeting of the Department of Natural Resources, the one where we were going to present our proposal for a statewide bobwhite quail initiative.  Seemed strange that the doors to the board room would be closed thirty minutes prior to the meeting start time.  I cracked one open and quickly figured out that the meeting - or some meeting - was well under way.

Turns out I never got the memo about moving the start time up an hour.  No big deal, these things happen and during a break I was assured that we'd be worked into the agenda once the meeting resumed.  Around 11am everyone was invited back in and fifteen short minutes later we had our approval.  All's well that ends well.

It was a big day for bobwhites in South Carolina.  After 40+ years of decline, this was the first officially recognized step in reversing the trend, and don't think that official recognition is just some boilerplate political stamp.  Any initiative needs the support of the DNR board to have an honest shot at success.  An unsanctioned side project might work if we were just trying to establish a few hundred acres of habitat as a demonstration area, but to impact bird populations statewide the endorsement of the board is requisite. Things just don't get done on a large scale without this commitment.

More importantly, bobwhites are now on the board's radar along with the "big money" species like deer and bass and the popular ones like turkey, ducks and billfish.  The people at the top are now thinking about bobwhites and what can be done to help them.  And I'm extremely grateful for their support, both Friday and going forward.

I'm amazed at the number of people, both inside and outside gov't agencies, who know about the plight of bobwhites, care about what happens to these birds and generally have an interest in seeing something done.  Yet almost without exception they have no idea what can be done.  It takes a step like Friday's meeting to raise the awareness that something can be done and that there are people working to make it happen.

What we asked for was approval to form a Quail Council, our name for a group composed of gov't agencies, non-profits and individuals who could participate in any way, shape or form in the restoration of bird populations. The DNR doesn't have the resources to do this on its own and public-private partnerships are becoming a very realistic, and often successful, option.  The specified purpose of the Council would be to complete the master plan and commit resources toward implementation.

What we got was a directive from the board to bring them a completed plan and a means (the Council) to accomplish it.  Pretty much the best we could have hoped for.  My guess is we have at least six months of work ahead of us before we can take a finished plan for implementation back to the board.

If you're considering pushing this type of initiative in your own state, and I sincerely hope some of you are, my one suggestion would be that you go out of your way to emphasize that you are not asking for money. We knew this would give our proposal a leg up given that our state is essentially broke and all agencies are being cut to the bone.  There's not enough to keep existing programs functioning much less to fund a new one.  As we progress we're going to do so with an eye toward finding most if not all of the necessary funding from external sources.


  1. Thanks for your work! Here's hoping that you find success and that the Bob White can once again thrive in the Southern States!

    1. Jump on board down in your neck of the woods. South GA is way ahead of most places in this effort but they can always use another. Everywhere needs that critical mass that will turn it from an idea into a plan into a movement.