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.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Urban Hunter

I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

from the Fresno Bee:

          Tuesday, Mar. 19, 2013 | 08:07 AM
An urban hunter was detained by police early Tuesday in central Fresno after alarmed residents reported a man was firing a shotgun.
Officers arrived at an alley near Van Ness and Mildreda avenues shortly after 7 a.m. and found a man armed with a pellet gun. The man said he was hunting doves.
Dove season doesn't begin until Sept. 1. And while dove hunting is allowed in some areas of Fresno County bordering city limits, the city of Fresno is excluded from areas where hunting is allowed.

Here's the link to the story, complete with photo and a string of educated comments...

Sunday, March 10, 2013

The death of QU

QU logo
It wasn't a matter of if, but when.  Last month 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.

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.