Monday, December 30, 2013

The Great Bobwhite Revival - Time for an Update

As the year draws to a close I figure it's a good time to revisit this little project I've been on the periphery of for a while.

Sometimes things get going with much fanfare and celebration, and sometimes they just get going. In late May, final touches were hurriedly put on a draft of a plan for restoring bobwhite populations in South Carolina and presented to the SC DNR board. The presentation was well-received and, no objections being raised, we had implicit approval to proceed.

Boom. Kinda like when your ride to the party gets there an hour early. But hey, when your choices are a change in schedule or watching reruns, you get your ass in the car.

In all seriousness, this was an incredible bit of good fortune, albeit unexpected in its timing, and because of the early green light there wasn't a great deal of activity over the summer. Letters of invitation were mailed to a number of governmental agencies and NGOs for inclusion in the council that will serve as the advisory board, set the agenda and oversee the work of the restoration effort. In a move that shows the commitment within the department, the director of the DNR agreed to serve as chair of the council, the importance of which is crucial given the constant and substantial push it will require to generate and maintain momentum.

After the May meeting the plan itself got some polish and shine and a first printing run and it looks great. There's a story about it in the NBCI's 2013 Almanac and you can download a copy from the NBCI's website. Unfortunately it's not yet available on the SC DNR's site.

The project itself is extremely ambitious. The goal is 50% of the managed density target (fancy biologist speak for number of bobwhites per acre) in 5 years and 100% in ten years. This doesn't leave much time for talking and thinking and planning and that's a good thing. These will have to happen as part of the effort, occurring in conjunction with any habitat work.

So where do we go from here? A plan may cost a lot of money and represent a lot of time, but unless you can turn it into results it's only worth the paper it's printed on.  A good first step will be the inaugural meeting of the quail council, at which they will likely choose the initial focus area and set a schedule to begin work. And it grows outward from there, expanding from the focus area to other properties in the focal region, and then to other focal regions within the state.

While public land is the foundation of the effort, private lands are a necessity to reach the density goals, which means that word needs to get out about this effort. Marketing and quail are two words not often found in the same sentence, but the more people we can get talking about it and asking about it and interested enough to raise their hands and say "How can I help?", the quicker this will become reality. Stories like this and this need to spread like weeds.

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