This past June, 32 Quail Forever biologists working across regions of Arkansas, Georgia, South Carolina, Nebraska, Louisiana, Missouri, New Jersey and Tennessee gathered in West Point, Mississippi at Prairie Wildlife to undergo extensive training for managing bobwhite quail within pine savannah landscapes. The first of its kind in the country, the inaugural “Bobwhite Bootcamp” and its participants were funded for the three-day training through a National Fish & Wildlife Foundation grant issued through the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Organized by Dr. James Martin of the University of Georgia, Mark McConnell of Mississippi State, Jessica McGuire of Quail Forever and Steve Chapman of the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative, Bobwhite Bootcamp was designed to introduce and familiarize attendees with the tools to manage forests with wildlife openings and diverse understory vegetation for flourishing bobwhite populations. Participants also learned about the various ways bobwhite management benefits other species including turkeys, deer, rabbits, gopher tortoises, bog turtles and many different songbirds, including the Bachmann’s sparrow and prairie warbler.
“Boot camp has provided biologists the opportunity to get a refresher if needed, and get out into the field and problem solve,” said Jessica McGuire, Quail Forever coordinating wildlife biologist for the state of Georgia. “It’s one thing to be able to regurgitate what you read in a book, quite another to be able to read the landscape and provide appropriate, landowner driven, management recommendations. Boot camp provided a low stakes atmosphere in which they could dial down to what the bobwhite needs across the various scenarios presented to them. It was really great to see the veteran biologists helping the new ones. I think the new biologists went home feeling better about their knowledge base and what is expected of them.”
McGuire, along with PF/QF Missouri State Coordinator Casey Bergthold and PF/QF Arkansas State Coordinator Ryan Diener, presented at the workshop on the current Working Lands for Wildlife – Bobwhite in Pine Savannah Partnership that is providing critical conservation technical assistance on private lands. Landowners in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina and Virginia are helping the bobwhite by managing for early successional habitat on working lands.
“Quail Forever and key partners have exceeded expectations in the attendance at and quality of these workshops,” said Bridgett Costanzo, NRCS Working Lands for Wildlife eastern U.S. coordinator. “NRCS intends to continue to fund this critical outreach to landowners and field staff. The Farm Bill can and should play a larger role in managing for native grasslands and pine savanna habitats and recovering Northern bobwhite quail populations in America – this is USDA’s intention in establishing the Working Lands for Wildlife-Bobwhite partnership.”
Kurt Readus, state conservationist of Mississippi, added, “Partnerships with conservation organizations, such as Pheasants/Quail Forever, allow NRCS to more efficiently target technical and financial assistance to private landowners. This assistance also helps producers plan and implement a variety of conservation practices that meets both the needs of wildlife as well as the agricultural operations on working landscapes. Having access to biologists in the conservation planning process helps to bring a well needed perspective to our farmers. NRCS is excited about the partnerships and look forward to new and seasoned Pheasants and Quail Forever biologists joining us in our mission of helping the people help the land.”
Quail Forever would like to recognize Dr. Jessica McGuire, Dr. James Martin, Dr. Mark McConnell and Mr. Jimmy Bryant of Prairie Wildlife for their outstanding contributions to Bobwhite Bootcamp; the workshop would not have been successful without their leadership for the event. The Habitat Organization extends its gratitude to the USDA-NRCS, University of Georgia, and all contributing presenters for their passion to restore the whistle of bobwhites to America’s landscapes. In addition we would like to recognize the other partners for making this event possible: Roundstone Native Seed, Wildlife Mississippi, and Federal Ammunition.