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U.S. Agricultural Policy is Key to Bobwhite Revival

Almost every quail hunter already realizes the biggest problem with bobwhites – clean farming practices.  Modern, weed-free, fencerow-to-fencerow, high-intensity production leaves little habitat for most grassland birds.  Certainly, agriculture is not the only force that has changed the landscape in ways inhospitable to quail, but it probably has the largest impact.

Consider:  across the core bobwhite range there are roughly 210 million acres of cropland, 120 million acres of pasture/hay, and 35 million acres of plantation pine.  Decades ago, this 365 million acres of production land was inherently suitable for bobwhites. No longer.

Cultivated cropland now is so free of weeds and idle areas as to no longer accommodate quail.  Pasture and hay land has been so “improved” with aggressive, exotic forage grasses that they have no practical value to quail.  Dense, unburned pine plantations offer little at ground level but a thick layer of needles.

Don McKenzie

Former NBCI Director, Don McKenzie is a product of the deep South, steeped in its cultures of hunting, fried catfish, barbeque and SEC football. He survived an abrupt transition from hip boots in South Carolina to dark suits in Washington, DC as a professional wildlife advocate specializing in agriculture conservation policy.

During 6 ½ years in DC, he engaged the community of southeastern bobwhite quail biologists, and soon became their most active representative on federal conservation policy issues. McKenzie eventually arose as a national leader for what now is recognized as arguably the largest and most difficult wildlife conservation challenge of this era—restoring huntable and sustainable populations of wild bobwhites across much of their range. He was a facilitator and editor of the original “Northern (now “National”) Bobwhite Conservation Initiative,” published in 2002, and has been the national leader for implementing the initiative since 2004.