WEST DES MOINES, Iowa — The authoritative organization of the nation’s bobwhite experts honored the chief of wildlife for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources and a bird conservation joint venture for their respective contributions to the restoration of northern bobwhites in their annual meeting here recently.
The National Bobwhite Technical Committee (NBTC) presented its annual Award for Individual Achievement to Billy Dukes, who has spent more than 20 years actively involved in the bobwhite effort. South Carolina’s new chief of wildlife, Dukes began his career as a staff biologist working with the Fur Resources Project and the Small Game Project, eventually becoming supervisor of the Small Game Project, assistant wildlife chief and then wildlife chief in May. Dukes has been an active leader in every annual meeting of the group, served as chair of the group’s steering committee, oversaw the transition of the technical group from a “Southeast-only” effort to the larger range-wide 25-state effort, as well as the growth in capacity of the technical group’s National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI).
The Group Achievement Award went to the Oaks and Prairies Joint Venture (OPJV) in Oklahoma and Texas, represented by Dr. James Giocomo, OPJV coordinator. NBTC cited the joint venture’s priority commitment to integrated habitat conservation for both bobwhites and a suite of associated grassland birds, as well as its active support of the bobwhite technical group.
Among the organization’s many contributions is the creation of its Grassland Restoration Incentive Program (GRIP) that uses NGO, corporate, and state funding to encourage and support private landowner conservation activities through direct financial assistance to supplement Farm Bill programs that may miss important areas due to national and state restrictions. GRIP has already provided support to private landowners for habitat improvement work on over 34,000 acres in the first 7 months since implementation in November 2013. In addition, the OPJV partners are positioned to expand all aspects of conservation planning, population monitoring, and conservation tracking to support private landowners in meeting conservation delivery objectives identified in NBCI 2.0, the range-wide restoration plan for bobwhites.