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NBCI Presents First ‘Fire Bird Conservation’ Awards

The contributions to wild bobwhite restoration by entities and/or individuals in six states claimed the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative’s (NBCI) National Fire Bird Conservation Awards during ceremonies at the annual meeting of the nation’s bobwhite experts in Iowa recently. Award recipients are chosen by the respective NBCI-member state’s quail coordinator for their contributions to that state’s efforts toward habitat-based restoration of wild bobwhite populations.

“We wanted to provide an avenue for states to recognize and thank those making meaningful contributions to their science-based restoration agendas, illustrate the variety of those contributing to the bobwhite restoration cause and perhaps help encourage others to join in,” said NBCI Director Don McKenzie. “We need as many individuals, agencies and organizations as possible actively contributing to this unified 25-state strategy.”

The award’s name symbolizes the historic reliance of bobwhites on fire in much of its range to maintain the landscape in an “early successional” stage, that is, in the native grasses, wildflowers and “weeds” providing bobwhites with suitable habitat. Both wildfires and fires intentionally set by landowners to clear farm fields and woodlots historically resulted in abundant habitat for bobwhites, as well as numerous other wildlife species. The term “fire bird” in relation to bobwhites was first coined by naturalist Herbert Stoddard, who researched bobwhites and worked to restore bobwhite habitat in the early 20th Century.

Today, “prescribed” fire under controlled conditions by trained professionals has become an increasingly important tool for helping create and manage habitat for bobwhites, as well as a suite of songbirds and other wildlife that require early successional habitat to survive.

2014 award recipients were:


GEORGIA: Di-Lane Plantation Wildlife Management Area Team
(John Bearden, Henry Williams, Steve Kyles, John Lovett, Haven Barnhill, I.B. Parnell, Vic VanSant, Lee Taylor, Buck Marchinton)

“Despite landscape and site limitations, management has produced an excellent bobwhite population and public land quail hunting,” wrote Reggie Thackston, Georgia quail coordinator. “The success at Di-Lane has been widely acclaimed and is stimulating strong interest and support for bobwhite management on public and private lands; and thereby contributes greatly to the Wildlife Resources Division’s efforts in attaining NBCI goals.”


KENTUCKY: Team Leaders, “Road to Recovery: The Blueprint for Restoring the Northern Bobwhite in Kentucky”
(Tom Edwards—Bluegrass Army Depot Focal Area; Nathan Gregory—Clay WMA Focal Area; Philip Sharp– Livingston County Focal Area; and Eric Williams—Peabody WMA Focal Area)

“As a group, they have put KY’s bobwhite restoration effort on the national map,” wrote Kentucky’s quail coordinator, John Morgan. Kentucky reported a 57% increase in bobwhites observed in its annual statewide mail carrier surveys between 2012 and 2013, the Peabody WMA has demonstrated a 91% increase in its fall bobwhite population over five years, the Shaker Village project is holding steady with 50 coveys of bobwhites, and the Hart County Quail Focus area has demonstrated a 771% increase in bobwhites from 2008-2012, while the Bluegrass Army Depot Focus Area registered a 57% increase during the same period.


LOUISIANA: U.S. Forest Service, Kisatchie National Forest

The U.S. Forest Service recently approved the creation of a new Bobwhite Emphasis Area in the Vernon Unit of the Calcasieu Ranger District of Kisatchie National Forest. Explained Louisiana’s quail coordinator, Jimmy Stafford, “The U. S. Forest Service manages some 604,000 acres in Louisiana known as the Kisatchie National Forest. Most of Kisatchie N.F. is upland pine habitat ranging from shortleaf pine in the north to longleaf pine in the south. The primary management on these lands is timber harvests and prescribed fire. Approximately, 121,000 acres are prescribed burned each year. The Forest Service has demonstrated its commitment to maximize early successional habitats through widespread prescribed fire … and have also eagerly joined with state quail biologists to identify ways to further improve habitats for bobwhites.”


SOUTH CAROLINA: Mark Coleman, Spartanburg

According to South Carolina’s quail coordinator, Willie Simmons: “As a private citizen, Mark Coleman has been a cooperator in SCDNR’s Quail Hunter Survey for over 15 years.  During that time, he has maintained constant contact with the Small Game Project Supervisor offering assistance with projects and initiatives.

“Mark is a staunch supporter of SCDNR and of scientific wildlife management in general. Following publication of the NBCI 2.0 (in 2011), Mark was one of the few quail hunters, if not the only one in South Carolina, to embrace the new planning paradigm, openly and wholehearted supporting the plan in conversations with other bird hunters and in various public forums…

“Through conversations with the SCDNR Small Game Project Supervisor and with NBCI Director Don McKenzie, Mark heeded the call to action from the initial State of the Bobwhite report and immediately engaged policy makers in South Carolina.  He personally appeared before the SCDNR Board to request and promote wild bobwhite management in South Carolina.

“Although he is far too modest to accept any credit or praise, he was directly responsible for renewed emphasis and urgency on completion of South Carolina’s statewide quail restoration plan. He continues to this day to offer financial and logistic support for establishment of a statewide quail council, the next step in implementation of the South Carolina plan.”



From Tennessee’s quail coordinator, Dr. Roger Applegate: “Bill manages Kyker Bottoms Refuge and Foothills Wildlife Management Area in eastern Tennessee. Kyker Bottoms is 525 acres of true early-successional habitat that likely produces the best bobwhite population in Tennessee. Bill manages this habitat as old field and is a one-man show. He also permits a very conservative hunting opportunity on a quality bobwhite resource. Bill is an example to other land managers in Tennessee and other states by providing the habitat that bobwhite evolved in.”


VIRGINIA: The Virginia Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Conservation Management Institute at Virginia Tech

Wrote bobwhite coordinators Marc Puckett and Jay Howell: “They are two legs of the 3-legged stool that supports our private lands quail recovery program… While we have many valued partners, without which our quail plan would be much less effective, the two recognized in this nomination are the backbone of the program.” Cited was the comprehensive  support of the two organizations in the recruiting, hiring, paying and administratively supporting the state’s team of private lands biologists working to restore bobwhites on private lands in Virginia.

Headquartered at the University of Tennessee’s Institute of Agriculture, NBCI is an initiative of the National Bobwhite Technical Committee (NBTC) to elevate bobwhite quail recovery from an individual state-by-state proposition to a coordinated, range-wide leadership endeavor. The committee is comprised of representatives of 25 state wildlife agencies, various academic research institutions and private conservation organizations. Funds for NBCI are provided from a variety of sources, including the respective state wildlife agencies, the Wildlife Restoration Program, the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and Park Cities Quail.