The USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Texas will be working with partners on the recently announced 2015 NRCS Texas Bobwhite Quail Initiative, aimed at increasing the amount of high-quality native grassland and savannah habitats by at least 255,000 acres over a four year period for bobwhite quail and related declining wildlife species. The initiative targets more than 60 Texas counties.
Bobwhite quail populations have declined over the past 40 years, mainly due to the loss of rural lands and habitat fragmentation. Private landowners have a great opportunity through this initiative to make desired habitat improvements on their land, which in turn will benefit and increase quail populations, as well as other wildlife species. Bobwhites play a valued role in the ecosystem cycle of life and are a barometer of changes in other grassland bird populations. Conservation management that improves quail populations will also benefit a wide array of declining songbird species such as Loggerhead shrike, dickcissels, grasshopper sparrow, and meadow larks to name a few.
Quail can also provide an opportunity for revenue for landowners and rural communities through hunting, recreation, and ecotourism. Their presence not only increases the aesthetics of the land, but may also increase the real estate value. Wildlife tax exemptions might also be attained through the county tax appraisal office by having a conservation or wildlife plan.
“For many, the enjoyment of hearing and seeing wildlife is one of the many reasons people own land,” said Salvador Salinas, Texas NRCS state conservationist. “For others, it may be the enjoyment of a rural lifestyle where hunting or wildlife photography is important or being able to pass the land onto future generations in better condition than when it was acquired. Whatever the reason, with more than 83 percent of Texas land privately-owned, the landowner is in the driver’s seat when it comes to taking action to conserve, enhance and beautify their land for wildlife.”
The NRCS will provide technical assistance to those desiring a blueprint to follow aimed at conserving, protecting and improving their land and natural resources. The blueprint is a conservation plan that is developed with a landowner free of charge and can be tailored to the development of Bobwhite quail habitat on their place. A conservation plan will increase your ranking for funding when applications are requested. Applications are taken year round, but certain funding deadlines are announced throughout the year.
Conservation plans can include:
- Aerial photo, map or diagram of your land
- Soil map and soil descriptions that are site specific to your land
- Insightful resource inventory data of your land, which can include potential forage or crop production estimates, livestock carrying capacity estimates, plant identification, and recommended seeding rates
- Recorded list of your objectives and a conservation plan and schedule for achieving those objectives
All plans are confidential. Their purpose is to provide a roadmap to help you achieve your goals as well as your farm or ranch objectives. The bonus of improving your land through conservation stewardship benefits not only you, your family and future generations, but also the community with cleaner air, water, improved water quantity and quality, enhanced wildlife habitats and populations, and an overall a healthier place to live.
The initiative is a result of a partnership effort with various conservation-minded groups. Along with NRCS, partners include the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), Oaks and Prairies Joint Venture’s Grassland Restoration Initiative Program (GRIP), University of North Texas Quail Program (UNT Quail), Western Navarro County Bobwhite Quail Restoration Initiative (WNBRI), Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute (CKWRI) and the Rio Grande Joint Venture (RGJV), and Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs).
For more information visit your local USDA-NRCS office or visit www.tx.nrcs.usda.gov.