The NBCI Management Board’s semi-annual meeting occurred March 17 at the North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference in Pittsburgh. Attendance and participation included several state wildlife agency directors, deputies and chiefs, as well as non-government organizations and federal agencies. Chair Nick Wiley (Executive Director, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission) and Co-chair Jim Douglas (Director, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission) led the meeting.
The two-hour agenda included a Director’s Report; an update by Ken Duren, who is handling the NBCI’s habitat assessment training project; a report from the National Bobwhite Technical Committee by its Chair, Chuck Kowaleski; and concluded with a hefty discussion about funding future for the NBCI.
The Director’s Report began with a pointed update on the tepid enrollment of the year-old center-pivot corners practice in the Continuous CRP’s CP33 habitat buffers. This prize achievement of the NBCI is a $250 million quail habitat opportunity, sitting on the table, unused. After one year, enrollment totaled less than 16,000 acres … out of 250,000 acres authorized and funded by the USDA Farm Service Agency. Highlighting this shortcoming stimulated animated discussion among the states and NGOs.
Some NBCI projects (listed on a new informational flyer) briefly highlighted included the:
- “Then and Now” historic aerial imagery project to examine long-term landscape changes;
- Informational video for forest landowners (nearly complete): “Sunlight, Fire and Quail”;
- US Forest Service’s increasing interest in the NBCI and grassland habitat restoration, with some concern about whether states are ready for the sudden USFS interest;
- “Butterflies, Birds and Bees” proposal by NBCI to FSA;
- “This American Land,” PBS documentary in production, expected to be aired in autumn 2016;
- Overhaul of the NBCI website bringbackbobwhites.org, freshly completed;
- Upcoming featured appearances of the NBCI at two prominent outdoor media conferences;
- Coordinated Implementation Program update;
- Revising the foundational CIP manual;
- creating a comprehensive series of habitat assessment manuals and training tools;
- near-completion of the online database and mechanism for states to enter CIP data;
- implementation grants in progress to help states develop CIP focal areas;
- “NatiVeg” phone app now in production, to aid resource managers in restoring native vegetation;
- Request by Partners in Flight to join a strategy retreat for implementing the 2016 continental land bird plan (which resulted in a PIF offer for an NBCI page in their new plan);
- Assessment of NBCI performance by all NBCI states, to be conducted spring/summer 2016.
Future NBCI Funding
The second half of the board meeting focused on the status and future of NBCI base operational funding. The NBCI is halfway through the initial 3-year commitment by many states of enhanced Pittman-Robertson funds; now is the time to begin considering the next steps. The board discussed various funding options, opportunities and responsibilities, but circled tighter around the basic notions that bobwhites are a state resource, the NBCI is the states’ initiative, PR remains a viable funding mechanism, and the burden is on the states to keep the NBCI operating at the desired level.
The board agreed it needed to get ahead of the curve, developing a funding strategy by the September 2016 meeting, so that final arrangements and state commitments could be secured by March 2017. To facilitate development of the funding strategy, the board agreed to convene a bobwhite leadership summit before its September meeting. Stay tuned.