Knoxville, Tennessee will become the nation’s “quail capital” for a short time later this month as the country’s top quail experts convene in two back-to-back meetings downtown, the annual meeting of the National Bobwhite Technical Committee (NBTC) followed by the Eighth National Quail Symposium, aka “Quail 8.”
Hosted by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and the University of Tennessee, the NBTC – whose members represent 25 state wildlife agencies, quail research institutions and private conservation groups – will conduct its meeting July 25-26 at the Holiday Inn Knoxville Downtown. On July 27-28, Quail 8, a national quail symposium conducted every five years, will follow at the same location and encompass research reports from around the country on various aspects of multiple species of quail.
The NBTC focuses its efforts on the coordinated restoration of populations of the iconic wild bobwhite, which have declined by 80 percent over the past 60 years. The decline is primarily due to disappearing habitat brought about by changes in agricultural, forestry and grazing practices over the decades. Many other species that share the same habitat, including numerous grassland songbirds and pollinators, have shown similar declines.
The committee, which numbers about 150 members, sets the agenda and technical objectives for the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI), headquartered at the UT Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries. Working with and for 25 state wildlife agencies for large-scale restoration of wild bobwhite quail populations, NBCI is the most comprehensive effort on behalf of a resident game bird in the history of wildlife management. Focused on creating opportunities and removing barriers at regional and national levels, the initiative has scored numerous successes on behalf of bobwhite habitat.
NBCI’s recent accomplishments include:
- the acceptance of bobwhites in the federal Working Lands for Wildlife program with projects in 13 states to improve habitat on 232,000 acres by 2018;
- an agreement with the National Park Service to identify and restore native grasslands habitats on selected park service units, the first being Pea Ridge National Military Park in Arkansas;
- an agreement with the U.S. Forest Service to establish NBCI bobwhite focal areas on national forests in at least two southern states;
- winning approval by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for automatic creation of 250,000 acres of bobwhite habitat on the corners of center pivot-irrigated crop fields (a $250,000,000 habitat restoration value), through the federal Conservation Reserve Program’s (CRP) Habitat Buffers for Upland Birds practice (CP-33), commonly known as “Bobwhite Buffers”;
- A five-part national documentary, “Bobwhites on the Brink,” that aired on public television stations around the country;
- NatiVeg, a smart phone/computer-based decision making tool for landowners and managers in the field who prefer to select appropriate native plants for their location and purpose rather than exotic species
Quail 8, a national symposium open to quail researchers around the nation and beyond, will feature nearly 100 presentations and posters featuring various aspects of quail management and research, and is expected to attract some 200 participants. The last symposium was in Tucson, Arizona in 2012. Hosts of Quail 8 are the University of Tennessee, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, NBCI and NBTC.
Headquartered at the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture’s Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries, 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. Support for NBCI is provided by the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Program, state wildlife agencies, the Joe Crafton Family Endowment for Quail Initiatives, the University of Tennessee, Quail and Upland Game Alliance and Park Cities Quail.