The National Bobwhite Technical Committee (NBTC) posthumously honored a 19-year veteran of the group during its 26th annual meeting, originally scheduled for Arkansas but conducted virtually instead. Chuck Kowaleski, of Texas, received the 2020 NBTC Leadership Award for his significant, long-term contributions to the bobwhite restoration cause.
“Chuck helped shape the future of bobwhite conservation management in the United States, was a strong advocate for the NBTC mission, and made significant contributions to habitat conservation efforts nationwide,” said NBTC chair Robert Perez with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD). “And with his life experience, it’s no wonder that Chuck never passed up a teachable moment.”
Kowaleski was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Liberia, West Africa, a high school biology teacher, an urban biologist, and managed Texas Project Wild teacher trainings, all before joining the NBTC. When Kowaleski became the TPWD Farm Bill Coordinator in 2001, he joined the Southeast Quail Study Group, the forerunner of the NBTC. His contributions included serving as chair and vice chair of the Agriculture Policy Subcommittee, and chair and treasurer of the NBTC Steering Committee.
During his tenure as the TPWD Farm Bill coordinator, Chuck partnered with a variety of organizations to implement programs creating special focus areas benefitting various wildlife species, including bobwhites. Those areas provided $35.3 million in federal cost share to 1,208 landowners in habitat improvements for priority species on 1.79 million acres. Over 325,000 of those acres were specifically for bobwhites.
“Chuck provided a direct connection to the national Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (AFWA), as chair of AFWA’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program Working Group,” said Perez. “He also provided invaluable leadership for NBTC’s work to establish a national Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) policy favoring the use of native plants in Farm Bill programs and native grasses as federally subsidized replacements for drought-susceptible, exotic pasture grasses that USDA traditionally promotes. Over the years, Chuck provided expert guidance and counsel to our committee regarding Farm Bill programs, including those with multiple benefits for landowners, farmer/ranchers, and wildlife. Chuck always spoke up for what was right, was the first to lend a hand, and was more than willing to listen to your concerns and offer sound advice.” Numerous NBTC meeting attendees also took the opportunity to share memories of their interactions with Kowaleski.
Kowaleski received many accolades for his dedication to conservation before retiring in 2019, including the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies’ Wildlife Biologist of the Year Award in 2014 and the Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever Conservation Service Award in 2017.