February 02, 2018
By Debra Davis
Restoring habitat of iconic bobwhite quail in Alabama is the goal of a program initiated by the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). NRCS State Conservationist Ben Malone announced incentives today for eligible landowners in qualified areas. The deadline to apply for incentives is March 2.
The birds are most recognized by the distinct summer call, “Bob, Bob White!” However, despite its popularity across the South, bird numbers have declined by more than 85 percent over the last 50 years. Changes in agricultural practices, land management lapses and other land-use impacts have led to dramatic fragmentation of high quality habitats, according to USDA reports.
“Bobwhite quail have been, and still are, an incredibly important species – both culturally and biologically,” said Alabama Farmers Federation’s William Green.
Green, director of the Federation’s Forestry and Wildlife divisions, said he’s encouraged by the NRCS program
and others like it.
“I’m hopeful that those programs will restore some of the birds’ native habitat and reverse the loss of this beloved game bird,” Green added.
NRCS is partnering with the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) in effort to reverse the population decline. Through technical and financial assistance, practices planned such as heavy pine timber thinning and burning have the potential to drastically benefit habitat quality and sustainability.
Through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program’s Working Lands for Wildlife (WLFW), funding will be available in Escambia, Covington, Geneva, Dallas, Lowndes, Montgomery, Bullock, Macon, Russell, Autauga, Elmore, Chilton, Coosa, Tallapoosa, Chambers, Clay and Talladega counties to improve quail habitat on private lands.
Wildlife biologists with the ADCNR will work closely with NRCS personnel in these counties to provide technical assistance to landowners on habitat improvement. In addition to quail, restoring this habitat type across the pine savanna landscape benefits numerous songbirds, rabbits, wild turkey, deer and many other wildlife species.
It also improves water quality, reduces soil erosion and can enhance local economies by stimulating quail hunting and wildlife viewing opportunities, the USDA report said.
Working Lands for Wildlife enables NRCS to use a win-win approach to systematically target conservation efforts to improve agricultural and forest productivity which enhance wildlife habitat on working landscapes.
Eligible producers are encouraged to visit their local USDA Service Center to sign up by March 2.