Press Release: Quail Habitat Funding
Inform the public about federal and state funds available for the creation of quail habitats in Virginia.
A press release explaining the urgency of habitat loss and its connection to the local economy.
January 12, 2010
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Headwaters Soil and Water Conservation District
Private Lands Biologist
to Create Quail Habitats
VERONA, VIRGINIA—A collection of cost-share incentive programs are now available to Augusta County residents willing to create quail habitats on their property.
The official “Christmas Count” of these grassland birds reveal that the quail population in Augusta County has dropped to an all time low. Bobwhite quail populations native to the area have declined over 82% in the last forty years.
Cost-share programs are available to private landowners, commercial tenants, and private citizens who wish to develop habitat for quail and other species on their properties. The state’s Best Management Practice (BMP) program in Augusta County is administered by The Headwaters Soil and Water Conservation District.
“Our goal with the cost-share program is to support creation of quail habitats. We find the local, state, or federal funding available to help shoulder the cost. Funds are available to reimburse residents for costs associated with purchasing native plants or hiring labor.”, says Robert Whitescarver, District Conservationist at Headwaters.
He continues, “Landowners are rewarded knowing they are contributing to improved wildlife habitats, support the local economy, and by enjoying the increased aesthetic beauty of their land. State and federal funds make protecting wildlife and natural resources a reality.”
According to Private Lands Wildlife Biologist, Kenneth Kesson, the contributing factors to the quail population decline include: habitat loss and fragmentation, increased urban development, nest predation and lack of winter cover and food. Natural grassland food sources have been gradually eliminated and replaced with non-native Fescue, a grass species which is neither good for cattle or quail. Meanwhile, many hedgerows and shrub thickets, which historically provided thermal and escape cover, have simultaneously been destroyed and cleared.
“Some might wonder why focus on quail when there are other pressing environmental issues in Augusta County. The answer is that by providing habitats advantageous to quail we are building a healthier ecosystem at the same time. Bobwhite quail can be seen as an indicator species for early successional grassland bird populations.
“Declines in the quail population mean that there is a lack of this type of habitat in general, and may be seen as an ecological warning indicating that there may be further declines in other species which use similar habitat components as quail. By restoring quail habitat we allow people an opportunity to enjoy a resource that has been in Virginia for centuries. There are many other benefits from adding habitat components favored by quail, ranging from carbon sequestration to protecting the soil from the erosive forces of the wind and water. We have had great success working with farmers and individuals to keep our waterways clean, prevent soil erosion, and replace non-native, invasive plants.”, says Kesson.
He adds, “It may be possible to bring the quail population back to previous levels over time. By developing habitat we are taking the first step towards making a realistic recovery effort. I am happy to speak to anyone interested in created quail habitat, or wildlife habitat in general, on their properties. The positive thing here is that we have money to help those interested in developing habitat on their properties and can get a lot of good done fairly quickly.”
In the past five years, Headwaters has paid $1,860,787 in state cost-share funds to Augusta County landowners who installed conservation practices.
The Headwaters District is one of 47 Soil and Water Conservation Districts in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Formed in 1975, the District is a part of the state government which provides citizens the structure and the capability to solve conservation problems at a local grassroots level. Since 1984, farmers in this District have voluntarily excluded 1,669 acres of pasture from livestock to protect streams and protected 96 miles of county stream banks, among other successes.
“Area residents have demonstrated their commitment to improving the environment over the years. We expect area residents will be excited to participate.” adds Whitescarver.
Private citizens concerned about quail can make their yards more wildlife friendly. Residents should provide four critical components for wildlife: food, water, cover, and a place to raise young.
More information on cost-share funds specific to quail can be found online at: http://www.headwaters.vaswcd.org/, or by calling Mr. Whitescarver at [omitted]. Yard certification is offered through the National Wildlife Federation. More information can be found at: http://www.nwf.org/