NWTF Works to Save Struggling Species
NWTF Uplands: Come Join the Adventure
Our destination is to continue conserving and improving upland habitat for the good of the wildlife species that need it.
We live in a unique time in the history of American wildlife management, which is both encouraging and challenging. It's encouraging because wild turkeys, once eliminated from much of their original range, have been restored to almost all suitable habitat across the United States.
Our current economic climate challenges both captains of industry and private citizens to make tough choices regarding how to allocate their resources. While the NWTF can't do much to address the economic plight of the country, we can continue to provide top-notch service to our members and focus our efforts on our mission of conserving wildlife habitat and preserving our hunting heritage.
The NWTF Upland Program is a new effort to bring our habitat mission to the forefront. During the last four decades as wild turkey populations increased, northern bobwhite quail, American woodcock and ruffed grouse populations decreased. The declines are due to loss of quality native young forests, shrubland and grassland habitat over much of the country.
The NWTF Upland Program focuses on improving habitat for upland wildlife, including wild turkeys, and also can revitalize the passion of some of our members who may be looking for a new challenge.
There is potential for tremendous growth for chapters that want to reorganize under the new NWTF Upland Program — and potential for new chapters to form.
If you would like to start a NWTF chapter that focuses on upland wildlife, contact an NWTF regional biologist or regional director in your state. Locate NWTF field staff members in your state and get started today!
Gunnison Sage Grouse
As the late-morning sun beats down on a brushy mesa in Crawford, Colo., a group of 15 citizens and land management professionals set out to tour the site of a landmark project that will help bring back the Gunnison sage grouse.
Photo Credit: Geoff Tischbein, Colorado Division of Wildlife
A Species in Trouble
Only seven small populations of Gunnison sage grouse exist in Colorado, the birds are just one step away from being listed as an endangered species.
In 2010, 15 Gunnison sage grouse were trapped, banded and transferred from Gunnison to a site near Crawford, an area of critical environmental concern. Improvements made to the Bureau of Land Management-owned lands include installing a 4,000-gallon water storage tank, a 25,000-gallon tank with drip lines to provide wet meadow habitat for wildlife and installing devices to deter raptors from perching near the Gunnison sage grouse spring breeding grounds.
A Powerful Partnership
The Crawford, Colo., Gunnison sage grouse restoration project marks the first time the NWTF has invested in a project focused on the grouse. Through a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the NWTF is funding the use of a hydro axe, or mulcher, that will remove unwanted trees like invasive juniper and pinon pines from the sagebrush habitat. The NWTF also is paying to modify water structures to create much-needed wet meadow seep areas. The Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife also is a partner in this project.
Seeing is Believing
During a stop on the field tour, one group member ventured below a dam near a pond and flushed 16 grouse. During the next two stops, the group flushed more sage grouse — 20 in all during the trip.
Most of the grouse were near wet areas where ponds or tanks had overflowed and created small, wet meadows.
"Seeing the birds using these moist areas reinforces the need to create additional seeps," says Brandon Houck, NWTF director of conservation operations for the western region.
Photo Credit: Dave Menke/USFWS
Declaring that conservation efforts on behalf of bobwhite quail and other native grasslands birds are "far inadequate" to stop their decline in the U.S., a national coalition of 25 state wildlife agencies has issued a new situation assessment and a call for decisive action.
The NWTF is committed to the conservation of upland habitat and its mission has a great deal in common with the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI). As a result, the NWTF was selected to hold one of 12 seats on the National Bobwhite Technical Committee which provides guidance for the NBCI. The NWTF is actively involved to efforts to bolster bobwhite conservation. In fact, many NWTF habitat projects directly enhance bobwhite habitat.
"A much larger, long-term commitment by all states and conservationists is imperative to overcome the half-century decline in bobwhite habitats and populations," according to the first ever State of the Bobwhite: Grassland Conservation at a Crossroads from the NBCI. "Bobwhites are slipping through our fingers, and time is not on our side. We have the expertise; now we need to muster the resolve."
Bobwhite quail populations have plummeted as much as 80 percent over the past half century by some estimates, while entire suites of songbirds that depend on the same habitat of native grasslands and shrublands have recorded similar declines.
Most of the bobwhite decline occurred due to diminishing habitat suitability as agriculture became less "quail-friendly," natural plant succession resulted in a more forested landscape and fire has been mostly eliminated as an ecological force. However, where suitable habitat exists on a landscape scale, bobwhite populations have improved.
The 37-page State of the Bobwhite is the first-ever coordinated attempt to assess the state-by-state status of bobwhite populations, hunting activity and conservation efforts across all 25 member states of the NBCI.
While bobwhite numbers continue to decline, there has been positive progress in a number of situations, including:
Pennsylvania and West Virginia are preparing inaugural bobwhite conservation plans.
There are now 180 state agency-led bobwhite focus areas in 12 states.
Bobwhites have been included in efforts aimed at increasing wildlife diversity through ecosystem restoration in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma and South Carolina.
There are new prescribed fire initiatives benefitting bobwhites in Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas.
Notable public outreach programs are underway in Delaware, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia.