Daily Archives: May 28, 2013

Row Crop Field Buffers Show Dramatic Increase In Bobwhite Potential in Most Regions

A conservation practice introduced in agricultural row crop settings in 2004 by USDA at the behest of the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI) has resulted in bobwhite populations up to three times greater than those found in traditionally managed crop fields, according to a just-released study of the program’s impacts.

Led by Mississippi State University, Forest and Wildlife Research Center, the study concluded that Habitat Buffers for Upland Birds, referred to as Conservation Practice 33 (CP33), added an average of 1.52 bobwhites to the fall population for every acre of native grassland (grasses, forbs and legumes) in buffers. At the current enrollment of 238,046 acres, the study estimates the practice has added about 30,000 coveys to the landscape, each year. If program participation rose to the current cap of 500,000 acres there would be an estimated 63,000 coveys added. At an average of 12 quail per covey, that’s about three-quarters of a million more quail in the fall.

“This study clearly demonstrates what NBCI has said all along: that is, that substantial, measurable wildlife benefits can be achieved through strategically implemented conservation practices on working agricultural lands where much of the potential quail habitat exists,” said NBCI Director Don McKenzie. “Furthermore, it shows how a relatively small change in primary land use – 5 percent — at little or no cost to landowners can have a disproportionately positive impact on bobwhite populations in some regions. CP33 is a win for everyone. It allows the retirement of less productive field margins, often with net financial gains through the incentives, while providing environmental benefits like clean water and habitat for pollinators, quail and other grassland birds. NBCI urges a more comprehensive application of this efficient practice as a commonsense approach for government, for farms and for wildlife.”

The USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) implemented the Habitat for Upland Birds practice as part of their Continuous Conservation Reserve Program (CCRP) in 2004, initially allocating 250,000 acres in 35 states for 10 years of active management. Essentially, CP33 offers landowners incentives for establishing 30 to 120-foot-wide buffers of diverse native grasses and forbs along the edges of crop fields to provide habitat for bobwhites and other grassland birds. FSA also charged what is now the National Bobwhite Technical Committee with devising a monitoring protocol to measure the response of bobwhites and targeted songbird species. CP33 was the first USDA conservation reserve practice designed specifically to help meet recovery objectives of a large-scale conservation initiative, as well as the first and only USDA practice for which USDA requires monitoring to actually measure conservation impacts.

State fish and wildlife agencies, private conservation organizations and universities in 14 states collaborated with Dr. Wes Burger at Mississippi State University to monitor differences in bobwhite and upland songbird densities and buffer vegetation characteristics on nearly 600 buffered fields and an equal number of “non-buffered” fields from 2006-2011.

Among the report findings:

♦ Researchers observed 50-110% greater fall bobwhite covey densities on CP33 fields across all states

♦ CP 33 works especially well in some regions, most notably in the Southeastern Coastal Plain (Bird Conservation Region 27) where covey densities were three times greater, and in the Central Hardwoods (Bird Conservation Region 24) and the Mississippi Alluvial Valley (Bird Conservation Region 26), where covey densities were two times greater

♦ Priority songbirds that share habitat with bobwhites, such as dickcissels and field sparrows, also benefitted from CP33 buffers

♦ Required management activities designed to maintain habitat quality for bobwhites were implemented on less than half of the enrolled acres, presenting an opportunity for program improvement

♦ Kansas and Oklahoma state wildlife departments conducted separate, but related, evaluations of CP33 for bobwhites and ring-necked pheasants, and found both species were more abundant with grass buffered crop fields compared to field lacking buffers

To have maximum impact, the buffered fields need to be strategically concentrated in relation to one another rather than stranded in isolated pockets across the landscape

Project Manager Dr. Kristine Evans identified another important outcome of the study. “CP33 monitoring exemplifies that large-scale coordinated monitoring across multiple agencies/organizations is entirely possible and can be very successful in measuring programmatic outcomes given appropriate funding mechanisms and monitoring infrastructure.”

For more details about the technical aspects of the monitoring and the results, the full final report is available at http://bringbackbobwhites.org/strategy/nbci-2-0/doc_details/166-conservation-reserve-program-cp33-final-report-2006-2011

Headquartered at the University of Tennessee, NBCI is a project of the National Bobwhite Technical Committee (NBTC) to elevate bobwhite quail recovery from an individual state-by-state proposition to a range-wide, policy-level leadership endeavor. The committee is comprised of representatives of state fish and wildlife agencies, academic research institutions and non-governmental conservation organizations. NBCI is funded by the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation, two dozen state wildlife management agencies, the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and Southern Company. For more information, please visit www.bringbackbobwhites.org

Basin Advisory Committee Vacancies Open

For more than 20 years Basin Advisory Committees (BAC) have been a vital voice for water resource issues in Kansas. BACs are citizen advisory groups who provide insight, track issues and alert the Kansas Water Office (KWO) and Kansas Water Authority (KWA) when areas of concern arise in any of the 12 river basins located in Kansas.  

            I am the water resource planner for the Kansas – Lower Republican and the Missouri basin advisory committees. Both committees currently have a vacancy in the Fish and Wildlife category, with no applicants. I am hoping you could forward this email with the attached link to the application to your members in the northeast part of the state. Applicants should live in the basin for which they apply. The application includes a map of the basin.

            Kansas – Lower Republican River:  http://www.kwo.org/about_us/BACs/BAC_applications/KLR.pdf

            Missouri Riverhttp://www.kwo.org/about_us/BACs/BAC_applications/MO.pdf

            If you, or any interested member, has any questions please feel free to give me a call at 785-296-0865, or email Margaret Fast at [email protected]  

30 years of time-lapse satellite images show coastal Louisiana wasting away

By Bob Marshall, Staff writer

Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership

The new Google app arrived in my life to the kind of reception reserved for a  doctor carrying the results of a biopsy. Did I really want to know?

The blog post announced that the God of the Internet had just delivered another digital miracle. It was now possible to watch 30-year time-lapse photography of any spot on the planet. This innovation expands on the phenomenal product named Google Earth, the one that stitches together satellite images of every inch of our world and offers the results for free. No more secrets or surprises.

Now, just by going to Google Earth Engine and searching for a particular location, you can watch what changes time has wrought since 1984, good or bad.

This is the kind of innovation netophiles often liken to a laser beam or well-honed scalpel. But if you’re a resident of southeast Louisiana, it may have the impact of an uppercut delivered with brass knuckles. And that’s probably overdue.

We live on one of the planet’s most abused landscapes, a place that is sinking from human interventions — oil and gas canals and a levee’d Mississippi River — at a time when seas are rising globally. As a result we have lost the staggering sum of almost 2,000 square miles of our coast over the past seven or eight decades, and we face the likelihood of being entirely overrun by the Gulf in 60 years if nothing is done. It’s an onrushing disaster I’ve covered since the 1980s, which, by coincidence, is when the earliest of these satellite images were created.

This hasn’t been just another story to me. The wetlands around our city – the swamps, marshes, beaches and ridges – have been my office, my friends, my playground and my church.

So covering the death of our coast has meant three decades of attending wakes and writing obituaries for important parts of my life. Did I really want to watch a replay of that sorrow? Did I want to renew the hurt and the frustration?

Of course, the journalist in me couldn’t resist; we beat lawyers to car wrecks. And there remained the faint hope that perhaps this latest Google gift could be the teaching tool that will break through the veil of denial most locals still wrap themselves in.

So I clicked on the URL, then moved across the globe to find the southeast Louisiana coast and Four Bayous PassThis is one of the critical arteries in the circulatory system that brings life to the vast Barataria Bay estuary. It draws the Gulf of Mexicointo the marshes on incoming tides, then discharges a richer, brackish mixture as the tide ebbs.

The area has also been a favorite fishing and camping spot for generations of southeast Louisianans and others who flock here from all over the nation and the world. You could tell why at the start of the time lapse back in 1984. Healthy sections of marsh and beach are clearly visible. They delineate the paths of four bayous, while the bay just behind the coast is sprinkled with a string of marsh islands.

Then I pressed the start arrow. I knew what would happen; I’d chronicled it in words and photos for decades. The islands and beachfront would erode northward, the marshes would disappear and the “Four Bayous” would turn into a single wide pass leading to a bay spreading for miles in all directions, uninterrupted by a single blade of marsh grass. This piece of Louisiana’s coastal wetlands, like so many others, would die.

It’s the velocity of the change – 30 years compressed into about four seconds – that turns what seemed like a slow-motion tragedy, a creeping disease, into a sudden act of violence, a drive-by shooting.

Places that created cherished memories are goneWho could believe anything I remembered without a shred of supporting evidence?

There was also a guilty feeling of vindication. Over the years, people have literally rolled their eyes when I relayed words of warning from scientists about the speed at which this disaster is rushing toward New Orleans. Here was proof.

I began looking for more, paging to other places that were important in my life. The wetlands between Buras and the Gulfgone in four seconds. The thick marsh and duck ponds west of Reggio and Delacroixdissolving into open water. My old camp on Cane Bayou off the Wagon Wheelvanished. The Chandeleur Islandsonce a wide string of sandy pearls: shrunk to a patchy, thin line of white thread.

Yet in those sad travels, I also saw something else: signs of hope.

The coastline between Four Bayous and Empire that shrank so noticeably for 25 years has been growing again over the past five, thanks to a rebuilding project pumping offshore sand and sediment onto the beach. The same thing is happening east of Lake Hermitage andnorth of Bayou DupontThe spy in the sky doesn’t lie; coastal restoration can happen.

And there is the amazing growth of new land at the mouth of the Atchafalaya River and nearby Wax Lake Outlet. More proof that there’s a way to fight back.

So the sum of this new Google app reads like the bad news in a biopsy; our coast is sick and dying. But the doctor says there’s hope.