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Kentucky Launches Bid to Enhance Bobwhite Population on Public Land

Wildlife Management Institute

Kentucky Launches Bid to Enhance Bobwhite Population on Public Land PDF Print
Wednesday, 14 January 2009 15:41
close up bobwhite headKentucky is raising the ante among states in the growing movement to implement the Northern Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI).  The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR) already has established itself as a national leader in working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, landowners and other partners to promote extensive native grassland habitat restoration on private lands, according to the Wildlife Management Institute.
Now, the agency is aiming to create a world-class bobwhite habitat and public hunting destination on the 50,000-acre Peabody Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in western Kentucky.  

The largest state-owned WMA in Kentucky, almost all of Peabody consists of former coal-mining lands.  Some of the land has been reformed to approximate its original topography, but much remains in unrestored condition, with abundant spoil banks, ponds and wetlands.  Roughly half of the WMA is open land originally planted to a mixture of tall fescue and sericea lespedeza, two invasive exotic species that generally provide poor habitat for most grassland birds.  Despite marginal overall habitat conditions at present, Peabody remains the most popular hunting ground for bobwhites and rabbits in the state.  Because the WMA also has the best potential for quality habitats and high populations at a large scale, KDFWR has been steadily chipping away at restoring native grassland habitats since Peabody was created in 1995.  

The NBCI is the national recovery plan that aims to restore bobwhite populations and hunting opportunity across the species’ range to about the 1980 level.  KDFWR Commissioner Jon Gassett and Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commission Chairman Dale Franklin, calling for a vastly accelerated restoration initiative to advance NBCI implementation, launched the long-term project by convening a December 2008 gathering of KDFWR staff and other bobwhite conservation experts from across the Southeast.  In three days of Peabody WMA tours and facilitated discussions, the group set a bobwhite population restoration goal of one covey flush per hour for hunters, to be achieved on 20,000 core acres in 10 years.  That ambitious set of goals will require extensive habitat restoration, primarily by converting exotic stands to native grasslands, establishing native shrubs, thinning forests, increasing the frequency and extent of prescribed fire, and testing the feasibility of managed grazing.  

KDFWR staff already is developing the detailed restoration and management plan, and laying the groundwork for the myriad partnerships that will be essential to success.    For more information, contact John Morgan, KDFWR Small Game Program Coordinator, at (800) 852-0942, ext. 4458.  (dfm)