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CONSERVATION NEWS



President Bush

BUSH ANNOUNCES QUAIL/WETLANDS INITIATIVES: President George W. Bush has launched two new conservation initiatives to protect and increase wildlife and wetland habitat. One of them will create 250,000 acres of habitat for bobwhite quail; the other will create 250,000 acres of wetlands in the breeding areas for waterfowl. Both initiatives will have tremendous benefits for Mississippi. “I’m ordering the Secretary of Agriculture to help protect 250,000 acres of grasslands, which are the home of several species of birds, including the Northern bobwhite quail,” explained President Bush. “By expanding this program, our goal is to increase the quail population by about 750,000 birds a year,” stated Bush. The Northern Bobwhite Quail Habitat Initiative is a part of the Conservation Reserve Program. It will provide $125 million in payments to private landowners through 2007. It is limited to 250,000 acres. Enrollment will be targeted to the Southeast, where there is the greatest potential to restore bobwhite quail habitat. Numbers of bobwhite quail, an important species to hunters in the Southeast, have declined dramatically over the last 25 years. Their habitats are disappearing due to urbanization, increased grassland cultivation and a transitioning of once grassy fields into woods and forests. The program introduces a conservation practice intended to create 250,000 acres of grass buffers along agricultural field borders. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates this nesting and brood rearing cover will increase bobwhite quail numbers by 750,000 birds annually. In addition, the initiative will reduce soil erosion and protect water quality by trapping field sediments and nutrients. The continuous program sign-up for the bobwhite quail and wetlands restoration initiatives began October 1, 2004 at local Farm Service Agency offices. Sign-up will run until the total acreage has been enrolled or until December 31, 2007, whichever comes first. Bobwhite populations will greatly benefit from this national initiative. Due to the intense interest in quail throughout its range, the Southeast Quail Technical Committee has been formed and charged with developing a national plan for restoration of quail. This plan has set goals of stabilizing populations in 5 years and restoring populations to 1980 levels in 20 years. This initiative provides technical assistance and cost-share to enhance habitat on private lands. It is primarily directed at providing nesting and brood rearing habitats. The Wildlife Habitat Management Institute will develop an evaluation process for the purpose of determining the effectiveness of the effort and to make recommendations. Technical assistance on bobwhite habitat management will be provided. Landowners may receive assistance for establishing and maintaining specific types of early successional habitats through existing conservation programs. Practices that contribute to the enhancement of quail habitat would be incorporated into existing conservation programs. There will be a research project to monitor and establish success.

BLACK CREEK NEWEST NOMINATED STREAM: With the enactment of the nomination bill in March of the 2004 Regular Legislative Session, Black Creek became Mississippi’s fifth scenic stream joining the Wolf River (coastal), the Tangipahoa River (Pike), Magee’s Creek (Walthall) and Chunky River (Newton, Lauderdale, and Clarke). Streamside landowners in the six counties where Black Creek runs were sent letters of notice of the stream’s new status and were asked to consider making voluntary agreements to use Forestry Best Management Practices (BMP) when harvesting timber on their stream bank properties. This will help the creek by protecting streamside trees and vegetation and keeping banks stable. The response to this initial letter produced 23 such agreements.

WATERFOWL PLAN REAUTHORIZED: Interior Secretary Gale Norton recently reaffirmed the United States' commitment to international waterfowl conservation efforts by signing an update to the North American Waterfowl Management Plan. The plan is a public-private approach to manage waterfowl in Canada, Mexico and the United States. Partners have invested more than $2.2 billion to protect, restore or enhance more than 8 million acres of habitat in the plan's history. “The plan put in place an innovative, science-based partnership driven approach to international bird conservation,” Norton said. “Partners updated some of the scientific processes and priority analysis but the landmark approach they developed only 20 years ago to manage continental waterfowl is just as vital today. Wildlife managers use the plan’s design to launch a new era in wildlife conservation, one based on partnerships to conserve shared natural resources.” With final approval from the Canadian and Mexican environmental ministries, the 2004 North American Waterfowl Management Plan Strengthening the Biological Foundations, will guide the three countries in waterfowl conservation. The plan calls on the partners to manage sustainable landscapes, consult and cooperate with partners and use strong biological foundations to make decisions. Partners’ conservation projects not only advance waterfowl conservation but also make substantial contributions toward the conservation of all wetland-associated species. The plan is international in scope; projects to advance the plan goals take place at regional and local level. Success is dependent upon the strength of Joint Ventures, which involve federal, state, provincial, tribal and local governments; businesses; conservation organizations; and individual citizens. Presently, there are 11 habitat Joint Ventures in the United States and three in Canada. Three additional Joint Ventures have been formed to address monitoring and research needs for black ducks, sea ducks and arctic geese. The original plan established an international committee from each of the three countries. The committee provides a forum for discussion of major, long-term international waterfowl issues and makes recommendations to directors of the three countries' national wildlife agencies. The U.S. delegation to the plan committee consists of two U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service representatives and one state representative from each of the four flyway councils. Canada's six delegates represent the federal and provincial governments. In Mexico, delegates represent the federal government, universities and non-profit conservation organizations. The three federal wildlife resource agencies each have a permanent seat. The remaining seats have a 3 year rotation. The specific goals of the plan are to establish continental waterfowl conservation objectives and priorities (for example, in the surveyed area, the breeding bird population objective is 8.2 million for mallards); to increase stakeholder confidence in the direction of waterfowl conservation; and to guide partners in strengthening the biological foundation of North American waterfowl conservation.

STREAMSIDE HANDBOOK NOW AVAILABLE: This fall will mark the publication of a new resource guide for streamside landowners in Mississippi. If people are willing to learn more about their streams, they will understand better how they function as living systems, and see clearly the need to practice conservation to preserve and protect them. The 63-page handbook was written to promote stream conservation by private landowners in Mississippi through education about our streams. The book is in the last stages of press preparation now and when complete will be sent first to all landowners who have given voluntary conservation agreements so far. It will be available through the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks and the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science on request to any group or person interested in using the handbook for educational purposes. Subjects covered by chapter include: 1) Stream ecology, channel and bank stability, including historical changes in land use along streams, and discussions of headcutting; 2) Soil conservation in forestry and agriculture, with an emphasis on use and effectiveness of Best Management Practices along streams; 3) Stream restoration including use of native plants to stabilize banks (a list of plant vendors is included); 4) Discussion of private property rights and the Mississippi Public Waterways law including discussions of trespassing, off road vehicle riding in streams and landowner liability. The full text of laws applicable to the Scenic Streams Stewardship Program is included in an appendix along with a glossary of technical and scientific terms.

YOCKANOOKANY WMA NOW OPEN: The opening of the new Yockanookany Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in Attala County gives central Mississippi hunters something to look forward to. Located about 12 miles north of Kosciusko, the 2,500-acre hunting spot runs along both sides of the Yockanookany River. Access to the area is off Mississippi Highway 12 between Ethel and McCool. The Yockanookany WMA is primarily bottomland habitat. It offers hunting for deer, turkey, squirrel, raccoon, opossum, bobcat, waterfowl, rabbit and trapping. Sportsmen deer hunting on Yockanookany WMA are limited to either archery or primitive weapon. The deadline to apply for a permit to hunt deer during the second archery season is December 1. To get primitive weapon and second archery season permit applications, mail a self addressed, stamped envelope to Yockanookany Deer Hunts, MDWFP District 3 Office, 1999 CR 145, Greenwood, MS 38930. The primitive weapon season extends from November 20 through January 2. The second archery season extends from January 3 through January 31. Small game hunting for squirrel and rabbit follows statewide seasons. For more information and a regulation pamphlet about the Yockanookany WMA, call the District 3 office at (662) 459-9759.

USDA AWARDS $1.2 MILLION FOR BOBWHITE QUAIL HABITAT RESTORATION: Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman has announced the award of $1.2 million for 11 selected studies in nine states as part of a Bobwhite Quail Restoration Project. “This grant supports President Bush’s initiative to create 250,000 acres of bobwhite quail habitat by increasing early successional grass buffers along agricultural field borders, which would boost bobwhite quail numbers by 750,000 annually,” said Veneman. “Habitat restoration is key to this important game bird that also is enjoyed by farmers, naturalists and birdwatchers.” The Bobwhite Quail Restoration Project is being implemented in conjunction with Mississippi State University and includes involvement from the Southeast Quail Study Group and Quail Unlimited. The project evaluates the effectiveness of conservation practices in the restoration of Northern bobwhite and its habitat, and develops technology that assists field staff in working with landowners. The grants program supports studies and demonstration projects that evaluate bobwhite population response to conservation programs and practices. Grant applications were reviewed by a technical committee of state and federal government representatives, university staff and private biologists and researchers. Projects can be from 1 to 3 years in duration and must demonstrate at least a 1:1 leveraging through cost-share, matching funds, other grants or in kind contributions. During the duration of the project, grant recipients must host at least one field tour, on farm demonstration days or on-site training course for landowners, natural resource management professionals and NRCS field personnel.