Sunday, February 14, 2010

Hope From the Lone Star State: The Quail Coalition

If you've read any of my recent missives on quail conservation and the various organizations claiming to protect all things quail, you'll detect more than a little cynicism on my part. I've been a supporter of these organizations for most of my life, but I've pretty much concluded that their business model is outdated -- financially, geographically, and scientifically. Mix in a healthy dose of graft and corruption, and Gentleman Bob's future looks bleak.

Enter the Quail Coalition. This group was formed after the 12 Texas chapters of Quail Unlimited saw the writing on the wall last December. They voted to leave the beleagured group and form their own organization, and the Quail Coalition was born.

By far the most influential chapter to renounce its QU affiliation was Park Cities Quail, named for the tony Highland Park and University Park enclaves nestled inside Dallas. To be sure, the membership (read: earning power) of this group is not typical of most chapters -- over the last three years, they've raised over $1,000,000 for habitat. But that's neither here nor there.

The exciting news is that Park Cities Quail, along with other members of the Quail Coalition, give their hard-earned dollars to the Rolling Plains Quail Research Ranch, a sprawling 4,700-acre living laboratory near Roby, Texas. RPQRR's sole mission is to "sustain Texas' wild quail hunting heritage for this and future generations." And let's face it, folks -- Texas is the last best place to find consistently good numbers of wild bobwhite quail and quail habitat.

Caretaker of the Ranch is Dr. Dale Rollins, a thoughtful and quick-witted gentleman who is one of the world's pre-eminent authorities on quail and quail habitat. He cruises the ranch in a custom-built quail buggy, inseparably with his team of "research assistants" -- Annie, Doc, Babe, and Ellie -- eager setters that have no idea how good they have it. He and fellow researchers are doing myriad studies on quail, including the effects of prickly pear cactus, range fires, and predation, to name a few. It's fascinating research, and anyone who's a bird hunter should subscribe to the RPQRR email newsletter. Click on the video below to hear directly from Dr. Rollins.

When you consider that quail prefer to live their life in seclusion from anything that's not part of the covey, you quickly understand that Dr. Rollins has an immense job to decipher the riddle of the quail. But if anyone's up to the task, Dr. Dale is the man. All it takes is time -- and money.

That's why I'm throwing my (admittedly meager) resources at the Quail Coalition. Dr. Rollins is doing the most in-depth, qualitative research on bobwhite quail of anyone on earth, and he's doing it in an area where at least initially, it can have the most impact. Let's protect the wild resource in Texas that we've got before we try to reintroduce quail willy-nilly in areas with marginal habitat at best.

The Park Cities chapter has their banquet on March 11. I won't be there, but my money will be. What about you?  You don't have to pick QC... just pick a group that you can support.  Bob depends on it.

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