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#06-297 October 30, 2006  

Florence farmer attests to quail strip program

Landowners may be eligible for a program to establish habitat for quail and other upland bird species. The program would require establishing or retiring a border, commonly referred to as “quail strips,” around row-cropped fields.

CP33 Habitat Buffers for Upland Birds through the Continuous Conservation Reserve Program is aimed at creating 250,000 acres of habitat for the northern bobwhite quail across its range. This initiative provides an opportunity for private landowners to make a difference on the landscape and provide critical nesting and brood-rearing habitat for bobwhite quail as well as other grassland birds by establishing habitat buffers for upland birds.

Ira “Buddy” S. Rainwater III has been farming his 100 acres in the southwest corner of FlorenceQuail buffer County for 20 years and is convinced the program is a winner. “Our reward, we will see wildlife come back to the farm,” Rainwater said. “Since I have installed my buffers, I see all types of beneficial song birds, deer and their newborn, turkey broods, reptiles and other wildlife that were hidden in the past. Best of all, the bobwhite is coming back!” Mr. Rainwater is featured in a two-part video on quail strips entitled "Common Sense Conservation." See part 1>>> -- See part 2>>>

“Modern agricultural and forestry practices have significantly changed the way we use the land and has had an impact on suitable habitat for bobwhite quail,” said Judy Barnes, DNR small game biologist. “So it is essential that we provide accurate information to landowners and land managers regarding the proper methods of habitat management for quail.”

“Over the past years, we have restored the white-tail deer, Eastern wild turkey and many other species,” Rainwater said. “Don’t we owe it to the ‘Little Thunderer-the Quail’? I urge you to sign up today for the CP33 Buffer program and take a child for a walk in the field to hear the bobwhite.”

Landowners may sign up at any time at a local Farm Service Agency. The agency can provide information on eligibility, actual payments and other questions regarding upland bird habitat buffers. Contact information for county Farm Service Agency offices can be found at http://offices.sc.egov.usda.gov/locator/app?state=sc&agency=fsa. For information on quality habitat management for quail, contact the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Small Game Project at (803) 734-4306 in Columbia.

Approved contracts will receive annual rental payments for a 10-year period, a signup bonus of $100 per acre, cost-share and practice bonus payments for the installation of the practice.

A landowner must establish a buffer around the perimeter of the agricultural field (minimum 50 percent of perimeter) at 45 feet minimum and 120 feet maximum. The buffers are to be maintained by fall or winter discing or prescribed burning. Woody plants, Bermuda grass, tall fescue and bahia grass must be controlled. The buffers are not food plots and are not for the production of hay, forage or crops. The buffers cannot be used as turn rows, roads or storage areas for crops or equipment.

Biologists offer several theories for the decline of bobwhite quail populations throughout the Southeast, which the DNR and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimate as high as 4 percent annually.

Among these theories are:

In 2004, South Carolina received an allocation of 5,000 acres and a Focus Area was identified consisting of 18 contiguous counties (Aiken, Allendale, Bamberg, Barnwell, Calhoun, Chesterfield, Clarendon, Darlington, Dillon, Florence, Hampton, Horry, Lee, Marion, Marlboro, Orangeburg, Sumter, Williamsburg) with the greatest percent of cropland.

Another 5,000 acres was received in 2006 for South Carolina landowners who may enroll eligible lands that have been row cropped in at least four years during 1996 to 2001.
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