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#07-34 February 5, 2007

Lee County landowner praises buffer programs for quail

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.

Contact your local Farm Service Agency office for more information on CP33. For information on suitable habitat management for quail, contact the DNR Small Game Project at (803) 734-4306 in Columbia.

See a two-part video on quail strips entitled "Common Sense Conservation." See part 1>>> -- See part 2>>>

Dr. Frank Boysia owns about 2,300 acres in Lee County and for the past 20 years has been leasingQuail buffer sign the farming rights. In 2000, he started establishing riparian buffers around ditch banks in the agriculture fields for a total of 328 acres and in 2006, established CP33 field borders on about 116 acres. Boysia said, “For the first time in many years, I am finding quail on ditch banks. The buffers on the ditch banks and the buffers around the ‘ag’ fields are the reason for the increase in quail numbers.” He said he conducted call counts on 16 points in 2005, and on four of the points, he did not hear birds calling. But in 2006, he heard birds on all 16 points, and “I have to attribute this to buffer establishment, that is the only change on my property.”

Evan Myers, S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) wildlife biologist working out of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service office in Lee County said, “CP33 buffers have been established on 538 acres on 14 farms in Lee County and additional acres are pending approval.” Riparian buffers are planted in trees on the land adjacent to a water body (creeks, streams, rivers) and usually a grass buffer is established in the upland area. “Working in combination, these buffers can provide additional acreage of bobwhite quail habitat as well as protection for the stream,” Myers said.

South Carolina received an allocation of 10,000 acres for landowners who may enroll eligible lands that have been row cropped at least four years during 1996 to 2001. Landowners may sign up at any time at a local Farm Service Agency for both CP22 (riparian) and CP33 buffers. The agency can provide information on eligibility, actual payments and other questions regarding riparian and upland bird habitat buffers. 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 CP33 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:

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