UNION COUNTY — No matter what you are doing, there is a natural sound that makes you, stop, listen and smile. It’s the clear, unmistakable whistle of the bobwhite quail. In parts of Newberry and Union County, that marvelous sound is being heard in more places — and more often — thanks to a joint effort being undertaken right here in our backyard.
Known as the ‘Indian Creek’ project (which originated in 2005 and expanded this year to include the Delta area in Union County), this pilot project is a partnership between landowners, wildlife interest groups, Federal, and State agencies targeting improvements to forest health and wildlife habitat on 40,000 acres centered around Whitmire. The primary objective of the now 40,000 acre area emphasizes habitat improvement for species that depend on managed woodlands, savannas, and grasslands; like the Northern bobwhite quail, prairie warbler, loggerhead shrike, and Bachman’s sparrow, as well as white-tailed deer, rabbit, and wild turkey.
According to Breck Carmichael, Special Assistant to the Director of DNR, “Enhancement of habitat for bobwhite quail and grassland songbirds is a priority for the Wildlife Section of the Department of Natural Resources. Projects that focus on habitat restoration like the project in Indian Creek have great potential to provide significant benefits for these species.”
The strength of the partnership rests in the diversity of partners; many private landowners, the USDA Forest Service, South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, South Carolina Forestry Commission, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Clemson Cooperative Extension Service, Midstate Quail and Dove Newberry Chapter, the National Wild Turkey Federation, and Newberry County Soil and Water Conservation District.
It’s not just the private lands either; National Forest lands within the project boundary are designed to be managed in a way that emphasizes habitat improvement that complement the habitat work done on private lands. District Ranger Beth LeMaster of the USDA Forest Service emphasized the importance of the partnership to the success of the project.
“This is an outstanding example of the positive impacts that partnerships can have in natural resources management. Public resource management agencies and private conservation organizations working in concert with private landowners to promote forest health and wildlife habitat improvements, fits very well with a whole host of programs and besides, it’s just the right thing to do. Together we can do so much more.” said LeMaster.
The efforts seem to be having an impact. In just a few short years, this landscape-level approach to habitat improvement is achieving habitat and population objectives established in the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI), and Partners in Flight (PIF) bird conservation plans. For example, annual quail covey counts in the original Indian Creek area indicate the quail population has increased 500% since the initiation of the project.
On Aug. 27, there will be a workshop and tour for local landowners to learn how they can be a part of making a difference for quail, all wildlife and, making your woods healthier in the process. Call Sabrenna Bryant at (803) 765-5419 for more information.
Private landowners within the focus area may be eligible for cost-share funds for the establishment and maintenance of approved wildlife habitat enhancement practices. For more information in Union County, contact Lisa Good, NRCS District Conservationist at (864) 984-6921 ext. 107.