Habitat Improvement Team
Moving on Up
Kentucky H.I.T. is on the verge of something the team
has never experienced before in the history of the program. We have a
workload that is going to keep everybody who is involved running ragged
until June or July. We are looking at burning 2,000 acres, spraying 1,700 to
2,000 acres and planting over 700 acres in a two-county area. Many great
things are going to come from thisa€| QU's presence among the public, new
landowner contacts, good habitat being put on the ground, and possibly new
was held with the local biologists who will be involved in this huge task,
with the group brainstorming how to cooperatively streamline the work. Every
QU employee involved with the H.I.T. program, as well as other support
staff, will be giving100 percent as we work through this very busy, but
crucial time in the history of the KY H.I.T. This is going to be the time
for the HIT program of QU to shine.
John Zimmer is the QU biologist and wildlife habitat coordinator for Kentucky. He's especially active in some far western counties where the partnership between QU, the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources and the Kentucky Nature Conservancy share a focus of grassland enhancement and management. Livingston, Crittenden, Marshall and Graves counties are getting much of the effort. He oversees Habitat Improvement Team (HIT) projects.
Zimmer serves in an advisory capacity to guide private landowners to improve upland habitat that will benefit quail and other grassland birds as well as game species such as wild turkey and deer. Working with KDFWR private lands biologists, Zimmer coaches improvement on any such private land, but he has a special interest in guiding land practices on acreage enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP).
"The sweet deal about CRP is that there are federal cost share dollars available,"
Zimmer said. "A lot of time we can do work for farmers and it won't cost them
A major function of his team is conducting controlled burns on acreage in warm season grasses, which renew the habitat value for quail and other species by opening up the grasses at ground level.
"Over time, even native grasses get too thick at the base and keep quail from being able to move around," Zimmer said.
"Quail have been called the fire bird because burning restores the value of the habitat for them. They need disturbance of the ground--burning or strip discing--for
them to do best."
Zimmer still thinks managers and biologists are missing a piece of the puzzle regarding the long-term decline of bobwhites. The loss of edge habitat such as fencerows, big field agriculture, the loss of weedy corners to clean farming practices, fragmentation of habitat and isolation of quail coveys, all those figure into the quail decline.
"But I still think there's something else we haven't discovered yet," he said.
Until science identifies another telling factor, the best biologists can do is work to provide the entire enhanced habitat possible so quail have places to make their stand and perhaps see their numbers grow again, Zimmer said.
If landowners want a consultation with Zimmer for land management or guidance, contact him at (812) 459-4248 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Chances are, he'll be out in some field, but leave a message and he'll return the call.