(AGFC) - Arkansas Game and Fish, Arkansas State Parks and Big Rock Quail Forever partnered in a Quail Habitat Restoration/Education program at Pinnacle Mountain State Park on April 5th. 100 second graders participated in planting pollinators, wildflowers and grasses in an effort to attract insects which provides food for Northern Bobwhite Quail.
“I’m really excited about our partnership with Parks/AGFC and the potential it has to restore native habitat across the state,” said Big Rock Quail Forever Habitat Chairman Hamilton Bitely. “The Pinnacle Mountain State Park staff and Clint Johnson with AGFC have been doing great work towards reestablishing native grasses and pollinators at Pinnacle. The recent addition of Quail Forever Biologist, Ryan Diener, to the project has been a big help as well.”
From 1971 to 2007 Bobwhite coveys in Arkansas fell by 30% in a large part due to loss of habitat. AGFC is dedicated to quail restoration at a level not seen in decades.
“Arkansas’s wild quail restoration efforts will take both public and private landowners working together to improve habitat,” said AGFC Deputy Director Chris Colclasure. “Bobwhite quail habitat is the critical foundation lacking on the state’s landscape today. Arkansas has the potential to increase this iconic species by promoting native vegetation that provides the essentials for quail and many other animals.”
In 2016, with assistance of Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin, the Big Rock Chapter of Quail Forever began a partnership with the Department of Parks and Tourism and Arkansas Game and Fish Commission to restore native grasses and wildflower pollinators on State Park land. Fifty-three acres at Pinnacle Mountain State Park were identified to serve as a pilot project and have since been undergoing that multi-year process. These fields at Pinnacle Mountain, once restored, will provide vital habitat for migrating and resident monarch butterflies, other pollinators, songbirds, and upland birds such as bobwhite quail.
“This project is the epitome of what Pinnacle Mountain stands for,” said Pinnacle Mountain State Park Superintendent Josh Jeffers. “Part of our mission is to get children out to the park for hands on experiences in environmental education. With our partnership with Arkansas Game and Fish, and Big Rock Quail Forever, we were able to give 100 second graders the opportunity and experience of rebuilding a native habitat, that in time will hopefully bring back quail to the area. It’s a great opportunity for everyone involved.”
This first project is viewed as a pilot program for one that can be modeled to restore areas at other state parks in Arkansas. The process begins with removal of invasive grasses through spraying and burning the acreage. Each area will be examined on an on-going basis to monitor for any necessary removal of non-native plants.
A permanent sign is being designed by the Department of Parks and Tourism for placement in the field to recognize this project and its partners.