Quail Unlimited, a well-known private conservation organization dedicated to the bobwhite quail since 1981, is calling it quits.
In an emailed statement, QU President Bill Bowles said, "The entire board of directors and I have made the difficult decision to cease Quail Unlimited operations and go out of business, effective immediately."
Supporters of QU said they saw the beginning of the end in 2009 when the organization's financial difficulties first came to light. Two dozen QU staffers were furloughed; there was internal strife among the leadership, as well as the board of directors; and the group put its property in Edgefield, S.C., up for sale.
Ron Crabtree, a wildlife and conservation advocate in Tennessee, was a longtime supporter of QU.
"I reached the conclusion that QU was finished two years ago," said Crabtree, who bowed out of the organization at the time. "It was hard to do because I knew a whole lot of the people who had dedicated much of their life to that group."
Crabtree said QU's problems had nothing to do with the mission to protect and enhance quail populations but its ability to administer the program.
"Sometimes, the people in charge come to think that it's their own private domain and fail to recognize that it belongs to all the people involved," Crabtree said.
QU has a 30-year history of helping natural resource agencies and landowners figure out ways to make their habitat a better place for quail. Quail Unlimited's many accomplishments include spreading its chapters to areas as far away as Oregon and New Mexico—and convincing the U.S. Forest Service and other federal agencies to adopt quail management programs.
However, the financial hole was too deep to dig out of, and now, Bowles is asking QU members to lend their support to another private conservation group called Quail Forever.
On its website, that group writes, "Quail Forever is excited to welcome all former Quail Unlimited members and chapter officers into our covey. We need your help, but more importantly, quail need your continued support of quail habitat conservation."
Crabtree said he supports Quail Forever.
"There's a lot of good things going on with quail today," he said. "Unfortunately, there's more going on in other places around the country than there are here [in Tennessee]."
There are other groups dedicated to quail conservation, including the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative. Former Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency Director Gary Myers was one of the leaders who helped create the coalition, combining the efforts of 25 state fish and wildlife agencies and various conservation organizations.
Based at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, NBCI doesn't include the social dynamic or fundraising efforts of most public conservation groups but works diligently—and mostly behind the scenes—to help restore huntable populations of bobwhite quail.
Last year, the group formed a partnership with the National Wild Turkey Federation to help restore bobwhite quail populations. Efforts will take place on projects that address the conservation needs of both wild turkeys and bobwhite quail. They said the areas will be developed utilizing cutting-edge geospatial technology and existing partnerships to identify and implement critical habitat projects.
And, of course, they are happy to accept donations from conservation-minded men and women to aid their efforts.
You can also learn more about NBCI on their Facebook page.
Richard Simms is a contributing writer, focusing on outdoor sports.