April 10, 2018
LITTLE ROCK - With seeds in hand, dozens of second graders took to a field at Pinnacle Mountain State Park last week and started a first of its kind project in Arkansas. Those seeds will re-establish native grasslands to give the quail population a place to live and thrive.
“Over the last part of the 20th century we’ve lost 90 percent of the quail population in Arkansas,” said Hamilton Bitely with the Big Quail Forever non-profit organization. “There are other places in the country that have also lost a significant percentage of quail, so it’s important to do things like this and create these little “quail factories” if you will.
This project is being accomplished because of the cooperation of three agencies: Arkansas State Parks, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and Quail Forever. Lieutenant Governor Tim Griffin brought the three entities together. His service with the Army Reserves kept him from attending, so his chief of staff, David Ray spoke on his behalf.
“Too often people operate in their own little silo and they don’t really think about things from a holistic approach,” said Ray. “But that’s one of the things the Lt. Governor is very keen on, especially to insure that agencies cooperate and work together. Just look at the results, we’ve got 80-100 school kids here today that will help repopulate the quail population in central Arkansas through the preservation of natural habitat.”
Involving children was an important part of this project’s kickoff said Pinnacle Mountain State Park Superintendent Josh Jeffers.
“By getting kids out of the classroom and into the natural area, hopefully we can make an emotional connection with them. This is one way we try to convince our visitors to become advocates towards conserving the natural area.”
Chief Biologist with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Clint Johnson says this venture’s scope extends far beyond saving quail.
“This project’s important because it’s not only quail that will benefit, but also butterflies and a lot of other grassland species that have been declining rapidly over the last several decades. There’s a lack of available habitat for them so patches of good cover like this is very important not only for Arkansans but on a national scale.”
Visitors to Pinnacle Mountain State Park can watch as the development progresses.
“That’s the idea,” said Arkansas State Park Director Grady Spann. “We want to create awareness across central Arkansas to preserve the environment and to really create an opportunity to establish the native environment and the native species in Arkansas. It’s a critical part of educating our guests in a very nice way.”
Grasses and wildflowers should start growing soon, but it may take a year or two for the quail and other native species to return.