Sept. 16, 2020
Jim Harris Managing Editor Arkansas Wildlife Magazine
LINCOLN – Clay Connor’s rendering of a quail sitting on barbed-wire fencing above shrubby cover and native grasses, entitled “Beyond the Wire at Summits Ridge,” was unveiled Saturday, Sept. 12, as the image on the 2020-21 Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s Northern Bobwhite Conservation Stamp in a ceremony held at nearby Historic Cane Hill.
Marcus Asher, the AGFC’s quail program coordinator, and Lawrence McElroy, director of arts and culture at Historic Cane Hill Inc., led the program, and McElroy introduced Connor, who now lives in Hot Springs, to the audience before the veil was lifted on the second state quail stamp. Connor’s artwork has appeared in publications by Ducks Unlimited and Delta Waterfowl and in Gun Dog magazine.
“It’s incredible to be here as a new resident of the state of Arkansas,” Connor said. “It means a lot to me because I have drawn from so many of the resources available in this state, and now being able to participate in giving back a little bit is quite an honor … We are stewards of the land and we’re going to be accountable for the future. Representative items such as this (quail stamp) pay it forward to the next generation.”
Establishing AGFC’s quail stamp as a way to fund habitat improvements to boost the northern bobwhite population was an initiative of former Commissioner Steve Cook when he served as chairman in 2017-18, and the first stamp was issued in 2018. This year’s stamp sells for $9.50 through AGFC offices, nature and conservation education centers, as well as online at www.agfc.com. Asher said money raised through stamp sales “is critical” to habitat improvements. He cited a recent mulching project of 216 acres at the Fort Chaffee Training Center in Fort Smith as an example of what money from stamp sales can accomplish, and Saturday’s program included a video of the Fort Chaffee project.
Asher said the bobwhite’s survival and reproduction are mostly dependent on maintaining its habitat. “This habitat that I talk of includes a diverse array of native vegetation types that you’ll see in (Connor’s) painting,” Asher said. “Quail need native grasses, they need broadleaf forbs, or what we call wildflowers, and they need a little bit of brushy, shrubby escape cover such as sumac, plums, or blackberries to reduce the effects of predation and extreme weather. They need these grasses to set their nests in and to provide actual overhead cover. Broadleaf forbs is what they use for a seed source. Those also attract a lot of insects during the first few weeks of life for a baby chick.”
With Arkansas land being almost 90 percent privately owned, Asher urges landowners who are interested in saving quail to “look beyond the wire” in Connor’s artwork and join in the efforts to provide acreage suitable for quail and other wildlife to thrive. “With more usable space available to bobwhites, it ultimately helps the livelihood of existing species and sustains them for a longer period of time,” he said. “I encourage you today, if you haven’t already started habitat work on your property, to jump in. Go for it. Do more if you can. And then start talking to your neighbors so that we can build up these large, landscape-scale habitat restorations in the state.”
Prints of the quail conservation stamp, including a limited number signed by Connor, are available through the Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation by calling 501-223-6468 or online at agff.org.
“AGFC has joined with many local, regional and national partners to restore habitat for this important game species,” Deke Whitbeck, president of the Foundation, said of the stamp. “Proceeds from the program will be earmarked for activities to put more quail on the ground. The habitat not only supports northern bobwhite, but a host of ground-nesting birds, including turkeys, as well as many pollinating species essential to Arkansas agriculture.”
McElroy said that next year the partnership of Historic Cane Hill, the AGFC and AGFF will sponsor an art competition to select the artwork for the 2021-22 quail stamp. Every entry in the competition will be included in an exhibition at Historic Cane Hill, McElroy said. Details will be announced next spring.
“I am so tickled to be part of this collaboration between Historic Cane Hill, the AGFC and the Foundation, and I’m eager to see how this grows in the future,” he said.