Habitat is the key to maintaining healthy wildlife populations. In most cases, active habitat management is the only way to promote the plant communities that native animals need to flourish. A partnership between the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever, Playa Lakes Joint Venture and other conservation organizations has recently filled three new Farm Bill wildlife biologist positions in the Texas Panhandle. Their job will be to, first and foremost, promote good habitat for upland game birds.
These biologists will work with landowners, ranchers and farmers in the Texas Panhandle on habitat management and conservation measures to increase wild populations of lesser prairie chickens, pheasant, quail and other grasslands birds and animals. The state has seen populations slipping in recent years, but additional staffing centered on providing habitat will help get these birds back on track.
The wildlife management positions were created as a part of the multi-state Lesser Prairie Chicken Initiative by NRCS. The initiative’s goal is to reverse current lesser prairie chicken population declines due to the loss of native grasslands and prevent their listing as a threatened or endangered species. Nobody wants that, especially not the state or landowners.
Prior to this national initiative, fewer than 10 contracts a year were awarded for lesser prairie chicken habitat restoration work in Texas by NRCS. Since the initiative began in 2010, the number of contracts awarded has increased to more than 200 annually. These contracts are worth between $5 and $6 million in cost-share for private landowners interested in native grasslands restoration and habitat management benefiting the lesser prairie chicken and other grassland species of wildlife such as quail and pheasants.
The new habitat management biologists are listed below. For more information on these new positions visit the Pheasants Forever site at Pheasants Forever.
- Joshua Grace, who will be located in Canyon, Texas and will be providing conservation services in conjunction with NRCS Field offices in Randall, Deaf Smith, Bailey, Lamb, Swisher, Parmer and Castro counties. Josh received his BS in Wildlife and Fisheries from Texas A&M and his MS in Wildlife Ecology from Louisiana State where he studied plant communities, small mammals and white-tailed deer.
- Curtis Greene, who will be located in Pampa, Texas and will be providing conservation services in conjunction with NRCS Field offices in Gray, Donley, Wheeler, Collingsworth, Hemphill, Roberts, Lipscomb and Ochiltree counties. Curtis starts on November 14th. Curtis received his BS in Forestry and Wildlife Management from Stephen F. Austin State University. He is in the final stages of his MS in Range and Wildlife Management at Sul Ross State University where he has been studying Montezuma quail.
- Vicki Sybert, who will be located in Brownfield, Texas and will be providing conservation services in conjunction with NRCS Field offices in Terry, Cochran, Gaines, Yoakum, Andrews, Martin, Hockley and Dawson counties. Vicki received her BS in Microbiology and MS in Wildlife Biology from Texas State University-San Marcos. She also completed course work toward her Ed.D. from Texas Tech in curriculum and instruction for Science Education. She has a worked extensively for Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and has served in many capacities in working with Lesser Prairie Chickens.