NEWBERRY — Indian Creek Phase One (Indian Creek Restoration Initiative) began in 2004 when a partnership of local, state and federal agencies, conservation organizations and private landowners came together to restore, enhance and protect 16,000 acres of wildlife habitats on national forest and private land in Newberry County.
“Technical and financial assistance through USDA’s Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program and National Forest Foundation grants were used to implement conservation practices such as pine stand thinning, prescribed burning, native warm season grass establishment and eradication of invasive species,” said Stacie Henry with Newberry County Natural Resources Conservation Services.
Some of the partners included, but were not limited to, the NRCS, Francis Marion and Sumter National Forest, SC Forestry Commission, S.C. Department of Natural Resources, Quail Forever and the Newberry County Soil and Water Conservation District.
Indian Creek Phase Two began two years ago with a proposal that was funded and brought back together with the unique partnership of friends who share the common thread of enhancing the quail population, according to Henry.
Phase Two has grown to include Union County and more areas in Newberry County, taking this project phase to 40,000 acres.
“Technical and financial assistance is given to private landowners in the form of environmental quality incentive program dollars where practices such as pine thinning, prescribed burning, understory control, native warm season grass establishment, eradication of invasive species and wildlife structures are being implemented,” Henry said.
In celebration of Phase Two, a banquet was held celebrating the partnership between the agencies and the landowners.
Michael Hook, small game project leader for SCDNR, said that almost every week he gets a call from a land owner telling him quail can be found on the property.
“I have not heard that in 15 years,” Hook said, adding there has been a 500 percent increase since the project began.
“That is huge. It cannot be said enough the success that has been done here,” said Andy Edwards, regional representative/biologist with Quail Forever and Pheasants Forever Inc.
Edwards, keynote speaker of the banquet, said the Indian Creek Restoration Initiative is the example he uses throughout the southeast and the whole range of quail as to what can be done if people put their minds to it and focus.
“Are we going to restore quail to their numbers back in the 1960s? No. 1970s or 1980s? No,” he said. “The landscape has changed so much at the state level that we have lost a whole lot of that potential.”
He said they have focused instead on certain areas and worked with certain agencies, like the Bobwhite Initiative.
“They have the science that backs this up,” he said. “If you establish that anchor, that foothold, where you got bird numbers and you can do something about it, you’ve got public land that is going to be there. And you work with it and you work with land owners around it and make a difference. “
Edwards said that is what is happening with the Indian Creek Restoration Initiative.
“You are an example for the southeast. You are an example really for the whole quail range,” he said. “What we have done, this quail management, can be done on a smaller scale. We have essentially restored the hope. I know it can work, and we have seen it done now.”
Reach Andrew Wigger at 803-276-0625 ext. 1867 or on Twitter @TheNBOnews.