John Henry Harrelson, a biologist with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, helps coordinate the Columbus County Quail Co-Op’s habitat-management efforts. He said that managing quail habitat is like making alphabet soup — a lot of different things go in.

“We are excited about planting a mix of 16 species of warm-season grasses and forbs, including big bluestem, little bluestem and switchgrass, in newly planted stands of longleaf pine,” he said. “They are fire-adapted species that offer great quail habitat, including nesting sites, cover and a food source. Prescribed fire is another important tool because it resets the succession, benefitting quail and a multitude of other species.” 

Harrelson said that securing funding from the Natural Resource Conservation Services’ Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) has been a tremendous help. In addition, the North Carolina Forest Service and National Wild Turkey Federation have played roles in co-op success.

“I work with private landowners to establish management plans and assist them with obtaining federal cost-share funds to fulfill those plans,” Harrelson said. “I work with the cooperators and help landowners coordinate wildlife and forest management plans. “