Bird Conservation photo

Big news for bird hunters: The conservation group Quail Unlimited, which has struggled mightily in recent years with financial issues, management scandals, and declining chapters, announced last week that it is closing its doors permanently. In doing so, QU officials urged its former members and anyone else concerned with upland conservation to join Quail Forever, which has acquired Quail Unlimited’s mailing list.

From this story in the Albany (Georgia) Herald:
Quail Unlimited has folded, according to an e-mail sent out late Friday afternoon from Executive Director Bill Bowles, abruptly ending the national organization’s existence. Our great staff and our great Board of Directors have stood the test and they have given their very best effort. However, the entire Board of Directors and I have made the difficult decision to cease Quail Unlimited operations and go out of business effective immediately,” Bowles said in an email sent out Friday afternoon….”There are a few large challenges that we are about to be faced with,” Bowles said in his first email. “Could we possibly overcome them? We might be able to, but it would require money that we do not have and it would be a huge distraction from our basic purpose— Quail & Youth. I’m left to reflect on how best to accomplish those goals in light of QU’s end, which leads me to recommend Quail Forever as the future of quail conservation in America.”

In response, Quail Forever sent out this press release Friday afternoon:
In an effort to keep a group of passionate quail hunters and conservationists engaged in the cause, Quail Forever has purchased the Quail Unlimited mailing list. In addition, the Quail Unlimited name, logo, and website are being permanently retired. Today, quail and quail hunters now boast the largest group and loudest voice ever assembled with Quail Forever, Quail Unlimited and Pheasants Forever’s collective membership. We intend to take the full power of this voice to Washington, D.C. as we fight for strong conservation policy in the new Farm Bill, as well as at the state & local level as our chapters work with local farmers and governments to improve America’s landscape for quail, pheasants and other upland wildlife.

It’s always said to see a conservation group founded on the best of intentions fold. Quail Unlimited was the first conservation group I ever joined. Hell, the first bird dog I ever owned I got at a Quail Unlimited banquet. I thoroughly enjoyed being a member. But QU was, quite frankly, a deeply flawed organization that ultimately couldn’t recover from a whole host of problems, ranging from its chapter funding model to financial scandals to the way in which the national organization was run. In recent years QU had effectively disappeared from places like Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas, and had pretty much been on life support everywhere else, so Friday’s news came as no surprise. It wasn’t a question of it, but of when. Back in 2009 the group basically fell apart amid a financial scandal and never could rise above the smoking ashes.

Quail Forever the group that now owns QU’s mailing list, is an entirely different animal altogether. As part of Pheasants Forever, QF is by far the largest hunter-based upland conservation group in the nation. It just received the highest rating possible from the nation’s largest charity rating agency, its chapter funding model keeps all local money raised with local chapters (chapter funding was a huge bone of contention with local QU chapters) and on the national level I think it does more with less than just about any group out there. In the interest of full disclosure, I am a proud Quail Forever member.

I don’t know how many members and chapters QU managed to hang on to in recent years, but if they stuck with the organization through all that it went through up to the very end, they must be hard-core. They care deeply about quail, but their faith in any conservation group might understandably be shaken. If my name were on that QU mailing list, however, I wouldn’t hesitate for a second to join Quail Forever. The bobwhite quail needs all the help it can get right now, and if Quail Forever can quickly and effectively fill the void left by Quail Unlimited’s demise, that would give the world’s greatest gamebird and the bird dog’s best friend a big shot in the arm.

Any former Quail Unlimited members out there? Thoughts? Reaction? Plan on joining Quail Forever?