Group might get offer on building
By Rob Pavey| Outdoors Editor
Sunday, January 24, 2010

Financially beleaguered Quail Unlimited finally has a nibble on the sale of its national headquarters building in Edgefield, S.C.

"We have sent a letter to Cam Harris, chairman of Quail Unlimited, saying we were interested in purchasing the QU headquarters," said Michelle Burnett, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Forest Service. "Right now we are still preparing a preliminary project proposal."

The Forest Service, which manages Sumter National Forest, already has offices in Edgefield, but those quarters are in leased property -- and are becoming too small, she said, noting that the existing, 3,000-square-foot building now houses 22 employees.

Quail Unlimited closed its headquarters last fall after funding shortfalls left employees briefly furloughed. The conservation group has since reopened, but has offered its 10,000 square foot headquarters and 75 acres of adjoining land for sale in an effort to raise capital.

If the Forest Service is able to acquire the site, the building would be used as a service facility for Sumter National Forest's Long Cane District, which includes about 120,000 acres of public lands.

"Before we could move forward with anything we have to go through an administrative process to seek and get approval from the Department of Agriculture to move forward," Burnett said. "We'd also need to get a professional evaluation and appraisals of the building and land, and then come up with funding."

The QU property, listed last fall for $650,000, adjoins Forest Service lands on two sides.

The conservation group, with about 30,000 members, is working to reorganize its operations and its new interim president, Bill Bowles of Albany, Ga., has expressed hopes the group can remain in Edgefield.

COYOTE STUDY: Georgia officials are launching a new study to gauge how the state's rapidly expanding coyote population is affecting deer -- and in particular, fawns, which are a primary coyote food in the springtime.

"Since the 1960's, Georgia's deer population has risen from scarcity to areas of local overabundance through restocking efforts and science-based management," says Charlie Killmaster, state deer project coordinator. "The population has since declined to a healthy level; however, a better understanding of the role of coyotes in deer management is needed."

This spring, biologists from University of Georgia and the state's Wildlife Resources Division will launch a four-year study of coyote-fawn predation.

"It is well understood and accepted that coyotes do eat deer," says John Bowers, assistant chief of game management. "However, whether coyote predation is a benefit or an obstacle to deer management strategies is not black and white."

Karl V. Miller, a Georgia wildlife management professor, said one important part of the new study will involve generating accurate data on coyote populations, which are challenging to count due to their secretive nature and nocturnal behavior.

The studies will occur in several state wildlife management areas and will involve DNA testing, scat analysis, trail camera surveillance and other tactics. Researchers will also evaluate the seasonal diet of coyotes and assess the extent to which they impact fawn recruitment by conducting an intensive coyote removal across two large study sites in central Georgia.

Closer to home, similar studies have been under way for several years at Savannah River Site by a team led by U.S. Forest Service research biologist John Kilgo.

Their findings, based upon a sophisticated telemetry program to track and monitor newborn fawns, indicates coyotes are responsible for at least 50 percent, and potentially as much as 80 percent, of the documented fawn mortality.

CONSERVATION AWARD: Augusta native John Courson -- also a longtime member of the South Carolina Senate -- was honored this weekend as the South Carolina Wildlife Federation's Conservationist of the Year.

Courson, who now lives in Columbia, was first elected to the South Carolina Senate in 1985. An early proponent of the Conservation Bank, Courson became a trusted ally of the Conservation Community.

Last year, he worked successfully behind the scenes to increase Conservation Bank funding by $2 million, according to the federation.

Reach Rob Pavey at (706) 868-1222, ext. 119 or rob.pavey@augustachronicle.com.

From the Sunday, January 24, 2010 edition of the Augusta Chronicle
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