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Driving around the county, corn and bean fields make up most of the scenery. This may be a great farming environment, but it is hurting another population that once flourished in the area.

Concerned with a plummeting quail population and the continual loss of suitable habitat for the bird, residents of Decatur County have formed Indiana's newest Quail Forever (QF) chapter called the Tree County Chapter. The group is the sixth chapter to form in the state.

"Our quail numbers are minimal, to say the best. I'm only 36 years old, and quail have been declining in number for as long as I can remember," said Tim Ortman, the chapter's newly elected president. “We’re going to be pretty active in the community.”

Ortman stated there are many benefits the county will gain by forming the organization. The group’s main focus is youth and land owners.

“We will go into classrooms and talk to students and get them involved with conservation,” he said.

The chapter also hopes to partner with existing local youth organizations, such as 4-H.

“Together with DNR and a wildlife biologist, we will team up to answer questions and get people pointed in the right direction as far as creating the right habitat,” Ortman said. “We are starting everything from scratch and could use help from all directions. We are a certified not-for-profit organization and all money raised stays here in the county on habitat, education and youth outreach. All spending is closely monitored and donations are tax deductible as well.”

The Tree County Chapter will apply conservation practices targeted at improving bobwhite quail habitat through the creation of habitat buffers along row crops. These transitional, or edge, areas provide important habitat for quail, grassland birds and other wildlife.

“We have to naturally bring numbers up,” he explained. “We cannot control predators or just introduce more quails into the area. It has to be done through natural regression.”

An area landowner donated property to the DNR off Millhousen Road. Ortman said the group is hoping to get residents out there to show them examples of quail habitat as well as present demonstrations like controlled burns and rebuilding habitats.

“We are also looking into acquiring the Decatur County land fill and making it into a wildlife rehabilitation area,” he explained. “We have a good group of guys working together who want to do a lot for the area.”

The chapter is looking for more areas where habitat improvement practices can be implemented.

“I think the Decatur County Chapter is going to be a strong chapter and have

a tremendous impact on conservation in the area,” said regional Wildlife Biologist Brian Grossman. “They are real go-getters and are already planning habitat projects.”

Everyone is encouraged to attend their next meeting April 10 at the Decatur County Extension office. For more information about the meeting and the new chapter, please contact Tim Ortman at (812) 591-2367 or at tortman@hsonline.net. To learn more about starting a QF chapter in Indiana, contact Brian Grossman at (502)538-7656 or via e-mail at bgrossman@quailforever.org.

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