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Working Lands for Wildlife Projects in the Southeast

Working Lands for Wildlife Projects in the Southeast

The National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative moved a step closer to two of its major goals for landscape restoration of wild bobwhites – reconnecting cattle and quail, and reconnecting forests and quail – when the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) announced the approval in December 2016 of two NBCI-led proposals to recognize bobwhites in the NRCS Working Lands for Wildlife program.

“We were really pumped to receive two bobwhite proposals,” said NRCS Chief Jason Weller, announcing the approval while on a Missouri farm. “These projects represent what’s best for America-family ownership, conservation, helping communities and partnerships.”

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alabama-waterfowl-stamp

This is the artwork used on the current 2016-17 Alabama waterfowl stamp.

Waterfowl hunters throughout the country must have what is commonly known as a federal duck stamp, a general term for the federal waterfowl stamp required to hunt the migratory birds.

The federal stamp has been around for more than 80 years. It raises money for migratory bird projects and land acquisitions. It is one of the most successful, consistent and, despite a few detractors, embraced models of conservation in history.

Some hunters buy a couple of extra stamps each year, in part to chip in for conservation and also if they happen to lose theirs. You can buy them online or at U.S. Post Office locations. Smart thinking, for sure. Federal stamps are required to be signed in ink across the face so they cannot be transferred to another hunter. And some folks collect the stamps, working to get every one of them back to the original created by Ding Darling.

Many states have their own waterfowl stamps, too. Alabama is one of those and each year holds a contest for artists. I was honored to be a judge for the contest about 20 years ago and it’s pretty cool. Unfortunately, interest has dwindled and the number of entries has fallen off in recent years.

Artists who know this is an annual event prepare for it ahead of time. If you’re an artist with an interest but didn’t know, you may consider prepping for the 2018 event unless you can whip up something in a few weeks. It would be cool to see this contest regain strength in interest and entries.

Waterfowl hunters must have in possession while hunting a federal stamp and many states require a separate state stamp. Money from the stamps is used for conservation efforts.

Here is the press release from the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources about the contest and entry specifics:

Alabama artists are invited to enter the 2017 Alabama Waterfowl Stamp art contest, which opens January 1, 2017. The winning artwork will be featured as the design of the 2018-19 Alabama Waterfowl Stamp, which is required along with the Federal Waterfowl Stamp when hunting migratory waterfowl in Alabama. Like the federal waterfowl stamp, revenues from the sale of Alabama stamps are used to purchase, establish or improve migratory waterfowl habitat.

Entries will be accepted from January 1 to February 15, 2017. The competition is open to resident Alabama artists only.

Only original horizontal artworks depicting a species of North American migratory duck or goose will be eligible. The Mallard, American Wigeon, and Canada Goose — depicted in the winning artwork of the three previous year’s contests — are not eligible as the subject for the 2018-19 waterfowl stamp.

All eligible entries will be on display March 11, 2017, at the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center in Decatur, Ala. Following the showing, three judges from the fields of art, ornithology and wildlife conservation will select the winning waterfowl art. The public is invited to attend the judging.

The judging criteria will emphasize uncluttered design suitable for printing as a stamp, anatomical accuracy of the illustrated species, and artistic rendering. Close attention must be given to tone and detail, since those aspects are prerequisites for printing artwork as a stamp. Wing and feather construction must be particularly well defined. Entries may be drawn or painted in any medium. Entries cannot exceed 9 by 12 inches (15 by 18 inches matted).

For contest information and entry forms, contact Seth Maddox, Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries, 234 County Rd. 141, Hollywood, Ala., 35752, by email seth.maddox@dcnr.alabama.gov or call 256-437-2788.

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through four divisions: Marine Resources, State Lands, State Parks, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries.  To learn more about ADCNR, visit www.outdooralabama.com.

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On a ridge in the Freedom Hills of Northwest Alabama, in a clearing among century-old oaks and “piney” woods, one may visit the graves of more than 300 coon hounds, all tried and true. For most of the year one hears only the peaceful sounds of nature.

On Labor Day, however, the quiet is broken when folks gather for the annual Coon Dog Cemetery Labor Day Celebration. They come to have a good time and to pay tribute to the dogs and to those who loved them, especially the cemetery’s founder, Mr. Key Underwood, and the first dog buried here.

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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report on 2016 Trends in Duck Breeding Populations, based on surveys conducted in May and early June by FWS and the Canadian Wildlife Service, shows overall duck numbers in the survey area are statistically similar to 2015 and remain steady.

DU Waterfowl outlookTotal populations were estimated at 48.4 million breeding ducks in the traditional survey area, which is 38 percent above the 1955-2015 long-term average. The 2015 estimate was 49.5 million birds. The projected mallard fall flight index is 13.5 million birds, similar to the 2015 estimate of 13.8 million.

The main determining factor for duck breeding success is wetland and upland habitat conditions in the key breeding landscapes of the prairies and the boreal forest. Conditions observed across the U.S. and Canadian survey areas during the 2016 breeding population survey were generally poorer than last year.

The total pond estimate for the U.S. and Canada combined was 5.0 million, which is 21% below the 2015 estimate of 6.3 million but similar to the long-term average of 5.2 million.

“In light of the dry conditions that were observed across much of the northern breeding grounds during the survey period, it is reassuring to see that the breeding population counts were little changed from last year,” said DU Chief Scientist Scott Yaich. “But, with total pond counts similar to the long-term average, and with hunting season and winter mortality being a relatively small part of annual mortality, it’s not surprising to see that populations largely held steady.

“What’s not reflected in the report is that there was fairly significant improvement in habitat conditions after the surveys were completed,” Yaich said. “In some key production areas, heavy June and July rains greatly improved wetland conditions. This could benefit brood rearing and the success of late nesting species, as well as give a boost to overall production through re-nesting by early nesting species.

“Watching the changing habitat over the spring and summer this year underscores the importance of two things: First, we must simply accept that habitat and populations are going to vary over time. They always have and they always will. Second, that’s why we need to keep a steady hand on the course of our conservation efforts. Our job is to steadily make deposits into the habitat bank account so that when the precipitation and other conditions are right, the ducks will do the job that they do so well, which is to produce more ducks and provide us all a nice return on our investments.”

The spring surveys provide the scientific basis for many management programs across the continent, including hunting regulations. Individual states set their hunting seasons within a federal framework of season length, bag limits and dates. Hunters should check the rules in their states for final dates and bag limits.

View all the data and get a species-by-species breakdown at www.ducks.org/DuckNumbers.

SOURCE — Ducks Unlimited

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Youth Dove Hunting AC

Alabama’s16th annual youth dove hunts in two zones have been scheduled for 2016, according to the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

North zone hunts begin Sept. 10. South zone hunts begin Sept. 17. For the complete hunt schedule and registration information, visit www.outdooralabama.com/youth-dove-hunts.
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Renaissance Birmingham Ross Bridge Golf Resort & Spa provides guests a wonderful experience, from the golf course to spa to dining and relaxation. (Photo: Renaissance Birmingham Ross Bridge Golf Resort & Spa)

Renaissance Birmingham Ross Bridge Golf Resort & Spa provides guests a wonderful experience, from the golf course to spa to dining and relaxation. Whether you’re staying for a getaway weekend, a father-son or buddies golf trip or a conference, Ross Bridge is a top destination. (Photo: Renaissance Birmingham Ross Bridge Golf Resort & Spa)

The Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail wasn’t a popular idea two decades ago when Dr. David Bronner conceived the idea of a world-class series of public golf courses and resorts throughout Alabama.

Crazy, they called him. Waste of money. Alabama? Golf? Laughable. But Bronner persisted and the RTJ Trail was created throughout the state: Mobile, Dothan, Greenville, Birmingham, Huntsville, Florence and elsewhere. Bronner’s vision was spot-on, though, and today the trail is one of Alabama’s top tourist attractions.

Throughout my travels in more than three decades of newspapering and outdoors writing, I’m usually asked about these Alabama topics: the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, bass fishing on Guntersville Lake or elsewhere, Auburn and Alabama football, the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, and Alabama’s varied outdoors activities such as saltwater fishing, hiking trails, birding and state parks. Politics and the state’s history, of course, also get asked about, but those five are among the most-often asked.

So it was no surprise the RTJ Trail had four of the top five sites in a survey of top golf resorts.Renaissance Ross Bridge Golf Resort & Spa near Birmingham was No. 1 and the Auburn/Opelika Marriott Hotel and Conference Center at Grand National was No. 2. I’ve visited both and have played golf at Ross Bridge, a stunning beast of a course that will test any golfer’s skills, and the courses and resorts are phenomenal.

Check out the press release below about the guest satisfaction results:

The Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail offers golfers of all ages challenging courses.

The Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail offers golfers of all ages challenging courses. (Photo: Alan Clemons)

For 2014 guest satisfaction during their stay at Marriott and Renaissance hotels in North America, the top golf locations are in Alabama. Four of the top five sites are located on Alabama’s Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail.

Renaissance Ross Bridge Golf Resort & Spa was named the number one Marriott or Renaissance hotel in North America for golf satisfaction. The Auburn/Opelika Marriott Hotel and Conference Center at Grand National finished second for golf. The Marriott in Prattville at Capitol Hill finished fourth and the Grand Hotel Marriott Resort in Pt. Clear finishing fifth for golf experience. These rankings are determined by an outside research firm hired by Marriott International for its 448 full-service Marriott and Renaissance Hotels in North America.

“Having four of the top five Marriott or Renaissance Hotels in North America is remarkable and the result of a great team of hard workers,” said John Cannon, president of Alabama’s Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail. “We want our hotel guests and others to have a great experience when playing our courses,” said Cannon. “From making reservations to greeting guests to making bunkers and greens are pristine, our team goes above and beyond to make our visitors happy. That hard work has paid off for both the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail and its Resort Collection, which contains both Marriott and Renaissance Hotels.”

The vision of Dr. David G. Bronner, CEO of the Retirement Systems of Alabama, the RTJ Golf Trail was created to bring visitors and investors to Alabama while making the state a better place to live. “Twenty three years ago before the RTJ Golf Trail opened people would have laughed that Marriott’s top golf experiences were found in Alabama,” said Cannon. “Now it is a proven fact, based on independent surveys conducted for Marriott International.”

Wide undulating fairways, large bunkers and multi-tiered greens with unique features greet golfers throughout the RTJ Trail.

Wide undulating fairways, large bunkers and multi-tiered greens with unique features greet golfers throughout the RTJ Trail. (Photo: Alan Clemons)

Top 10 Marriott and Renaissance Hotels for Golf Satisfaction

   1.  Renaissance Birmingham Ross Bridge Golf Resort & Spa – Hoover, Ala *

    2. Auburn Marriott Opelika Hotel & Conference Center at Grand National – Opelika, Ala.*

3. Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort & Spa – Vedra Beach, Fla.

    4. Montgomery Marriott Prattville Hotel & Conference Center at Capitol Hill – Prattville, Ala.*

    5. Grand Hotel Marriott Resort, Golf Club & Spa – Point Clear, Ala.*

6.  Los Suenos Marriott Ocean & Golf Resort – Herradura, Coata Rica

7. The Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club – St. Petersburg, Fla.

8. Ann Arbor Marriott Ypsilanti at Eagle Crest – Ypsilanti, Mich.

9. Marco Island Marriott Beach Resort, Golf Club & Spa – Marco Island, Fla.

10.  Renaissance Indian Wells Resort & Spa – Indian Wells/Palm Springs, Calif.

* These golf locations are part of the Resort Collection on Alabama’s Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail.

The entire Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail has 26 courses at 11 sites across Alabama. The Resort Collection has eight hotels and resorts. These golf courses and hotels are owned by the Retirement Systems of Alabama. For more information, visit www.rtjgolf.com.

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