Where have all of the quail gone? The long-term decline in quail populations can be attributed primarily to loss of habitat. Quail and other small game have fairly specific habitat requirements. They thrive on a variety of legumes, grasses and weeds that are characteristic of a plant community in "early succession," or the early stages of growth. In the first decades of the 20th century, America abounded in early-succession habitat, with small- and medium-size farms dotting the landscape. Several factors have led to the widespread disruption of these favorable conditions. Agricultural enterprises gradually grew larger and more monocultural, eliminating small family plots, fencerows and biodiversity. Other farms were abandoned, and the land either progressed into late-stage growth or succumbed to urban and suburban sprawl. Novel types of grasses such as fescue and Bermuda grass became popular, displacing the cover that quail depend on for nesting [source: Quail Unlimited].
By the 1970s, when the Endangered Species Act took effect, these changes in the landscape had already brought about a noticeable decline in game populations. Quail Unlimited arrived on the conservation scene in 1981 as the first group formed specifically to confront the quail problem. The first chapter formed in Augusta, Ga. [source: Pavey] Today, the organization has more than 800 chapters in more than 30 states. Quail Unlimited staff members work at the national headquarters in South Carolina [source: Quail Unlimited]. A team of regional directors and wildlife professionals assists chapters in their efforts to create and maintain suitable quail habitat on both private and public land.
In 1993, Quail Unlimited formed a funding partnership with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, an organization chartered by Congress to steer conservation dollars toward worthwhile projects. The two entities work together to secure federal grants for projects initiated by Quail Unlimited chapters, with matching funds and in-kind donations provided by Quail Unlimited. The organization cooperates with other government agencies such as the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management for habitat restoration on federal lands [source: Quail Unlimited].
Though the history of a group is important, what's more crucial to success is its mission. Move ahead to the next section to learn the mission of Quail Unlimited and why people are called to it.