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AGFC’s Luker earns national recognition for quail conservation


MONTICELLO — The National Bobwhite and Grassland Initiative recently awarded Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Biologist David Luker the 2023 Arkansas Firebird Award. The award is presented annually to a biologist in each nominating state who goes above and beyond to improve habitat for northern bobwhites and other grassland species through the use of prescribed fire and other land management tools.
According to AGFC Quail Program Coordinator Clint Johnson, Luker’s dedication and work have transformed Little Bayou Wildlife Management Area in southeast Arkansas from a “forgotten pine thicket to one of the state’s best examples of Gulf Coastal Plain pine savannas.” Luker’s work using prescribed fire, performing bird surveys, planning moist-soil management, controlling feral hogs, and even fabricating equipment when needed to complete tasks has not only been instrumental to AGFC’s mission in southeast Arkansas, it has inspired younger biologists, technicians and private landowners to work even harder for the conservation of northern bobwhites and a host of other wildlife species that depend upon open habitats.
Open habitat of a pine savannahThe NBGI Firebird Award represents the historic and continuing reliance of bobwhites on fire in much of its range to maintain the landscape. Both naturally occurring fires and fires intentionally set by Native Americans for improved game populations and landowners to clear farm fields and woodlots historically resulted in abundant habitat for bobwhites and other wildlife. The term “firebird” in relation to bobwhites was first coined by naturalist Herbert Stoddard, who researched bobwhites and worked to restore bobwhite habitat in the early 20th century.
According to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission 2023 Annual Report, AGFC biologists conducted prescribed burns on 30,269 acres of property last year, covering both privately owned land and AGFC wildlife management areas. They were also able to assist partner agencies conducting burns on 21,427 additional acres on their land.