The Northeast Arkansas Quail Forever (QF) recently teamed with Today’s Power and Craighead Electric Cooperative to develop the appropriate seed mix, acquire the seed, and plant native grasses and wildflowers on their “Solar One” project near Brookland, Arkansas. The goal of the project is to generate renewable energy, while also creating important habitat for grassland nesting birds and pollinators. Some of the NEA QF youth members and QF committee members provided volunteer labor to plant the 10-acre Solar One site on March 2, 2019. Native grass species like Little Bluestem and Sideoats Gramma were planted along with a mix of wildflowers including Black-eyed Susan, Butterfly Milkweed, Purple Coneflower and 14 other flowering forbs. These wildflowers will grow two to three feet in height and bloom throughout the spring, summer, and fall months. Likewise, this mixture of grasses and wildflowers create brooding habitat for quail, nesting habitat for grassland songbirds, and pollinator habitat for beneficial insects, while allowing the solar components to function properly and generate green, renewable energy for northeast Arkansas.
Quail Forever (QF) is a grassroots volunteer, membership-based organization dedicated to the conservation of quail, pollinators, and other wildlife through habitat improvements, public awareness, education and land management policies and programs. Unique among national conservation organizations, chapters of Quail Forever retain 100 percent decision-making control over their locally-raised funds. This allows chapter volunteers to develop quail habitat projects, pollinator projects and conduct youth conservation events in their communities while belonging to a national organization with a voice regarding state and federal conservation policy.
The Northeast Arkansas Chapter of Quail Forever (NEA QF) has been actively involved in fundraising and habitat projects throughout the region since 2015. Local projects have ranged from assisting private landowners with land management, youth shooting events, guidance through the Farm Bill Conservation Programs for local farmers and establishing grassland and early successional habitat on industrial landholdings. More recently, the NEA QF has assisted with the establishment of grassland/pollinator habitat in conjunction with renewable energy development.
Native pollinators have experienced declines throughout North America, especially in agricultural areas like the mid-south (similar to bobwhite quail). Insects like butterflies, moths, honey bees, native bees, and beetles are critical for native plant reproduction (through pollination) and plant community health. Quail Forever’s Youth Pollinator Program goals and the conservation goals of Today’s Power aligned for this first of three one-megawatt (MW) solar facilities in the region.