We are seeking a method for the reintroduction of the masked bobwhite in such a way that would cause the species to recover from near extinction. Since the species may be functionally extinct from the Southwest United States (Brown and Clark, 2017) we will be challenged with the monumental task of determining what factors play a role in the survival of this species. The stakeholders for this project range from those that will benefit from the aesthetics of the species to hunters. Another important stakeholder is land managers and ranchers who may be impacted be reintroduction efforts.
The main driver of this reintroduction project is the preservation of a nearly extinct species. Additionally, the regulation requiring the setting aside of critical habitat of an endangered species is further driving this project. (United States, 1983)
We propose that since the past attempts at reintroduction on a large scale have been relatively unsuccessful, we will limit our reintroduction to just the Buenos Aires wildlife refuge. After a period, if our management plan for the reintroduction of the masked bobwhite is successful, we will then develop a new plan to take a portion of the successful population and reintroduce them into new areas deemed suitable for such a project.
The proposed reintroduction site is the Buenos Aires Wildlife refuge. This refuge found in Pima County, AZ (fig 1.) and covers 117,464 acres (fig 2.) With the mix of dense grasses and shrubs found on this site it is an ideal habitat for masked bobwhite habitat. The masked bobwhite tends to like edge habitat that has 75-100% ground cover with high plant diversity. (Goodwin and Hungerford, 1977) The land cover at this refuge is primarily semi-desert (fig 3.) but also contains grass land and shrubland with a few small bodies of water that vary in size and cover depending on the season and precipitation.
There are a few main issues which must be considered as we undertake this reintroduction project. First, are the past failed attempts at reintroduction to produce a sustainable population of masked bobwhites. These attempts may be influencing the amount of support for this type of project that we receive from stakeholders. While the Buenos Aires Wildlife refuge is a non-grazing site there are stakeholders that would wish to see that change. Second, a possible issue that could arise is the misidentification by hunters of masked bobwhites as other species of game bird. This may not be an issue now as the likelihood of a masked bobwhite sighting is low, however once a new reintroduction occurs this may become more likely to occur.
The overall justification for this project is that we do not lose another species to extinction if it can be avoided. In the short-term it means bringing a species back from the brink of extinction. Whereas in the long-term, if the reintroduction proves successful there may be future hunting opportunities as well as the ability of cattle farmers to expand grazing once the population becomes established.
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