Illinois Quail Forever (PF) and Pheasants Forever (QF) recently hired three farm bill wildlife biologists (FBWB) in Illinois, bringing the total number of wildlife biologists in the state to five. The biologist positions are a result of a partnership between Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources with the intention of increasing wildlife and conservation awareness in “The Land of Lincoln.”
“Illinois is second only to Iowa in expiring CRP contracts over the next year,” says Aaron Kuehl, Pheasants Forever Illinois director of conservation partnerships. “The expanded farm bill wildlife biologist partnership will help provide the necessary wildlife expertise and conservation technical assistance to private landowners to protect and expand upland habitat.”
Quail Forever's farm bill wildlife biologist program is designed to educate farmers and landowners about the benefits of conservation programs, as well as assist those landowners after programs have been implemented. Farm bill wildlife biologists add wildlife technical assistance in USDA offices to assist the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Farm Service Agency (FSA) and other conservation partners with delivering conservation programs to landowners.
Doug Gass – (Bloomington Area) - McLean, Dewitt, Livingston, Woodford and Tazewell Counties – Gass’ experience in wildlife conservation and management includes nearly ten years in agricultural and environmental fields with an emphasis on fire management, habitat restoration and outreach. Having participated in over sixty prescribed fires, conducting outreach activities in a variety of settings (most recently as a Peace Corps volunteer in Uganda) and carrying out a wide range of management activities in the Midwest and on the East Coast, Gass is a welcomed addition to the Illinois FBWB team and the state’s restoration efforts. Gass can be contacted at DGass@quailforever.org or via phone at (309) 660-3971.
“The farm bill wildlife biologist position is an ideal opportunity to use my skill set of habitat management to benefit Illinois’ wildlife, and I am looking forward to once again calling the Midwest home,” notes Gass.
Brandon Bleuer – (Galesburg Area) Rock Island, Henry, Knox, Warren, and Mercer Counties – An Illinois native, Bleuer is “familiar with the state’s landscape and ecology,” a knowledgebase he plans on using to improve upland wildlife populations in Knox and surrounding counties. Bleuer graduated from Upper Iowa University with a B.S. in Conservation Management. Prior to joining Pheasants Forever, Bleuer worked for Nahant Marsh as a Conservation Crew Leader and the Fayette County Conservation Board. Brandon can be contacted at BBleuer@quailforever.org or 309-660-3147.
Brandon Beltz – (Effingham Area) Effingham, Fayette, Cumberland, Jasper and Clay Counties – An Illinois farm bill wildlife biologist since 2010, Beltz transitions into his new position serving the Effingham area. Prior to this transition, Beltz worked as a farm bill wildlife biologist in the Champaign area providing technical assistance and promoting conservation programs to private landowners alongside local USDA, Soil and Water Conservation Districts, DNR employees, as well as local PF/QF chapters. Beltz can be contacted at BBeltz@quailforever.org or 217-853-0801.
Jason Bleich – (Champaign Area) Champaign, Vermilion, Ford, Iroquois and Douglas Counties – A new employee of Pheasants Forever, Bleich transitions into Brandon Beltz’s formerly held Champaign County Farm Bill wildlife biologist position. Bleich graduated from Southern Illinois University in 2010, where he majored in zoology with a minor in environmental studies. In addition, Bleich interned at the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge in Arkansas, the Iowa DNR, the Illinois DNR, and the Missouri Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit.
“Throughout my education, I participated in projects with organizations and agencies such as Pheasants Forever, Ducks Unlimited, the Clinton Lake Waterfowl Association, and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources,” says Bleich. “My experiences and volunteer efforts have helped me realize my passion for working in private land conservation. I feel that it is equally important to recognize and improve the quality of existing habitat as well as encourage and promote the establishment of new habitat. Now is a vital time to educate and communicate with landowners and producers how modern agriculture practices and wildlife habitat can co-exist and benefit one another.”
Prior to joining Pheasants Forever, Bleich worked for the Ford County Soil and Water Conservation District. Bleich can be contacted at JBleich@quailforever.org or 217-855-0496.
Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever’s fifth farm bill wildlife biologist, Brady Wooten, covers Wayne, Jefferson, Marion, Hamilton and White Counties. Wooten can be contacted at BWooten@quailforever.org or (217) 853-9621.
Farm bill wildlife biologists are employees of, and supervised by QF, with daily instruction and leadership provided by Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR). Funding is provided by NRCS, the IDNR and local PF/QF Chapters. The farm bill wildlife biologist program began in 2003 with 4 positions and has grown to over 100 positions located throughout the country.
Illinois is home to 43 Pheasants Forever chapters, 18 Quail Forever chapters and a combined 10,400 PF/QF members. For more information on “The Habitat Organization” in Illinois, please contact Aaron Kuehl at (217) 341-7171 / email Aaron.
Pheasants Forever, including its quail conservation division, Quail Forever, is the nation's largest nonprofit organization dedicated to upland habitat conservation. Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever have more than 135,000 members and 720 local chapters across the United States and Canada. Chapters are empowered to determine how 100 percent of their locally raised conservation funds are spent, the only national conservation organization that operates through this truly grassroots structure.
Rehan Nana (651) 209-4973 or email Rehan