The Webless Migratory Game Bird (WMGB) Program is an outgrowth of the WMGB Research Program (1994-present) and the WMGB Management Program (2007-present). The revised WMGB Program was designed to provide funding for both research and management activities from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, state wildlife agencies, and other sources for projects benefitting the 16 species of webless migratory game birds in North America.
The WMGB Program is an outgrowth of several funding initiatives, both past and present. The first effort was the Accelerated Research Program (1967-1982). Congressional funding of the ARP was $250,000 annually. Of this total, $175,000 was contracted to states: $50,000 was used directly by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to support 2 field stations to study woodcock and doves; and $25,000 was retained by the USFWS to administer the program. The ARP ended when funding for the program was eliminated due to USFWS budget constraints in 1982.
In 1984, the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (now AFWA) formed the Migratory Shore and Upland Game Bird (MSUGB) Subcommittee. One goal of the subcommittee was to reinstate a webless game bird research program. To accomplish this goal, the subcommittee documented the past accomplishments of the ARP and lobbied for reinstatement of a webless research program. The efforts and persistence of the MSUGB Subcommittee came to fruition in the fall of 1994 when funding became available. The new program was titled the WMGB Research Program. Projects were selected for funding beginning in 1995 with funding obligated for the entire project. Detailed information about the history of the ARP and WMGB Research Programs can be found in Dolton (2009).
The WMGB Research Program was funded at various levels during 1995-2006; however, funding was suspended due to budget limitations in 2003 and 2004. Funding was reinstated in 2005 at a level of $250,000/year, with $30,000 of the total obligated for webless projects in USFWS Region 5 (Northeast U.S.).
In 2007, the USFWS received additional funding for MSUGB work ($487,000/year). The primary purpose of the new funding was to address the management needs of MSUGB. From 2007-2009, funding was directed towards supporting mourning dove banding in several states and other management related projects for woodcock, rails, and sandhill cranes. Another key contribution made by the MSUGB Subcommittee was the publication of the book "Migratory Shore and Upland Game Bird Management in North America" (Tacha and Braun 1994). This was a revised and updated version of the book edited by Sanderson (1977).
Priority research and management activities identified in these books served as a tool for evaluating proposals submitted to the WMGB Research Program for funding. AFWA's MSUGB Working Group (formerly MSUGB Subcommittee) provided key support in acquiring the additional funding. Due to the addition of funding for management-related projects (as opposed to research-only projects), cooperators made the decision to drop "research" from the title of the WMGB Program.
The MSUGB Working Group created the MSUGB Task Force in 2006 in order to update the priority research and management needs identified in Tacha and Braun (1994) and to develop funding strategies for the identified priorities. The task force decided that the best method to identify priorities and estimate costs for completing the priorities was to convene a series of workshops for the webless species identified in Table 1.
The workshops were designed to include broad representation from experts (e.g., federal and state agencies, conservation organizations, and university researchers) for each species-specific group. To date, the MSUGB Task Force has completed strategies identifying priority information needs for:
- mourning and white-winged doves
- hunted rails and snipe
- sandhill cranes
- American woodcock
- American coots, purple gallinules, and common moorhens
- band-tailed pigeons, Zenaida Doves, white-tipped doves and scaly-naped pigeons
The completed priority information-need strategies are available in our library.
These webless funding programs have proved to be invaluable in providing much-needed funding for webless species that receive considerably less attention than waterfowl. Through 2015, the Webless Program has supported a total of 139 research and management related projects totaling $6.6 million in WMGB Research and Management Program funds. Projects completed through the program have resulted in improved knowledge and management of webless migratory game birds. Previous annual abstract reports contain results of projects completed through the program.