Recovery of threatened and endangered species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) is accomplished via federally mandated recovery plans. Unfortunately, many recovery plans are limited in effectiveness because they suffer from various limitations; one of which is the lack of scientific data. Because recovery plans for endangered species are inherently plagued by lack of biological data of focal species, new approaches are warranted in recovery-plan development to use what little data are available more effectively. The use of academic–agency partnerships has been suggested as a means to accomplish this objective; academics contribute scientific knowledge, and agency personnel contribute federal regulation expertise. We used the masked bobwhite (Colinus virginianus ridgwayi), the only endangered quail in North America, as a case study to illustrate how such partnerships can be employed to incorporate the latest scientific knowledge into recovery planning. Because the case study of the masked bobwhite embodies many of the difficulties associated with endangered species recovery (e.g., lack of biological data, limited personnel, limited resources), our approach to linking biology, ecology, and management can serve as a general model for recovery planning of other endangered species. We began with a comprehensive review and synthesis of masked bobwhite literature. Based on this information, we then interpreted existing masked bobwhite knowledge within the context of current ecological understanding of quail demography. This integrated knowledge provided the foundation to discuss demographic, habitat, and genetic challenges facing masked bobwhites from the perspective of general population phenomena. Our synthesis led to the conclusions that masked bobwhite populations probably 1) experience chronic low reproduction resulting from living in a desert environment, 2) have not been negatively impacted by the historic conversion of grasslands to brushlands, and 3) have not been as detrimentally impacted as other avian species by the establishment of nonnative grasses within their range because these plants possess functional value for masked bobwhites. We also identified 4 immediate conservation needs: recognition of the significant role México possesses in masked bobwhite conservation and proactive involvement in international collaboration, the need for a reconnaissance of masked bobwhite habitat and populations in México, and the implementation and recognition of the critical role habitat management plays in masked bobwhite recovery efforts. These objectives must be accomplished if recovery is to succeed. Currently, the future of masked bobwhite is precarious. Masked bobwhite recovery inevitably will involve international collaboration as well as partnerships between agency biologists, private landowners, and research scientists.
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