The Broadwell Family of Bladen County and Orton Plantation (Orton) in Brunswick County are the 2023 recipients of the prestigious Lawrence G. Diedrick Small Game Awards, presented annually by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC).
Wildlife Management Division Chief, Brad Howard, presented Richard Broadwell with the individual award, and Dr. Theron Terhune, Orton’s lead research scientist, with the organization/group award during NCWRC’s December 7 commissioners meeting.
Each recipient received a plaque and the traditional gift of a new drip torch, to recognize their efforts to significantly and positively impact North Carolina’s small game populations through habitat management, education and research.
“Supporting habitat conservation and management is vital to the sustainability of wildlife for our state,” said Howard. “When people and organizations step up, as the Broadwells and Orton have done, and provide opportunities for our environment to thrive, it is important to acknowledge them for their generosity and commitment.”
Broadwell and his two brothers own more than 5,000 acres adjacent to Suggs Mill Pond Game Land. He is no stranger around a drip torch as an active member of the Bladen Lakes Area Prescribed Burners Association. Broadwell has put into practice what he preaches by using prescribed burning — much of which he does himself — in the conservation and active management of his family’s land.
Broadwell’s efforts are helping to restore habitat for the federally endangered red-cockaded woodpecker. This species prefers mature pine forests to dwell. He is restoring native longleaf pine on the property. He maintains the largest expanse of Atlantic white cedar in the state. The family has also donated a 1,770-acre easement to The Nature Conservancy to further ensure the long-term conservation of this species.
“This award holds special significance for our family,” said Broadwell. “Much of our forest management work has been focused on restoring or enhancing longleaf pine habitat for the benefit of bobwhite quail, red-cockaded woodpecker and other wildlife. For many years this work was guided by our father, Dohn who was a devoted quail hunter throughout his life. Everyone in our family has benefitted from our state’s incredible natural resources. We feel that we have a responsibility to leave our land in a better condition than we found it for the benefit of future North Carolinians.”
Broadwell allows biologists and researchers to access his land and conduct surveys on nongame animals like the Bachman’s sparrow, listed as aSpecies of Greatest Conservation. His other management activities include forest thinning and road daylighting, which allow sunlight to reach the forest floor, increasing native grasses and forbs. Broadwell’s efforts also benefit nongame species, like reptiles, amphibians and songbirds.
Broadwell’s dedication to conservation includes educational opportunities. He routinely opens his land for landowner and management workshops to showcase actively managed habitats, such as isolated wetlands being managed with prescribed fire.
“With all the management the Broadwell family has conducted on their property, they have been great neighbors to have at Suggs,” said Howard. “The entire property and the family’s management efforts over the years complement and contribute to a much larger network of conservation lands in Bladen County, and for that the Wildlife Commission is grateful.”
Since conservation philanthropist Louis Bacon purchased Orton Plantation in 2010, he has transformed the property into premier habitat for bobwhite quail with the help of nearly 40 employees, including Dillon Epp, Orton’s property manager, and Terhune.
Similar to Broadwell, the trio has placed a heavy emphasis on thinning pine stands and prescribed fire throughout the years that have allowed grasses, wildflowers and other native vegetation to flourish across the plantation.
Additionally, collaborative efforts with local universities and non-profit organizations, as well as participation in federal conservation programs such as Safe Harbor, have been integrated into Orton’s management plans. It has benefitted quail and other game species like eastern wild turkey and has enabled a large diversity of plants to grow, including rare and endemic Venus flytraps, sundews, bladderworts and pitcher plants.
Many grassland species and endemic species that are declining elsewhere are found at Orton, such as eastern pine snakes, oak toads, red-cockaded woodpeckers, and other species dependent upon grasslands.
“On behalf of Dillon, Theron and everyone at Orton, we are honored to receive this year’s Lawrence G. Diedrick Small Game Award,” said Bacon. “Ensuring the conservation and stability of local ecosystems is essential to preserving our resources for future generations, and we are proud to play a role in promoting the growing diversity of plant and wildlife species in North Carolina. We look forward to continuing this work for many years to come.”
“Orton is a thriving example of quality habitat management all around, and their efforts are not lost on neighbors,” Howard said. “Orton is constantly inspiring others to practice similar management strategies.”
Bacon, Epp and Terhune are active participants in multiple research projects for quail, green-winged teal and various songbird species. They also have established habitat cooperatives that provide local landowners with habitat management assistance and allow them to see first-hand the potential for habitat in the area.
About the Lawrence G. Diedrick Small Game Award
The Small Game Award is named in honor of Lawrence G. Diedrick of Rocky Mount, who served as a Wildlife Commissioner from 1993-2001. Diedrick promoted efforts to address declining populations of bobwhites, and other species dependent on early successional habitat. After his death in September 2002, a group of Diedrick’s friends made memorial contributions to the Wildlife Endowment Fund to support an annual small game award in his honor. The Wildlife Commission created this prestigious award in 2003.
Nominations for the 2024 award will open March 1, 2024. Information on nominating candidates will be posted on NCWRC’s website and social media channels.