Habitat & Conservation  |  10/19/2023

Jacob McClain Receives Award from South Carolina Prescribed Fire Council


Quail Forever biologist honored for helping found prescribed burn association

Longtime Quail Forever employee Jacob McClain was recently honored by the South Carolina Prescribed Fire Council. During their annual meeting in Aiken County last month, McClain was recognized for “excellence in prescribed fire management, innovation or advocacy.”

“Jake has been an integral part of the Quail Forever team in the south for years, and he’s more than deserving of this award,” said Andy Edwards, Quail Forever’s program manager. “Prescribed fire is one of the best tools we have at our disposal to positively impact bobwhite quail habitat in the south, and Jake’s leadership helps show just what a difference fire can make on the landscape.” 

McClain received this award for his part in founding the Piedmont Prescribed Fire Cooperative, a new prescribed burn association (PBA) located in western South Carolina. The group began in 2022, with McClain organizing the first meeting and helping get local landowners involved.

“We had our first two burns the day after our very first meeting,” McClain said. “There were 35 land owners at that meeting. After we talked, one land owner said ‘I’ve got a burn I’m going to do tomorrow,’ and another guy said the same thing. So we were off and running from that point on.” 

In their first year the PBA burned 100 acres — in 2023, they carried out 20 prescribed fires, burning over 400 acres in total. Many of their burns are quail habitat focused, but they often target wildlife habitat more broadly as well. 

“Most of these are forests burns. We do have some grassland burns, but those are few and far between,” McClain said. “It’s all about managing pine plantations. If you don’t thin it and burn it, it’ll become like a biological desert. But as soon as you do start thinning and burning, you create a heck of a lot of habitat for many, many critters — not just quail.” 

McClain grew up in Ohio and Virginia, and earned degrees from the College of William and Mary, and the University of Arkansas before starting with Quail Forever. He began his career with the Habitat Organization as a Farm Bill biologist in Ohio, before moving to his new position as a South Carolina quail focal area coordinator. He currently works in the Indian Creek quail focal area of Sumter National Forest. 

“My work and leadership of this PBA would not be possible without all of the landowners who stepped up to the plate and actually joined this thing,” he said. “A one man PBA is not a PBA at all. The award really belongs to the whole group.”