My Turn: Here’s what it takes to protect the partridge
In this photo released by the Outdoor News as ruffed grouse is seen near Brainerd, Minn. in 1999. Approximately 120,000 hunters pursue ruffed grouse each season in Minnesota, making it the state's most popular game bird. According to Mike Larson, DNR research biologist in Grand Rapids, ruffed grouse numbers are again swinging upward after several years in the low end of the cyclical pattern. Several noticeable changes have taken place in the past couple of years that indicate grouse numbers are on the rebound. (AP Photo/Outdoor News, Rob Drieslein of Outdoor News) ** NO SALES **
I was delighted to see Ruth Smith devote an entire column to the ruffed grouse (“Natural survivors,” Sunday Monitor Your Life page, Feb. 2).
The partridge – as it is commonly known in my home state of Vermont – is the quintessential New England wild fowl, certainly deserving of the ink Smith gave it. I was disappointed, however, to read an entire column on Bonasa umbellus, without one mention of The Ruffed Grouse Society.
Established in 1961, RGS is North America’s foremost conservation organization, dedicated to preserving habitat for grouse and its thicket-loving neighbor, the woodcock. RGS employs wildlife biologists who work tirelessly with landowners and local, state and federal land managers to protect the early successional habitat that species like grouse and woodcock need to survive. What is “early successional habitat?” The thickest, meanest, nastiest stuff in the forest. “Wilderness” does not always mean “old growth.” Sure, a stroll through mature timber can be breathtaking. One can go in sandals, or even barefoot, through the cathedral-like setting of stately trees whose shuts out sunlight allowing only a soft carpet of moss and ferns to grow about your feet. As the old Yankee said, however, “If you can walk through it without cussin’, it ain’t good grouse habitat.”
Species like grouse and woodcock are native to New England. Yet their populations are cyclical and require the constant protection and management of early successional habitat. This means logging. Responsible logging not only creates employment opportunities and helps boost our economy, it is also the only way to safely promote the health of various stages of forest growth on today’s smaller, segmented tracts of open land. Forest fires used to do this. That is not an option today. We must now do what nature is not permitted to do anymore. We must all work together – hunters, loggers, conservation groups, wildlife enthusiasts – to help ensure generations of New Englanders to come will still be able to hear the drumming of the ruffed grouse in our forests.
(Dan Williams lives in Concord.)