MN Woodcock and Grouse Get Important Habitat Boost

The Ruffed Grouse Society/American Woodcock Society recently received a $230,000 grant through the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ Conservation Partners Legacy (CPL) program. The grant will allow RGS/AWS to create over 1,000 acres of critically important habitat on state lands throughout Minnesota.

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Ruffed grouse, like this displaying male, often share young forest areas with American woodcock. RGS/AWS works to create habitat for both species; other wildlife that use the same habitat also benefit./P. Carson

Habitat work will include regenerating aspen on the Whitewater Wildlife Management Area in southeastern Minnesota and forest management on Carlos Avery WMA in the state’s north metro region. The secured CPL funds will allow for a significant increase in the number of acres that can be managed to create habitat for grouse and woodcock, with additional funding provided by the Ruffed Grouse Society and partners such as the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association.

Brushland and open-land areas, as well as young forest, are important habitat components for grouse and woodcock, and are also needed and frequently used by other game and non-game species such as white-tailed deer and golden-winged warblers.

American woodcock are considered a “species of greatest conservation need” in Minnesota. Woodcock use open lands as singing grounds and roosting habitat. Left unmanaged, these openings slowly fill in with forest until the open-land component is lost on the landscape.

Ruffed Grouse Society personnel have worked with Minnesota Department of Natural Resources staff to identify open and bushland areas on state-owned forested land that need treatment.

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Private contractors will use machines to mow, mulch or shear overmature shrubs and pole-stage trees, setting back vegetation and creating openings and thick habitat that grouse and woodcock will use./T. Berg

Habitat work will take place over the next two years and will be completed by private contractors engaged by the Ruffed Grouse Society staff and approved by Minnesota DNR. Contractors will use different types of equipment to mow, mulch or shear vegetation on designated treatment sites. These management treatments will set back native vegetation by removing the woody, aboveground portion of the plants. This type of disturbance promotes the regeneration of dense young growth as the plants’ roots send up new stems.

Other Minnesota species of greatest conservation need that will benefit from the creation and renewal of open, brushland and young forest habitat include Canada warbler, white-throated sparrow, blue-winged warbler, brown thrasher, whip-poor-will, rusty blackbird, and willow flycatcher.

Headquartered in Coraopolis, Pennsylvania, the Ruffed Grouse Society/American Woodcock Society is a partner in the Young Forest Project, a 17-state effort that includes Minnesota.

RGS/AWS members are mainly grouse and woodcock hunters who support national scientific conservation and management efforts to ensure the future of those two popular gamebirds. The nonprofit organization has been involved with grouse and woodcock habitat research and education since the 1960s.

The RGS/AWS website has much information on grouse and woodcock, including maps charting the migration of woodcock between their northern breeding range and wintering areas to the south.