HARRISBURG, PA – The Pennsylvania Game Commission is seeking public input on a draft ruffed grouse management plan, which can be reviewed on the agency’s website (www.pgc.state.pa.us) by clicking on the “Draft Grouse Management Plan” icon under the large photo in the center of the homepage.
Public comments on the agency’s ruffed grouse management plan will be accepted until Sept. 1, via the website or by mail to: Ruffed Grouse Management Plan, Pennsylvania Game Commission, 2001 Elmerton Avenue, Harrisburg, PA 17110-9797.
“We are seeking public comment on this draft ruffed grouse management plan to ensure the resulting final management plan considers the thoughts and concerns of Pennsylvanians about this species,” said Calvin W. DuBrock, Game Commission Bureau of Wildlife Management director. “As written, the plan is science-based, progressive and promotes responsible management of ruffed grouse. We’re interested in hearing from Pennsylvanians who would like to offer comments, and to see if we’ve missed something or if they share our management vision for the future.”
The overall goal of the ruffed grouse management plan, drafted by staff of the agency’s Game Bird Section, is to increase grouse populations for hunting and viewing by improving the condition and distribution of young forest habitats in Pennsylvania, and to support the implementation of the national Ruffed Grouse Conservation Plan.
To support this goal, the plan identifies supporting objectives and strategies for guiding management decisions over a 10-year horizon, 2011-2020. These are grouped under population, habitat, and human dimensions categories.
Forest inventory data were used to ascertain ruffed grouse population deficits between 1980 and 2007. Pennsylvania has lost over 29,000 breeding male grouse in that time. Because grouse population densities are strongly dependent on the proportion of young forests on the landscape, the plan documents the overall annual acreage treatments required to restore grouse populations to near 1980 levels by 2025 – the objective of the national Ruffed Grouse Conservation Plan. Within the time horizon of the PA plan, the population objective is to increase grouse numbers to 215,000 males by 2020. A more rigorous evaluation of state-level harvest management is also recommended.
To support the desired population increase, the Pennsylvania plan includes a habitat objective of having about 2.75 million acres of early-successional habitat by spring of 2020. To achieve this objective, this plan calls for increasing the proportion of Pennsylvania’s forest comprised of young age classes from 11.6 percent to 17.3 percent. To provide maximum benefit to grouse, stepping down this landscape-level increase in young forest to the local level will require both the active pursuit of proven techniques, as well as testing the efficacy of new management strategies. The overarching goal of these activities is to improve the availability of young forest habitats across the state’s landscape.
In addition to population and habitat objectives, the plan includes a human dimensions objective which involves conducting surveys and outreach to assess and increase the knowledge and satisfaction of hunters, habitat managers, and other stakeholders regarding the ruffed grouse resource and its management.
The plan contains information on grouse biology, habitat needs, populations, and recreation, and can be used as a reference for other planning purposes, such as development or implementation of comprehensive State Game Lands plans, development of private lands plans, planning activities on other public lands. Achieving the ambitious objectives for ruffed grouse populations, habitats, and the human dimensions of grouse management will require coordinated planning, research, and management efforts among state and federal agencies, large-scale landowners, and other stakeholders such as non-governmental conservation organizations and sporting groups.
The ruffed grouse is North America’s most widely distributed resident game bird. It is the most popular small game bird in Pennsylvania, as well as the official state bird. Each year, slightly more than 100,000 hunters harvest anywhere from 75,000-100,000 ruffed grouse, and grouse hunting results in the direct spending of about $79 million. Grouse are of significant social and economic value as a game bird in Pennsylvania.
Ruffed grouse populations have declined since 1980. Numbers of hunters and their harvests also have fallen. Although grouse can be present in most forested areas, they are abundant only where young forest habitats (5-15 years old) are common. In Pennsylvania, seedling/sapling stage forest cover, referred to as “young forests” (stands up to 20 years old) or “early-successional habitat,” has gone from 19.6 percent of total forest acres in 1980 to around 11.6 percent today.
For more information about the ruffed grouse, visit the Game Commission’s website (www.pgc.state.pa.us) and put your cursor on “Hunt/Trap” in the menu bar at the top of the page, click on “Hunting” in the drop-down menu list and then click on “Ruffed Grouse” in the “Small Game” listing.