Ruffed Grouse Endangered Listing: Indiana Considers Adding Native Bird to Endangered Species List

   09.19.19

Ruffed grouse numbers are alarmingly low in Indiana, causing the Natural Resources Commission to consider adding the native bird to the state’s endangered species list.

Young forest habitat for grouse has continually disappeared in the Hoosier State since the 1980’s – hunters haven’t had a chase to actually hunt ruffed grouse since 2015.

So, in the fall of 2018, the IN DNR posted a memorandum online seeking potential ideas for the “2018 Got INput Period,” to which The Ruffed Grouse Society (RGS)/American Woodcock Society (AWS) promptly responded in support of adding ruffed grouse to the state’s list of endangered birds:

“The RGS/AWS recognizes robust scientific data and literature which have long indicated the precipitous decline in ruffed grouse throughout their historic range within the state of Indiana. RGS/AWS echo IDNR statements included in the Got INput document, emphasizing that extirpation of this species is virtually inevitable unless significant timber harvests of sufficient intensity are applied on the landscape. These treatments are necessary to create the habitat required for this species and numerous other young forest dependent wildlife that are also experiencing declines in Indiana.”

Here’s an official statement from the RGS:

“It is disheartening for the Ruffed Grouse Society to support an endangered listing. However, we do so with an eye toward a serious recovery effort in Indiana. We also hope the gravity of endangered status will shed light on the plight of ruffed grouse, not just in Indiana, but across their range.

The dominoes are falling. Ruffed grouse are listed as species of greatest conservation need in 18 State Wildlife Action Plans. Last month New Jersey closed the hunting season (just like Indiana did several years ago).

Seasons are shortened in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Lower Michigan and Minnesota grouse hunters find themselves traveling north instead of spending birdless hours close to home.

We know how to fix this. The science tells us what to do. Yes, there are increasing strains brought on by disease, West Nile Virus, climate stressors…But ruffed grouse, and the forest wildlife community are more resilient in quality habitat.

HABITAT is still the answer.”

The organizations have been working hand in hand ever since to come up with a solution for creating more seral habitats, and ultimately restoring grouse numbers within the state.

In their response to the IN DNR, the RGS stated support of the proposed listing comes with an important caveat; “subsequent environmental reviews in areas where grouse may still persist should strongly favor active forest management. A review process which facilitates recovery rather than hindering habitat creation is of the utmost importance.”

Additionally, RGS/AWS requested the IN DNR consult with them on the development of a recovery plan to ensure the listing of this species to state-endangered is followed with significant and active science-based forest management. A recommendation was also made to amend the 2015 Indiana State Wildlife Action Plan to include ruffed grouse as a “Species of Greatest Conservation Need,” and inclusion on all future versions of the Indiana State Wildlife Action Plan in order to outline the steps needed to conserve this species in Indiana.

Further, in an effort to fast track the issue, RGS/AWS submitted a petition for administrative rule adoption (under IC 4-22-2), requesting the Natural Resources Commission expeditiously enact this dire rule change at the earliest possible opportunity.

“Both as a national organization representing 17,000 members and on behalf of our 157 Hoosier members, we respectfully request careful and appropriate consideration of this administrative rule adoption.”

The DNR said commission members will consider adding the bird to the list as early as its next meeting, which will be held on November 19 at Fort Benjamin Harrison State Park in Indianapolis.

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