Ruffed grouse and American Woodcock Conservation Plans





Ruffed Grouse Conservation Plan Logo

The Ruffed Grouse Conservation Plan for North America was approved in September 2006 by the Bird Conservation Committee of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. The Plan is the culmination of over 3 years of work by over 50 natural resource professionals from throughout the range of the ruffed grouse in the United States and Canada. Dan Dessecker, Senior Wildlife Biologist for the Ruffed Grouse Society, coordinated the development of the Plan as its principal editor. "The ruffed grouse is North America's most widely distributed small game bird and it's pursued by approximately 1 million sportsmen and women across the continent," says Dessecker, "the Plan is designed to help secure the future for this incredible king of gamebirds and his sidekick - the timberdoodle, and the hunters who pursue them with such passion."

This is a 95 page document in PDF format (Standard-resolution .99 MB) The standard-res version takes some time to download even with a high-speed Internet connection.  Users with slower connections may want to download the Executive Report below or a smaller 191 KB file of 8 pages, including the cover, table of contents, Introduction and Summary. The Introduction is reproduced in its entirety at the bottom.

Read RGS' Overview of the plan available below.

RG Conservation Plan Executive Report Cover

RGS Overview Cover - RG Conservation Plan

The 12 page Executive Report in PDF format (393 KB), available mid-November 2007. RGS Overview Ruffed Grouse Conservation Plan available February 2008, in a 161 KB, 4 page PDF.



The Ruffed Grouse Conservation Plan (Plan) has been developed under the auspices of the Resident Game Bird Working Group of the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies. The development of this Plan is part of a continuing effort to establish species-specific or species-group-specific conservation strategies to guide resource planning and on-the-ground habitat management initiatives.

This Plan utilizes the North American Bird Conservation Initiative Bird Conservation Regions (BCR) as the geographic assessment unit to ensure consistency with other planning efforts that focus on avian species. BCR boundaries may be viewed at Assessments are provided for 15 BCRs. Ruffed grouse exist in small numbers in isolated pockets of BCRs 9 and 17 but BCR-wide assessments are not provided for these BCRs.

Plan Objectives:

  • Provide a comparison of ruffed grouse habitat conditions and populations between the base year (1980) and 2005.
  • Identify the habitat availability and management objectives required to sustain populations at, or restore them to the 1980 levels.

Farm abandonment throughout much of the eastern United States in the early- to mid-20th Century may have allowed ruffed grouse populations to reach densities higher than historical norms during this period. Therefore, 1980 was selected as the base year as it likely represents a point in time when these abandoned lands had moved beyond the early-successional stage.

The target year for returning ruffed grouse population densities to 1980 levels is 2025. It will require 10-20 years to implement the required even-aged management treatments and for the resulting habitats to develop into quality ruffed grouse habitat, although this will vary somewhat between BCRs due to varying vegetation growth rates.

Habitat conditions and population densities were based on available data or the expertise of resource professionals knowledgeable of regional conditions and populations. In some BCRs, the lack of forest inventory data for one or more time periods or the lack of published data on population density by forest type compromised the precision of assessments.



The American Woodcock Conservation Plan: A Summary of and Recommendations for Woodcock Conservation in North America is nearing completion. The Plan emerged from the efforts of the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, state wildlife management agencies agencies and non-governmental organizations known as the Woodcock Task Force, Migratory Shore and Upland Game Bird Working Group of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. The Plan covers the 16 Bird Conservation Regions making up the bird's North American range and is authored by 9 natural resource professionals. James R. Kelley, Jr. was the Plan coordinator and he and Scot J. Williamson are the principal editors.

American woodcock hen with chicks

According to the Woodcock Conservation Plan website,

'The Woodcock Task Force recognized that bird interest groups dedicated generally to conservation of waterfowl, shorebirds, neo-tropical migrant songbirds and waterbirds had developed strategic plans to set population objectives, rank the level of risk, define amounts or types of critical habitat, and outline funding deficiencies. Goals from those plans would drive agency funding and priorities. Woodcock, however, had not received similar attention. To allow woodcock needs to compete with other bird needs, a conservation plan was needed.

With funding from a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to the Wildlife Management Institute, a subset of the task force took on the job of writing the Woodcock Conservation Plan. The task force established a planning team with individual team members responsible for the compilation of data and recommendations within Bird Conservation Regions (BCRs). Jim Kelley, as plan coordinator, was responsible for coordination of the planning team. BCR authors were responsible for retrieval and data collection, compilation of existing data from state, federal or other sources and coordination with the various states. State wildlife agency personnel worked with the regional coordinator to provide state specific input.

The Woodcock Conservation Plan will be used to identify and form habitat partnerships with federal, state, provincial, tribal, and local governments, businesses, conservation organizations, and volunteers. The projects identified in the plan not only will benefit woodcock, but will make substantial contributions toward the conservation of many other wildlife species.'

In mid-July 2008, a 167 page "DRAFT" document in PDF format (Woodcock Plan 1.07 MB) was available. The standard-res version takes some time to download even with a high-speed Internet connection.  Users with slower connections may want to download a smaller 250 KB file of 13 pages, including the cover, table of contents, Executive Summary and Introduction. The Executive Summary is also reproduced in its entirety below.

The 13 page Excerpt and Introduction in PDF format (250 KB), available mid-July 2008.

The final plan is now available.

Executive Summary

The American woodcock (Scolopax minor) is a popular game bird throughout eastern North America and is managed on the basis of two populations: eastern and central. Both populations have experienced significant declines since surveys were first implemented in the mid-1960s. Loss and degradation of early succession forest habitat is believed to be the primary factor responsible for these declines. Changes in land use and societal attitudes towards even-aged forest-management practices (i.e. clearcutting) that create early succession habitat will likely contribute to continued declines in woodcock populations. The American Woodcock Conservation Plan documents changes in woodcock densities and habitat that occurred from the early 1970s to present. Population density deficits were calculated and specific habitat acreage goals for erasing such deficits were developed. There has been a loss of over 839,000 singing male woodcock since the early 1970s. This corresponds to a population-density deficit of just over 778,000 males. Approximately 21.3 million acres (8.6 million ha) of new woodcock habitat must be created in order to eliminate this deficit and return woodcock densities to those observed during the early 1970s.

Conservation Plan Implementation Progress Reports

June 2010


The above discusses the plan for North America. Individual states may develop state plans as it is implemented. Links to each state's plan are provided below as they become available.


Mission Statement

Established in 1961, the Ruffed Grouse Society is North America's foremost conservation organization dedicated to preserving our sporting traditions by creating healthy forest habitat for ruffed grouse, American woodcock and other wildlife. RGS works with landowners and government agencies to develop critical habitat utilizing scientific management practices.

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