History of RGS

A Brief History of RGS...

On October 24, 1961, Bruce R. Richardson, Jr.; Seybert Beverage; and Dixie L. Shumate, Jr., incorporated The Ruffed Grouse Society of America (now RGS) in Monterey, Virginia. RGS works to improve woodland habitat for ruffed grouse, American woodcock and many other kinds of forest wildlife.

To achieve its goals, RGS bases its work on scientific research into the needs of ruffed grouse and woodcock. In addition, RGS-supported research exploring the dynamics of forest growth has been the key to developing effective methods of forest wildlife habitat improvement. Much of this habitat improvement information is available in several books and pamphlets, either published by the Society or made available through the Society.

RGS publications have proven to be invaluable aids to the woodland owners and managers who want to integrate wildlife habitat considerations into their overall forest plans.

Before the late 1970s, RGS research was supported primarily by funds from membership dues. Following a 1977 reorganization and reaffirmation of its mission, the Society dramatically expanded its fund-raising program. This enabled RGS to significantly increase the number of its conservation enterprises.

The Society's membership roll currently stands at approximately 20,000, with 130 chapters in the U.S. and Canada. The Society's annual budget is roughly $3 million, of which more than $1 million comes from fund-raising events organized by local chapters.

Among the dividends of the Society's continued fund-raising success are two RGS conservation programs that in the first few years of their existence have influenced many thousands of acres of woodland wildlife habitat.

One of these programs -- Coverts -- uses special seminars to educate owners and managers of private, non-industrial woodlands in conservation-related issues. The companion Management Area Projects (MAP) allows the Society to help directly implement forest wildlife habitat development on public lands.

In brief, the Ruffed Grouse Society is an organization that traditionally works in three interrelated areas: research, education and habitat development; with a fourth area, introduction/reintroduction used less often.



    Early RGS members realized that a broad base of research would be necessary to understand how to promote the kind of habitat in which ruffed grouse and woodcock thrive. Beginning in 1972 with a grant to Gordon Gullion, internationally recognized authority on grouse, RGS grants have supported several research projects, which have led to the creation of a number of publications. While some of these works deal with the biology of the game birds, others discuss grouse and woodcock habitat and guidelines for forest habitat management.

    Gullion's Improving Your Forested Lands for Ruffed Grouse (revised as Managing Northern Forests For Wildlife), written with the assistance of the Minnesota Agriculture Experiment Station, was published by RGS in 1973.

    Every RGS research project has been based on a matching-dollars incentive. Universities, state agencies and other groups share the cost, typically on a 2:1 or 3:1 ratio. Since 1972, RGS has provided more than $1 million to help sponsor at least 20 research projects in 18 states. One with the University of Missouri, for example, has shown the importance of oak-hickory forest as an acceptable alternative habitat for ruffed grouse where aspen is not abundant.

    Results of the Missouri study, which looked at not only the needs of ruffed grouse but also forest songbirds, are reviewed in a technical report from the U.S. Forest Service. The work titled Management of Early-Successional Communities in Central Hardwood Forests (with special emphasis on oaks, ruffed grouse, and forest wildlife) is available without charge from the North Central Forest Experiment Station, Forest Service -- U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1992 Folwell Avenue, St. Paul, MN, 55108.


    Although research has always been an essential first step, there is also the need to get the Society's message out to forest landowners and managers and others interested in forest management techniques that benefit wildlife.

    RGS hired its first regional director in 1979 to promote the Society's efforts in the Great Lakes states west of Ohio. Drawing upon RGS-supported research and the Society's publications, the new director dramatically increased the number of landowners and managers informed about the advantages of managing woodlands for wildlife. The new position was funded by the proceeds from RGS' Sportsmen's Banquets, held for the first time in 1978 at five localities.

    In 1979, RGS established an on-site consultation program to assist landowners. While the program provided significant results, it was soon obvious that a much more comprehensive program was needed to meet growing needs. One promising approach that had the potential for reaching many more individuals than the on-site consultation effort was through the already existing Extension Service networks. Extension agents knew the owners of woodlands in their areas who were interested in conservation issues. The question was: how to make use of the Extension networks?

    Ten projects were conceived and tested, with one considered outstanding in terms of effectiveness and economy. This was Coverts using the "each one teach one" approach.

    Essentially, Coverts brings small groups of concerned private, non-industrial forest owners -- identified by the Extension offices -- together for three-day seminars on forest management techniques that emphasize conservation. As part of the seminars, the participants learn the value of spacing small cuts throughout a woodland when harvesting timber. Over time, as subsequent small cuts are made, an age diversity is created, which means plots of trees throughout the woodland are different sizes and provide different types of food and cover. This not only ensures a steady harvest of forest products but also creates ideal habitat for many kinds of forest wildlife.

    In exchange for the training provided during the seminars, the landowners agree to actively promote forest wildlife habitat improvement in their communities for at least a year.

    Indicating how effective Coverts is, the first 142 workshop participants in Connecticut Coverts brought RGS forest management techniques to their own 9,609 forested acres; accomplished the same for another 111,119 acres belonging to sportsmen's clubs, land trusts and outdoor education centers; organized 106 community group presentations of forest wildlife management with a total audience of 3,113 people; gave 125 instructional tours of their own woodlots; provided information one-on-one to more than 4,300 individuals, including more than 2,000 woodland owners; published 104 newspaper or magazine articles in addition to television and radio programs on forest wildlife management; taught more than 750 youth about wildlife conservation through Scouts, 4-H and the NRA hunter education program; and contributed 6,800 hours of volunteer time promoting and encouraging wildlife management.


    In 1986, the Society began to implement practical programs directly funded by RGS to develop habitat for grouse and woodcock. Early in its history, leaders of the Society had decided that RGS could not effectively purchase land for grouse and woodcock management because too much land is needed to significantly influence populations of the birds. As an alternative, RGS turned its attention to public forest lands and began devising ways to efficiently make a positive impact for wildlife on these public woodlands. Public forested lands, which comprise only a minor portion of the woodlands in the East and Northeast, account for nearly half of the forested lands in the north-central states of Minnesota and Wisconsin. The decision was made to begin the program by concentrating efforts in the western Great Lakes region, and to add states as funding became available.

    Economic harvesting of timber is a major consideration of many public forest overseers. Because the benefit to grouse and woodcock is in small-block timber harvesting, and most timber harvesters prefer to harvest in large blocks, the Society assists public land managers in several ways. These include: providing funding to build roads through public forest lands, thereby reducing the costs and promoting small-block cutting; providing technical assistance (professionally trained personnel) to help implement small-block cutting; helping to maintain timber access roads in readiness for future cutting by seeding to minimize erosion; and giving financial assistance to shearing alder brush to promote habitat suitable for ruffed grouse and woodcock. By helping a public agency meet the costs of preparing a site for timbering, RGS is able to influence large areas of wildlife habitat.


    Perhaps one of the most intriguing programs in which the Society is involved is the introduction / reintroduction of ruffed grouse. In several locations, the Society has been instrumental in helping bring back ruffed grouse populations to areas where they disappeared with the loss of habitat. The Society is also helping to establish ruffed grouse in suitable areas where they have not historically occurred.

    The Last 30 Years (and counting)

    Click here for a decade by decade and annual historical summary.

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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