RGS and AWS Support Establishing Great Thicket National Wildlife Refuge


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**** Comment period extended to April 3, 2016. **** 


An email with the below details was sent on February 26, 2016 to all RGS/AWS members asking for them to provide comments on this proposed National Wildlife Refuge, establishment of which is supported by RGS/AWS.

     The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is proposing to establish the "Great Thicket National Wildlife Refuge" (NWR) in parts of New England and eastern New York to conserve and improve habitat for shrubland and young forest dependent wildlife, such as New England cottontail, American woodcock, and migrating songbirds. The Service would work to acquire via fee purchase or conservation easement from willing sellers and donations approximately 15,000 acres; this land would be actively managed as shrubland and young forest to benefit more than 65 species of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and other wildlife of high conservation need as a result of inadequate shrub and young forest habitat and a maturing forest landscape in the region. Establishment and management of the Great Thicket NWR would complement wildlife management efforts by state forest and wildlife agencies and conservation organizations, such as Ruffed Grouse Society.
     Earlier this month, RGS/AWS biologist Andy Weik met with Service refuge planners to discuss the Great Thicket NWR proposal and how we may assist the Service with refuge establishment and management. The Service has identified refuge acquisition focus areas for the Great Thicket NWR in southern Maine, southeastern New Hampshire, eastern Massachusetts, coastal Rhode Island and southeastern Connecticut, and along the New York-northwest Connecticut border. See maps - http://www.fws.gov/northeast/refuges/planning/lpp/focusareamaps.html. These focus areas are high priority conservation areas for New England cottontail and are in close proximity to lands where cottontail habitat management is ongoing or planned by state and private partners; some focus areas also have been identified as important for bird migration stopover; and some areas may provide additional benefit to endangered species such as bog turtle and Karner blue butterfly.

Shrublands in southern Maine. Credit Bill Zunni/USFWS

     All of the refuge acquisition focus areas likely would receive use by American woodcock for nesting and/or migration, and some areas also align with ruffed grouse range. In addition to the wildlife benefits of the proposed refuge, all of the focus areas are relatively close to large human populations and so additional actively-managed public land available for compatible wildlife-dependent recreation, including hunting, is a significant and important social benefit. While not all refuge lands are necessarily open to hunting, the Service has established hunting is a legitimate and appropriate general public use, and hunting is provided for when deemed compatible with wildlife conservation purposes of the refuge.
     For more information on the refuge proposal and additional resources go to: http://www.fws.gov/northeast/refuges/planning/lpp/greatthicketLPP.html.

     The Ruffed Grouse Society and American Woodcock Society support the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's proposal to establish the Great Thicket NWR.

Please consider sending your comments in support of the Great Thicket NWR proposal to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service by Friday, March 4, 2016.
How to Submit Comments on Draft Plan
     The Service will accept comments on the draft plan through March 4, 2016. Comments can be submitted by:
  • Email northeastplanning@fws.gov with "Great Thicket LPP" in the subject line
  • Mail to:
    Beth Goldstein
    Natural Resources Planner
    U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
    300 Westgate Center Dr
    Hadley MA  01035-9589
  • Fax to 413-253-8480 

Thank you for your involvement in this process.

For questions, please contact:

Andy Weik
RGS/AWS Regional Biologist, NY & New England
(607) 793-4832 Cell

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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