High school students improving ruffed grouse habitat


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RGS in the News

Developing management plan at school forest

Original article "High school students improving ruffed grouse habitat" posted Nov 11, 2015 by Seth Carlson, Managing Editor, on Price County (WI Review) at http://www.apg-wi.com/price_county_review/sports/outdoors/high-school-students-improving-ruffed-grouse-habitat/article_7715ae64-87ec-11e5-8a2d-0fd320c3151f.html.

Photo by Seth Carlson used courtesy of Price County Review
Photo by Seth Carlson
Ruffed Grouse Society regional biologist Scott Walter (right) converses with
Dawson Weik and other Class ACT Charter School students as they walk the trails
at the school district forest property near Tracy Lake Nov. 4. The students formally
applied for funding from the RGS Drummer Fund to improve ruffed grouse habitat at the property.

The ruffed grouse capital of the world (Park Falls, WI) is about to improve on its claim to fame.

That’s thanks to a handful of students at Class ACT Charter School in Park Falls, who are pursuing funding to improve ruffed grouse and woodcock habitat on 320 acres of school forest. Titled the "Class ACT Grouse Habitat Project,” the idea to improve living conditions for the popular upland game bird came about a year ago, when Dawson Weik and Cody Palecek enrolled in the charter school for elective science credits.

“For a project idea, [our advisor] Mrs. Zwicke brought up the idea of investigating the ruffed grouse habitat at the school forest. From there it grew into much more,” explained Palecek, a senior. “People love to come here just to hunt grouse and woodcock. So we thought why not make a better place to hunt grouse while also making money for the community of Park Falls from all the hunters coming to the area."
The result of the first phase of the project is a detailed map of the area, which defines the different forest types in zones. It has helped the group, which has in one year grown from two to six students, define a management strategy that coincides with the school forest stewardship management plan.

Central to the second phase of the project, starting this school year, is a focus on diversifying vegetation and shelter. Specifically, the student team is seeking to improve winter food sources, the age diversity of aspen habitat, and the quality of the grass trail system.

One route of funding the students are pursuing is the Ruffed Grouse Society Drummer Fund, which is intended to support forest management that benefits ruffed grouse, American woodcock, and similar species.

Since the RGS Wisconsin Drummer Fund began in 2010, it has provided nearly $296,000 to 70 Wisconsin grouse and woodcock-related projects over approximately 7,824 acres, according to the organization's website. Funds are raised from chapter fundraising events and direct contributions.

The students have already written a grant proposal, requesting just over $11,000 in improvement aspects, and hosted RGS regional biologist Scott Walter at the Tracy Lake property. Walter visited Nov. 4 to walk the property with the young minds driving this ecological project, and said RGS is excited to be involved with the unique program at an early stage.

“As the project continues to develop, I think [the students] will find clear links between forest management and the area’s land use history, economics, mathematics, and sociology. It was easy to see how excited the students were to initiate their own investigation of the natural world,” Walter commented in a follow-up interview.
“Without intensive harvest in our aspen and oak forests, these communities would over time be replaced by later-successional species, and our forests would become much less diverse in terms of species richness and structure,” Walter said. “We’re very fortunate to have a healthy timber products industry in northern Wisconsin, and loggers and forest managers that understand how to implement timber harvests to not only provide economic benefits, but also improved habitat for ruffed grouse, woodcock, and a diverse array of other critters."

Walter, who most recently was an upland game bird ecologist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, gave the students pointed advice on the types of understory and overstory vegetation would best suit the area. He also supplied input on how to cut aspen in 10-acre parcels to increase age diversity, and referenced a few source guides students may want to investigate for further information.

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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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