column By: Staff | March, 20
Ruffed Grouse Society/American Woodcock Society
Britney Booth Hired as Editor of Covers Magazine
The Ruffed Grouse Society and American Woodcock Society (RGS/AWS), a leader in forest wildlife conservation, has hired Britney Booth of Booth Media Group as editor of the award-winning Covers magazine (formerly Ruffed Grouse Society magazine). She will facilitate and develop story ideas with staff and other members of the communications team in order to broadcast the conservation mission of RGS/AWS via its quarterly membership publication.
A graduate of Western Michigan University, Britney holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism. After entering the outdoor industry post college, Britney leveraged her knowledge of digital marketing and communications to start Booth Media Group, a full-service consulting company that serves clients in the outdoor/hunting industry.
Britney has written for numerous publications in the outdoor and shooting markets, including The Upland Almanac.
“After a national search, we have selected Britney Booth as our new Covers magazine editor. Britney is highly qualified and a true upland enthusiast. I am really excited for what Britney will bring to our magazine and communications overall,” commented Ben Jones, President & CEO, about the hire.
“I’m elated to accept the position as editor of Covers magazine and hope to follow in the footsteps of the long line of editors before me in bringing this spectacular publication to life in a way that highlights the healthy forests, abundant wildlife and conservation ethic we all hold so dear,” remarked Booth about her new opportunity.
Minnesota DNR Finds Eastern Equine Encephalitis in Ruffed Grouse
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MNDNR) reported results that confirmed three ruffed grouse submitted for testing were infected with Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE).
The grouse were taken in Itasca County and submitted to the DNR for testing by hunters. The hunters noted the birds seemed unable to escape or fly. They also appeared emaciated, having significant muscle and tissue loss. As with West Nile Virus, ruffed grouse become infected with EEE when bitten by mosquitoes carrying the disease.
Despite these recent findings in Minnesota, the RGS/AWS mission remains the same, and the need for conservation support for ruffed grouse has never been greater.
“We are concerned about this news and will add EEE to the list of mosquito-carried diseases, like West Nile Virus, that deserve attention and monitoring through DNR efforts.” said Jones.
“There is a growing body of evidence that supports habitat management as the best defense against West Nile Virus. As we pursue additional information about EEE, we will continue to prioritize habitat management as the best course of action.”
Woodcock Limited, a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization, was founded in 2003 by a fraternity of hunters and conservationists dedicated to the welfare of the American woodcock. Our organization works with local, state and federal organizations to promote woodcock research, habitat management, harvest management and educational efforts to advance the public’s knowledge of the woodcock and its management needs. While the work we do benefits more than 65 species, we are the only international conservation organization solely dedicated to the welfare of the American woodcock across its range.
Woodcock Limited’s Board of Directors recently moved to pursue a more focused approach to habitat work. Secretary/Treasurer Dennis LaBare explained the new approach: “We’ll be looking at identifying areas where there is both a real need as well as the potential to make a real difference by helping locally-based organizations who are already invested in the area. With this in mind, our first area will be in one of the bird’s key staging and most storied regions of the Eastern Flyway.”
Mention “Cape May” to any woodcock hunter and recognition of its importance will most likely jump to mind. It’s not only the Cape May NWR, but also the entire New Jersey south shore region that has large areas of habitat restoration waiting to be completed in order to enrich this vital part of the Atlantic Flyway. Much of this acreage is on private land and outside the refuge.
“Woodcock Limited will be seeking funding to partner with the highly successful South Jersey Quail Project to further expand habitat restoration on some of the tens of thousands of acres of private land where agreements to perform work now exist,” said LaBare. “Because of the way we operate, being a small organization, every penny raised can be put directly into habitat work to benefit the woodcock and various other species occupying the same habitat. We believe the synergy in partnering with the South Jersey Quail Project can help them realize their unique slogan, ‘Ensuring Habitat for All.’ To our fellow woodcock enthusiasts we simply say, ‘Hey — that’s us!’”
For more information on how you can help us help the woodcock in southern New Jersey or to join us in our efforts to create a mosaic of sustainable habitat to aid the American woodcock across its range: firstname.lastname@example.org or 570-435-3487.
Backcountry Hunters & Anglers
Sage Grouse Conservation Efforts Across
the West: “Tenuous”
The greater sage grouse is a phenomenon unto itself; few upland game species in North America are as distinctive, charismatic and sought after as this bird. Few who have hunted sage grouse or witnessed the over-the-top breeding rituals at a spring lek come away without a deep sense of admiration for the species, which has managed to keep its place as the mascot of the sage steppe despite habitat loss and fragmentation, overgrazing and oil and gas development. There is a fine line associated with the species that land management agencies, ranchers, hunters and conservation groups are forced to walk; depending on which state we’re talking about, sage grouse populations careen between huntable levels and nearing the benchmarks for listing under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
The latter path for the greater sage grouse would have serious ramifications for communities across the West. A listing under the ESA would effectively prohibit the multiple-use approach to managing our public lands on which state agencies, local governments and stakeholder groups in Western states rely to bolster our outdoor economy and keep rural communities afloat. For decades now, the U.S. government, Western states, ranchers, sportsmen and conservation groups have engaged in a collaborative process to institute key habitat protections and bolster sage grouse numbers to huntable levels.
This broad, multilateral conservation campaign crested one hill a few years ago with the development of the 2015 sage grouse conservation plans, which are widely regarded as one of the most successful consensus-based conservation policies in U.S. history. By establishing critical habitat protections in 11 Western states, the 2015 plans kept the greater sage grouse off the Endangered Species List, thereby allowing for the continued multiple use of hundreds of thousands of acres of public land.
To a certain extent, this seems like an incredible expenditure of time, effort and resources for a single bird species. Yet the greater sage grouse shares most of its 165 million acres of habitat with more than 350 other fish and wildlife species, including valued Western big game like elk, mule deer and antelope. Conserving sage grouse habitat brings untold benefits to other species in the sage steppe ecosystem. It also helps augment the outdoor recreation economies of states with sage grouse populations. At last count, the outdoor recreation economies of these 11 states together supported 1.8 million jobs and totaled nearly $216 billion in consumer spending. In these predominantly rural states, that’s far from chump change, and a lot of this economic productivity is because of healthy and abundant public land ecosystems that drive outdoor recreation and tourism.
The success of sage grouse conservation efforts across the West is now tenuous. The current administration recently proposed weakening the 2015 sage grouse conservation plans by removing 865,000 acres from the Sagebrush Focal Areas designation, which is intended to protect sage grouse habitat. The proposal would also open 160,000 acres of priority sage grouse habitat to oil and gas exploration. This reduction of protected areas would likely lead the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to reevaluate its 2015 decision that an ESA listing for the greater sage grouse is “not warranted.”
We have a clear mandate to prevent the listing of the greater sage grouse. The administration needs to recognize that the 2015 management plans represent the best possible solution for how to reconcile rural economies, conservation and outdoor recreation as they pertain to the species. Backcountry Hunters & Anglers has consistently advocated for a common-sense approach to sage grouse conservation, and we have been a firm opponent of legislative measures that would allow the federal government to bypass the consensus-based plans for this incredible species. Please stay tuned to our efforts to advocate for the greater sage grouse, hunters and public lands. Visit www.backcountryhunters.org.
National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative
“Native Grasslands Alliance” to Continue
Push for Formal Embrace of Native Vegetation
in Agricultural Settings
The Native Grasslands Alliance, a new, formally organized coalition of heavy hitters assembled by the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI), is the latest effort to advocate for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to take seriously the implementation of the language regarding native vegetation. This is the first such action mentioned in the Farm Bill, in this case in the 2018 Farm Bill Managers’ Report:
“The Managers recognize the benefits of native vegetation to improve water and air quality and enhance soil health. By encouraging the adoption of native vegetation seed blends, USDA programs are supporting habitat restoration for the northern bobwhite, lesser prairie chicken, greater sage grouse, other upland game birds, songbirds, monarch butterflies, and pollinators. The Managers encourage the use of native vegetation where practicable.”
Jef Hodges, NBCI grasslands coordinator and deputy interim director responded with, “NBCI had long recognized that the return of native vegetation, especially native grasses and forbs, on America’s working lands is the linchpin of landscape-scale restoration of wild bobwhite quail as well as companion species — grassland birds and pollinators — requiring the same habitat. USDA conservation agencies are the only federal private-land conservation agencies without a native vegetation policy.”
Hodges said that across the bobwhite range, some 90 million acres of “improved” pasture — established to near-monocultures of introduced forages from other continents — had been encouraged and subsidized with tax dollars. These 90 million acres provide poor habitat for bobwhites and most declining grassland birds and are lost conservation opportunities. Likewise, USDA soil and water conservation practices on croplands have also relied heavily on aggressive introduced vegetation that minimizes wildlife habitat opportunity, even though native plants provide similar or better soil and water conservation benefits as the exotic plants, according to Hodges.
“Improved federal policy is only as good as its effective implementation at the national, state and local levels … and effective implementation requires the continuing advocacy and vigilance of all interested parties,” said Hodges. “That’s what the Native Grasslands Alliance is primarily about.”
In 2011, NBCI conceived and developed the flagship “Natives First” initiative and assembled a group of like-minded organizations and individuals to educate federal leaders regarding the need for a native vegetation preference standard for all USDA agricultural conservation and cost-share programs in the upcoming Farm Bill. NBCI and partners delivered fact sheets and briefings to agency and Congressional staff, conducted field tours and encouraged letters and phone calls to drive the message home. Those efforts resulted in the supportive language in the Managers Report.
In October of last year, NBCI convened a facilitated meeting to formalize a broader-based effort to help support effective implementation and develop strategies for promoting the use of native vegetation in agricultural landscapes by coordinating development of communications, research and other shared resources related to expanding awareness, acceptance and adoption of native vegetation. The Native Grasslands Alliance will operate with individual members being public facing organizations bringing manpower, resources and skillsets to the effort while the alliance provides background support/direction, Hodges said.
Headquartered at the University of Tennessee’s Institute of Agriculture/Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries, NBCI is a science and habitat-based initiative of the National Bobwhite Technical Committee (NBTC) to elevate bobwhite quail recovery from an individual state-by-state proposition to a coordinated, range-wide leadership endeavor to restore wild bobwhites on a landscape scale. The committee is comprised of representatives of 25 state wildlife agencies, various academic research institutions and private conservation organizations. Support for NBCI is provided by the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Program, state wildlife agencies, the Joe Crafton Family Endowment for Quail Initiatives, the University of Tennessee, Music City Chapter of Safari Club International, Quail Forever, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Farm Service Agency, National Park Service, Park Cities Quail and Roundstone Native Seed.