Maybe it is just that I have gotten a little older, but during the last grouse season it seemed birds flushed and accelerated away from me a lot faster than ever before. Of course, if you talk to my hunting partners, they would probably say it slightly different – they would tell you that I am missing them by a wider margin now than ever before. But, after very thorough questioning, I’ve been assured by our great team of RGS and AWS biologists that the birds we are hunting today are not any faster than their ancestors.
In other parts of our lives, however, things are truly accelerating . . . and in some cases, very rapidly. One of those areas is communications and the flow of information. We are all keenly aware of how technology has altered our access to information – how we get it, how much we get, and how we use it. Today there are 200 million smartphone users in the United States and more than half the world’s population has ready access to the internet. Those numbers will only continue growing in the years ahead.
Knowledge is power. In Thomas L. Friedman’s new book, Thank You for Being Late, he uses the term “Age of Accelerations” to describe how the expanding availability of information engages us, empowers us and accelerates our lives and the world in which we live. But he also warns that easily obtained information can be used to achieve good purposes or bad ones. All knowledge is information, but not all information accurately reflects knowledge . . . as we have recently seen in the news.
We deal with challenges like that at RGS and AWS, too. When we performed our strategic planning work last year, we identified “overcoming resistance to sound scientific management practices” as one of the major obstacles preventing us from achieving our mission to preserve our sporting traditions through the creation of healthy woodland habitat for ruffed grouse, American woodcock and other forest wildlife.
Sound scientific management practices used to create young forest habitat are regularly assailed by sowers of “fake news”, “alternative facts”, disinformation and misinformation that create obstacles to achieving our mission. The perpetrators carry names like the Indiana Forest Alliance, Vermont Wildlife Coalition, Southern Environmental Law Center, Heartwood, Mountain True, Wildlife Alliance of Maine, Forest Watch, not to mention Humane Society of United States, Sierra Club and so many others.
The RGS and AWS approach to communications and information flow contains both offensive and defensive components to counteract the corrosive effects of these deliberate campaigns to obscure the truth and confuse those less knowledgeable. The primary tools we use to thwart these assaults are Ruffed Grouse Society magazine and our website, www.ruffedgrousesociety.org.
Those two outlets coupled with the RGS National News emails and Ruff Country News emails supply factual information centered on the three core pillars of our mission: Healthy Forests, Abundant Wildlife and Sporting Traditions. Through them we defend the truth about the sound scientific principles we advocate.
Since 2011 the magazine has won 10 APEX Awards for Publication Excellence, an annual competition for corporate and nonprofit publishers, editors, writers and designers who create print, web, electronic and social media. APEX awards include categories for editorial content and for graphical design and layout. While it is certainly gratifying to publish an award-winning magazine, we believe a high quality, attractive, content-rich magazine is more likely to be thoroughly read by our members and more apt to be shared with others.
The RGS website has become an increasingly important communications tool both for RGS and AWS members and for the general public. Since 2013, our website has seen a 95 percent increase in pageviews and a 67 percent increase in unique users. We’ve seen similar increases in new visitor sessions, returning visitor sessions and organic traffic. Our web traffic has increased not only because of the updated look and feel of the website and the expanded range of information posted, web traffic has increased because of the exciting new merchandise available on RGS Mart. If you have not visited our website lately, you should check it out and reacquaint yourself with all new available products.
We use social media channels and host social media events like the Grouse Camp Tour and Project Upland videos to go on the offensive by engaging a broader spectrum of the general public to spread the word about the importance of young forest habitat in keeping our nation’s forests healthy and forest wildlife populations abundant and diverse.
You will find RGS and AWS on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat. We host blogs on a variety of topics. The all-digital new member drive that launched last October is the most successful membership drive we have ever conducted. All these techniques combine to expand our numbers, broaden our demographic profile and empower our members and friends with facts and knowledge.
Technology has accelerated the world in which we live and RGS and AWS are keeping pace by making sure our members and friends are armed with accurate facts and information to fight against those who would deter us from our mission to preserve our sporting traditions through the creation of healthy woodland habitat for ruffed grouse, American woodcock and other forest wildlife.
To join or for more information, go to www.ruffed.org.