PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE – Pause to Reflect

Cover imageIt won’t be long before it’s time for us to think about New Year’s resolutions. Personally, I’ve never really taken this practice very seriously, but I know a lot of people who do. I can see some value in making promises to ourselves at the beginning of every year aimed at making some change for the better or improving some aspect of our lives. To me it’s another form of goal-setting . . . so why confine that activity to just one day of the year?

Where I do see value in making a New Year’s resolution is in taking the time to hit the “pause” button for a moment and assess our broader situation. Stopping to think about where we were, where we are now and where we want to go is something we are seldom able to do when we’re constantly engrossed in the daily routines of living our lives and doing our jobs. This is a useful exercise for us as individuals, but also for us an organization.

By looking at the three core pillars of the Ruffed Grouse Society and American Woodcock Society (RGS/AWS) mission: Healthy Forests, Abundant Wildlife and Sporting Traditions, we can gain a good perspective of where we were and where we are today regarding our quest of the RGS mission.

Healthy Forests

RGS created the Drummer Fund program in 2010 to allow chapters to keep money raised at their events. The money raised is directed to a statewide Drummer Fund for use on future habitat projects within their state. RGS/AWS biologists combine this money with other funding sources to further leverage the member-raised funds to accomplish millions of dollars of projects impacting thousands of acres of habitat each year. RGS/AWS crossed the million dollar threshold in annual habitat spending for the first time in 2014. That number doubled in 2015, and doubled again in 2016.

In 2014 RGS created the American Woodcock Society to expand forest habitat efforts and hunting opportunities to new landscapes across the nation.

In 2015 RGS filed a Petition for Rulemaking with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Forest Service due to the consistent failure to provide young forest habitat required by ruffed grouse, American woodcock and other wildlife.

During the past few years, RGS/AWS aggressively expanded our pursuit of habitat grants. In addition to getting more on-the-ground habitat work completed every year, we have worked more closely with state and federal agencies in developing strategies and identifying projects that benefit young forest habitat.

In 2016 RGS/AWS held the Driftless Symposium in LaCrosse, Wisconsin bringing together agency professions from Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa to focus on landscape scale goals to enhance future young forest habitat in the Driftless Region.

John NGWH

RGS/AWS President and CEO John Eichinger discusses healthy forests at the 2017 National Grouse and Woodcock Hunt.

Abundant Wildlife

As an example of the work RGS/AWS does with wildlife management agencies to create premier habitat conditions for grouse and woodcock, we partnered with the Michigan DNR to create the GEMS program (Grouse Enhanced Management Systems). Currently there are 16 such sites in Michigan. We have worked with many other governmental entities in many other states and regions throughout the range of ruffed grouse and American woodcock to accomplish similar results.

The RGS/AWS team of biologists is expanding, and earlier this year we created a new category of biologists called Forest Wildlife Specialists. In collaboration with USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and other partners, RGS/AWS employs these specialists to work directly with private forest landowners to develop and implement forest wildlife management plans on their property. Performing wildlife management work on private woodlands has often lagged behind achievements on public lands because private tracts are usually small and fragmented. This important facet our wildlife management work will continue to expand in the years ahead.

In 2014 RGS/AWS participated in new satellite woodcock migration research performed through the USGS and USFWS. In 2018, RGS/AWS will participate in a second study focusing on woodcock that migrate to New England, Eastern Canada and the Mid-Atlantic states.

Sporting Traditions

In 2015 RGS/AWS expanded mission impact by creating a dedicated position and a series of programs aimed at recruitment, retention and reactivation (R3) by introducing participants to hunting, shooting and dog handling. So far this year the New Hunter Mentor Program has conducted programs in nine states involving nearly a thousand participants. More of these events will occur through the end of the year and includes programs at colleges and universities. The Women’s Introduction to Wingshooting program, spearheaded by Meadow Koufeld, held two sessions this summer involving 66 women. The RGS Leadership Academy expanded into two states this year and will continue to expand in the coming year.

RGS/AWS uses our rapidly expanding digital media capabilities to acquaint a growing number of younger enthusiasts to communicate our passion for grouse and woodcock hunting and the commitment to our mission. Communicating the RGS/AWS message through social media channels including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube videos, blogs and other channels, we attract and engage a younger generation that helps ensure our future.

Behind the Scenes

RGS/AWS earned the 4-star rating by Charity Navigator, America’s largest independent charity evaluator. The 4-star rating is a result of RGS/AWS maintaining sound fiscal management practices and a commitment to accountability and transparency.

This year RGS/AWS is undertaking a major upgrade to our technology platform. These improvements include migrating many of our systems to cloud-based technology to improve security and reliability. We are implementing a new system for managing membership information, improving data security and enables members to manage their accounts online. Coupled with this is a new e-commerce module to make joining and renewing a better user experience, online banquet registration and sponsorship, and supports a more user friendly check-out experience on the web store. Elsewhere, several major processes such as pre-banquet planning, post-banquet reconciliation, grant administration and habitat project management are being automated. Previously these processes were performed manually, and automation will dramatically improve efficiency and quality. All of these technology improvement are made possible through a grant from a R K Mellon Foundation we received earlier this year.

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As you make your New Year’s resolutions, take time to reflect where you’ve been, what you’ve done and where you want to go. In reflection, RGS/AWS has set a foundation to enhance healthy forests, abundant wildlife and sporting traditions, programs and strategic plans that will allow RGS/AWS to benefit habitat and hunting in 2018 and beyond.

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First published in the Ruffed Grouse Society magazine Winter 2017 issue.

To join efforts to preserve sporting traditions by creating healthy forests for grouse and woodcock, go to www.ruffed.org.

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