We need to take bold action for Species of Greatest Conservation Need
By: Todd Waldron, Northeast Forest Conservation Director
Have you ever heard the term “Species of Greatest Conservation Need” or “SGCN” and wondered what that means? Or maybe you’ve wondered how it applies to the future of grouse and woodcock populations. How does it drive the RGS & AWS conservation mission?
You’ve likely seen our monthly updates in The Bellwether newsletter or regularly on social media: Ruffed grouse populations are declining across much of North America. The decline is due to habitat diversity decline and grouse are now listed as an SGCN in 19 states, while American woodcock are listed similarly in 29 states.
What exactly does a SGCN designation imply and what conservation action is needed to address it? We’ll get into that in a minute, but first, let’s cover some background information.
The term “Species of Greatest Conservation Need” comes out of each states’ State Wildlife Action Plan (SWAP). According to the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies:
“State Wildlife Action Plans serve as the blueprints for conserving our nation’s fish and wildlife and preventing endangered species. In 2005, each state, territory and the District Columbia submitted their plan for approval to the US Fish and Wildlife Service as a condition for receiving funding through the State and Tribal Wildlife Grants program.”
So, for each state to apply for funding, they were required to develop an action plan that identifies at risk species and sets the stage for conservation actions and initiatives to prevent them from further decline and then, they are required to update these plans every 10 years.
While SGCN is not a federal statutory designation such as the “endangered species” listing associated with the US Endangered Species Act, the status of “SGCN” tells us that populations are in decline. It tells us that conservation action is required to keep these species common.
The “check engine light” is on and flashing when it comes to grouse, woodcock and dozens of other birds, mammals and plant species that benefit from forest habitat diversity and landscape mosaics.
So, what does this mean? Well, it means we can take bold, landscape-level conservation measures to address the forest habitat diversity issues that are causing these SGCN designations. If we don’t, grouse, woodcock, New England cottontail, and many other species on the brink will continue to struggle.
It means that the RGS & AWS forest conservation model approach, one which focuses on a shifting mosaic of forest-types and conditions, will benefit not only grouse and woodcock but dozens of other species that are currently SGCN-listed and in decline.
It highlights the important need to secure funding for conservation projects that keep hundreds of species on our landscapes and allows states to apply for that funding.
It also encourages numerous public and private sector partners, agencies, landowners, universities, and stakeholders to work together toward broad commonalities such as improved forest habitat diversity, clean water, recreational access, clean air, and thriving bio-economies.
Finally, it means that we need your help. Please consider joining RGS & AWS, renewing your membership, or making a donation today by clicking HERE