Printed in Covers Summer 2020
Many of us at the Ruffed Grouse Society & American Woodcock Society often speak about the opportunities that diverse partnerships hold, knowing that many of our fellow conservation organizations share very similar missions and overall objectives when it comes to healthy forests and the diverse wildlife that benefits from them. The Northeast Ohio Chapter of the American Woodcock Society is leading the charge in diversifying these partnerships and unifying conservation organizations for the common good. This chapter recently began a multi-phase project at Killbuck Marsh Wildlife Area, located 35 miles north of Akron in northeastern Ohio within portions of Wayne and Holmes Counties. Funding from the project comes from a strong partnership, including Northeast Ohio AWS, OH RGS & AWS State Drummer Fund, Whitetails Unlimited, Pheasants Forever Ashland County Chapter and Ohio Divisions of Wildlife and Forestry. Various aspects of this project will include the establishment of soft mast shrubs to provide year-round food and cover for wildlife, treatment of woody invasive species within native hardwood stands, the establishment of aspen adjacent to existing hardwood stands, establishment of alder across soil moisture regimes to provide nesting cover and forage opportunities for woodcock and grassland restoration to provide diurnal forage and brood-rearing habitat for upland game birds. Chapters from each of the organizations are and will continue to be heavily involved in project planning and implementation. The development of a strong partnership with Ohio DNR staff has created opportunities to save costs on equipment purchase where the staff has allowed chapters to utilize DNR equipment, including personal protective equipment, sprayers and tree planting implements.
With such unique characteristics, it’s no surprise that these partners have come together to improve this hunting destination. Purchased in 1961, with additional property acquisitions on the horizon, the wildlife area sits within a u-shaped glacial outwash valley and includes 5,671 acres open to public hunting and fishing. Landcover types are diverse and include wetlands, marshlands, shrubland, grassland and forest cover. Through the planting of thousands of shrubs in this area, permanent wildlife cover has been established. According to the Ohio Division of Wildlife, approximately 56 percent of the acquisition unit consists of marsh and swamp that is flooded during some portion of the year. Outside of the Lake Erie marsh complex, this area is Ohio’s largest remaining marshland. The area is primarily managed for game species through various management techniques, including forest management, controlled burning and water level manipulation. Due to its proximity to the Lake Erie migratory corridor, this area is a critical stopover location for migratory birds, including woodcock, numerous waterfowl species and neotropical migrants. Wild turkey, white-tailed deer, ring-necked pheasant and numerous furbearers also abound. With diverse wildlife, the area boasts excellent opportunities for hunters and other outdoor recreationists alike. As hunter numbers continue to decline nationwide, and funding for state wildlife agency management declines with them, strong and diverse partnerships are critical now more than ever. Conservation organizations and their members can accomplish more together than divided. We applaud Northeast Ohio AWS for demonstrating the great work that can come from these partnerships between organizations and sportsmen and women, and look forward to future endeavors.