Wisconsin NRB Will Vote on Emergency Rule
The Wisconsin Natural Resources Board will vote on a proposed rule to shorten the 2019 ruffed grouse season at their September 24-25th 2019 meeting. The Natural Resources Board (NRB) sets policy and provides direction for the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
During an informational session at the June 26th NRB meeting, the Board requested DNR to begin working on an emergency rule to shorten the 2019 ruffed grouse season. An emergency rule that shortened the 2018 ruffed grouse hunting season passed last summer. That rule expired at the conclusion of the 2018 hunting season.
For the 2019 proposal, NRB members cited the need to create continuity between the 2018 season and a potential permanent shortening of the season beginning in 2020. Future decisions regarding the 2020 season length will be based on information within the new (yet to be completed) WI Ruffed Grouse Management Plan. The finalized plan is due to the NRB in January.
The Ruffed Grouse Society commends the NRB for bringing concerns over ruffed grouse populations to the forefront. Ruffed grouse are an irreplaceable part of our hunting lifestyle and wildlife heritage in Wisconsin. To that point, we believe management decisions for ruffed grouse, and all wildlife, must rely on the best available information and sound science. That information is the basis for the Ruffed Grouse Management Plan that will be finalized in January.
West Nile Virus and Drumming Survey
The use of an emergency rule is intended for urgent situations, especially those that threaten public health, safety or welfare. Certainly, the conservation community is concerned about West Nile Virus (WNV) impacts on ruffed grouse and other birds. West Nile Virus was confirmed in WI ruffed grouse for the first time in 2018; however, population impacts of the disease are not yet known. Those findings will be part of a three-year study running through 2020.
Meanwhile, statewide 2019 spring drumming surveys increased 41% and field observations from DNR staff are positive across the northern forest. Continued vigilance is called for although it does not seem we are in an emergency situation precluding insights from the WI Ruffed Grouse Management Plan in the decision making process.
Wisconsin Grouse Management Plan
The Ruffed Grouse Society has been a partner in drafting the state’s management plan and remains committed to the process. We are concerned that a 2019 emergency season closure conveys a lack of support for the planning process set forth in 2018, and for the final plan still in development.
The Ruffed Grouse Society will continue to support the management plan committee as it refines its final draft and subsequent recommendations to the NRB in January. It should be a top priority to see the ruffed grouse management planning process conclude and the committee make its final recommendations to the conservationists who serve on the Natural Resources Board.
RGS/AWS will continue to work with our members, the Wisconsin Conservation Congress, Department of Natural Resources and Natural Resources Board to pursue a constructive path forward based on sound science. Conserving ruffed grouse is at the forefront for all of us and we are honored to be engaged in the process.
Established in 1961, the Ruffed Grouse Society and American Woodcock Society are North America’s foremost conservation organizations dedicated to preserving our sporting traditions by creating healthy forest habitat for ruffed grouse, American woodcock and other wildlife. RGS and AWS work with landowners and government agencies to develop critical habitat utilizing
scientific management practices.
More about the Ruffed Grouse Society and American Woodcock Society, mission and programs can be found at www.ruffedgrousesociety.org.