UPDATED | Information Center
The below resources and links provide new and updated information regarding the RGS & AWS Model of Working Forests as well as organizational changes to staffing and conservation delivery programs.
- Special Edition Podcast | RGS & AWS Address
- Press Release | RGS & AWS Announces Re-Structure
- Frequently Asked Questions
- The Hunting Dog Podcast Interview with Ron Boehme
- Upland Nation Interview with Scott Linden
Creating a Scalable Model for Healthy Forest Management and Wildlife Habitat
When the RGS & AWS Board of Directors and I first met nearly two years ago, we focused on a central theme – the need to scale up forest conservation work. Great strides have been made over the Ruffed Grouse Society’s 60-year tenure and now, greater opportunity knocks. By scaling our successes, we can expand impact. To that end, we have been working towards a working forests model that can improve habitat across larger landscapes. Without a doubt, efficient and impactful conservation is more important now than ever!
Over the past decade, RGS & AWS has employed regional biologists who coordinate with state and federal agencies, landowners and our dedicated volunteers. The biologists use State Drummer Funds (raised at local events), grants and generous donor gifts for habitat work like tree plantings. Project costs range from $20 per acre to over $1,000 per acre, and when available funds are depleted, staff and volunteers set to the work of fundraising until enough dollars are banked for the next round of projects. Thousands of acres have been improved in this way.
But what if we could scale our results up by 10 or even 100-fold? And do so in a financially sustainable way? Today’s monumental wildlife habitat needs dictate that we explore all options. One answer may reside in a refreshing new look at forest conservation.
Working Forests Work for Wildlife
“Working forest” is a new twist on a foundational theme. Over a century ago, Theodore Roosevelt proposed, “The fundamental idea of forestry is perpetuation of forests by use. Forest protection is not an end of itself, it is a means to increase and sustain the resources of our country…” This is conservation defined, and the idea is principal in today’s working forest definition.
Essentially, products from working forests help pay for the clean water, clean air, sequestered carbon, and open space we need as a society. Not to mention wildlife habitat. Of course, the latter is of utmost importance to our Society, RGS & AWS.
As sustainable management advocates, we know that timber harvests nurture diverse, healthy forests for wildlife. These same harvests also provide monetary benefits; profits that can be re-invested in:
- Additional habitat work
- Acquiring and protecting more land
- Offsetting costs allowing landowners to keep forests as forested land
The conservation work pays for itself with some left over to re-invest in more conservation. Now is the time to invest these ideas into the RGS & AWS business model.
Greater Impact with the RGS & AWS Model of Working Forests
As scientists and managers made clear at a recent Ruffed Grouse Symposium in Wisconsin, the need for landscape scale management has never been greater. The RGS & AWS Network of volunteers, members and donors are motivated by that need and wanting for more. Working forest concepts can help get us there. Here’s how.
By leveraging financial returns from forest products, we can assemble robust networks that:
- Build capacity by hiring RGS & AWS foresters who assist with management plans, oversee timber sales and administer contracts with consulting foresters and local service providers. Such capacity-building can apply to private and public lands. More foresters means more habitat improvement.
- Reinvest forest product revenue to leverage habitat grants, secure private and foundation funding, and scale up habitat work (including “non-commercial” projects like shrubland management). Use revenue from projects that make money to fund projects that cost money.
- Invest in forest land acquisitions as “endowments” with financial returns from commercial timber sales helping fund RGS & AWS operations; all the while providing critical habitat and excellent hunting opportunity on publicly accessible land. Lead by example, owning and managing our own ground as demonstration areas.
It all starts with building the regional networks, and that starts with our new Forest Conservation Directors. They are the network architects. Expanding from our Regional Biologist Model, these key individuals must understand forest management, wildlife needs, product markets, regional grant sources, policy and regulations. Above all, they must be strategic thinkers who can scale up programs. Our first Forest Conservation Director has already taken the helm in the western Great Lakes Region (Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Illinois). Recruitment for a Southern Appalachian Director is in the final stages, with a successful candidate to be announced in the coming weeks.
These are just the first steps; we will be hiring Forest Conservation Directors in the Northeast, mid-Atlantic, and eastern Great Lakes in the coming months to help grow conservation programs.
Forest Conservation Director regions and general office locations (squares)
How The RGS & AWS Model of Working Forests Functions
Let’s take a closer look at one example of how the new model works on the ground. As mentioned at the outset, we have traditionally raised Drummer Funds at local events and spent a portion on habitat projects. This is a great way to raise money and put it to work locally. However, due to relatively high cost inputs, projects tended to be relatively small. Additionally, we are in a linear process of getting to zero and starting over. Figure 2 illustrates how these habitat projects require constant input to continue.
Check out FAQ about the new Ruffed Grouse Society Model of Working Forests: You’re Asking, We’re Answering
With the new model, initial funds are invested in a forester or forest technician who plans and oversees timber harvests. The harvests generate revenue through sale of forest products (which in addition to habitat, helps sustain landowners and local economies). Revenue can be re-invested in the forester’s work for a second year, and depending on timber value and markets, could also fund a second forester, or non-commercial habitat work (i.e., projects that cost money, like shrubland restoration for woodcock). Either way, we’ve scaled up impact.
The model is adaptable across a variety of private and public lands. More foresters in the woods means more habitat being created; that is the Roosevelt definition of conservation. Ultimately, we envision each Forest Conservation Director overseeing an entire fleet of foresters creating habitat, sustaining themselves and generating funds for even greater impact.
Conservation is not Cancelled
If there is one thing we should learn during the COVID-19 outbreak, it’s the importance of being adaptable and strategic. With the old ways, event cancellations also mean no habitat work. With the new ways, we can be in position to take advantage of circumstances (like toilet paper flying off the shelves and a resultant market demand for paper). Conservation is not cancelled.