In 2016, the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association (MDHA) and the Ruffed Grouse Society (RGS) formed a new partnership combining the resources of both organizations to better protect forest habitat. At last week’s RGS National Grouse and Woodcock Hunt in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, the parties celebrated their joint conservation successes including the recent donation of nearly 2,300 acres of forest lands to Cass and Hubbard Counties.
These forest habitat lands were acquired from the Potlatch Corporation through a $3.6 million grant from the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council. The lands were at high risk of being sold and converted to row crop agriculture. Craig Engwall, MDHA Executive Director, said, “I have no doubt that by partnering together, MDHA and RGS obtained greater funding and, thus, greater habitat benefits on the ground than we would have working individually.”
Cass County Land Commissioner Kirk Titus and Cass County Resource Manager Pat Bundy recently led a site tour of acquired forest lands with Engwall and RGS Regional Wildlife Biologist Meadow Kouffeld. Titus described the acquired acres as a “great asset” since the heavily forested parcels are rich with healthy regenerating pine, mature pine and mixed forest. Additionally, these lands will now be open to the public for hunting and other recreation.
Titus added, “The land donation received strong local support including unanimous votes from the Poplar and Bryon Township Boards as well as the Cass County Board of Commissioners. This project aligns with the Cass County Forest Resources Management Plan by providing increased wildlife habitat protection, public access for recreational opportunities and consolidates the forested land base. More importantly, by permanently protecting these forest lands into the future, high quality water will continue to benefit the community and the people who live here.”
Kouffeld echoed the sentiments of Engwall and Titus: “These productive forests, under county land management, will continue to produce the full spectrum of natural resources for these counties as long as they exist. The loss of public access along with concerns for native plant communities, wildlife and our shared water resources caught a lot of attention, and a few conservation organizations, such as MDHA and RGS, decided to act. The success of these acquisitions shows the benefits of organizations and agencies pooling talents and resources for the benefit of wildlife, public lands and access for hunters.”
MDHA and RGS continue their combined conservation efforts in other areas of the state. Earlier this year, the Minnesota Legislature appropriated $2.4 million for the organizations to complete a similar habitat project in St. Louis County. They are now working closely with St. Louis County to identify approximately 2,500 acres of Potlatch forest lands for purchase with the appropriated funds. These forest lands were at risk of being broken up and sold in small parcels to individual buyers, thus fragmenting habitat. Instead, they will now be acquired in large habitat blocks to be donated to St. Louis County for forest and recreational management.
Most recently, RGS joined MDHA, along with other federal, state, county, tribal and conservation partners in seeking a third phase of funding for the Moose Habitat Collaborative. The Collaborative has already improved over 10,000 acres of forest habitat by increasing stand complexity and production and, through timber harvest activities, increasing the occurrence of early successional forest patches. This habitat work benefits not only moose, but a whole host of game and non-game wildlife. The successful work of the Collaborative has been recognized by the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council and at its September 28 meeting, the Council recommended nearly $2.0 million in funding for Phase III of the project.
John Eichinger, RGS President and CEO, lauded the habitat work accomplished under the partnership with MDHA, stating: “I hope the MDHA/RGS partnership can serve as a model to other conservation groups that when we combine the unique talents of individual organizations into a partnership that leverages those talents, we can accomplish so much more for the benefit of habitat. This is truly a win-win.”
About MDHA: MDHA was founded in 1980 as a grassroots organization dedicated to deer and deer hunting and is comprised of nearly 20,000 members across Minnesota. MDHA is building its hunting and conservation legacy through habitat, education and advocacy. Additional information about MDHA can be found on the web at: www.mndeerhunters.com.
Media contact: Craig Engwall, Executive Director, work phone, 218-327-1103 x13, cell, 218-244-6822, email: email@example.com.
About RGS: Established in 1961, the Ruffed Grouse Society is North America’s foremost conservation organization dedicated to preserving our sporting traditions by creating healthy forest habitat for ruffed grouse, American woodcock and other wildlife. RGS works with landowners and government agencies to develop critical habitat utilizing scientific management practices. Information on RGS, its mission, management projects and membership can be found on the web at: www.ruffedgrousesociety.org.
Media contact: Meadow Kouffeld, 218-398-1076, firstname.lastname@example.org.