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Healthy Forests an Intuitive for Wildlife Conservation

Healthy Forests an Intuitive for Wildlife Conservation

Two people walk through a health forest

Spreading the message of healthy forests one film at a time.

In 2016,  the Ruffed Grouse Society and Project Upland teamed up to spread the awareness of healthy forests through the #HealthyForests Campaign. The need for healthy, diverse forest is the heart of the issue. Wide arrays of wildlife depend on healthy forests. People often mistake such initiatives as mere “young growth” or cutting campaigns. Yet the mission of the Ruffed Grouse Society is to have a balanced forest of various growth stages.

An estimated 2% of our forests are in the stages of young growth. That puts our forests well below the recommended healthy 10% to 15%. It’s one of the most current and relevant issues in forestry. A diverse habitat is not just crucial for the ruffed grouse and American woodcock—many other species of neo-tropical birds, plants, and mammals rely on diversity, too.

“Everybody knows that the autumn landscape in the northwoods is the land, plus a red maple, plus a ruffled grouse. In terms of conventional physics, the grouse represents only a millionth of either the mass or the energy of an acre. Yet, subtract the grouse and the whole thing is dead.” – Aldo Leopold

In order to tackle the complexity of the issue, we began producing films through both the Grouse Camp Tour and this film campaign. Many of the issues about healthy forests vary depending on the part of the country. From federal forests tied up in litigation to anti-cutting campaigns based on emotion rather than science-based conservation—the propaganda and misinformation of healthy forests has become lost in mainstream media.

Society has made a conscious effort to intervene for the woodlands. We have offset the balance of natural order by suppressing forest fires, eliminating beaver activity, and other natural forest disturbances. We should be committed to creating healthy forests through scientific cutting practices that could make up for those natural disturbances. If we don’t, we’re choosing to halt the natural cycle of our forests.

The unfortunate truth is that the impact of poor forestry practice already shows. Countless species of birds, plants, and animals are directly impacted by the lack of young forests. This critical habitat is often the only habitat that allows for species to breed and evade predators.

The ruffed grouse maintains the distinction of being one of the most complex species in relation to forest diversity. We often associate them with young forest, but they require the most complex series of growth stages of any bird species. Looking at a ruffed grouse population is like taking the temperature of the forest. When the forest is diverse and health, so is the ruffed grouse. When it isn’t, the ruffed grouse is one of the first species to suffer. As Aldo Leopold once said, the ruffed grouse is the symbol of healthy forests. That still holds true today.

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