Plans for woodcock, grouse stamp in works

Editor

Madison Ruffed Grouse Society (RGS) officials estimate that a
grouse/woodcock stamp could collect a minimum of $500,000 per year
for habitat work.

DNR Bureau of Wildlife Management director Tom Hauge foresees
the proposed stamp if it’s approved to function just like the
current wild turkey stamp program.

RGS regional director Gary Zimmer, of Laona, said RGS officials
are working with the DNR to put together a grouse stamp plan that
can be taken to legislators as part of the DNR’s budget
proposal.

“I think we want to have the activities (to be funded by the
stamp) to be specifically identified, as well as what the funds can
be used for and a prioritization for those uses,” Zimmer said. “If
you only get so much money, we want to identify the type of thing
it can be used for.”

Zimmer said he has talked with other groups involved with stamps
the waterfowl, turkey, pheasant, and trout groups about their
programs.”

“While some of them have concerns about expenditures (by the
DNR), I’m hearing that it’s a good system,” he said. “RGS is also
recommending an oversight committee to approve any fund
expenditures from the account. Committee members should be
continuously aware of the budget situation with the account.”

Zimmer expects the oversight committee to include DNR wildlife
managers and non-DNR types, such as Conservation Congress members
and grouse and woodcock hunters.

“Right now, the proposal is to be in line with other stamps. It
would be $10 if that’s where the other stamps are going (as part of
the DNR’s proposed license fee increase),” he said.

Zimmer sees most of the money going to management and habitat
projects planned by any conservation group, not just the DNR.

Hauge said if the stamp is approved, he sees the program being
very similar to the wild turkey stamp fund.

“The language is similar to the wild turkey stamp take wild
turkey out and substitute ruffed grouse and woodcock,” Hauge said.
“It would probably kick in at age 16 and older, there would be a
dedicated account, and it couldn’t be used for anything outside of
what is allowed by the authorizing language. It would be included
in the conservation patron license.”

Zimmer presented the idea for a grouse/woodcock stamp at a Nov.
30 meeting of the Conservation Congress Alternate Funding
Committee. That meeting was attended by representatives from a
number of state conservation groups. The idea of a grouse stamp was
supported that night.

Zimmer and Hauge said the stamp funds would only go to ruffed
grouse and woodcock management activities.

Why a stamp?

Zimmer said the DNR hasn’t done a lot for ruffed grouse or
woodcock in the last five to 10 years, with the exception of
projects funded by RGS.

He said woodcock have been identified as one of Wisconsin’s
“wildlife species of greatest conservation need.”

“While we all have reservations not everyone wants another stamp
I think ruffed grouse and woodcock deserve the consideration for
management emphasis that they haven’t gotten in a long time,”
Zimmer said.

Zimmer and Hauge said they’ve been hearing that sportsmen are
already “stamped to death.” Hauge said the grouse/woodcock stamp
has merit.

“I know there is that concern out there,” Hauge said. “As a
person who does it all, early on I converted to the patron license.
But, that’s probably atypical of the average hunter. People are
asking if we should go to a habitat stamp (to cover multiple
species) instead. I look at the ruffed grouse as sort of a
forgotten species not in terms of by hunters, but in the sense that
they don’t get much respect.

“When I started with DNR, no one would have envisioned concerns
for long-term habitat impact. Wisconsin forests are getting older,
we’re losing aspen. Those are the very same types of forces that
caused those who are interested in pheasants, waterfowl, and turkey
to decide that we needed something to be able to work on those
wildlife species,” he said.

Zimmer and Hauge estimate there are about 100,000 grouse hunters
in the state. If even 50,000 hunters bought a $10 stamp, the fund
would gain $500,00 the first year.

“That matches what RGS has done since the late 1980s,” said
Zimmer, adding that the DNR does not have money to spend on grouse
or woodcock.

“Last year, it took RGS money to get the annual DNR ruffed
grouse survey done,” he said.

RGS spent just over $40,000 for on-the-ground projects for
ruffed grouse and woodcock work in 2004. Since the late 1980s and
up until 2004, RGS has spent about $30,000 per year in the state.
RGS has about 6,000 members in 25 chapters in Wisconsin.

Spending the money

Even if the stamp generated the minimum estimate of $500,000 per
year, some hunters have wondered whether the DNR could spend that
much money in one year. Zimmer pointed out that not all of the
money would necessarily go to the DNR. Conservation groups could
apply for project funds, as could county forest administrators or
national forest supervisors.

Of the money that would be available to the DNR, Hauge said,
“I’m fairly confident the ruffed grouse money would find a home. I
think it is worth forwarding this idea as part of the budget
discussion.”

Zimmer said some of the money would be spent in southeastern and
southwestern counties where grouse numbers have declined
dramatically in recent years. He said oak regeneration in the
Kettle Moraine State Forest is just one concern related to ruffed
grouse in the southeast. With improved habitat in that area, Zimmer
said groups could reintroduce birds to help the populations
recover.

“Woodcock populations have been declining since the late 1960s,”
Zimmer said. “A lot of the work for woodcock just isn’t getting
done breeding ground work, peenting grounds, roosting cover it’s
all sliding by the wayside.”

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