A pair of organizations concerned with upland gamebirds are speaking up on the need to protect and improve specific types of forest habitat critical to a number of wildlife species.

The Ruffed Grouse Society and American Woodcock Society recently provided public comment urging the Secretary of the Interior to commit to providing young forest habitat when setting expectations for national monument management.

The input emphasized the need for even-age forest management to sustain abundant game and non-game wildlife, provide high quality hunting and benefit local timber and outdoor recreation economies.

“Our comments provide advice for specific steps Secretary Zinke could take and offer our support to help establish the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument as a precedent-setting model of sustainable forest and wildlife management,” says RGS/AWS President and CEO John Eichinger.

National monuments may be designated or expanded by the President of the United States under authority of the Antiquities Act of 1906. The Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument (Katahdin Woods) in Maine was designated by President Barack Obama on August 24, 2016.

An Executive Order issued by President Donald Trump in April directed the Department of the Interior to review the designations of 27 national monuments established since 1996. Other than Katahdin Woods, all monuments to be reviewed are located in western states or are marine national monuments. The review has triggered considerable public response, with more than 1.4 million comments submitted.

“We are among the most passionate organizations defending the overall benefits of public lands,” notes Dr. Brent Rudolph, director of conservation policy for RGS/AWS, “but we are one of the few voices working to raise awareness and prompt action regarding the poor conservation performance on federal properties with respect to providing young forest habitat.”

The original Katahdin Woods designation did commit to maintaining public hunting access on more than half of the approximately 87,500 total acres within the monument. No provision was made to engage in commercial forest management.

The comments submitted by RGS/AWS conveyed appreciation and support for the original commitment to allow hunting on much of Katahdin Woods.

Within the eastern United States and Canada, Dr. Rudolph indicated 53 percent of the bird species that breed in shrub-dominated or young forest habitats have declined since 1980, compared to declines of just 34 percent of the bird species that breed in mature forests.

“Beyond simply the opportunity for benefitting local populations of young forest species,” says Dr. Rudolph, “appropriate management of Katahdin Woods could serve as a precedent-setting model to demonstrate that active forest management is compatible with multiple local values and necessary to sustain healthy forest habitat, abundant wildlife, and future opportunities to enjoy our public lands in pursuit of our national sporting heritage.”