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Rick Bramwell

A year ago, our Indiana Department of Natural Resources held public hearings as close as Fort Benjamin Harrison State Park. The main subject was bobcat hunting. I didn’t show up nor did most of you. The anti-hunters were there strong, and the proposal was voted down by the Natural Resources Commission (NRC).

Hard to tell when that issue will come up again. Illinois has had a bobcat season for six years. Over 60 are killed on Hoosier highways each year.

The point I’m trying to make is the hunting and fishing fraternity needs to get involved and show solidarity. No greater opportunity exists than July 29 at 6 p.m. when the NRC is holding public hearings on fish and wildlife rule changes and additions.

I’ve pored over the fish proposals and see nothing too exciting. Some clarifications, size limits on specific lakes, added protections for ciscos, mussels, etc.

The wildlife rules hearing is much more interesting and will be held in the Mounds Pavilion.

Tops on my list is a proposal to put ruffed grouse on the endangered species list. There are very few left, in fact, less than 0.5% of the abundance we had in the early 1980s. Hunting was suspended in 2015.

What happened? Those folks who don’t want us hunting bobcats swayed political influence away from timber harvesting and clear-cutting on public lands. In essence, our qualified foresters and game bird biologists were not allowed to do what was best for the entire ecosystem. Without habitat, our grouse population plummeted. If we lose them all, then starting over will be very costly and not worthwhile if the ecosystem does not change.

We do have an ace up our sleeve, and that is to put the ruffed grouse on the endangered species list. This will ignite major management action to be taken. Once on the list, an environmental review of Indiana’s forested areas will be made. The impact of how our state, federal and private forests are managed in regards to ruffed grouse will be studied.

According to the DNR, ruffed grouse populations are expected to benefit from active forest management, including intense and frequent actions that change the plant community and structure.

Currently, the only forest management for ruffed grouse are tornadoes. Sufficiently intense forest management (even-age silviculture) must be used to create young forest habitats (0-20 years old). This will not only benefit the grouse but will attract moths followed by endangered bats, songbirds and a multitude of other species.

The trend since the late 1980s has been toward old-growth forest. Yes, we need some of that, but the hysteria of our DNR exploiting the land just to sell timber must be exposed for what it is.

Those against the type of management required to save and enhance grouse populations will be there and in opposition to this rule change. I plan to be there in support, will you?

I used to hunt east of Monroe Reservoir and the Owen-Putnam State Forest. When I jumped a grouse while hunting deer, it was a startling surprise. I had one see me in my tree stand. It walked up a deadfall for a more inquisitive look. I hope to see more in my lifetime.

Rick Bramwell’s outdoors column runs on Thursdays.

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