Conservation Plan for Spruce Grouse Published

After more than three years of work, scientists have published the Continental Conservation Plan for Spruce Grouse, reports the Wildlife Management Institute. The plan resulted from a collaboration of spruce grouse researchers and managers, the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies Resident Game Bird Working Group, Wildlife Management Institute, and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

Spruce grouse occupy forests dominated by short-needled conifers ranging from Alaska to Labrador and south into New England, the Upper Great Lakes states and the northern states of the western United States. Although widely distributed and secure through much of its range, spruce grouse are declining or rare along the southern fringe, particularly in the East. The species’ status varies by jurisdiction — it is a game bird in some and a listed species in others.

Forest inventory data were assembled from various sources to describe spruce grouse distribution and published density assessments were used to create population estimates and a continent-wide estimate of 5.0 and 16.5 million. The majority of these birds reside in Boreal Softwood and Boreal Taiga Bird Conservation Regions (BCRs), with the two BCRs together representing habitat for more than 50 percent of the continental spruce grouse population. With the caveat that Alaska forests are underrepresented in present assessments, most spruce grouse reside in Quebec, Ontario, the Northwest Territories and British Columbia.

Standardized monitoring systems of both spruce grouse habitat and populations are lacking. However, these systems will be necessary to manage the species adaptively as boreal forest composition, structure and use change over time.

Recent research into changes in boreal forest composition that may result from climate change (e.g. ClimateWire, www.eenews.net [11/10/2008]) suggest that while spruce grouse may be secure across much of its range, changes may be looming. The Plan establishes an important framework on which future spruce grouse conservation programs may be based.

The Continental Conservation Plan for Spruce Grouse is available at www.foolhen.org. (sjw)

--Wildlife Management Institute