THE mission to engage more hunters in the future of their sport to help promote the creation of healthy forest habitat is gaining serious ground thanks to the Ruffed Grouse Society (RGS).

Membership in this conservation organization jumped 10% in 2017 and has increased 30% since 2011, an incredible feat when you consider the economic conditions of the past seven years.

It’s that kind of growth that has allowed RGS to hire additional biologists and conservation lobbyists who promote the cause, working with private and public land managers on a daily basis.

They have become the undisputed voice of upland wildlife and upland hunters like no other in America.

Your best chance to join and support the cause comes next Thursday, Aug. 30, when the Chain O’ Lakes Chapter stages its 12th annual Conservation and Sportsmen’s Banquet at the Whitetail Inn in St. Germain.

Grouse fever is about to hit the North Woods. We’re less than a month away from the start of the fall hunting season, which is a great time to think about what it might take to ensure we never miss out on the preseason anticipation.

RGS believes that healthy forests mean diversity, and the young forest types that support ruffed grouse, American woodcock, songbirds and many other wildlife species need to be prominently represented in the mix.

That’s where sustainable forestry practices come in today, for logging is the only way, absent the fires of centuries past, to regenerate aspen, jack pine and other early successional forest types.

The group often speaks highly of President Theodore Roosevelt, whose legacy of advancing conservation over preservation may never be matched in the oval office.

What that means is promoting active management in support of healthy forests, abundant wildlife and sporting traditions rather than simply “setting aside” natural resources like a museum exhibit to be observed at a distance.

RGS ranks among the best nonprofits in the country, with 88% of all funds raised going to work on the ground and in the halls of government — where big decisions on public forest management are made daily.

Decades of patient work and a commitment to scientific principles is finally paying off, for the organization has become a respected consultant to federal and state land managers.

Whether they are testifying before congressional committees or meeting with U.S. Forest Service personnel, the biologists are speaking up for management practices that ensure forest diversity and access for the hunting public —even in the national park system.

Late August is a time of transition, in both the weather and in the minds of hunters. Cooler nights. Shorter days. There’s a longing for autumn woods and flushing birds that is undeniable.

But don’t take for granted that the ruffed grouse and woodcock will always be there, for political pressures have already resulted in the loss of millions of acres of young forest habitat in this country.

Call them the antis, the liberal left or whatever you like, but there is a powerful contingent of Americans who want old-growth forest, wilderness and a ban on clear-cutting in our public forests. And they’ve been winning too many battles.

For those of you who appreciate public forests that are managed for multiple use and the forest diversity that only logging can produce, you should think about joining the organization that leads the way in promoting young forest habitat.

RGS is the only entity that has filed petitions with the U.S. Forest Service, keepers of the national forests, to force more logging that will improve the young forest habitat that grouse and other species require for survival.

And that includes deer, for today, they aren’t doing so well in the vast maple forests that lie east of Eagle River and Three Lakes.

RGS is taking the federal agency to task for cutting only 44% of the aspen it identified for management in the current Forest Plan.

It’s that type of aggressive work to improve young forest habitat on public forests that makes RGS so valuable to rank and file hunters who need a unified voice working on their behalf.

Part of its mission is public awareness on the vital need for clear-cutting, a management prescription that mimics the wildfires of old. It’s the only way to create young forest habitat.

The chapter’s dinner banquet, for which tickets are still available, has all the fixings of a fundraising event—door prizes, raffles, limited edition prints and carvings, a silent auction and, of course, guns. You can call Jed Lechleitner of Eagle River at (715) 891-7633 for a last-minute ticket.

It’s a great time to share some stories from hunting seasons past and talk about dogs, guns, ammunition and equipment with those hardy individuals who take chase of grouse every fall.

Just as important, you will be supporting the wildlife conservation group that has the most difficult mission of any organization in the nation—getting people to understand the need to cut trees to create young forest habitats.

The scribbler is a fan and promoter of RGS not only because of a personal passion for chasing grouse, but because the organization is working hard to prevent our national forests from becoming stagnant, unproductive forests.

At the very least, become a member of the grassroots organization that wants healthier forests and the right balance of young forest habitat.