IT’S banquet time for the organization that is solely focused on a mission to create healthy forest habitat for ruffed grouse, American woodcock and other forest wildlife.

The Chain O’ Lakes Chapter of the Ruffed Grouse Society (RGS) will stage its 14th annual Conservation and Sportsmen’s Banquet next Thursday, Aug. 26, at the Whitetail Inn in St. Germain.

It’s these types of events across the Midwest that have 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.

With the help of sponsors and its growing membership, RGS has spent more than $18 million to enhance 700,000 acres of habitat.

Grouse fever is about to hit the North Woods. Next week’s banquet will occur just three weeks ahead of the fall hunting season, and events like it help 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, birch, 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 89% 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.

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.

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 wildlife habitat.

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.

Every grouse hunter should be supporting the one grassroots organization that is working diligently to improve our forests.