The state is considering making the ruffed grouse an endangered species. In the 1980s, the ground-dwelling bird was found in more than 40 counties in Indiana, now it’s only found in a few.
The grouse is currently listed as a species of special concern. Heather Shaw is a regional wildlife biologist with the Ruffed Grouse Society, which petitioned for the listing.
“So we're at a precipice right now in Indiana where we're seeing basically the extirpation of an iconic game species, North America's most iconic game bird species,” she says.
The Indiana Forest Alliance says it supports the listing, but worries making more habitat for the bird could mean cutting down more trees. Ruffed grouse live in young forests, which often get shaded out by older growth.
The Indiana Department of Natural Resources says the best areas for ruffed grouse habitat would be public forests in south central Indiana and the private land next to them.
Jeff Stant is the executive director of the Indiana Forest Alliance. He says the group is for the listing, but worries that creating more ruffed grouse habitat would hurt recreation and other forest animals.
“Clear cutting of public lands and the south central portion of the state are wholly unjustified and will cause substantially more harm to multiple interior forest dependent species,” Stant says.
The Natural Resources Commission could decide whether or not to list the bird as endangered as early as its next meeting on Nov. 19.
Indiana Environmental reporting is supported by the Environmental Resilience Institute, an Indiana University Grand Challenge project developing Indiana-specific projections and informed responses to problems of environmental change.