Although I had been told over the weekend that I really needed to see a segment that had been included in last week’s Michigan Out-Of-Doors television show, it wasn’t until last night that I was able to see it. It included some wonderful video of breeding sharp-tailed grouse on a lek near the Seney Wildlife Refuge. The synchronicity relates to the fact that after speaking with regret last weekend about the property loss which had resulted form the Duck Lake fire, DNR Wildlife Chief Russ Mason mentioned that one of the species that may benefit from the habitat created as a result of the Duck Lake fire would be sharptails.
As most know, these opening-dependent grouse are still in the restoration/recovery stage here in Michigan, but an incredible upland game bird species in many western states. Sometimes referred to as “fire grouse” or “fire bird” by Native Americans, Tympanuchus phasianellus require habitat consisting of wide open spaces. These are wonderful birds which we have the opportunity to see frequently in the Danaher Plains area in Luce County northwest of McMillan. Although there is not yet an open season in that portion of the UP, a flushing sharp-tailed grouse is a memorable experience for those who’ve never seen it.
Without getting all “budgetty” on you, we have had some significant concerns in recent years about our ability and collective will to maintain the large forest openings and plains upon which the continued recovery of sharptails depends. Because of the natural forces associated with forest succession, this type of habitat would likely be lost unless man or fire intercede.
When one considers the increased pressures being placed on both Forestry and Wildlife Divisions to promote resource management which has a greater economic return, sharp-tailed grouse are one of those species that have few Lansing lobbyists working on their behalf. I would suspect that the only real source of outside economic advocacy comes in the form of Pittman-Roberston project funding. More on that another day.
Although this is the type of issue that can be supported through State Forest Compartment Reviews, the reality is that it will take more than that and I’m not prepared to hope for more fires as a way to accommodate this type of habitat.
For those that would like to see the MOOD-TV segment, here’s a link to the full episode: http://www.michiganoutofdoorstv.com/shows.cfm