Working Paper 94-61 February 1994

By David Hatcher

This paper was written in conjunction with the Fall 1993 Natural Resources and Environmental Policy Seminar of the University of Colorado Interdisciplinary Graduate Certificate Program in Environmental Policy. All ideas presented are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Consortium or the University. For more information, contact the Conflict Resolution Consortium, Campus Box 327, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado 80309-0327. Phone: (303) 492-1635, e-mail:

© 1994. David Hatcher. Do not reprint without permission.

The ruffed grouse is considered by many hunters as the "king of the game birds and almost no disputes it," (Rue, 1973, p. 13).

Although "ruffies" also are the most widespread nonmigratory game bird in North America (Rue, 1973), they exist in Colorado only as a small population of perhaps 50 birds in far western Moffat County near the Utah border (Braun, 1990; Carpenter, 1993; Hoffman, 1992).

After 20 years of contentious internal debate between the U.S. Forest Service and Colorado Division of Wildlife (CDOW), the service recently agreed to accept a proposal by CDOW to introduce an experimental population of ruffed grouse onto the San Juan National Forest in southwestern Colorado in an effort to expand game-bird hunting opportunities.

The ruffed grouse dispute is an on-going controversy that has taken place largely within the CDOW, the Forest Service, and between those two agencies. The Ruffed Grouse Society has been the primary nongovernment organization involved, with environmental groups playing virtually no role.

The society and its Colorado chapter have kept grouse introduction on the agencies' agenda for the last 18 months and have emerged as the most influential players outside government. Without the groups' involvement, sources agreed that ruffed grouse introduction would have never taken off.

The Boulder office of the National Wildlife Federation has been the only other NGO mentioned in agency documents. It supports ruffed grouse introduction.

While the issue has not loomed large on the press's radar screen, outdoors columnists on Denver newspapers have written about introduction several times. Ruffies simply do not rate high enough on the newsworthiness scale to gain space on news pages like the wolf or grizzly. However, the Durango Herald has agreed to print an article based on this case study in its Nov. 26, 1993, edition.

Environmental organizations have only started to take an interest in the issue, apparently because of this writer's contact with them. How prominent a role or what action they will take remains to be seen.

This case study will present an abbreviated history of the dispute, describe principle issues, key stakeholders and their interests, then discuss implications of this issue for policy makers.

Finally, recommendations will be made for avoiding the mistakes made during this dispute, which is not over.

Sources for this case study include documents obtained from the Forest Service under the Freedom of Information Act. Copies of documents from CDOW researcher Clait Braun's files were obtained for a copying fee during a visit to his Fort Collins office on Nov. 9, 1993. Numerous telephone interviews also were conducted. Other secondary sources were found at Norlin Library or requested through its interlibrary loan department.

History of Issue

Interest in introducing ruffed grouse onto the San Juan National Forest dates back to the early 1970s (Braun, 1990; Hoffman, 1992), with its history characterized by agency flip-flops and finger-pointing. In 1984, the Forest Service wanted to introduce ruffed grouse onto the San Juan ("Decision Notice," 1984). However, a year later the CDOW was opposing the idea because ruffeds were considered non-native to Colorado (Zieroth, 1985).

With the exception of more letters and memos, no action was taken concerning introduction until a few ruffies were confirmed in Colorado on Hoy Mountain in extreme western Moffat County near the Utah border in 1988 and again in 1990 (Braun, 1990; Hoffman, 1992; Carpenter, 1993).

This confirmation of ruffed grouse in Colorado renewed interest in introduction, but again no agency action was taken. The Ruffed Grouse Society continued to press the issue, including releasing its own report in June 18, 1992, that supported introduction ("General Information," 1992).

On July 7, 1992, the Ruffed Grouse Society organized a Colorado chapter. On July 23, 1992, the Wildlife Commission unanimously passed a resolution calling for expansion of ruffed grouse range in Colorado to increase hunting opportunities.

Ruffed grouse is classified in Colorado as a game species without a season (Hoffman, 1992).

Pressure from the national Ruffed Grouse Society's Colorado chapter was credited for the resolution's passage (G. Skiba, Division of Wildlife, personal communication, Nov. 4, 1993).

On Nov. 16, 1992, the CDOW officially sent the San Juan National Forest a proposal for introducing ruffed grouse (Hoffman, Nov. 16, 1992).

On Dec. 24, 1992, the San Juan National Forest rejected the proposal, citing the conflict between introducing a species that was non-native to the San Juan and the service's emerging ecosystem management philosophy (Peck, Dec. 16, 1992).

Ruffled but undaunted, the Ruffed Grouse Society urged the CDOW to approach the Forest Service at its regional level for approval to introduce the ruffed grouse on the San Juan or at sites on other national forests in Colorado.

After a series of meetings between CDOW and Forest Service officials in the fall of 1993, the regional headquarters of the Forest Service in Lakewood reversed the San Juan's earlier rejection and accepted CDOW's introduction proposal (G. Hetzel, Forest Service, personal communication, Nov. 12, 1993; Webb, Forest Service, personal communication, Nov. 13, 1993; L. Mullen, Forest Service, personal communication, Nov. 15, 1993).

There has not been an official, public announcement of the decision, although the CDOW is expected to make one next month (G. Hetzel, personal communication, Nov. 12, 1993). Sources inside the CDOW only learned about the Forest Service's decision when contacted for comment by this writer.

Principle Issues

Three issues have emerged in the ruffed grouse dispute:

1) Conflicting agency policies on introducing non-native species onto public lands.

2) Disagreement over priorities. Should the CDOW spend its resources on introducing what many people perceive as an exotic species onto the San Juan National Forest when other native game birds are declining in number?

3) The Wildlife Commission and CDOW's allegiance to a small, potential constituency of ruffed grouse hunters.

Policy differences concerning the introduction of non- native species onto the San Juan National Forest have characterized this dispute for at least 10 years. In the mid- 1980s, the San Juan proposed introducing ruffed grouse, but the CDOW shot down the idea because it had a policy against non-native introductions (Zieroth, 1985). By mid to late 1992, the positions were reversed, with the CDOW proposing ruffed grouse introduction on the San Juan and the Forest Service rejecting the idea.

By November of this year, the Forest Service had reversed its 1992 position and accepted the CDOW proposal.

A "Memorandum of Understanding" (MOU) between the Forest Service and CDOW has governed how wildlife issues shall be handled by the two agencies. Concerning wildlife transplants and introductions, the MOU outlined a step-by-step procedure for conducting such projects ("Memorandum of Understanding," 1992). Based on this writer's research, no violations of the procedure have taken place.

CDOW documents show that ruffed grouse introduction has rated a low priority until recently. "[T]here are more pressing needs for wildlife management in Colorado than the importation and release of an exotic species into already occupied (by blue grouse) habitats," according to Braun (Jan. 22, 1987).

However, with the 1990 confirmation of ruffed grouse in Colorado, subsequent Wildlife Commission resolution in July 1992, and involvement of a Colorado chapter of the Ruffed Grouse Society, ruffed grouse moved up the CDOW agenda.

While dissension inside the Forest Service does exist (K. Peckham, personal communication, Nov. 22, 1993), it is poorly documented; however, this has not been the case with the CDOW. A clear split exists between opponents and proponents of ruffed grouse introduction. With other species of grouse endangered in Colorado, including sage and sharptailed grouse, opponents question why ruffeds should be given priority for CDOW resources. Proponents repeatedly show a traditional CDOW allegiance to hunting constituencies and have ignored the question of priorities.

Key Stakeholders

Ruffed grouse (Bonasa umbellus) are not uncommon birds. "The ruffed grouse is the most widespread nonmigratory game bird in North America," Rue (1973, p. 17). This game bird is often called partridge in the North and pheasante in the South (Faccio, 1990).

The small, chickenlike bird receives its name from the protruding ruff, or collar, of dark, irridescent feathers that males and females have on each side of their necks (Rue, 1973; Gish, 1990; Dorsey, 1991). This ruff, along with a crest of feathers on the head, can be raised when alarmed or during courtship displays, resulting in a regal look (Gish, 1990; Dorsey, 1991).

The most commonly known fact about ruffed grouse is the male's distinctive "drumming" in the spring, usually late March or early April (Gish, 1990; Rue, 1973). Female ruffies never drum. Drumming proclaims territorial rights, attracts females, challenges rival males, and provides an outlet for exuberance (Rue, 1973).

To create the drumming sound, the male ruffed braces himself with his tale and pumps his strong wings a couple of times, ending with a crescendo of wing beats lasting about eight seconds (Gish, 1990).

Bonasa is derived from the Latin word for bison, suggesting the male ruffie's drumming resembles a bull bison's bellowing (Rue, 1973).

Ruffed grouse prefer aspen in most of its range. "[A]spen is to grouse what corn is to pheasant," writes Dorsey (1991, p. 7). While suitable aspen habitat exists throughout western Colorado, ruffed grouse have been confirmed in the state only in extreme western Moffat County on Hoy Mountain near the Utah border and that wasn't until 1988 and again in 1990 (Hoffman, 1992; Nelson, 1992). Prior to those confirmed finds, CDOW researchers had concluded that ruffeds did not occur anywhere in Colorado and that all reported observations were of blue grouse or sharp-tailed grouse (Hoffman & Braun, 1978; Hoffman, 1992).

Because ruffeds are weak fliers and nonmigratory, the vast expanses of sagebrush and pinyon-juniper separating suitable habitat sites in Utah, Wyoming and northwestern Colorado served as an cological barrier to the bird's natural expansion to other suitable sites in Colorado (Hoffman, 1992).

The state Wildlife Commission sets policy for the Colorado Division of Wildlife (C. Braun, personal communication, Nov. 10, 1993).

The eight-member panel currently consists of a county commissioner/contractor, real estate broker, former journalist, retired labor leader, farm and ranch broker, director of a mental health clinic, rancher, and minister. All members are appointed by the governor (Gerhardt, 1993).

Colorado law requires the commission to consist of a livestock producer, agriculture or produce grower, sportsman, member of a wildlife organization, county commissioner, and three at-large members of any profession (Gerhardt, 1993).

The Colorado Division of Wildlife is the state's primary wildlife management agency headquartered in Denver, with Perry Olson as its director. The DOW is part of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources. Ken Salazar is its executive director. Other key players include Len Carpenter, state wildlife manager in Denver, and Clait Braun, wildlife research leader at the CDOW's Wildlife Research Center in Fort Collins.

DOW sees its mission as perpetuating wildlife and allow people to enjoy it in Colorado. This mission includes four goals ("Colorado's Wildlife Legacy," undated):

1) Provide good hunting opportunities;

2) Provide good fishing opportunities;

3) Provide good opportunities to see, photograph and learn about wildlife; and

4) Preserve Colorado's rich wildlife heritage for future generations.

The U.S. Forest Service is a subdivision of the Department of Agriculture. Within Colorado, the agency manages seven national forests, including the San Juan.

The Forest Service's Region 2 headquarters are located in Lakewood. Elizabeth Estill serves as regional forester. Jim Webb is the San Juan forest supervisor. District Ranger Paul Peck oversees the Mancos district where the ruffed grouse would be initially introduced, probably at a site north of the La Plata Mountains.

The Ruffed Grouse Society received its charter of incorporation in Virginia on Oct. 24, 1961. Today, with its headquarters in Coraopolis, Pa., the nonprofit society has about 28,000 members around the world and dozens of chapters in the United States and Canada, according to several sources.

One of the society's primary programs is reintroducing ruffeds into areas where they have disappeared and into areas where they have not historically existed ("March to the Beat", undated), such as San Juan National Forest.

On July 7, 1992, the Ruffed Grouse Society organized a Colorado chapter, with Mike Wynn as president. Acting as a "squeaky wheel," the chapter has been persistent in pressuring the Wildlife Commission, CDOW, and Forest Service to permit the ruffed grouse introduction (C. Braun, personal communication, Sept. 22, 1993; Nov. 9, 1993; Nov. 16, 1993; G. Skiba, personal communication, Nov. 4, 1993; M. Wynn, personal communication, date not recorded).

Colorado environmental groups have not shown much interest in the ruffed grouse introduction although the issue was discussed at least once at a Wildlife Commission meeting and was written about several times by metro-area outdoors columnists.

None of the eco-organizations contacted for this paper knew much about the proposal, including the Weminuche group of the Sierra Club located in Durango (E. Maloney, Sierra Club, personal communication, Oct. 1, 1993). This group might be reasonably expected to be following the issue because Durango is adjacent to the San Juan National Forest. However, the group has no plans for challenging ruffed grouse introduction (E. Maloney, personal communication, Nov. 21, 1993).

All eco-groups contacted, however, opposed on general principle the idea of introducing what they consider an exotic species onto public lands like the San Juan forest (E. Maloney, personal communication, Oct. 1, 1993 and Nov. 21, 1993; P. Temple, Audubon Society, personal communication, Sept. 26, 1993; M. Smith, Colorado Environmental Coalition, personal communication, Sept. 26, 1993, and R. Smith, Colorado Environmental Coalition, Nov. 18, 1993). However, none of the environmental groups was planning to take any administrative or legal action to stop ruffed grouse introduction.

Stakeholder Interests

The object of negotiating a dispute is to satisfy people's underlying interests, what they really want (Fisher & Ury, 1981). "Interests are needs, desires, concerns, fears -- the things one cares about or wants" (Ury, Brett & Goldberg, 1988, p. 5).

Public interactions with wildlife are customarily divided into consumptive and nonconsumptive uses. Consumptive uses include primarily hunting, fishing, trapping, and collecting. Nonconsumptive uses include bird watching, wildlife photography, and zoo visits (Tober, 1989).

The Wildlife Commission and Division of Wildlife's traditional constituencies have been hunting and fishing groups. Relatively little attention has been given to nongame wildlife interests, and a grassroots movement plans to push state legislation that would change the commission's makeup and selection process to give greater consideration to nongame wildlife (Gerhardt, 1993).

Concerning the ruffed grouse issue, the two agencies' interests lie in satisfying the demands of upland game-bird hunters as represented by the Colorado chapter of the Ruffed Grouse Society. By expanding game-bird hunting opportunities, the agencies also bring in more hunting license fees and help support local tourism businesses. Hunting is big business in Colorado. Resident and nonresident hunters contributed $590,629,600 to the state's economy in 1991 ("1992 Annual Budget," 1993).

When viewed through the lens of agency funding, this bias toward consumptive users of wildlife becomes much clearer. The CDOW, like other state wildlife agencies, depends on two main sources of funding: fees from state hunting and fishing licenses, and federal aid from Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson funds, which are raised from excise taxes on hunting and fishing equipment and boat fuel (Mangun, 1991).

For fiscal year 1991-92, the CDOW received $56,315,873 from license fees, interest on accounts, and other cash income. This amount comprised 86.3 percent of the division's budget. Federal aid from Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson funds totalled $8,525,547, or 13.1 percent of fiscal year 1991-92's budget ("1992 Annual Report," 1993).

A much smaller amount came from Colorado's income tax checkoff, which is designed for taxpayers who want to give a portion of their tax refund to the CDOW. Colorado was the first state to adopt a nongame income tax checkoff (Mangun, 1991). For fiscal year 1991-92, this checkoff brought in $377,320, or 0.6 percent of the budget, which was spent on nongame programs ("1992 Annual Report," 1993).

Colorado's sources of funding and emphasis on consumptive uses of wildlife are typical of other states. "State wildlife funding...has remained heavily skewed in the direction of game species," according to Mangun (1991, p. 9).

The Ruffed Grouse Society's interests are narrow and specific: expand the range of the ruffed grouse throughout the United States to maximize hunting opportunities for its 28,000 members. In addition, as ruffed grouse range expands, so does the society's membership and income. One motivation for pushing introduction in Colorado was the society's need to increase membership in the West because of lack of growth in its traditional strongholds of the Northeast and Great Lake states (C. Braun, personal communication, Sept. 22, 1993; M. Wynn, personal communication, date not recorded). As noted earlier, the society organized a Colorado chapter on July 7, 1992.

The Forest Service's interests were concerned its new philosophy of ecosystem management, which, among other things, prohibited introducing non-native species onto the San Juan or any other national forest. "Introducing a wildlife species, which is not native to the San Juan National Forest, could conflict with our emerging philosophy on ecosystem management" (Peck, Dec. 24, 1992). Other possible interests included avoiding a lawsuit from an environmental group under the National Environmental Policy Act, implementing major changes in aspen forest management to favor ruffed grouse, and reducing riparian grazing practices to reduce grouse mortality (C. Braun, personal communication, Sept. 22, 1993). However, considering the regional Forest Service office recently accepted the CDOW's ruffed grouse introduction proposal, these interests were not of overriding importance.

Environmental groups' interests are unclear. As described earlier, these organizations have demonstrated little awareness or concern for ruffed grouse introduction.

The ruffed grouse probably is indifferent to introduction. None was available for comment.


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