By Mark Demko
Working his way across State Game Lands 127 in Monroe County, Jim Boburka watches his dog, a 3-year-old Brittany named Dash, dig into the thick cover that dots many sections of the expansive public hunting grounds. And while he's hoping to flush, or possibly even get a shot at one of the ruffed grouse in the area, the Bethlehem resident's thoughts aren't far from another public parcel closer to home -- one that will one day hopefully hold more grouse than it presently does, thanks to a partnership between the Ruffed Grouse Society and the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
This past April, Boburka and 27 other individuals, many of them members of the RGS's Lehigh Valley Chapter, planted 1,000 Norway and white spruce seedlings on a 130-acre tract of timbered land on SGL 217 near Slatington. The work on the Blue Mountain is part of a three-year habitat enhancement project bringing together the PGC and Pennsylvania's newest RGS chapter in an effort to create the young forest habitat that's so crucial to grouse and other wildlife.
According to the Pennsylvania Game Commission's Ruffed Grouse Management Plan for 2011-2020, grouse populations in the state have been decreasing since 1980. As part of its strategy for boosting the bird's numbers, the agency is working to increase the amount of early successional habitat -- the 5- to 15-year-old forests that provide ideal cover for the bird -- by more than 900,000 acres by the end of decade. One of the keys to meeting this goal is developing new partnerships and enhancing existing ones, which is where conservation organizations such as the Ruffed Grouse Society play an important role.