By Ed Golder
It isn’t every day that you would find Gov. Rick Snyder and Department of Natural Resources Director Keith Creagh working shoulder-to-shoulder in the vast state forest lands of the Upper Peninsula, shovels in hand, planting nannyberry shrubs and crabapple trees.
But on a hot, sunny day in mid-August, that’s exactly what two dozen volunteers and a handful of DNR staff witnessed at the end of a two-track trail just south of Gwinn in Marquette County, where, thanks to the collaborative efforts of all parties mentioned above, a diamond in the rough has gradually become a brilliant gem.
The GEMS — or Grouse Enhanced Management Systems — is a new DNR initiative designed to bring attention to Michigan’s outstanding upland bird hunting opportunities through the creation of a series of walk-in access hunting trails intensively managed for improved ruffed grouse and woodcock hunting.
DNR wildlife division development of the GEMS hinged largely upon the support of the Ruffed Grouse Society and increased revenue from the state’s new license fee package.
“The Ruffed Grouse Society and the American Woodcock Society are both extremely excited about the new GEMS initiative,” said Eric Ellis, the Ruffed Grouse Society East Great Lakes regional biologist. “We see this as an opportunity to get our members in the field, working on habitat improvement projects at the GEMS sites, and using hunting destinations as opportunities to promote grouse and woodcock hunting and conservation in Michigan.”