Grouse Management Areas

Three blocks of the Douglas County Forest are designated as Special Grouse Management Areas. Enrolled in the Ruffed Grouse Society’s Special Management Area Program, they include:
  • Spruce River , at 17,668 acres, the Spruce River Grouse Management Area is Douglas County’s largest GMA. Located in the southwestern part of the county, Spruce River GMA is accessible from Moose Road on the southern boundary and from Summit Trail, which closely follows the northern and western borders. Vehicle access is restricted in this area. An extensive network of internal forest trails allows easy walk-in access for recreational users. County management objectives focus on enhancing the habitat for ruffed grouse, American woodcock, and young forest game species. Aspen and oak harvests are used to develop structural and age-class diversity, create forest edge habitats, and maintain conifer species to provide winter thermal cover. 
  • Poplar River , in northeast Douglas County, the Poplar River Grouse Management Area, located 3 miles outside Lake Nebagamon, is best accessed from South Shore Grade. Poplar River GMA is 1,776 acres in size and is primarily aspen with components of lowland forest containing white cedar, black spruce, and swamp hardwoods (black ash, elm, and red maple). The combination of upland and lowland lends well to management for ruffed grouse and American woodcock. Active timber management by Douglas County Forestry provides a diverse age class of aspen, forest edge habitat, and coniferous cover during winter months. 
  • Empire Swamp , the 8,200-acre Empire Grade Grouse Management Area is located approximately 11 miles west of Solon Springs. Empire Grade is the most vehicle accessible of the three GMAs in Douglas County. Jackson Box Trail creates the eastern border. A network of well-maintained county forest roads run through Empire Grade GMA. From these roads, recreational users can access interior areas by walking trails. Forest management in this area focuses on expanding aspen and oak acreage, harvesting areas of varying sizes with irregular boundaries, maximizing the creation of forest edge and developing structural and age-class diversity. Adjacent lowland forests and shrublands provide critical winter thermal cover and habitat.

Management Objectives

Management objectives for each area are to enhance habitat for ruffed grouse and woodcock by:
  • Maintaining and expanding aspen and oak acreage.
  • Establishing harvest areas of varying sizes and with irregular boundaries to maximize the creation of forest edge.
  • Discouraging encroachment by coniferous species in to the aspen and oak types.
  • Creating and maintaining structural and age class diversity in the aspen and oak types.
  • Managing motorized access.

Management for woodcock habitat remains important due to the continued decline in populations of this species. The woodcock has been identified in the North American Woodcock Management Plan as a species of greatest concern because the young forests and shrubland habitats used by this species have continued to decline throughout the State. Management practices that favor woodcock habitat include harvesting uplands directly to the edge of lowland habitat, providing young forest habitat, and creating disturbance in brushy lowland habitats to encourage new growth.