SPOONER – Healthy forests are the centerpiece of the Ruffed Grouse Society and its sister organization the American Woodcock Society's mission, and this important mission is shared by many other conservation organizations.
By engaging with conservation partners, RGS/AWS can pool "time, talent and treasure" to have a synergistic impact on forest resources. RGS/AWS staff have captured this synergy through a novel collaboration with staff from the USDA - Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, which will support a new, full-time staff person dedicated to forest habitat development in northwestern Wisconsin.
Valerie Johnson recently began working in the first RGS/AWS forest wildlife specialist position in the Spooner USDA Service Center. Johnson will work with forest landowners to identify and implement sound forest management practices on their lands, emphasizing those that enhance or expand the young forest habitat base. From initial consultation to practice implementation, she will provide landowners with all the technical assistance needed to achieve their forest wildlife habitat objectives and will provide financial assistance via the application of federal Farm Bill conservation dollars.
"We are very excited to bring this initiative to fruition," said Josh Sherman, NRCS assistant state conservationist for field operations. "Private landowners manage the majority of forested land in Wisconsin, and through this position we envision being able to better provide needed technical and financial services to this community. We are thrilled to have someone of Valerie's energy and expertise on board."
Johnson is steeped in the North Woods lifestyle, is an avid hunter, and brings an abundance of experience and enthusiasm to the RGS/AWS conservation program. She earned her B.S. degree in geology and watershed management from Winona State University in Minnesota and a Master's in forestry and forestry recreation from UW-Stevens Point. She has an extensive background in forest management, having worked as a forestry technician for Wisconsin DNR and in various roles for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Park Service, and Illinois DNR. She currently serves as treasurer for the Wisconsin Chapter of the Society of American Foresters.
"I am extremely excited to begin this new journey as the forest wildlife specialist with the Ruffed Grouse Society/American Woodcock Society and our partners at NRCS and the Wisconsin DNR," said Johnson. "I very much look forward to helping landowners achieve their forest management objectives, getting to know local RGS/AWS members, and in building strong partnerships with my conservation colleagues throughout the region."