It was last here in 1987

    Prairie grouse conservationists from across the U.S. and Canada are gathering at the University of Minnesota Crookston Oct. 10-12 to share knowledge and appreciation of prairie grouse populations throughout their range.    

    The 30th meeting of the Prairie Grouse Technical Council Conference will commence with registration and a reception on Thursday, Oct. 10, starting at 5:30 p.m. in the Prairie Room of Sargeant Student Center at UMC. Registration for the full conference is $150 per attendee. For more, contact Dan Svedarsky at 281-8129 or   

    The prairie grouse family includes the sage grouse, the lesser and greater prairie chicken, Attwater’s prairie chicken, and the sharp-tailed grouse. Participants of the conference will hear of the impact of changing land use, energy development, and Farm Bill programs, such as the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), on prairie grouse populations across the range. Professional biologists and graduate students will present technical papers on research and conservation programs in efforts to reduce factors which are limiting to populations. In addition to various prairie grouse reports, the event will include a business meeting and a field trip to local prairie grouse habitat.   

    The meeting will include presentation of the Hamerstrom Award, which recognizes individuals and organizations for ongoing efforts in prairie grouse conservation. The award is named in honor of Fred and Francis Hamerstrom who were both students of the famed Aldo Leopold, the father of wildlife management. The Hamerstroms conducted research on prairie grouse in Wisconsin for decades and are credited with generating information that was critical to saving the prairie chicken in Wisconsin and other states as well.   

    “The biennial conference rotates to different parts of the grassland biome in North America to allow participants to experience the broad range of conditions where these magnificent birds live,” Svedarsky, conference organizer, stated.         The conference most recently was hosted in Hays, Kansas, in 2011 and last hosted in Crookston in 1987.   

    “We’re fortunate in northwest Minnesota to have both sharp-tailed grouse and the greater prairie chicken living side by side and enjoyed by students, researchers, sportsmen, and nature lovers,” said Svedarsky, a research biologist at the Northwest Research and Outreach Center and wildlife professor at UMC.     

    The birds are especially notable for their spectacular courtship displays in the spring. Both species are classified as game birds in Minnesota and notably occur on the Glacial Ridge National Wildlife Refuge east of Crookston and on other wildlife areas in northwest Minnesota.   

   In addition to primary sponsorship by the University of Minnesota, other sponsors include the Crookston Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Minnesota Prairie Chicken Society, Truax Company, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Nature Conservancy.