A Giant Voice for Conservation

The Conservation Federation of Missouri has been speaking up for forests, fish and wildlife for 60 years.

The Conservation Federation of Missouri forms a body of 35,000 birders, farmers, anglers, hunters, hikers and bikers in the state and gives that body a unified voice. When politicians hear a conservation message from such a giant, they can't help but listen.

Next year marks the 60th birthday of the Conservation Federation of Missouri. Since 1936, this robust alliance of outdoorspeople has been working to protect wildlife, wild lands and water resources in the State of Missouri.

Now don't mistakenly send birthday cards to the Conservation Department. The Conservation Federation of Missouri is not the Conservation Department of Missouri. Nor are they twins - identical or fraternal.

The two, however, share a common value and a common goal.

"We're separate and distinct," Conservation Department Director Jerry Presley said, "but both organizations are helping people recognize the connections between natural resources and wildlife and the human soul or spirit."

The Conservation Federation of Missouri is an affiliation of more than 185 local and statewide conservation clubs and their members. The clubs, as wide ranging as South Fork Turkey Hunters, the Ozark Wilderness Waterways, The Greenway Network and the Trappers of Starved Rock, have banded together to amplify their voices and enlarge their influence in Missouri politics.

People not associated with a local club add their voices to the Federation by becoming sustaining members.

Such a coalition is possible because these groups and individuals share a common interest. All of them - anglers in Salem, birdwatchers in St. Louis, trappers in Kirksville, hunters in Kansas City - want to ensure that Missouri politicians and legislators pass laws and make decisions that support a healthy and bountiful natural environment.

In fact, the Conservation Federation was formed in 1936 because a group of citizens, mostly hunters and anglers, wanted better management of the state's natural resources.

Back then, fish and game management was much less than a scientific endeavor. The old Fish and Game Department, which was established in 1909, could best be described as a political checkerboard. Party leaders moved their friends - who sometimes couldn't tell a turkey from a terrapin - to prominent positions in the Department. Each new election mussed the board and brought in another round of patronage.

At the same time, fish and wildlife in Missouri were in calamitous decline, thanks to a combination of the 1930s drought and a history of unregulated