Welcome to a special issue of the Conservationist. This magazine will focus on some of the public lands managed by the Conservation Department and the types of outdoor pursuits and recreation they feature.
Twenty years ago Missouri voters passed an addition to the state sales tax that was earmarked for use by the Conservation Department. At the time, Missouri was short on public lands. Urban development was gobbling up private lands at a blistering pace, and the mechanics of factory-style farm production were making much of the remaining rural land a sterile place for wildlife. Large tracts of forest land were being removed to accommodate more cattle. The need for conservation stewardship of prairies, forests, fields and streams was never greater.
The sales tax took effect in 1977. The Conservation Department has used a portion of that money to purchase public lands. Some conservation areas are for hiking or shooting photos. Some are for hunting, fishing and camping, and some are for threatened caves, springs and endangered plants and animals. A number of these lands encompass all of those values.
Most Missourians no longer have access to private lands. We live in cities, rather than in rural areas. We no longer have relatives or friends who own rural lands or farm their own property. When it comes to looking for hiking trails, a place to hunt or fish, or a place to study nature or shoot outdoor photographs, we turn to public lands out of necessity.
And some unique features, such as large caves or springs, simply no longer exist anywhere but on land protected by public ownership. As urbanization and development continue, Conservation Department lands will appreciate in their value to society. Thanks to the conservation sales tax, we have many more acres today than we did 20 years ago.
In this issue we have selected some of the conservation tracts that are in public ownership, and we highlight the activities they are best suited for. These lands serve two major purposes. One is the conservation of wildlife and unique features like caves and streams. The second purpose is as sites for recreation such as birding, photography, hiking and, of course, hunting and fishing. We invite you to read about them, and then go afield with your family and enjoy them.
Jim Auckley, Managing Editor