Vantage Point

Kids and Conservation Forever!

My yellow lab, Rip, and I have some young friends joining us in this issue's picture. We even got everyone-except grandson Ben-to look at the camera at the same time. Note the artwork on our shirts calling attention to some of the many groups that focus on conservation education for kids. "Jakes," "Green Wings," "Hooked on Fishing; not on Drugs," "Wild Outdoor World," "Puddlers," "Earth Angels," "Otis" "Project Wild," "Learning Tree" and many other organizations and publications are committed to making sure that today's kids will turn into tomorrow's conservation supporters.

These organizations and programs share the goal of moving kids away from bad things that abound and into a lifetime of natural highs that come with the outdoors. Kids' conservation education is probably the area in which the private non-profit groups, natural resource agencies and private citizens find their greatest agreement. I believe that our kids are the future of conservation, and their conservation education represents by far the single best investment we can make with our scarce dollars.

Kids give us a wonderful return on our investments-short and long term, personal and social. Fishing psychologist, outdoor author and expert on suicides and longevity Paul Quinnett says that when you take a kid fishing you are dosing yourself with what he calls a "hope pill." He says research on dying indicates that people with responsibilities are more likely to put off the grim reaper. I say then, be selfish and live a bit longer by committing yourself to a child or to children's collective outdoor education.

While you are enjoying life outdoors with kids, consider placing some of your assets in the agency or program you believe will best help keep the conservation and kids forever cycle running. We stand ready as a department with our new Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation to inform you of the various ways it's possible to contribute to the future of kids' conservation education in Missouri.

Being a relative newcomer yet to the Conservation Department, but pretty knowledgeable after 21 years as a natural resource director, I can assure you that the Missouri Conservation Department, with the help of your support, conservation money and a team of imaginative education employees, leads the nation by far in the extent of our emphasis on kids' conservation efforts. This is not bragging; it's a generally known fact in the conservation community.

We still need to do more, however. We are very concerned about those we miss with our programs and, in turn, what they miss in their understanding about the life that abounds in the outdoors. We must strive harder to have conservation programs available to accommodate every kid's conservation needs. If we collectively can get enough kids to make the first step outdoors with our help and the skills we've learned over a lifetime, I'm confident they'll find something out there in nature that they'll like. And, just like that, conservation will be in safe hands-for involved people who experience and understand their place on the planet take care of it. Then we can all breathe easier, live longer and take a few extra trips before making our last cast.

My thanks to Benjamin McFarland, Deanna and Carmen Briscoe, Paul Baskett, Samantha Trower and Rip for helping with the photo. May they all enjoy in their lifetime the positive alternatives that the outdoors brings to so many of their kindred and friends.

Jerry M. Conley