Vantage Point

The Faces of Conservation

Thumbing through the Wildlife Diversity Report that recently came across my desk, I marveled at how many people it takes to make this business of conservation work.

The internal office report summarizes the activities, projects and ongoing studies being done on behalf of plant and wildlife diversity during the last fiscal year.

The sheer heft of it is amazing, and then you get into the details, the nitty-gritty of conservation work:

  • Examined 11,067 living specimens of unionid mussels in the Meramec River Basin as part of a three-year, statewide survey to assess Missouri's mussel fauna.
  • Surveyed 14 oak-savanna sites, documenting 273 species.
  • Conducted point-count surveys of nocturnal birds, primarily whip-poor wills and chuck-will's-widows, on or near the date of the full moon at 56 stations throughout Missouri.
  • Surveyed 80 sites for four families of beetles.
  • Visited 148 potential natural feature sites in five counties.
  • Updated more than 12,000 records of occurrences of more than 800 sensitive species and natural communities.

There were dozens of surveys, scads of research projects, lots of restoration efforts. Conservation Department employees were counting, digging, planting, burning and helping college students with their dissertations. And the report, focusing on non-game species, didn't even take into account work being done with deer, turkey, quail, muskellunge, trout and walleye.

Nor did it list all those necessary but unheralded tasks associated with our mission, such as building signs, carrying food for hatchery fish, conducting public hearings, counting anglers and the fish they catch, cleaning campgrounds or nailing sardine cans to trees to census bear populations.

So many people doing so much!

When I tell people I work for the Conservation Department, most assume that I'm an agent. It's easy to make that mistake and, frankly, I'm flattered by it. Agents are our uniformed front-line troops. They are often the only Conservation Department employees that kids, landowners, hunters and anglers ever meet. I sense disappointment when I explain to people that I have a desk job.

As important as agents and their jobs are, they represent only a fraction of the business of conservation. Agents and their direct supervisors comprise 182 of the Conservation Department's 1,381 full-time employees. The department has on its roster 467 part-time or seasonal employees. We also employ a number of volunteers willing to work for the cause of conservation. (See the article on page 14.)

Office workers in Jefferson City make up roughly 15 percent of the full time employees. They regulate permit sales, keep track of budgets, produce tons of educational materials, plan for the future, supervise people in the field, ( as the Wildlife Diversity Report), conduct meetings, shuffle paperwork, etc. Many of them also spend time in the field as part of their jobs.

To keep more people in the field, close to their fields of expertise and closer to you, we now have ten regional centers around the state, where you can get information and help geared toward your area.

Our goal is to make it easier for you to meet more of the faces of conservation, not only the agent who checks your license and the researcher who checks your deer, but the specialist that will help you manage your land for wildlife or your timber for profit, the naturalists that will guide you and your children on nature walks, or the biologists that will help you deal with nuisance wildlife problems.

The faces of conservation are there for your benefit. When you spot one of us in the field, come up and talk. You'll find us to be a friendly bunch.