A former governor I worked with often urged teamwork and patience by reminding us that when the tide comes in, all the ships rise. July was a month that all the ships rose on a tide of good news for the Conservation Department.
It started early in the month when the Missouri Supreme Court finalized its ruling that Conservation Commission funds can only be used for conservation purposes. That effectively freed up funds collected from the 1/8 of 1 percent conservation sales tax that we had put in reserve, pending the outcome of the lawsuit brought by the Missouri Conservation Federation and former Conservation Commissioners. In September we intend to provide the Commission with a recommendation on how to apply that money to speed up the pace of conservation projects throughout the state.
Next came news that Governor Carnahan had signed the conservation license plate bill proposed by the Conservation Heritage Foundation and Conservation Department. People can choose to buy a personalized conservation license plate, and the $25 fee will go to the Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation to fund more conservation projects on the drawing board or already in progress. The Conservation Department's outdoor classroom cost-share program that matches funds for schools to develop vacant land areas into outdoor classrooms is one such program. More details will follow in future issues of the Conservationist, but the good news continues!
Within the coming weeks, Congress is expected to complete a process called "mark up" on the previously reported upon Conservation and Reinvestment Act (CARA), which blends two competing bills into one that can then be brought forward to the full Congress. This act turns federal offshore oil and gas lease royalties into grants to states for parks and wildlife conservation programs. The bills' components could provide $15 to $17 million annually for the Show-Me State. The Conservation Department likely would receive a portion of the money. The mark up procedure is an important step in advancing these bills in Congress. The concept embodied in this action has broad, bipartisan support. Again, stay tuned for more details and how to assist in CARA's passage.
Finally, we experienced another high tide for conservation in late July, when we learned at the Conservation Commission meeting in St. Louis that Governor Carnahan had reappointed Anita B. Gorman to another 6-year term as Commissioner. In announcing her reappointment, Governor Carnahan said, "Anita has done an outstanding job on the Commission. Her work on the Discovery Center in Kansas City and Columbia Bottom in St. Louis is a testament to her commitment to conservation in Missouri."
I can personally attest to Anita's tireless efforts on projects statewide that benefit our many conservation programs. The Conservation Department is very excited about the opportunity to write new conservation memories together with Missouri's first woman commissioner.
We have plenty of programs and projects in the making that are likely to bring more good conservation news in the near future. These include not only Columbia Bottom and the Kansas City Discovery Center, but wetland development on the new tract at Four Rivers Conservation Area and our soon to be completed Warsaw fish hatchery, the largest warm-water hatchery in the nation.
Add to these our expanding Stream Team and Forestkeeper programs, our plans for traveling outdoor classrooms and the construction of a new conservation campus in Cape Girardeau, and you can see that the stage is set for many more success stories. We hope that this is just the beginning of an extended period of high tides.