Vantage Point

Improving the Odds

Only 10 percent of what you work on will ever make a difference. Trouble is, you never know until later what 10 percent it is that will count!"

Jim Martin, my old friend from the Northwestern salmon battles and now conservation director for Pure Fishing, Inc. (formerly Berkley Corporation) recently delivered these words. The occasion was the 2001 Natural Resources Conference at Lake of the Ozarks.

My 35 years of conservation experience tells me that Jim is exactly on target. Projects or ideas dismissed as minor or dead-end often end up dramatically changing the landscape. People I scarcely remember show up and thank me for an action I barely recall that changed their lives or viewpoint. On the other hand, sometimes the absolutely critical work you poured soul and body into on a 24-7 basis vanishes quickly from the scene.

Every so often, something good that was well planned that should have worked exceeds beyond the originators' wildest expectations. Design for Conservation and the one-eighth of one percent conservation tax is one of the country's best examples. Passed in 1976 by Missouri voters, it has greatly improved the Missouri landscape by acquiring many of Missouri's land resource jewels, constructing education facilities and initiating the nation's first and finest broad-based state conservation program.

Recently a group of national and state conservationists met to advise the new Bush administration on what could make a difference nationally in natural resources. I would urge you to get a copy of their 2-page result (yes only two pages!) called, "A Fish and Wildlife National Agenda." You can obtain a copy by e-mailing the International Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies at IAFWA@sso.org or by writing IAFWA, Suite 544, 444 N. Capitol St. N.W., Washington, DC 20001.

If only ten percent of their suggestions for a new national resource program end up making a difference, we could be living in a better conservation world in the future.

Just to whet your appetite, I'll tell you a few of the needs identified in the report:

  • Active national forest management
  • Conservation programs included within national farm legislation
  • Valuing hunting and fishing as key components of conservation
  • Stopping the erosion of state authority for fish and wildlife management
  • Funding programs similar to the Conservation and Reinvestment Act (CARA) that passed Congress last year.

If only the funding for CARA turned out to be the ten percent that made a difference, what an impact that would have on Missouri! Fully funded, we would have a base of $7 million that would be matched with private dollars and in-kind work to at least double CARA's impact. How many hundreds of small bread-and-butter projects would that fund in your county, city, or school area over an extended period?

As director, I know how hard it is to get folks together on a consensus approach. For example, recent citizen recommendations on otter management range from a B-52 bomber attack on the population to wanting otters enrolled in a physical fitness program! Hopefully, we can persuade the new folks that are tasting the rarified air of Washington, D.C., to work on expanding that usual ten-percent success rate by taking advantage of the expert advice contained in the national agenda report. It could definitely reduce threats to our natural resources and increase the chances of successes that would translate into a better conservation tomorrow.

Jerry M. Conley, Director