Vantage Point

Celebrating Our Conservation Past

Even the most dedicated conservation administrator occasionally stops poring over fish, forest and wildlife reports to indulge in reading a favorite author or two.

I deliberated recently over a question that was raised by the main character in the book, "Mountain Time," by Ivan Doig. He asked, "Do things back somewhere count, or don't they?"

When it comes to conservation, at least, my answer is "Absolutely!" Things back somewhere have always counted, and need to be remembered.

At the recent Missouri Conservation Federation Annual Meeting, Federation members and Conservation Department personnel were exposed to the opening act of what will be a year or so of counting-or remembering-events and people that were pivotal to the progress of conservation in Missouri.

Some 25 years ago this November, the people of Missouri approved funding of Design for Conservation, the nation's most innovative and long-reaching state conservation program. Beginning July 1, 1977, one-eighth of one percent of the sales tax collected in Missouri was dedicated to ensuring that conservation always remains a part of our everyday lives. Joel Vance, the master of ceremonies at the celebration banquet, reported that every single goal of the landmark conservation act of 1976 has been achieved or exceeded.

Over the next year we'll celebrate the progress made possible by 25 years of Design for Conservation. Our March 2002 issue, for example, will be devoted not only to the accumulating achievements and opportunities made possible by Design for Conservation, but also to the people who made Design possible. It could be said that those conservationists planted trees despite knowing that they themselves wouldn't be able to enjoy the luxurious shade the trees would eventually produce. They unselfishly set into motion a program and plan for conservation that benefits the future. It is for us to cherish, to protect and to build upon their efforts.

If we forget the past, we devalue what we have in the present. Just as we need to champion our early American heroes who struggled to provide us with a stable democracy and almost unlimited personal freedom, we also need to keep alive the memories of the early conservationists in Missouri.

Although we plan to walk down memory lane, we're not going to erect a house on it. We'll continue to report on exciting new adventures in conservation. After all, those folks who initiated Design for Conservation would be the first to tell us to get off our duffs and keep working for the future.

Chief Seattle of the Suquamish Indian Nation is often credited with a statement that seems to sum up most Missourians' conservation viewpoint. In an 1854 oration, he is reported to have said, "What is man without the beasts? If all the beasts were gone, man would die from a great loneliness of the spirit. For whatever happens to the beasts soon happens to man. All things are connected."

We're proud that people and nature continue to be connected in Missouri. Help us celebrate the 25th anniversary of Design for Conservation throughout the coming year and keep the passion for conservation burning in the hearts of Missourians. Our efforts will ensure that future generations will not have to suffer from a loneliness of spirit.

Jerry M. Conley, Director