Vantage Point

The Process of Hatching

My brother, Dave, a Jefferson City Methodist minister, told me that he'd recently read an article that compared a company's emergence to greatness to the hatching of an egg. The author noted that it's not the physical breaking of the shell that creates the greatness. It's the unseen, methodical process of change and development occurring inside an egg that makes the difference.

As Conservation Department Director, I get a fascinating inside look at all the different department processes and daily changes that contribute to our overall performance. The big change for our Department recently has been the appointment of two new commissioners and their approval by the state Senate. Governor Holden should be commended for making, in my opinion, two extremely good choices, and the state Senate should be applauded for approving their appointment at the recent special legislative session. The quick approval allows our small, four-member commission to concentrate on serious conservation issues of Missouri without the distraction of a long, drawn-out approval process that may involve requests for assistance on ideas or projects in return for help in the approval process.

Odds are you can't name more than one of our commissioners without glancing at the masthead (page 3) of this magazine. If things go well during their tenure, the Department itself or a politician generally receives credit for solid conservation work, while the commissioners remain unknown. If their decisions prove incorrect, however, their recognition rating rises rapidly! We shouldn't underestimate the tremendous value of our Conservation Commission. Its members harbor the potential for a great conservation future and are the last line of defense for many of our state's threatened habitats and species.

Commissioners must invest a huge amount of their time to keep the processes inside the conservation egg alive and developing. Their spouses have sometimes been relieved when their terms expire, allowing the now ex-commissioner to again be a family member.

You might wonder why people accept the rigors of a commission appointment? It's not the pay! Commissioners receive no wages. In fact, they often spend substantial personal funds or miss out on financial opportunities in the course of their duties. I think they volunteer to help because they are driven by a deep desire to give something back to a conservation resource they've deeply valued as a part of their heritage or lifestyle.

Sometimes, commissioners use their influence to initiate or complete projects of special importance to their area of the state. They also seem to enjoy nudging an idea or department program so they can watch it snowball into a whole new freshly-hatched bird that grows into greatness.

My thanks go out to those far-sighted folks who, in 1936, saw fit to recommend to the people of Missouri a commission form of conservation management. They and the voters gave our commission real decision-making authority and independence from the worst parts of the political process.

Some 43 commissioners have served to date under this constitutional mandate. Their collective talents and decisions have been the basis for the widely recognized favorable status of the Missouri Department of Conservation. Perhaps the system-like democracy itself-has a few flaws but, like our political system, it's by far the best system around. I'm confident our new commissioners, Cynthia Metcalfe and Stephen Bradford, will join Howard Wood and Anita Gorman in writing many exciting new chapters in the Missouri book of conservation history. I suspect that years from now, when they end their terms as commissioners, they'll believe the period went amazingly quick and was one of the highlights of their lives. Future generations will appreciate their conservation efforts.

Our commissioners are always seeking ways to improve the Department and its programs. You can be part of the process within the egg by taking time to provide them with your suggestions and comments. Support our commissioners when appropriate and suggest changes when you feel they have gone astray. Your input is part of the process of assuring that we hatch out as a beautiful swan instead of an ugly duckling!

Remember that conservation in Missouri is always in need of good friends and a shorter time between bites!

Jerry M. Conley, Director