The day I was writing this column, I saw a woman pull her car to the side of a busy street and run out into a small gap in the traffic. She scooped up a box turtle from the middle of the road and deposited it on the other side of a nearby fence. That act seems to me the essence of all our efforts to protect our fish, forests and wildlife. Conservation can seem like a huge organized effort, but it all starts with individuals who want to protect our valuable natural resources.
I want to use my last editorial before retiring to thank all you readers for your many acts of conservation kindness. It is never a small, insignificant thing to plant native vegetation in your yard, teach a hunter safety class or take a kid hunting or fishing. People find thousands of ways to further the cause of conservation. They might encourage a politician to vote for CARA, pick up litter from a stream bank, donate land that contains some of our natural heritage, join conservation clubs or sporting organizations, participate in the Christmas bird count or help a turtle safely cross a busy street. Collectively, all these individual acts are creating a better conservation tomorrow.
If I've done anything to encourage folks to perform conservation kindnesses, I will feel pleased with my career. My only regret is not doing even more of these individual acts of conservation kindness myself along the way. In my retirement, I plan to be more active as an individual in improving the nation's conservation future.
I also want to extend my personal thanks to the 1996 Conservation Commission members John Powell, Anita Gorman, Ron Stites and Randy Herzog for giving me the opportunity to return to my home state to lead the best conservation program in the country. What a pleasant end to a conservation director's career!
Howard Wood then showed up as a commissioner a year later and taught me a few dozen things about being a CEO that I had somehow missed along the way. Stephen Bradford and Cynthia Metcalfe fulfilled my wife Janet's prediction that the last two commissioners I worked for would make me regret retiring. Good commissioners mean everything to a great conservation program, and those seven pass the test by anyone's standards.
Thanks also to the staff of the Conservation Department. It is your work that has allowed us to create the best conservation agency in the country! Our employees were already completely motivated when I came aboard. About the only thing I did as director to improve their productivity was to allow them the freedom of comfortable outdoor clothes instead of business suits, and widen their tolerance for change a bit. Our work force quickly became a fast-moving, smooth-operating, productive machine that I was extremely proud to lead into conservation adventures.
I also believe the current commission has chosen an outstanding person to succeed me. John Hoskins has the background, motivation, insight and vision to be a terrific director. I wish him the best luck in his new leadership role.
Thanks to all of you that commented on my dog, Rip, during all these years of columns. And no, the dog will not continue the column without me! We have a lifetime contract that requires her to go where I go. Together we're heading for the hills to chase birds and ducks. She'll have the freedom to dig out a few mice when the hunting gets slow.
The mention of lifetime contract brings me to my last round of thanks. I met a wonderful person in a Forest
Service camp during fire season in 1961. Ever since that time, we've worked together as a team to fight a lot of important conservation battles that came along during our life in Utah, Iowa, Kansas, Idaho and Missouri. I'm proud of the outcome of almost all those battles, and I'm proud to be married to my wife, Janet Kayler Conley.
As I said, this is my last editorial for the Conservationist. I'll frequently think about our readers, and I know they'll continue performing those small acts of conservation kindness.
Jerry M. Conley, Director