Vantage Point

Aquatic Treasures

My favorite quote from The Diary of Anne Frank is, "The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God.

"Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature. As long as this exists, and it certainly always will, I know that then there will always be comfort for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances may be. And I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles."

I consider it a distinct privilege to work on behalf of Missouri citizens to assure that present and future generations will have opportunity to "connect" with nature which, as Anne Frank so eloquently stated, is absolutely critical to one's health and quality of life.

The phrase "as long as this exists, and it certainly always will," sometimes haunts me, however, for I know that just two percent of Missouri's landscape is covered by water, which is one of our most valuable yet fragile resources. Several years ago it was this reality that led the Conservation Department's Fisheries Division to adopt the slogan: Managing Missouri's Aquatic Treasures.

Will these treasures always exist? Only if Missourians remain true to conservation and unwavering in their commitment to work with us to protect, manage and conserve these priceless aquatic resources.

Both national and in-state polls reveal that water quality is a high-priority public concern. This is gratifying but also somewhat perplexing because efforts to protect water quality often meet fierce resistance. At the start of this new century, fisheries professionals met and discussed key concerns or activities that could threaten our aquatic treasures in the years ahead. The clear consensus that echoed from these meetings was that erosion-induced sediment is our country's biggest threat to water quality .

In the 1980s, Missouri had the dubious distinction of being one of the worst states in the nation in terms of loss of topsoil from agricultural cropland. The agricultural community responded by employing Best Management Practices, such as terrace construction, no-till farming and taking highly erodible land out of production. As a result, we've significantly reduced topsoil loss and helped prevent sediment from entering our streams, smothering fish eggs, aquatic insects and our beleaguered mussels, and filling in the deep holes that harbor lunker catfish or smallmouth bass.

Although agricultural sediment loss has declined, construction-based sediment continues to increase. The only way to protect our aquatic treasures is to be be increasingly careful in planning and building homes, shopping malls and roadways. It's easy to respond to a poll indicating that water quality is highest priority; however, it's not enough to merely express an opinion. Make your actions and activities reflect your conviction.

If you are looking for a home, seek out developments where sound conservation principles were employed so that wooded stream corridors are protected and contribute to the quality of life in the new neighborhood. When you see new road or shopping mall development laying bare hillsides with no erosion control measures in place, voice your concern to developers or local planning officials.

Landscapes have changed dramatically since the days of Anne Frank. We now know that our aquatic treasures are finite and highly vulnerable to degradation. We cannot be assured they will provide solace or the thrill of wetting a line for future generations unless we take actions today to protect and care for them.

Norm Stucky, Fisheries Division Administrator