Do you know that 93 percent of Missouri land is privately owned? Did you know that Missouri's rich soil, water, wildlife and forestry resources provide the foundation for the state's largest economies--tourism, agriculture and forest products? It's a simple truth that the health of our valuable natural resources depends on good stewardship by those who own land or manage land, or whose jobs, businesses or daily activities affect land management. If you think about it, that seems to include just about all of us. That's why we need "Conservation Synergy."
Webster defines synergy as the interaction of two or more agents that result in a combined effect greater than the sum of their individual efforts. A common definition of conservation is the wise use of our natural resources. However, I've always liked Teddy Roosevelt's definition of conservation, which is "common sense, for a common cause, for the common good."
Those who work with me know I like (OK. I love) the word synergy. Combine "value-added" and "conservation" with "synergy" in a sentence, and I really get excited. To me, those words convey the power that can be generated when people combine their talent, creativity, resources and actions toward a common cause.
Conservation synergy must occur among government agencies, conservation groups, farmers, ranchers, developers, industry and all Missourians if we are to be successful in protecting and sustaining our precious natural resources.
For the last four years of my 31-year conservation career, I've had the privilege of leading the Department's Private Land Services Division. The Division was authorized by the Conservation Commission in 1999 to add value and create synergy (great sentence, huh?) to existing private land programs conducted by the Department, other state and federal agencies and non-government conservation partners. As part of the initiative and to promote "conservation synergy," the Department's field force was reorganized into District Conservation Teams. These teams of resource professionals combine their time and talent to plan, coordinate and deliver a comprehensive private land assistance program within 2- to 4-county districts. These changes, along with dedicated funding to provide financial assistance to interested landowners, have reinforced the Conservation Department's long-term commitment to Missourians to help them sustain fish, forest and wildlife resources in our state.
Four simple principals were developed to guide the Department's private land services initiative, and these serve us well today:
- Respect the rights, interest and values of landowners
- Provide prompt, professional, service and assistance
- Help improve awareness of existing conservation issues and challenges and
- Promote synergy among all conservation partners
If you have land and would like conservation assistance, contact your local Conservation Department office and request an on-site visit from a private land conservationist. Information about private land assistance can be found on the Department's web-site www.mdc.mo.gov under "private land assistance."
During the early years of my career, I viewed the landscape as so vast that it was easy to justify converting a bottomland prairie to a crop field because it seemed there was plenty of other bottomland prairie. Today, virtually all bottomland prairie is gone, as are the water quality, soil conservation and wildlife habitat benefits they provided. Today, I'm working hard to restore bottomland prairie on a crop field that is enrolled in the Wetland Reserve Program and, perhaps, contribute to the conservation synergy that is so critically needed. Imagine the conservation progress that could be made if each of us made contributions toward achieving synergy!
Landscape change, positive or negative, is related to how we all use the land. Soil, water and wildlife conservation are inextricably linked. One cannot flourish without the others. Conservation synergy will only be achieved when everyone with a stake in conservation participates.
Once again, I think that includes all of us.
George Seek, Private Land Services Division Administrator