Vantage Point

True Measures of Conservation Success

Successful conservation projects frequently take many years to bear fruit and, of course, require the cooperation of Mother Nature. During my three decades of work in conservation, I have learned the values of patience and dedication. Our agency is fortunate to have many patient and dedicated people as part of its past, present and future. For this, I am truly thankful.

In the 1970s, a group of visionary leaders crafted "A Design for Conservation," a detailed plan for our conservation future. The plan promised Missouri citizens specific achievements in 19 program areas in exchange for stable sales tax funding equal to 1/8 of 1 percent.

The Conservation Department's chief photographer and writer at the time, Don Wooldridge, defined the motivation behind the effort: "The Design isn't for the benefit of the Department of Conservation, it's for Missourians. It's for the future."

This sentiment captures the key to conservation--creating meaningful change over decades for all future Missourians to enjoy.

Today, we reap the benefit of the patience of those before us who kept their promises to expand and improve a host of conservation services, public use areas and public facilities. Our quality of life is better for it and, because of it, Missouri's economy is bolstered. Expenditures on fish and wildlife recreation in Missouri generate a positive annual economic impact of $4 billion!

But we still face many conservation challenges that require patience and diligence. That is why I am especially thankful for the dedication displayed by so many special people on behalf of our natural resources.

I am thankful for the thousands of volunteers who freely give their time, energy and expertise for the benefit of conservation. Hunter education instructors, nature center volunteers and Stream Team members are great examples. The cost of providing these services, absent the volunteers, would be substantial.

I am thankful for the nearly two million hunters and anglers who help to manage fish and wildlife populations. Sportsmen and women were the original conservationists and the impetus for the creation of this agency.

I am thankful that citizens continue to support Missouri conservation efforts and the funding needed to pay for them. A recent Gallup survey reports that two-thirds of Missourians believe their Department of Conservation is doing a "good" or "excellent" job. For seven decades, the hallmark of Conservation Commission leadership has been long-range programs, honest accounting and citizen involvement.

I am thankful that Conservation Department employees have the courage to question whether our current efforts are working and the innovation to choose the most productive paths to success.

Finally, I am thankful and inspired by the personal and financial commitment of extraordinary conservationists like Dr. Harry and Lina Berrier. About 20 years ago, the Berriers created a special trust account to dedicate proceeds from their Show-Me Barbecue Sauce business to benefit a special conservation need. Their annual holiday donations have accrued to a sizable gift that will serve generations to come.

Patience is concentrated strength. May we all be thankful this holiday season for our collective dedication to Missouri's conservation success.

John D. Hoskins, Director