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Working to Conserve All Wildlife

This edition of the Conservationist is devoted to the theme of “All Wildlife Conservation.” It highlights a renewed Department focus to conserve a broad array of wildlife and plants in recognition that all living things are part of a complex system.

I first learned the phrase “web of life” in high school at about the same time I watched Neil Armstrong walk on the moon! Our biology class took a field trip to Peck Ranch Conservation Area to observe Conservation Department efforts to restore wild turkey in Missouri.

In those days, Peck Ranch was a wildlife refuge managed for turkeys and other species used to stock areas of the state where population restoration was thought possible. The busy refuge manager, Willard Coen, explained the type of vegetation turkeys preferred and showed us the cannon-net technique he used to trap the live birds. He topped the trip off by showing a Department movie called “Return of the Wild Turkey” created by Glenn Chambers, and Elizabeth and Charles Schwartz.

Obviously, that field trip over thirty years ago left an impression about the management of turkeys. It was only back in the biology classroom that we explored how all living things depend upon one another to survive and flourish.

I expect many people think the Conservation Department’s research expertise focuses upon single species, since some of the best known success stories involve bringing back fish, trees or wildlife that we now highly value.

Today we strive to conserve wildlife in a broader sense—trees, insects, wildflowers, grasses, animals and all the rest. The descriptive phrase often heard is “preserve and restore our state’s biodiversity.”

This concept started in the early 1970s with the Design for Conservation. It called for a system of Natural Areas to preserve the best examples of forests, prairies, marshes and glades. Missouri is blessed with rich and diverse natural resources and improving habitats that serve the widest variety of wildlife is the key to conservation progress. It is no longer wise, nor practical, to devote energies to each species, one at a time.

Natural habitats are lost or degraded at an alarming rate as the human population continues to grow and alter the use of lands. Invasive and exotic species like kudzu vines and zebra mussels are further intruding on our state’s land and waters. The full impacts of these landscape changes are not clearly understood, but we do know that addressing them is an essential part of any effective action plan.

Fortunately, conservation employees do not face these challenges alone. Many partners are committed to sharing resources and achieving common goals.

First and foremost, individual landowners are critical partners because 93 percent of Missouri is in private ownership. Thousands of conservation-minded landowners want to be good stewards of the land and natural resources. We are committed to assisting them and to forming landowner groups with similar goals.

There are also numerous conservation groups, organizations, and public agencies committed to progress on this cooperative conservation effort. The President and Congress express similar support for conservation partnerships and, in recent years, are providing more funding to states to implement programs maximizing benefits to all forms of wildlife.

This Conservationist is a showcase of our state’s diverse habitats and the many interesting plants and animals that consider Missouri home. As you enjoy the magazine, also consider the challenges faced, the partnerships needed, and the actions required to make wildlife conservation successful in all of its forms.

We are dedicated to helping Missourians preserve our state’s great natural heritage for new generations. With the contributions of landowners, farmers, hunters, anglers, bird watchers and all other Missourians interested in our fish, forests and wildlife, anything is possible.

John D. Hoskins, Director

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