Laying the Foundation for a Bright Tomorrow
This month’s Conservationist takes an in-depth look at the Conservation Department’s new strategic plan, called The Next Generation of Conservation. This far-reaching strategy was recently adopted by the Conservation Commission to ensure that the Department will continue to conserve Missouri’s fish, forest and wildlife resources for the benefit of the state’s citizens.
The Next Generation of Conservation goes far beyond the typical strategic plan of public agencies. We consulted with many partners before finalizing the plan, and we researched the condition of Missouri’s plants and animals with an eye toward managing them for years to come. We also studied Missourians’ expectations and desires to identify the services needed to meet our public service obligations.
The Department is grateful to all Missouri citizens for their contributions to conservation programs through a dedicated sales tax and the purchase of hunting, fishing and trapping permits. The financial support has remained consistent over the last three decades, and the results are outstanding. However, future excellence in conservation will rely on the continued strength of conservation revenues, and on Department leaders who accept the public trust to use those funds responsibly.
Defining clear priorities is part of responsible leadership. The Next Generation of Conservation describes today’s challenges and opportunities and the Department’s dedication to achieving the things most valued and most needed. We are committed to achieving the priorities listed in the plan, and we intend to earn your trust by meeting these goals.
As I begin my fifth year as Conservation Department director, my appreciation for strategic planning is far greater than it was when I started my career 29 years ago as a Missouri conservation agent. Good plans incorporate the best of our past and dare us to reach beyond our current understanding. Important to the process are our collective experiences with the people we value.
On a beautiful Saturday in May, I visited Montauk State Park during “Kids Fishing Day,” when part of the stream is stocked with trout and set aside for only young people. I stopped at one of my favorite fishing holes to watch children of all ages land some good fish. The joy on the children’s faces was inspirational to someone who has just spent months thinking about The Next Generation of Conservation. I realized that our work will be for these kids and thousands more like them, all of whom will value the outdoors in their own way.
Getting children to love and value natural resources is critical to conservation’s future. There are many ways to accomplish this, but mentors make a human connection that cements a lasting impression. Love of the outdoors is a special gift many will never receive unless those of us who have it are willing to share.
I often remember one person who cherished his time outside and loved to share it with others, including me, my wife and our sons. Joe Heavin had a big impact on my life. I thought of him as I watched those children fish, and I remembered that Joe caught a lunker trout from that very hole on the last fishing trip we made together. I took what may be my best photo ever of Joe in the moments just after he released that big fish. Joe died of cancer a few months later, but his gifts to my family and me live on.
Although he didn’t live long enough to see me become Department director, Joe’s wisdom and values often surface when I face difficult or important matters. I think he would approve of The Next Generation of Conservation. Like so many Missouri citizens who care passionately about the outdoors, he expected our conservation leaders to think broadly and to have their eyes open to the challenges and responsibilities of the future.
I invite you to study this special issue and think about the many different places where natural resources depend upon us to succeed. Then think about how important it is that knowledge of healthy habitats, clean waters and collaborative conservation be passed on to our grandchildren. We pledge to do our part, and we welcome you as a partner in this worthy pursuit.
John Hoskins, director, Missouri Department of Conservation