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Note To Our Readers

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Striking the Right BalanceTom Draper, deputy director

Most Missourians understand and accept the need for rules that ensure wise use of Missouri’s natural resources. They understand that unregulated harvest led to the unacceptable exploitation of fish and game and the near loss of deer and turkey from the state by the early decades of the twentieth century. When Missourians voted in 1936 to amend the state constitution and form the Conservation Commission, it was to reverse the precipitous decline of wildlife populations and the exploitation of natural resources that included degradation of forests and streams. This was accomplished through the judicious use of regulation. Regulation is essential to conservation and the two are inseparable. Conservation is the wise use of natural resources, and wise use requires restraints on activities that threaten the continued existence of the natural environment.

The process of formulating regulations is a partnership with Missouri’s citizens who have trusted us to conduct research and use the best available information to sustain our natural resource heritage. Citizen input is vital to reaching good decisions and responding to the desires of resource users. Those surveys to which you have responded over the years, public meetings that you attended, or individual comments you provided have helped us to address your desires while still protecting the resource.

We have the benefit of clear hindsight to see the results of unregulated use of wildlife and natural resources. Absence of regulation is one extreme. The other extreme is to overregulate, so that citizens are frustrated and discouraged from participating in outdoor traditions. The Department’s goal is to strike the correct balance between those two extremes, so that we permit as much public use of natural resources as is consistent with the state of those natural resources, while avoiding the harassment of the hunter, angler and resource user whenever possible. Our goal is to keep seasons as long as possible, to be first restrictive on methods, next on limits, and to approach shortened seasons as a last resort. Those ideas were voiced by former Director William Towell more than 40 years ago and they still guide us today.

We are now blessed with more information on the condition of natural resources and how to manage them than we’ve ever had before. Natural resource management that was once an art is now a science. More accurate information allows us to make better management decisions. As increasing public demands are placed on a limited resource base, we also have new tools that improve our access to public opinions on our management. The judicious use of regulation remains a critical conservation tool. In exercising that authority to regulate, our goal remains to strike that balance between the desires of Missouri’s citizens and our mandate to sustain the natural resources, for today and the future.

Tom Draper, deputy director

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