Note To Our Readers
Missourians love the outdoors. We express this passion in many ways such as hunting, fishing, hiking, birding, farming and gardening for food, maintaining habitat for native species and for water quality. Nature gives us emotional and economic support. Missouri is blessed with natural abundance, diverse and unique natural communities and a rich outdoor heritage that includes unprecedented public support for conservation. We believe outdoor activities are a part of our cultural heritage and must be sustained for future generations.
Americans have combined a love of the outdoors, owning and working the land, and belief in self-governance that is unique. These beliefs create a powerful motivation to engage in conservation and in public debate about how natural resources are managed. The Department recognizes and welcomes a healthy debate as a sign that people care and that our mission is relevant.
In these changing and challenging times, conservation must not recede in the public’s mind as immediate concerns and pressures of daily life consume our leisure time and divert our attention. However, every day I see dedicated Department employees working hard to protect and preserve our natural heritage for equally hard-working Missourians to enjoy and relax from their daily troubles.
Our parents and grandparents were wise to establish a unique conservation system that allows your conservation agency to provide for today’s needs while sustaining nature for future Missourians. It is for these future Missourians that we believe conservation must remain relevant. In fact, it is our obligation to do so.
Missourians’ interest in nature has always been varied, but public interest in the Department’s services and requests for new outdoor activities is growing. We value our traditional partners and hope we can provide new outdoor activities for Missourians as people’s interests change. Sometimes, these activities are compatible. Sometimes, the Department must evaluate competing activities and seek alternatives. We try to balance public expectations with science-based conservation practices that sustain natural resources for future generations.
As chair of the Department’s Regulations Committee, frequently I must weigh citizens’ requests for a certain activity that may be in conflict with the science-based conservation practices. Finding balance is essential. The Department takes this duty and these requests of Missourians very seriously. These are critical examples where the Department balances the needs of the public today with the future needs of Missourians by managing forest, fish and wildlife resources.
A foundation of the Department’s resource policy is the goal of natural community management of lands held in public trust. Aldo Leopold wrote that like a watchmaker, conservationists must preserve the pieces to maintain the watch. The Department has learned much as to how the pieces in Missouri’s diverse communities function. Some pieces have been lost. The Department seeks to restore missing pieces of the ecological puzzle whenever practical or feasible to make the watch tick. Restoration of woodlands, glades and prairies are examples where public interest matches a natural resource management need, based on natural community restoration principles. Detailed planning has occurred and policies are in place to minimize potential adverse impacts. The Department believes restoration activities will benefit nature, while providing new sources of outdoor recreation and activities, which in turn will increase economic benefits to Missourians.
Clearly, there is a disagreement in certain public segments about how restoration activities are implemented. The Department responds to public expectations, seeks and obtains informed consent of the people, uses science, public input and public policy to develop restoration protocols to direct implementation practices on the land.
Conservation, like democracy, works best with the informed consent of the people. This does not mean everyone will always agree as we balance the needs of the people and conservation of natural resources. Theodore Roosevelt believed that conservation, at its very root, is the core of the democratic principles of the United States. Natural resources must be conserved so that all the people can enjoy what Thomas Jefferson proclaimed “…life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness…”
Your Department is committed to provide and encourage outdoor opportunities by listening to Missourians, anticipating their needs and assessing their requests while ensuring Missouri’s natural resources are conserved for the future.
Thomas A. Draper, deputy director