Note To Our Readers

Deep Waters

The morning mist climbed to the brightening sky as the quiet movements of unseen creatures gave way to the voices of songbirds. The clear water continued downstream as day broke on the east fork of the Black River.

To celebrate the end of spring fire season, I often float with my sons or fellow foresters along this stretch of the Black River, from Lesterville to K Highway, not far from Annapolis. It is a good time to reconnect with one of Missouri’s priceless rivers and streams.

You can travel to any part of this state and find unique and important water resources. We are also blessed to have two of the nation’s mightiest rivers, the Missouri and Mississippi, flowing within and traversing the state’s boundaries. Last year’s drought was a stark reminder that, while Missouri is rich in water, our state is not immune to the influences of natural events. It was a wake-up call for all of us to begin thinking about ways to protect and sustain Missouri’s rich and vital waters.

Abundant, clean water has supported Missouri’s residents, our economy, and our forest, fish, and wildlife for generations, with few limitations. In the past, water was not a limiting factor for economic development or public recreational use. However, the trend for development in Missouri is expected to continue, escalating the water demand for industrial, municipal, agricultural, and residential uses.

Today, many states struggle with legal and political processes for allocating precious water resources. Missouri is also susceptible to future water shortages and competing demands. Missourians only need to look to the west to observe how water allocation has evolved into a complex social, political, economic, environmental, and legal issue that will require leadership, collaboration, scientific expertise, sustained effort, and time to build consensus on how to best share a finite resource.

The Department has a responsibility to be involved in any effort to develop a water allocation process to ensure that Missouri’s forest, fish, and wildlife are represented. The cornerstone of the Department’s approach to water management is to protect and promote stream flows of good water quality to sustain diverse plants and animals. We advocate an approach to first avoid, then minimize, and ultimately ensure appropriate mitigation for potential stream-flow regime alterations that would adversely affect the ecological integrity and/or biological productivity of streams. The Department will engage stakeholders as we work to sustain Missouri’s forest, fish, and wildlife resources through the ongoing debate concerning water issues. It will be important that interested parties engage in discussions early and often to chart the course for water use in Missouri.

Missouri’s citizens have a rich and productive legacy of making difficult but appropriate choices when it comes to conservation. The dialog that leads to these decisions is often passionate. Recent discussions on regulations pertaining to crayfish, captive cervids, and deer management all point to how deeply Missourians care about nature. Discussions about allocation of water resources and its influence on forest, fish, and wildlife will be equally passionate and Missouri will be better served because of this dialog.

Spring gives me great hope that the tough weather conditions of last year are nothing more than a memory. Last year’s drought is a powerful reminder of why the Department has long been involved in water issues. We will engage our partners in state water planning and other initiatives to ensure the conservation or our forest, fish, and wildlife for future generations. It is my hope that you find time to enjoy Missouri’s rivers, lakes, and streams this spring.

Tom Draper, deputy director