A Giant Voice for Conservation
the language used in a recent cockfighting bill might have had a negative effect on coon hunters. "That was not their legislative intent," Hirner said of the legislators. "They just didn't know."
Hirner also testifies at hearings, provides help in drafting bills and procures sponsorships for bills. "We are citizen advocates," Hirner said. "On behalf of our membership, we will promote bills, or work to change or kill them."
Much of the the Federation's agenda is set at an annual meeting of members and delegates in Jefferson City. Members can submit resolutions, which are then hashed out in committees before being brought to a general vote.
The policy directives are then passed on to legislators and elected officials.
At the ripe old age of 60 many folks are laying down their work tools and planning to spend their remaining days crappie fishing, birdwatching or traveling, but the Conservation Federation is leaping like a teenager into a new round of projects that promise to keep it spry and vital.
"We're lucky here in Missouri," Hirner said, "because the people in this state have a solid interest in conservation and in protecting the quality of the environment.
"But we're worried that as people become more urbanized and removed from the natural resource base, they will disassociate from it. We want to keep conservation in the minds of urban people."
One way to accomplish this is to get urban people outdoors for a little one on-one with trees and trails, lakes and bluffs.
The Federation's Nature Link Program brings inner city families, often single parent families, to outdoor camp for a weekend, during which they are exposed to fishing, walking in the woods and campfires.
The families are guided through their weekend by volunteers, and the exposure to nature doesn't end when they return home.
"Our volunteers make a commitment to stay in touch with the families for three years, sharing time and outdoor experiences," Hirner said.
"They cut Christmas trees together, visit conservation areas, have potluck dinners. They share their lives, learn one another's perspectives. It's really kind of a friendship program."
The Federation is also involved in the Natural Resources Career Camp. Working with state and federal resource agencies and two state universities, the Federation is promising the same long term commitment to minority high school students. The selected students attend camp for three weeks for three consecutive summers, learning about career opportunities in the outdoors.
Long term is the key to lasting improvements in conservation.
Whether it is establishing greenways for future generations, protecting water supplies, advocating the preservation of the sporting heritage or ensuring a steady source of funding for natural resource agencies, such as the Conservation Department and Department of Natural Resources, the Conservation Federation of Missouri has tenaciously worked in our behalf for 60 years.
Let's pause briefly to sing happy birthday to this giant of conservation and applaud its work, before the Conservation Federation settles down to the work of the next 60 years