Part of the Community
"There's only one rule in life," says Ranney McDonough. "Treat people as you want to be treated." With a philosophy like this, McDonough can't help but be a good neighbor. It also makes him an effective conservation agent.
Caring about the community is one of the most important aspects of a conservation agent's job. For McDonough, it meant starting a volunteer fire department and joining the Lions Club in Wayne County, where he was first assigned as an agent. It also meant coordinating an annual education event at the local school and organizing fishing clinics for kids and their parents in his current assignment of Mississippi County. All of these things help McDonough know his neighbors, and in turn they know him and feel comfortable calling him when they need help with a nuisance animal or spot a wildlife violation.
McDonough firmly believes that when law enforcement officers are friends and neighbors to the people they serve, they can do their job more efficiently. "Because the people know me, they know I'm not against them, personally, but against wildlife violations," says McDonough. He cites instances of people he has arrested who later helped him do his job.
Earning the community's support has been the key to the agents' success since 1938, when the Conservation Department assigned its first agents to protect Missouri's wildlife.
"Instead of working full time in law enforcement efforts, these new agents were expected to develop support and cooperation for the Conservation Department and its programs," says Larry Yamnitz, a Conservation Department agent programs supervisor. Today that community support is just as important for the 160 agents, who each patrol an average of more than 500 square miles.
"Since I'm the only agent in my county," says Dennis Ritter, "it's important to be pointed in the right direction. It's not enough to do your job. You have to let the public know what you are doing and why." Ritter is an agent in Livingston County.
People know he is the person to contact about conservation issues because Ritter gives talks to many civic and sporting groups and serves as president of the local chapter of the Wild Turkey Federation. He also does a radio show on a local station every Friday and Saturday, and his column runs every other Friday in the Chillicothe newspaper. Conservation agents around the state join Ritter in educating the public about conservation issues by doing 13,800 radio programs and