Part of the Community
writing 4,000 newspaper articles each year.
An agent for 38 years, Don Shilling knows firsthand the value of becoming involved with the community. While assigned to Vernon County, he and his wife, Evelyn, became 4-H leaders. Shilling also set up hunter safety and fishing classes in the local schools.
"You aren't going to change old violators," Shilling says. "The best way to make a change is to reach the children."
Now in Jasper County, Shilling continues his youth programs. Some of the students he taught in hunter safety classes are now in law enforcement. They help him protect Missouri's resources and catch hard-core violators. Some of the judges and prosecuting attorneys also are his former students. Agents and other instructors train approximately 30,000 students to handle firearms safely and to hunt ethically each year.
Chris Capps, the agent in Lafayette County, also reaches out to children. He and the other law enforcement agencies in the county get together to sponsor Conservation D.A.R.E. Day each May. Area businesses donate prizes, so Capps gets to know the store owners, as well as the more than 600 fifth- and sixth-graders who attend each year.
"Through this program, we will eventually reach all the kids in the area," Capps says. He likes to work with the other law enforcement officers so that the children can see them and will feel more comfortable approaching any of them with a problem or for information.
Although talking to large groups is important, agents also know the value of spending time with individual landowners. Gary Cravens, now a supervisor, was an agent for nine years. He emphasizes the importance of making contact with people around the area - just as police officers in cities used to know everyone on their beat. "When I see a landowner in a field, I stop and visit to see what their concerns are and how we can work together to protect Missouri's natural resources."
One landowner on Cravens' "beat" wanted to lease his land for hunting but was concerned about a group of poachers who were taking deer and turkey and running dogs on his land. After getting to know Cravens, the landowner allowed the agent to come and go freely on his property to look for illegal hunters. This type of cooperation is essential for agents to do an effective job. A study by Ron Glover, chief of the Conservation Department's enforcement arm, showed that 75 percent of