Vantage Point

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We want to hear about your community.

Responding to the most-asked question after my first two columns: my dog is a W.L.F.U.N. (a White Labrador Female Unattached Nice dog!) Her full name is Boise Valley Ripple, named after her place of origin and the ripple of water that surrounds a retriever in pursuit of a downed duck. She is a 78-pound two-year-old that likes ducks, pheasants and quail - but not as playmates!

The response via e-mail and letters to the novelty of a director writing a column has been exciting. Keep it up!

Just as exciting is the purchase of Columbia Bottoms for public use. This 4,200-acre area is located at the junction of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers. It will offer citizens the opportunity to view up close that blending of waters that is so much a part of Missouri's history.

Columbia Bottoms has the potential to be one of the state's most impressive attractions. It abounds in wildlife and affords opportunities for bird-watching, hunting, fishing, hiking, nature study and photography ... the list goes on. Stay tuned for more details about how to get involved in management decisions for Columbia Bottoms.

Your 1/8 of one-percent sales tax for conservation made the purchase of Columbia Bottoms possible. The purchase culminates a 17-year effort that required the hard work of many people; Gerald Ross led the Conservation Department team and received invaluable assistance from Jill Freidman of the Governor's staff and many others from the St. Louis area. Their reward is a legacy that will be enjoyed by generations now and in the future. Perhaps this success will enable us to adopt a "Big Rivers Initiative" to reconnect our citizens with the waters that made our state famous, and set the stage for a bicentennial celebration of the Lewis and Clark expedition in 2004.

This special issue of the Missouri Conservationist focuses on the role of conservation in your community. Even if your town isn't featured in this issue (though many are), we invite you to let us know how your town benefits from conservation. Whether you plant urban trees for shade and beauty or enjoy a brisk tourist trade from proximity to a conservation area, we want to know about it.

Many towns are cashing in on conservation because they build on the benefits of their natural resources. Greenways, planned developments and nature tourism are a few of the ways communities are working with nature to enhance their quality of life and economic prosperity. You can send your town's conservation profile to: Conservation and Communities, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City 65102-0180.

In conclusion to the varied topics I've covered in this column, let me just add my thanks to those of you who have written in to express your opinions about the job we're doing. Whether you're mad or glad, your opinion is important to us. We appreciate your patience as we attempt to conquer new permit systems that will ultimately serve you better, and we appreciate your constructive criticism when we fall short of expectations.

So keep up your excellent input. (Eventually, maybe I'll even get as much fan mail as my dog.)

(Look for the director's column, "Vantage Point," in every other issue of the Conservationist.)

Jerry M. Conley

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