One of the great treats of my job as director of the Conservation Department is watching Missourians "put something back" into conservation.
For example, visiting one of our nature centers exposes me to our volunteers, who spend endless hours on a variety of public education tasks, always with a sparkle in their eyes and pride in their voices. Combining a hunting trip with a look-see at one of our conservation areas allows me to meet with an enthusiastic manager with great ideas-all of which mean hours of work on his or her part-that will produce more quail or deer or nongame species or productive timber stands.
Fly fishing at one of the trout areas gives me a glimpse of our hatchery folks stocking fish for the next day's onslaught of eager anglers. While driving back from meetings, late in the evening, I often see one of our conservation agents out on patrol, pushing back for a time those taking unfair advantage of our vulnerable outdoor resources.
Conservation Department employees and many citizens across our great state are engaged in combining their talents and energy and vision into "putting something back" for the experiences and insights they've received from our natural resources. And what are their rewards?
Aldo Leopold, the originator of our modern- day approach to conservation, explained it nicely. "Planting an oak and watching it grow provides the planter with a reserved seat in the theater of evolution." These participants all are engaged in planting seedlings-some great and some small-but all a positive force in a world often centered on the negative.
"Planting oaks" just got a bit easier for anyone interested in becoming a part of the conservation picture, thanks to the recent establishment of the Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation. A creation supported strongly by the Conservation Commission, this nonprofit corporation is open for business with the aim of making it possible for people to donate in a personal, financial way to the present and future of conservation in Missouri.
Andy Dalton, former commissioner from Springfield, has donated generously of his time to work with various staff members, including our attorney, Jane Smith, and auditor, Robbie Briscoe, to make this foundation a reality. He presently serves as chairman of the foundation.
I urge you to consider the impact you could make with your gifts to the Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation. What insight into life might you gain as you watch it grow? What would "putting something back" mean to generations to come? Could someone in the future enjoy the same quiet glade, meadow, woodland or stream with all the glory and living wonder that you enjoyed? Could someone else hear the outdoor song that you thought was only yours? Could you make a difference?
Conservation can never have too many friends. It can only be passed to the next generation if we care enough to get involved. Will the next generation consider conservation a necessity or a luxury? Will they have the chance to choose?
For information about the Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation, call the Conservation Department at (573) 751-4115 ext. 139, or write the foundation at P.O. Box 366, Jefferson City, 65102-0366. All contributions are tax deductible.
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