Vantage Point

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Nov. 1998 - Vol. 59, No. 11

Most resource directors I know never lack for job advice, nor do they stop trying to improve their performance through reading or listening to suggestions of others. Since my last venture with the pen, I've come across a common theme expressed by such diverse types as the hockey great one-Wayne Gretsky; author and conservation guru Aldo Leopold; Bob Todd, owner and editor of the River Hills Traveler outdoor magazine; and an irate reader of my last editorial who hails from Southwest Missouri.

What's the message in the following if you're the director?

  • The irate reader, wrote, "Quit writing about geese crapping and do something about our polluted streams!"
  • Gretsky said, "To be a great player, you've got to be where the puck is going to be-not where it is."
  • Leopold wrote, "The measure of success is the effect on the forest."
  • Bob Todd in his last editorial called on the Conservation Department to spend more money on capital projects and less on operations and personnel.

I believe the message is to anticipate what's going to be important, move that way quickly with our assets and make a difference. That sounds good, but creative thinking and reassigning assets consisting of real people and ongoing programs can be a challenge. Our biggest obstacle perhaps lies in making sure the daily maze of paper, reports and administrative requirements don't override the results we're after or alter time-tested conservation principles.

Aldo Leopold urged-and I've pushed hard in my short tenure to achieve-letting people in the field have the authority and responsibility to carry out policy and use their independent judgment and thinking ability. That's really our best shot if conservation is to have a lasting effect in our state. It's why we've worked hard to reassign many of our central office positions to the field, formed regional work teams that cut across all divisions and started to design programs complete with budgets and the local authority to spend money and commit assets.

These same field folks now are completing regional plans tailor-made for their home turf that will help shape and move our programs statewide. With the Conservation Commission's strong support and urging, we are continuing to reduce expenses and to examine many current positions for potential reassignment. We want more done in the field (Leopold's forest) to provide increased outdoor opportunities for our shareholders and protection for our resource legacy.

You can always participate in Conservation Department activities by telling us where you think the puck is going. Then help us get better by telling us if we scored. Don't expect us to win all the games, but don't settle for a team with a long losing streak! Abe Lincoln made the point that great authors require great readers. Great conservation programs only exist in the presence of equally great watchdog groups who constantly judge our performance.

Viewed from my perch, there are only two categories of folks-those who care and those who don't care! We are committed to working with you to continue a Missouri tradition of long standing-a conservation department full of folks who care and serve and make a long-range difference on the ground.

This is an exciting time to be associated with the Missouri Conservation Department and Conservation Commission. We're working-right now-on the ideas that will become the turkey and deer success stories of the future. It is wholly possible your idea could be a part of a future successful conservation chapter. That idea and your feedback on our performance are always important and necessary if conservation is to succeed in the face of incredible challenges to our water, land, forests and wildlife heritage.

JERRY M. CONLEY

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