When the Conservation Department puts programs into place, it operates on the assumption that there will be many tomorrows and many creatures in those tomorrows that will need today's habitat. In fact, our mission statement vows to improve upon today's resources. That's a tough challenge, faced with urban sprawl and habitat decline. It requires us to continually assess how to use our limited resources for greater conservation return.
I think we all know Missouri's conservation future cannot be secured on the state's limited amount of publicly owned land. It's simple math: roughly 6 percent of the state's total acreage is public land versus 94 percent of the state that is in private hands. Given this ratio, Missouri's conservation management of public lands needs to be viewed as complimentary to conservation efforts on private lands. That's why the Conservation Commission recently moved to dramatically improve our efforts to increase and improve conservation efforts on private lands by approving the creation of a new Private Lands Services Program.
This bold, new approach, appropriate for a new millennium, shifts major amounts of manpower and funds from existing programs into a new Conservation Department section devoted entirely to private lands services. At the heart of this approach will be a cadre of private land conservationists living in local communities. They'll work with two to four county-sized district teams of specialists to deliver upon request conservation programs to private landowners large and small . With this new approach we hope to provide information, cost sharing and partnerships in a timely manner, and strengthen trust between landowners and the Conservation Department.
In the next three years we are going to contact 50,000 landowners one-on-one and more than 250,000 by mail or other methods. We'll be asking what we can provide to help them optimize their property's fish, wildlife and forestry habitats and its life forms. Our approach is designed to be flexible, dynamic, field-driven and team-oriented. The program will be long term and, as the Conservation Commission stated in approving the approach, failure is not an option! Right now plans are to have trained personnel with toolkits of assistance in their assigned local areas no later than July 1.
If you are one of Missouri's landowners and have ideas for your property to protect or enhance its natural resources, we need to sit down and talk—or better yet, meet on the ground and work together. We are committed to working hard to overcome any doubts you might have about red tape or government interference with your property rights. Our program is simply designed to cooperate for everyone's benefit. Give us a little time to get going before you call, but put on your thinking cap in the meantime.
Ultimately, we are all shaped by the land we share and depend on for subsistence and inspiration. While the Conservation Department is proud of its present and past cooperative actions on private lands, it's simply been a case of not being able to commit enough of our resources. The new Private Lands Services Program will be a giant step forward in preserving the natural heritage we have and improving it for future generations.
Jerry Conley, Director
Editor - Tom Cwynar
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Managing Editor - Jim Auckley
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Artist - Mark Raithel
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