When Missourians Speak
most surveys serve one of the following purposes.
Surveys often are used to verify that things are running smoothly and to fine-tune where necessary. "Most of the surveys we do merely provide accountability to the manager's intuition - what they already know to be true," says Thorne. "But not always. Sometimes they provide real insights."
For example, when the George O. White State Forest Nursery conducted a survival study of saplings sent to private landowners, results showed that 91 percent of the almost 8 million trees were planted and that nearly 75 percent of respondents considered their plantings a success. Although gratified by landowners' satisfaction, the Conservation Department decided that too many saplings were being wasted and lowered the minimum order from 200 to 50 saplings to better serve landowners' needs.
The Conservation Department's four nature centers and the Missouri Conservationist magazine also received high praise in a variety of surveys, although findings revealed that some changes were warranted. Nature center staff used survey results to fine-tune educational programming, hours of operation and kids' activities. And the Missouri Conservationist added a letters-to-the-Editor column and a special kid's magazine, Outside In, after learning that a large number of children read the magazine.
Although surveys often reveal that citizens are satisfied with the programs and opportunities offered by the Conservation Department, surveys are sometimes used when a complete program overhaul is needed. The agency started the stream conservation program, "Streams for the Future," in 1986 to provide assistance to landowners in managing their streams and to inform the public of the benefits of stream conservation.
After low participation in the program, the Conservation Department surveyed citizens to find out why. Survey results showed that 75 percent of Missouri citizens had never heard of "Streams for the Future," and only 1 percent mentioned it by name. Moreover, most landowners didn't understand the need for stream conservation on their land. These results were used to revamp the "Streams for the Future" program, this time with more emphasis on advertising the program.
The Conservation Department uses surveys to develop programs from the ground up, too. When the agency acquired Columbia Bottom Conservation Area at the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, it had some ideas of what it wanted to do with the land. Through extensive public involvement, managers learned what the people of St. Louis wanted and were able to develop a plan for the area that considered many