Conservation by the Numbers

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Published on: Dec. 2, 2000

Last revision: Nov. 5, 2010

MISSOURI could well be called "The Conservation State." Our forests are magnificent; deer, turkey and small game are abundant; and our rivers and lakes are fish-full. These resources can be enjoyed by all, for almost every Missourian is within easy reach of public lands where they can hunt, fish, camp or hike.

Our "natural" wealth has not come about naturally. Maintaining outdoor resources and recreation in the face of population growth, urban sprawl and increased demand for marketable products requires careful management and protection of our fish, forests and wildlife.

Conservation is a work in progress. Its goals and methods need to be frequently reassessed and adjusted. Further, the work of conservation goes far beyond the efforts of the Conservation Department. The federal government is heavily involved, as are local governments, clubs and associations.

Ultimately, conservation depends on individuals concerned enough about the state of their state's natural resources to vote, to act, to care.

The condition of Missouri near the beginning of the last century vividly reminds us what our state would be like without conservation effort and commitment. Back then, market forces and a combination of human need and greed stripped the land of trees and wildlife. As a result, Missouri had become resource poor.

It's been nearly a century since the Walmsley Law, the state's first comprehensive fish and game law, jump-started Missouri's conservation and preservation efforts. Nearly a quarter of a century has passed since voters approved Missouri's Design for Conservation. These milestones give us a good opportunity to take a statistical snapshot of our state's lands, resources and people-all essential components of conservation in Missouri.

Missouri Lands

Missouri public lands are under the stewardship of federal, state and local governments. Federal lands include those owned by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the U.S. National Park Service, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Forest Service.

Major state landowners include the state's departments of Conservation and Natural Resources.

Public land in Missouri, which includes highways, roads and lakes, totals just over 3 million acres-about 7 percent of the state. Mark Twain National Forest contains nearly half of this amount. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers administers about 750,000 acres. The Department of Natural Resources' state parks amount to about 125,000 acres, and the National Wildlife Refuge System includes about 45,000 acres.

The Conservation Department owns 768,400 acres, or about 2 percent of the state's total land area. In addition, the Department has entered into

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