The Conservation Department has PLS, but there's no reason to worry. PLS, which stands for Private Land Services, is a good thing. It's the Department's latest effort to help private landowners reap the value of sound conservation practices on their land.
Of course, the Conservation Department has always worked closely with private landowners to improve their property for wildlife. However, the Department established the Private Land Services Division to provide a higher level of assistance to property owners, who it recognizes as conservation's strongest allies.
Private Land Services Division became fully staffed and operational in July 2000. George Seek, a 27-year Conservation Department veteran who has extensive experience in wetland development, wildlife management and strategic planning, was named to head the division. Seek understands the concerns of private landowners, especially those trying to make a living off the land. He is a former farmer and has a degree in Agriculture.
"About 93 percent of Missouri is privately owned," Seek said. "The Department recognized we needed to focus even more on private landowners if we want to improve the quality and quantity of wildlife habitat in the state."
PLS is considered a "field" division. The bulk of the division's 82 employees are spread around the state in Conservation Department offices or USDA Service Centers. Private Land Services employees are your neighbors. Many of them live in small communities like Princeton, Lancaster, Montgomery City, Hillsboro, Nevada, Linn, Marshfield, Ava and Marble Hill. Only a few administrative people have offices in Jefferson City.
Landowners have always been able to receive technical assistance from the Conservation Department. If managing a pond, they asked fisheries division for help. For advice about timber management or a timber sale, they worked with a forester. To improve habitat for deer or quail, they met with someone in the wildlife division.
Staff of all Department divisions still handle landowner requests; however, other divisions have a dual role of managing both public and private land. The Private Land Services Division focus is on providing assistance to private landowners. All PLS employees have attended an eight-week academy to learn about the federal and state programs available to help private landowners.
"Our people are trained and experienced, and they have an amazing number of tools to work with," Seek said. "There's scarcely a landowner we can't help, whether they own land as a hobby, own land primarily for recreational purposes or are farming or ranching for a living."
Seek said the