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Fifty Years Ago

Mrs. Delmar Leather of Boonville recently sent me two Missouri Conservationist magazines published in 1954. I was especially interested in them because I happen to have been born in 1954! Mrs. Leather found the magazines in her late husband's papers, and she wrote of his great interest in all things related to the outdoors. She also complimented the quality of today's magazine and thanked the Conservation Department for continuing to send it to her each month. The letter touched me, but the significance of the magazines' content connected me to the past for additional reasons.

In 1954, Missouri's unique conservation department, authorized by an amendment to the state constitution in 1936, was only 18 years old. The magazine's circulation was 79,000. We now print about 487,000 per month, and we estimate that nearly 1.4 million Missourians read each issue. The Missouri Conservationist was, and still is, a critically important communication medium. I am very proud of the magazine staff and the many employees who do a great job of representing the Conservation Department by contributing articles and photographs.

When I examined the 1954 articles, I was struck by how similar the conservation challenges were then to those we face today. One article explained how to return food and plant cover to an Ozark farm so quail and other upland wildlife would prosper. Another article offered valuable information about the growth and life history of adult smallmouth bass. I found an interesting discussion of the legal and social conflicts among streamside landowners and the anglers and floaters of Missouri streams. Each magazine also emphasized the economic importance of wildfire control and better forestry management.

I read an article by Werner O. Nagel, a staff writer, about the importance of science to progress in conservation. He wrote that "conservation embodies all science and adds to it the directive of constructive purpose. In that sense, conservation is the conscience of science--the still, small voice that directs science to the benefit of mankind." Today, sound resource science remains critical for our management decisions and regulations. Current knowledge is not enough, so our challenge is to anticipate the knowledge needed in the decades to come.

Throughout the 1954 magazines, you could sense the Conservation Department's interest in listening to public input and communicating with citizens on all conservation issues. Fifty years later, seeking stakeholder input through public forums, surveys and other means is still a major emphasis for Department staff.

Public support for conservation in the future is inherently dependent upon how we face resource challenges today. We must be responsive to customers, demonstrate fiscal accountability, encourage creative problem solving, demand superior public service and provide national leadership in the management of Missouri's fish, forests and wildlife.

Conservation is and always has been about clean water, healthy natural communities and a balanced, sustainable ecosystem. Mrs. Leather's historic magazines remind us that these values transcend generations.

John D. Hoskins, Director

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