Reflecting on the past year, it’s hard to ignore the impact of Mother Nature on our society. Drought, floods, hurricanes and wildfires filled the news and impacted many Americans’ homes and livelihoods.
Natural forces disregard state lines as simply as they ignore neighbor’s fences. Yet, many rivers, plants and animals find methods to adapt to the stresses of change and await some restoration of balance and order.
The challenge of conservation in the 21st century is to achieve a balance between what it takes to make wildlife and forests healthy while serving the needs of our people and communities. Engaging in this public debate is positive if it identifies what we value and what we will sacrifice to achieve it.
Growing up in rural Missouri exposed me to a variety of efforts to control the flow of water, change the shape of land or alter natural vegetation. Most of this work was motivated by good intentions to make the land more productive or recreation more enjoyable. As my conservation education increased, I better understood that short-term gains on one property can sometimes create lasting hardships for other parts of the same system. John Muir described these impacts simply—“When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.”
At the Department of Conservation, we spend a great deal of our budget studying fish, forests and wildlife. But, we also spend significant portions to engage hunters, anglers, outdoor enthusiasts, landowners, forestry professionals, local governments and our neighbors in the day-to-day business of wildlife management.
I am thankful the Department views conservation as a product of many species and many interests working in harmony to achieve long-term results. I am equally grateful our focus is on the workings of larger natural systems, such as watersheds and ecological regions, where progress depends upon cooperative partnerships and collective wisdom. We believe our programs will move forward more rapidly if public and private partners expand upon what the Department could do if we went alone.
In this varied mix of interests, I especially place high value on the unique role of Missouri’s anglers, hunters and trappers in ensuring that wildlife populations remain sustainable and healthy. Managed, ethical harvest of wildlife is a strong Missouri heritage and a requirement for future conservation success.
As the New Year approaches, my wish is for a larger, focused discussion about how our fish, forest and wildlife resources can successfully coexist with man’s desire for progress and prosperity. I encourage each of you to actively engage in an exchange of ideas with your family members, community leaders and other organizations to promote responsibility for wise conservation of the resources that share this land.
Happy holidays and best wishes for the New Year!
John D. Hoskins, Director
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