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Little Things that Make a Big Difference

I spend a lot of time around people with big ideas about needed changes to our conservation landscape. It can be very motivating and frequently causes me to think some big thoughts of my own. I must admit, however, when fall arrives in Missouri and the crispness hits the air, I find myself consumed by the little things that happen around me.

It’s been fun to watch the songbirds and woodpeckers hit the bird feeders in search of a more substantial meal. After a brief but colorful display, the trees on our property responded well to a fall trim, which is my annual signal to pull the holiday decorations out of storage. I also enjoyed a few stolen moments outdoors with kids and grandkids that will add some fun photos to the family album.

On the work front, much is happening, but three smaller things from the past month stand out as most memorable.

I had the pleasure of administering the oath of office to 19 eager conservation professionals upon their graduation from the 2006 Conservation Agents Academy. My official role in the ceremony was small, but moving. Staring into their determined faces, I had little doubt these men and women would do many big things to positively impact their communities and the fish, forest and wildlife resources entrusted to their care. The event inspired a reflection upon my years as an agent and the passion I felt when taking the same oath 29 years ago.

Our annual Endangered Species Walk/Run to benefit species of concern was enhanced by a kids’ contest to design lapel buttons featuring plants or animals that live in glade habitats. It started as a small idea from a Department education consultant that turned into a big surprise when over 600 entries flooded Jefferson City. I was reminded once again of the power harnessed within our youth if we give them the outlet to learn about our natural world.

Finally, I read with fondness the eulogy delivered at the recent funeral of Phil Rice, a Department employee that I long admired. His conservation career began upon his return from World War II and spanned five decades. His initial decision to accept employment with the Department was complicated by one small thing—he didn’t have a car available to go to work! Thank goodness that small hurdle was overcome because he went on to participate in some of the greatest wildlife recoveries of all time.

Each fall day, Missouri hands us at least one thing to enjoy if we just take the time to see it and appreciate the gift. I encourage you to get outside with your family and enjoy your own backyard or one of the many conservation areas or other special places available throughout the state. Sharing outdoor experiences is a great way to strengthen relationships with those most dear to us without the distractions and pressures of other responsibilities. As we enter this season of thanks, I am grateful these small and large treasures abound.

John Hoskins, director, Missouri Department of Conservation

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