This past year was an exciting time for conservation! Missouri citizens, conservation organizations and Conservation Department staff worked together to produce solid results. I recently read a summary of 2006 conservation accomplishments, and the “summary” is eighteen pages long! Here are just a few examples that Missourians can be proud of:
- Missourians formed the 3,000th Stream Team. An excellent example of citizen-conservationists becoming active participants in monitoring our aquatic treasures.
- The one millionth student received Hunter Education training. The Hunter Education program, which began in 1957, relies heavily on over 2,000 volunteer instructors. In 2006, these instructors helped certify more than 27,000 students.
- Missouri’s 11-day, regular firearms deer season produced a record harvest of 235,054 deer, an increase of 12,725 from the previous record set in 2004. The total 2006 harvest will exceed 300,000 deer. A strong harvest helps maintain deer numbers at appropriate levels while also enhancing Share the Harvest, a partnership with the Conservation Federation of Missouri, meat processors and hunters who annually donate over 250,000 pounds of venison to less fortunate Missourians.
- Timber harvests were implemented on more than 12,000 acres of Conservation Department forest land to maximize benefits for wildlife habitat, ecological diversity and forest health. The timber sales, designed and managed by professional foresters using best management practices, also produced over 20 million board feet of valuable forest products.
- Acquisition of 505 acres near the St. Louis urban area to conserve over a mile of Jefferson County’s LaBarque Creek and its tributaries. This beautiful stream is worthy of protection for its excellent biological diversity, including over 40 species of fish.
The many conservation successes of 2006 can be credited to Missouri’s unique legacy of citizen-led, citizen-driven, conservation governance. It is through this nationally recognized model for conservation that together we will meet the many significant conservation challenges facing Missouri’s natural resources. Challenges include: invasive plants and animals that threaten native Missouri species, plant and animal diseases, balancing the needs of both abundant and rare wildlife, rapid development, and degredation of our stream systems.
The Department of Conservation exists to help citizens advance their goals and interests in conservation. Recent surveys reveal more than 90 percent of Missourians express an interest in fish, forest and wildlife resources. The cornerstone of Missouri’s conservation experience is the recognition that natural resource protection is a balance between the needs of man and nature. Those of us who serve you in the conservation professions are grateful for the partnership that strong citizen support brings to meeting our challenges.
Together we can keep the outdoors important and keep conservation valuable to our state. I like the way Margaret Mead put it best, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.” The most significant thing we can do is to provide all citizens with the opportunity to learn about and understand our natural world. Only then will the Next Generation of Missourians be prepared to face tomorrow’s conservation challenges. Experience tells us that this effort starts with individuals, spreads to communities and cities and, eventually, influences society’s decision-making.
As we head into a new year, it is appropriate to look back at 2006 and highlight recent accomplishments, but we do so with the understanding that real conservation progress is often measured in decades rather than years. The blueprint for the future is written in The Next Generation of Conservation (see below for link), the Department’s new strategic plan, providing the framework for conservation efforts for years to come. In 2007, please join us in making conservation progress in your backyard, your farm, your community and your state.
John Hoskins, director