Listening to citizens is critical to conserving fish, forests and wildlife. So, we hold dozens of public meetings every year and routinely survey Missourians to define their desires and expectations. Scientific facts and the weight of public opinion are both considered as the Conservation Commission forms public policy.
In the last five years, several regulation changes were the direct result of what citizens said: telecheck harvest reporting for deer and turkey; special youth-only hunting opportunities; urban winter trout seasons; zone boundaries for waterfowl seasons; and expanded trapping options for otter.
Your Conservation Commission is composed of four committed citizens with a passion for conservation. Commissioners seek insights from others who care about Missouri’s resources and they meet throughout the year in communities across the state. Some meetings include informal evening gatherings to engage local people in conversation about conservation matters important to them. Recently, West Plains was the site of such a gathering for community leaders and area citizens active in conservation work.
This occasion was like those held in Marshall, Caruthersville, Mound City, Mexico and other communities in recent years, except I knew many of the guests. Early in my career, I served as a conservation agent for West Plains, Howell and surrounding counties. Although 20 years have passed, it was good to see several old friends. Frank Martin is still publishing the West Plains Daily Quill; Judge Jack Garrett retired from the bench but remains active in conservation matters; and Laurel Thompson is still promoting West Plains with vigor!
It was great that Jean Davidson and Maureen Cover-Calvin could make it. Jean and Maureen, along with their deceased husbands, Bose Davidson and Dan Cover, generously donated valuable properties to the Conservation Department for long-term management. Both serve as a warm reminder that some Missouri citizens care enough about conservation to share their hard-earned land and resources with others.
The West Plains conversations began by simply asking the group, “What’s on your mind tonight?” For the next 90 minutes, the issues, ideas and questions kept my mind racing. The topics covered a wide spectrum—whitetail deer, otters, armadillos, feral hogs, the cost of hunting and fishing permits, habitat assistance for private landowners, management of conservation areas, quail habitat, invasive species, education, conservation easements and more. The variety illustrated the array of programs and services people expect the Conservation Department to provide, and also the depth of conservation knowledge and interest among Missouri citizens.
It was satisfying to participate in the kind of grassroots, fundamental exercise envisioned when the Missouri system of conservation governance was created 70 years ago. The system is unique largely because of the constitutional authority and funding entrusted to the four Missouri Conservation Commissioners who voluntarily lead the Department and initiate many of our conversations. I’m pleased that the philosophy of citizen-led conservation is alive and our conversations are thriving today.
John Hoskins, director
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