Note to Our Readers
The Value of Missouri Traditions
Assessing financial trends and explaining the Conservation Department’s business model are complicated. To boil it down, operational costs have risen and public expectations are high while income continues below estimate. Today, we are reducing costs while reviewing options to enhance revenues.
In 1976 Missouri citizens established a dedicated 1/8 of 1 percent of state sales tax to help support the agency’s mission and services. On Nov. 4, 2008, voters in Minnesota approved a similar proposal creating a dedicated sales tax to support natural areas, wildlife habitat, clean drinking water, parks, trails, and arts and culture. The proponents of this measure modeled the wildlife habitat and natural areas part of their proposal after the dedicated sales tax for conservation in Missouri. We congratulate the citizens of Minnesota, but after three decades of experience here, we know the dedicated funding that supports conservation services has limits and is subject to fluctuations in the state’s economy.
You will find our Annual Report in this issue, and I encourage a careful review. Your conservation dollars are managed by a grateful staff dedicated to providing excellent services to citizens and to the fish, forest and wildlife resources. Through the years, the conservation sales tax has broadened the scope of our work to include conservation education, a new division dedicated to private landowner services, Share the Harvest, winter fish stocking, natural communities, endangered species, prairies and more.
The Department has three major sources of revenue: 60 percent from the conservation sales tax, 18 percent from hunting and fishing permits, and 11 percent from federal management allotments. The Department does not spend any of the state’s general revenue. Our entire budget represents less than 1 percent of the total state budget.
The sale of permits to hunters, anglers and trappers continues to provide a vital part of the funds spent on conservation. Missouri is a great place to hunt and fish, and we intend for that tradition to continue.
Last fiscal year, receipts from the Department’s two largest revenue sources, the sales tax and permit sales, were less than the year before. This marks only the third time in the history of the conservation sales tax where sales tax revenue was less than the prior year. Unfortunately, the downturn in revenues is continuing in the current fiscal year. Our major funding base has not kept pace with inflation for the past five years. This trend calls for a heightened effort to be frugal and efficient.
When Missourians go afield, most don’t think about conservation funding; they focus on nature and their activities in the outdoors. Yet, the management of conservation funds is very important to meeting their needs. For example, the photograph on this page was taken on Nov. 15, 2008, opening day of the firearms deer season. The three men are husbands, fathers and engineers, but, for a few days in November, they are deer hunters. One drove from North Kansas City, another drove from downtown St. Louis, and one left a job site in Central Iowa and drove nine hours to be at the old farm before sunrise opening morning. They annually return to the Ozark farm where their mentor introduced them to hunting years ago. Their passion for the outdoors is typical of thousands of Missourians, and those of us who work for the Conservation Department work for citizens like them.
We’re committed to providing the best conservation programs and services possible, and we’re grateful for your support.
John Hoskins, director