just a small slice of Missouri’s total biodiversity and there are many other creatures out there, some large, many small, that are similarly threatened.”
Beginning in the 1970s, the Department made a pledge to Missourians to embrace a broader conservation approach called the Design for Conservation. It was a plan to conserve the best examples of forests, prairies, marshes and glades; to obtain land for recreation, forestry and conservation of critical habitat; to increase services to the public in the areas of wildlife and forest conservation; and to create a system of conservation nature centers throughout Missouri.
Missouri voters approved the Design for Conservation sales tax in 1976. This one-eighth of 1 percent sales tax provides dedicated funding required for the conservation of fish, forests and wildlife. In addition to deer and turkey, a great variety of wildlife benefits from this broader approach to conservation, ranging from hellbenders and collared lizards, to bluebirds and eagles, to otters and, most recently, elk.
“Most of our conservation success stories involve Missourians digging in their heels to turn around declining populations,” says Gene Gardner, MDC’s wildlife diversity chief. “Bringing back the bluebird, our state bird, is an excellent example of how people came together and did something about it. Our state bird became much more abundant once people started building nest boxes and creating bluebird trails across the state.”
For eagles to rebound, it took a combination of state and federal efforts. Fifty years ago, bald eagles were on the ropes due to habitat loss, poisoning from pesticides, such as DDT, and illegal shooting. From 1962 to 1981, Missouri did not have a single known successful eagle nest. Restoration of habitat, aggressive law enforcement and a national ban on DDT gave eagles a fighting chance. In the 1980s, the Conservation Department placed 74 wild-hatched eaglets in artificial nests throughout Missouri.
Today, more than 200 eagle nests dot the state and bald eagles have been removed from the state and federally endangered species lists. Eagle Days have become popular events throughout the state, with thousands of Missourians flocking to see these majestic birds. In the lower 48 states, the bald eagle population has climbed from an all-time low of 487 nesting pairs in 1963 to an estimated 9,789 nesting pairs today.
Peregrine falcons also benefited from MDC restoration efforts in both St. Louis and Kansas City. Experts believed peregrine falcons would find big city