The Fourth of July is one of my favorite holidays—and not just for the fireworks and family fun. Independence Day is a time to reflect on our country’s founders and the freedoms for which they fought. This month is also a fitting time to give thanks for the countless Missourians who have worked hard to conserve the rich outdoor resources we now enjoy.
It was 75 years ago this month that Missouri’s “conservation legacy” began. Citizens came together, and through an initiative petition, formed an apolitical conservation agency guided by a management approach based on technical research rather than politics, led by four Missouri citizens, who made up the Conservation Commission. That citizen-led Commission continues to guide the Department’s science-based conservation efforts today.
The challenges ahead for the young Department were daunting. Old black and white photographs from those early years seem to represent not just another time—but another place. The pictures show many of Missouri’s forested hillsides cut over, streams choked with sediment from unchecked erosion, and a scarcity of both good habitat and wildlife.
Many old-timers can tell you about those earlier days, when depleted wildlife led to years, and in some cases decades, of closed hunting seasons—stories that seem almost unfathomable today. Thankfully, the Department along with generations of Missourians, helped turn that around.
I am proud to play a part in that “conservation legacy,” and you should be, too. Over the past 75 years, Missouri has become a national leader in forest, fish and wildlife conservation. Missouri’s unique partnership between the citizens of the state and the Department has led to many conservation successes. Our state now enjoys a vibrant and sustainable forestry industry, world-class sport fishing, and some of the best, most affordable and generous hunting seasons for small game, deer and turkey in the country. As a result, conservation is a huge economic engine for the Show-Me State—supporting approximately 95,000 jobs and generating more than $11 billion in economic activity.
Today, the Department continues to work with Missourians, and for Missourians, to protect and manage the forest, fish and wildlife resources of the state. The Department also provides opportunities for all citizens to use, enjoy and learn about these resources.
Integral to the state’s conservation success are the tireless efforts of private landowners who improve habitat on their lands and waterways— hard work that ultimately benefits everyone through healthier wildlife populations and cleaner waters and fisheries.
This month, I hope you will find your own unique way to share our conservation legacy with others, including your friends, family and especially today’s youth. They are eager for opportunities to learn, explore and discover nature!
This summer, take time to experience Missouri’s outdoors. Those opportunities may be the very ones that inspire and shape tomorrow’s conservation leaders. You may think you’re just fishing, wildlife watching, hunting, hiking, camping or paddling a canoe… but you might also be setting a hook that lasts a lifetime.
Robert L. Ziehmer, director
Editor In Chief - Ara Clark
Managing Editor - Nichole LeClair Terrill
Art Director - Cliff White
Staff Writer - Bonnie Chasteen
Staff Writer - Jim Low
Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner
Designer - Stephanie Thurber
Artist - Mark Raithel
Circulation - Laura Scheuler