My cherry wood turkey box call is a reminder of how important it is to listen to Missouri citizens and collaborate with them on conservation. A dying gentleman gave me the box call during our last visit about Missouri’s outdoors. My friend handmade the call from a dining table that his grandparents used around the time of the Civil War. We used to visit while he waited on his grandson to return from hunting on Monkey Mountain Conservation Area.
It’s been my opportunity and privilege to listen to Missouri citizens and work with them for the past 36 years, on many different conservation topics. There are also many types of conservationists. I occasionally hear that hunters and anglers aren’t conservationists because they harvest fish and game. Nothing could be further from the truth. My friend was a long-time conservationist who, as a hunter, abided by wildlife laws and regulations, supported many conservation programs, and passed on his conservation heritage to his son and grandson.
Hunters and anglers were some of the first people to take action when fish and wildlife species were declining across our great nation, and we should recognize how they have helped guard our resources over the years. Hunters, anglers, boat owners, and recreational shooters have quietly and diligently provided financial support to wildlife management nationwide through excise taxes on their equipment that funds the Wildlife Restoration Fund and the Sport Fish Restoration Fund. Over the past 75 years they have contributed more than 14 billion dollars to wildlife conservation. In addition, sportsmen have contributed billions more in permit fees and support of nongovernment conservation organizations such as Ducks Unlimited, National Wild Turkey Federation, Audubon, Pheasants Forever, Quail and Upland Wildlife Forever, Missouri Prairie Foundation, and many more.
Being a conservationist is definitely not limited to hunters and anglers. I’ve met wonderful conservation-minded people across Missouri who engage in the outdoors in other ways. Bird watchers, hikers, and sporting-dog enthusiasts are just a few examples of conservation supporters. Conservation in Missouri is a mindset, a lifestyle, part of Missouri’s culture, and, more importantly, a choice. So who is a Conservationist?
Conservationists are people I enjoy spending time with and getting to know better. They share a passion for improving Missouri’s outdoors and leaving both the land and natural resources in better shape for future generations. Conservationists are men and women who are at ease over a campfire, who aren’t shy about sharing their excitement for the outdoors, who are a cross section of society culturally and economically, and who care deeply enough about Missouri’s natural resources to take decisive action.
So what are today’s challenges for Missouri Conservationists? Water quality and quantity will continue to grow as a challenge, invasive species such as silver carp, diseases such as Chronic Wasting Disease in whitetail deer and White Nose Syndrome in bats, and habitat loss are all challenges today and into the future. Specialization and fragmentation of the outdoor community is a unique challenge today due to many specific conservation organizations and interests. There’s nothing wrong with being specialized, we just shouldn’t fight each other and should pull together on major conservation agendas and issues.
Missouri is fortunate to have many quiet conservationists. Many landowners simply go about the business of improving the land for the next generation. Many citizens support conservation initiatives and causes with their time, energy, and resources. Though quiet by nature, these folks will stand staunchly against anything that lessens their quality of life in Missouri due to a quality conservation ethic. No matter our outdoor passion, we should stand together on major conservation issues and keep Missouri as a conservation leader for our children and future generations.
Tim D. Ripperger, deputy director
Editor In Chief - Ara Clark
Managing Editor - Nichole LeClair Terrill
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Staff Writer - Jim Low
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Photographer - David Stonner
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