LAKE OZARK, Mo. – Conservation depends largely on the efforts of landowners. This is true both for current landowners and for those who will manage land in the future.
The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) works with landowners to employ the best land-management practices that sustain healthy land and conserve the state’s forests, fish and wildlife. In addition to the many opportunities MDC offers current landowners, the Department also invests in the future of conservation by educating some of the state’s future landowners and managers by partnering with the Missouri FFA Organization.
MDC coordinates “Conservation Day” at Missouri FFA Leadership Camp once a week each of the six weeks it is offered during June and July. Held at Lake of the Ozarks State Park’s Camp Rising Sun, the weeklong camp draws about 200 students each week. Students participate in leadership education sessions as well as various recreation activities. For one morning of the five-day camp, conservation experts teach responsible land-management practices for FFA students to use in their futures as potential farmers, landowners and agricultural leaders.
“There are so many different sides to agriculture,” said FFA State President Brady James. “We try to meet all needs accordingly so we can open doors for FFA students to develop their interests in all areas, and that includes conservation.”
Conservation Day introduces students to ongoing conservation concerns through six hands-on learning stations taught by MDC staff. This year’s topics were: urban wildlife management and managed hunts, ethical decision-making for conservation dilemmas, fishing basics and fish identification, management practices for healthy streams, tree identification and safe and ethical decision-making when hunting and fishing.
“FFA students represent future landowners of Missouri,” said MDC Education Programs and Curriculum Supervisor Kevin Lohraff. “One of the best things we can do to invest in conservation for the future is to educate private landowners on good conservation practices for their land. In this case we are helping FFA students learn the best management practices for farms and properties so they can use them in the future.”
According to Lohraff, conservation efforts on private land are key to statewide success.
“Ninety-three percent of Missouri’s land is privately owned,” he said. “If conservation is going to work in Missouri, it will be because private landowners practice it.”
Conservation and FFA are a natural fit, added FFA Camp Director E. H. Hirschvogel. “So many of our kids are already very active with Missouri wildlife, and students who haven’t been involved in conservation learn so much from MDC’s Conservation Day.”
For more information on private-land conservation, visit MDC’s website at www.mdc.mo.gov and search “Landowners and Farmers.” For information on MDC’s other education programs, search “Education.”