St. Joseph, Mo. – William “Bill” Bennett, a longtime outdoor editor for the St. Joseph News-Press newspaper, was inducted into the Missouri Conservation Hall of Fame on June 7. The ceremony was held at an outdoor classroom and amphitheater named in his honor at the Missouri Department of Conservation’s (MDC) regional office in St. Joseph.
“Bill was a student of the outdoors, always learning and always sharing what he learned, and always urging people to support conservation,” said Tim Ripperger, MDC deputy director. “Bill made a great deal of difference in his lifetime.”
Bennett, , began his newspaper career in 1948, noted Bob Ziehmer, MDC director. Wildlife populations were low then. But a fledgling conservation department in partnership with dedicated citizens had begun to restore the natural resources enjoyed in Missouri today, such as plentiful white-tail deer and wild turkeys. Bennett wrote hundreds of newspaper stories chronicling the progress and he also produced an outdoor television show. His columns championed the passage in 1976 of the Design for Conservation, which provides funding for diverse conservation programs via a one-eighth-cent sales tax.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that he influenced the passage of Design for Conservation,” Ziehmer said.
The Missouri Conservation Commission established the Hall of Fame to honor individuals who during their lifetimes made significant contributions to conservation. Bennett’s photo and biography will be on display with other recipients at the Runge Conservation Nature Center in Jefferson City.
“Bill Bennett was a special person who meant a lot to us and meant a lot to conservation,” said Ripperger, who worked in St. Joseph for many years as a supervisor for conservation agents in northwest Missouri.