Last week Governor Nixon appointed a new member, Don C. Bedell from Sikeston, to the Missouri Conservation Commission. We’ll have a longer news story later this week to give folks a more in-depth introduction to this longtime conservationist. What I wanted to mention today, though, is what this means for Missouri’s outdoors—for keeping nature healthy here.
2008 photo - Mo. Conservation Commission
Whether you love to watch birds, enjoy fall color, hunt, fish or take a stroll along a nature trail, you’re enjoying the benefits of a government structure that works. If you look at many other states, you’ll find that their agencies that protect animal and plant life and support outdoor recreation: 1) can’t always count on good science with broad public input to guide their decisions and 2) don’t have a broad-based funding that allows the kind of long-term thinking necessary when it comes to healthy nature.
The people who had the idea for the Missouri Department of Conservation in 1936 wanted to be sure that short-term thinking and related pressures would be a thing of the past. That is why the four-person Conservation Commission has two people from each political party appointed for six-year terms. These are staggered terms, though. So the new commissioner is only one of four being appointed by the governor now (the Senate’s role is to give “advice and consent” when it reconvenes).
This four-member commission appoints the Department’s director if a change occurs, though there have been only seven directors since 1937. The commission also oversees the agency budget and approves wildlife code regulations. They have a critical role to play in creating and maintaining healthy outdoor resources. It’s has worked very well for the past 72 years.
When the 1/8 of 1 percent sales tax amendment went into effect in 1977, which expanded the Conservation Department’s funding to cover the wide range of interests and animal and plant life Missourians enjoy in our outdoors. So in addition to the sales of hunting and fishing permits and federal aid dollars, we also receive support from the sales tax. Of course in tough times like these, those tax dollars are down and we have to spend less. But the important thing is that we can keep our eyes and our efforts on ensuring healthy outdoors now and in the future. And no dollars from the state’s general revenue are used to make it happen.
The Conservation commissioners don’t get paid to do their important work. Their reward is conserving healthy outdoor life. Each comes from his or her own unique background and interests, but their work together makes a story that you don’t see too much these days—an organization in government that works really well for generations past, present and future.