It is my sincere hope that by the time you receive this magazine spring will have arrived in Missouri. I look forward to hearing turkeys gobble, taking my first crappie fishing and mushroom hunting trips of the season, and witnessing redbud and dogwood trees bloom in the woods. Missouri has special forest, fish, and wildlife resources due to the firm commitment of citizens who desire to protect those treasures.
One of the great privileges of serving Missourians as a deputy director in the Conservation Department is hearing from citizens who write, call, or email from across our great state. It is through that input, and a science-based management approach, that we ensure the sustainability of resources and provide a multitude of diverse recreational opportunities for all Missourians, now and in the future. As you might expect, views on how to accomplish natural resource management varies as much as a Missouri March wind.
When Missourians communicate with me, two characteristics are always evident in their comments: They are passionate about their forest, fish, and wildlife resources, and they are willing to point out where the Department has fallen short of their personal expectations. Two recent examples come to mind.
In 2013, the Conservation Commission made a regulation change to ensure sustainability of blue catfish on Truman Lake and Lake of the Ozarks. The Commission did so after gathering significant public input over a three-year period. Biological and social science data demonstrate that the regulation change will serve the majority of Missourians across a wide spectrum of interests; however, those changes, which were effective on March 1, have disappointed a few Missourians who do not agree with the Department’s vision for blue catfish management on those impoundments. To best serve citizens and Missouri’s forest, fish, and wildlife resources, the Department must continue to make decisions based on those tenants. History shows that this is a winning combination. A few years ago, modifications to regulations pertaining to crappie and trout size limits resulted in healthy fisheries for both of those species. At the time, many citizens were skeptical of those changes; today Missouri offers improved crappie and trout fishing opportunities.
Missouri’s white-tailed deer herd has significant cultural, social, biological, and economic value. The recent stabilization of deer numbers across Missouri, coupled with the 2012 drought and significant EHD and Blue Tongue outbreaks caused reductions in herd sizes in portions of the state. This has resulted in less than satisfactory experiences for some of Missouri’s deer hunters. Passionate citizens and resource users have expressed their concerns about the status of the herd. That input will be considered when recommendations for the 2014–2015 deer season are formulated. The Department will soon host a series of meetings “at the forks of the road” to engage citizens and gather information on future management approaches for Missouri’s ever-important deer herd.
These two examples of Department and citizen interaction are why Missouri’s forest, fish, and wildlife resources provide outdoor adventures that are second to none in this country. While many of the comments I receive are pointed and direct, that citizen passion bodes well for sustainability of those resources in the 21st century. I appreciate citizen candor and never take the frankness personally; on the contrary, I admire those individuals who are willing to weigh in, no matter how blunt.
We must all recognize that the pressures of a modern world will influence Missouri’s resources. The Department of Conservation strives to understand the needs and desires of today’s citizens and resource users, while ensuring sustainability of those resources both for today and for future Missourians.
Tom Draper, deputy director
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