It is late February as I write this, and snowy weather is on the way. The bird feeders are alive with northern cardinals, tufted titmice, purple finches, and downy woodpeckers. In the field across the road, a flock of 20 or so turkeys are feeding on grain strewn by the neighbors under a copse of eastern red trees.
The forecast makes it hard to believe that spring is around the corner, yet trout season is now open at Missouri’s four managed parks. This is sure evidence spring will soon be at our doorstep! I have been fortunate to attend a few trout openers during my career, and they are always an exciting time for young and old alike as they catch their first fish of the day.
The ability to watch wildlife and enjoy the outdoors in Missouri doesn’t occur by happenstance. A lot of time and effort is invested by many to ensure healthy and abundant resources. Much of the credit goes to Missouri citizens, especially those private landowners who are stewards of more than 90 percent of the forest, fish, and wildlife resources in our great state.
This past week, I had the opportunity to meet with the Agricultural Leaders of Tomorrow (ALOT). This group of bright young men and women represent every aspect of the agriculture industry in Missouri. They included landowners who till the land to produce corn and soybeans, livestock producers, and participants in important agribusinesses. Others were bankers, attorneys, journalists, and public servants from other state agencies. All have a vital role in Missouri’s agricultural landscape and, in their own way, influence how private land is managed to provide life-sustaining products for humans while maintaining important habitats for forest, fish, and wildlife. We engaged in lively discussions on a variety of topics including habitat projects for rare species and river habitats, the value of Missouri’s citizen-created system of conservation governance, authority and regulatory responsibility for white-tailed deer, and the use of genetically altered and insecticide-treated seed. As you might expect, these robust discussions included many differing viewpoints.
It is my opinion that these types of interactions bode well for Missouri and its citizens. In order to ensure that forest, fish, wildlife, soil, and water resources are sustained for future generations of Missourians, it is critically important that individuals from all walks of life engage in these discussions. The Department is currently seeking insights and opinions of citizens regarding Missouri’s white-tailed deer herd and potential future management strategies to safeguard this important cultural heritage and economic resource.
As we together contemplate the state of Missouri’s natural resources and, in particular, forest, fish, and wildlife resources, remember that a part of our generation’s legacy will be the state of the resources we pass on to the next Missourians. These important resources will continue to be abundant into the future as long as the partnership between private landowners, sportsmen, and the state remains strong. A strong partnership must be built upon the foundation of continual open and honest dialog about important conservation issues facing Missouri and its citizens. Continued citizen vigilance will enable Missourians of today and tomorrow to experience the many exciting spring adventures that we eagerly await. Turkey and morel hunting and crappie fishing are just around the corner, enjoy your spring.
Tom Draper, deputy
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