One constant in the Department of Conservation is the neverending debate about the appropriateness of various types of outdoor recreational pursuits.
Citizens expect their conservation agency to control, manage, restore, conserve, and regulate the bird, fish, game, and forestry resources of the state. Conservation by definition is wise management and use; regulation implies the need for controls over human behavior regarding the use or abuse of natural resources; game also implies public use through hunting and fishing; and forestry refers to an activity or practice regarding the use of forest resources.
The hope of wildlife restoration and conservation in Missouri lies in cooperation among the state, landowners, and the public, based upon adequate information and mutual understanding. The purpose of the Regulations Committee is to balance the desires of constituents with the Department’s responsibility to sustain Missouri’s natural resources for citizens of today and the future. The Committee approaches regulations with this in mind — we should permit as much public use of wildlife resources as is consistent with the state of such resources, by species; we should avoid harassment of the hunter and angler wherever possible; and, to paraphrase Jefferson, regulation is best which regulates least. We feel it is best to keep seasons as long as possible, to be first restrictive on methods, next on limits, and to approach shortened seasons as a last resort. This is in line with our approach to provide opportunity for all citizens.
Today, we Missourians have many opportunities to enjoy the state’s forest, fish, and wildlife resources. Much of the credit for the vibrant status of our resources belongs to those conservationists, citizens, and sportsmen who came before us. It is now our turn to engage in an open, civil, and productive dialogue to identify strategies that will ensure Missouri’s resources remain plentiful so our children and grandchildren will have the opportunity to enjoy them.
The Department is currently engaged in important discussions about three of Missouri’s signature species — whitetailed deer, smallmouth bass, and wild turkey.
Over the past few months, many of you have engaged in discussions regarding the future of deer management in Missouri. As you might expect, not everyone agrees on how deer season should be configured, including seasons, limits, and expanding methods, such as crossbows during archery season. However, the Department values the opinions of citizens and after more than 20 public meetings, online comments, and phone conversations, we are close to finding the right balance between technical research and public opinion.
Department staff will soon engage citizens, anglers, outfitters, and stream enthusiasts on the important topic of daily and length limits for smallmouth bass and rock bass (goggle eye), which are considered the quintessential Ozark stream fishing experience by many Missourians. These iconic species of our clear-water streams and rivers are important to many individuals. It is our goal to ensure this resource is plentiful so citizens have opportunities for quality fishing experiences in the future.
One of the most exciting spring sounds is the reverberating gobble of the tom turkey. Missouri turkey hunting is second to none in this country. An important conversation will begin this fall to determine if Missouri could and should consider an all-day spring turkey season. The Department will continue the tradition of gathering public input when considering potential regulation changes. Again, the question before the Department is how to balance conflicting citizen desires and expectations while sustaining an important wildlife species.
A respected biologist once said, “If conservation was easy, everybody would be doing it.” Conservation work is a very difficult endeavor in today’s world. One of Missouri’s great strengths lies in its citizens’ commitment to forest, fish, and wildlife conservation.
As discussions continue on the topics of white-tailed deer management, smallmouth and rock bass management, and the possibility of all-day hunting during the spring turkey season, I invite interested individuals to share their thoughts on these topics either by mail to Regulations Committee Chairman, Department of Conservation, PO Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0180 or via email at AskMDC@mdc.mo.gov.
Tom Draper, deputy director
Editor - Angie Daly Morfeld
Art Director - Cliff White
Associate Editor - Bonnie Chasteen
Staff Writer - Heather Feeler
Staff Writer - Kristie Hilgedick
Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner
Designer - Stephanie Thurber
Circulation - Laura Scheuler