Sara Parker Pauley became the ninth director of the Conservation Department on Nov. 1. Her career spans both private and public sector work, including working with federal and state agencies on environmental compliance, policy development, and marketing. As she dives into her new role, we asked her a few questions about what’s on the horizon as director and for the future of conservation.
You have a new title on your business card. What excites you most about this new chapter with the Conservation Department?
SPP: What excites me most is also what is the most daunting. It’s the opportunity to lead and work alongside such an amazing team of professionals and partners in a field that I am most passionate about, but it’s also a critical time in our state and nation’s history. The Department’s conservation history is filled with great accomplishments, which I’m very proud of, but there is no finish line in this race. Our very quality of life as Missourians depends upon continued conservation of our natural resources. While there are many challenges ahead, it’s inspiring to know I’ll be working alongside a great team to face them together.
What are the top items on your leadership checklist as you jump into your new role?
SPP: Meeting and engaging staff and partners, both new and old, is a top priority. We all work best together when we know, trust, and respect one another. I believe strongly in the importance of two-way communication. I want to hear from staff, partners, and citizens alike to better understand what they believe to be the top conservation issues facing our state.
You began your career at the Conservation Department. How does it feel to come back full circle and work with some familiar faces?
SPP: It really does seem like a homecoming to me. Although many of the faces are new to me, and much younger than mine now, the spirit of the staff remains as vibrant, passionate, and committed as ever to the Department’s mission. I’m returning with years of experience gained in the interim that I believe will help me in this leadership role, but in many ways it feels like I haven’t been gone very long. It’s a great feeling to be back.
The role of director also serves as a conservation leader on a national level. What do you hope to bring to the table at those meetings and conversations?
SPP: Over the years, the Department has been a national conservation leader due to our legacy as a science-driven agency, our world-class staff, and an informed citizenry that has supported sustainable funding. This has allowed us to accomplish critical conservation efforts from research and monitoring, to habitat protection and enhancement, to education and outreach.
I will ensure that we continue to lead in these ways. But I also understand the importance of being part of the national dialogue. I was honored to serve in a leadership capacity with the Environmental Council of the States, an association representing state environmental agencies. In this capacity, I came to understand the impact our state can have on national policy, as well as the benefits our state can gain from the sharing of information, problems, solutions, and lessons learned as we participate in these national conversations.
What are the biggest conservation challenges on the horizon?
SPP: There is no shortage of conservation challenges facing Missouri, from wildlife diseases such as chronic wasting disease, to loss of quality habitat, to the effects of climate change, and nonpoint source pollution. But perhaps the most pressing concern in my mind is ensuring the public we serve understands how conserving our fish, forests, and wildlife, and all of our natural resources, directly impacts their very quality of life. Telling this story more effectively in a way that our citizens better understand, including how conservation impacts them personally in a real and meaningful way, needs to be our highest priority.
The most pressing concern in my mind is ensuring the public we serve understands how conserving our fish, forests, and wildlife directly impacts their very quality of life.
On a personal note, as a seasoned hunter and angler, any favorite outdoor spots in Missouri?
SPP: This is a tough one to answer as the landscapes of Missouri are so varied and special in their own way. My family roots are in the Ozarks, so Missouri’s pristine Ozark streams, such as the Eleven Point River and Bryant Creek, will always be special places as they are largely connected with childhood memories. I love time afi eld whatever the activity, but my greatest passion is turkey hunting. Whether I’m turkey hunting in the Ozark hills of Caney Mountain country or the forested and farm landscapes of northeast Missouri, wherever there are turkeys gobbling, that’s my favorite outdoor spot
The October Commission meeting featured presentations and discussions regarding the Wild Turkey Research Project, online permits, conservation employees’ benefits plan, the financial report, and a status report on major construction projects and information technology projects. A summary of actions taken during the Oct. 20–21 meeting for the benefit and protection of fish, forests, and wildlife, and the citizens who enjoy them includes:
The next Conservation Commission meeting is Dec. 15–16. For more information, visit short.mdc.mo.gov/ZZe or call your regional Conservation office.
Department staff has stocked 73,000 rainbow trout in 32 urban-area lakes around the state for winter trout fishing. Many of these areas allow anglers to harvest trout as soon as they are stocked, while others are catch-and-release until Feb. 1. Find locations at short.mdc.mo.gov/Zo6.
The daily limit for catch-and-keep at these locations is four trout with no length limit. Missouri residents over age 15 and under age 65 must have a fishing permit. All nonresidents over age 15 must have a fishing permit. To keep trout, anglers of all ages must have a Missouri trout permit.
Buy hunting and fishing permits from vendors around the state, online at mdc.mo.gov/ buy permits, or through MDC’s free mobile apps — Mo Hunting and Mo Fishing — available for download through Google Play for Android devices or the App Store for Apple devices.
Save time by buying permits for yourself, family, and friends in a single transaction. Select the “Additional Customer” option during your permit purchase.
From December through February, Missouri’s winter eagle watching is spectacular. Discover nature with the Department’s Eagle Days events around the state or enjoy eagle viewing on your own.
Because of our big rivers, many lakes, and abundant wetlands, Missouri is one of the leading lower 48 states for bald eagle viewing. Each fall, thousands of these great birds migrate south from their nesting range in Canada and the Great Lakes states to hunt in the Show-Me State. Eagles take up residence wherever they find open water and plentiful food. More than 2,000 bald eagles are typically reported in Missouri during winter. Eagle Days events are listed below. They include live captive-eagle programs, exhibits, activities, videos, and guides with spotting scopes. Watch for eagles perched in large trees along the water’s edge. View them early in the morning to see eagles flying and fishing. Be sure to dress for winter weather and don’t forget cameras and binoculars.
For more information, visit short.mdc. mo.gov/ZJA.
The Missouri Department of Conservation’s online Nature Shop makes holiday shopping a breeze for anyone interested in nature-themed gifts. Check out the selection at mdcnatureshop.com.
Holiday shoppers can also skip retail stores and visit one of our nature centers in Kirkwood, Cape Girardeau, Springfield, Kansas City, Blue Springs, and Jefferson City for a surprising array of reasonably priced holiday gifts.
One of the most popular holiday gifts is our annual Natural Events Calendar, with 12 months ofstunning photos and daily notes about a wide variety of wild happenings throughout the year. Get it from the online Nature Shop or at our nature centers and regional offices.
Conservation makes Missouri a great place to hunt and fish, so give the gift of hunting and fishing permits. Buy Missouri hunting and fishing permits from numerous vendors around the state, online at mdc.mo.gov/buypermits, or through the Conservation Department’s free mobile apps, MO Hunting and MO Fishing, available for download through Google Play for Android devices or the App Store for Apple devices.
River otters live in streams, rivers, and lakes. With streamlined bodies, webbed feet, and long, tapered tails, they are well suited to life in the water. They are graceful, powerful swimmers and can remain submerged for three to four minutes. Their ears and nose close when they go underwater, and their dense, oily fur and heavy layers of body fat keep them insulated. Otters are dark brown with pale brown or gray bellies, while their muzzle and throat are silvery. Males and females look alike, although males are larger. Otters are relatively long-lived, mostly nocturnal, and active all year. Social and generally living in family groups, female otters whelp two to five young in February or March. The young are weaned at 4 months, but stay with their parents until the following spring. On land, otters’ burrows may be under large tree roots, beneath rocky ledges, under fallen trees, or below thickets, and are usually former homes of muskrats, beavers, or woodchucks.
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