Celebrating the Season of Reflection and Growth
January seems to be a month on the cusp — a significant point of transition when we reflect on the past year and look ahead to the new. While we celebrate momentous milestones achieved, we challenge ourselves to keep getting better in the months ahead. It is a necessary season of both reflection and growth.
The Department has made tremendous strides in the last year. We continued to use a science-based approach to manage fish, forests, and wildlife in the state, with ongoing, long-term research projects on blue catfish, deer, and forest management. In addition to managing public lands for all Missourians to use, the Department worked directly with numerous landowners and communities on conservation projects on their property. We helped kids and families discover nature, worked with urban areas on community conservation, and helped feed the hungry through the Share the Harvest program. These annual accomplishments, plus many more, are outlined in the annual review section of this issue.
As we look ahead, it’s an exciting time for conservation. We continue to strategically and methodically plan for important areas of conservation emphasis. The Department has recently revised its strategic plan with conservation priorities for the next three years. Priorities include:
- Cultivate a conservation ethic by promoting the relevance, importance, and value of fish, forests, and wildlife. This means increasing understanding and interest in natural resources beginning at an early age; communicating the social and economic value and quality of life provided by fish, forests, and wildlife; increasing citizen participation in outdoor activities; and partnering with landowners, non-profits, businesses, agricultural groups, communities, schools, and others to increase support of fish, forest, and wildlife conservation efforts.
- Focus fish, forest, and wildlife management in identified priority geographies. This means implementing the Department’s comprehensive conservation strategy; coordinating with partners to identify the best opportunities to invest resources on a larger scale across the landscape that will sustain fish, forests, and wildlife; and targeting land acquisition in priority geographies.
- Help citizens connect with fish, forests, and wildlife where they live, through a statewide approach to community conservation. This means providing citizens across the state with opportunities to learn about and experience the outdoors where they live; providing technical assistance to communities and partner organizations to help citizens protect fish, forests, and wildlife; and demonstrating and promoting conservation friendly development practices in urban settings.
- Promote water quality and quantity for healthy fish, forest, and wildlife resources. This means working with partners, including individuals, farmers, landowners, communities, non-profits, and other governmental agencies to promote best practices and policies that ensure sufficient aquatic habitat for fish, forests, and wildlife; communicating to citizens the relationship between water quality and quantity and healthy fish, forests, and wildlife; and setting an example for best practices in fish, forest, and wildlife management activities.
- Implement a strategic approach to land acquisition to enhance habitat management and public access. This means focusing land acquisition to both maximize fish, forest, and wildlife habitat conservation and increase citizen access to outdoor opportunities near where they live; and partnering with private landowners to implement voluntary access and easement programs.
- Implement an equitable compensation system that balances fiscal responsibility with the ability to attract, retain, and develop staff. This means investing in high-performing staff to deliver fish, forest, and wildlife conservation to Missourians; enhancing the Department’s ability to recruit staff that reflect the diversity of the citizens we serve; and providing incentives for staff to advance their skills and abilities in both leadership and supervisory assignments.
History has taught us that citizen involvement is not only necessary in conservation, but it’s critical to our long-term success. Conservation successes happen when we all work together in a strategic approach. Thank you for caring deeply about conservation in Missouri. We are making great progress — together.
Robert L. Ziehmer, director