Growing up, the start of spring was rarely ushered in by the calendar, but by the land around me preparing for a new season — green emerging on the trees, spring peepers loudly calling, and the fish finally biting at the pond. What made spring flourish was more than just the changing of a season. It was the opportunity to again roam free in the great outdoors.
While some Missourians explore acres of land owned by their family for generations, I spent my childhood discovering nature on conservation areas close to home. It was my gateway to the outdoors. Conservation areas provided instant access to creeks and ponds, abundant wildlife, and trails winding through forests and grasslands. It was, and still is, some of Missouri’s finest natural resources.
The Department manages nearly 1 million acres throughout the state for public use and habitat management. We hold the land in public trust, which means we diligently and proactively take care of the fish, forest, and wildlife resources as mandated by our mission, but these are your lands to explore, utilize, and enjoy. Conservation areas provide access to rivers, streams, and lakes with recreational uses such as trails, campgrounds, and shooting ranges. With more than 1,000 conservation areas across the state, these outdoor opportunities are close to home and available for all to access.
Public land also provides a unique financial benefit to local communities. In 1980, Missouri voters authorized revenue from the conservation sales tax to be used to make in-lieu-of tax payments to counties for the value of the conservation area land. The Conservation Commission evaluates the in-lieu-of tax payment rate every five years. In 2015, the total paid to Missouri counties in lieu of taxes, levee drainage district, forest crop land, and county road assistance was more than $1.6 million.
As the Department manages this important public resource, we also want to learn more about how conservation areas are being utilized by Missourians and why these areas are important to them. The Department encourages public comments on Conservation Area Management Plans by gathering feedback online at mdc.mo.gov/areaplans. This valuable feedback is utilized in drafting management plans for conservation areas around the state.
Finding a conservation area near you is easier than ever. Simply visit the Department’s website, mdc.mo.gov, and click on the interactive map right from your phone or tablet to find fun places around you. You can also search for an outdoor adventure by activity (hiking, camping, canoeing, nature viewing, hunting, or horseback riding) or by a natural area you would like to enjoy.
Missouri is truly blessed with abundant fish, forest, and wildlife resources. Spring is the perfect season to see it up close. After all, this is your land to explore. Go enjoy it!
Robert L. Ziehmer, 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 - Les Fortenberry
Designer - Marci Porter
Designer - Stephanie Thurber
Circulation - Laura Scheuler