Vantage Point

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From Missouri Conservationist: Mar 2002

Celebrating Success

You're going to enjoy this issue! It's filled with achievements made possible by Design for Conservation, a plan approved by Missourians 25 years ago. In a world full of negative news, it is refreshing to read about how a government agency has kept its promises to the public.

The fruits of Design for Conservation are many. Thanks to community and citizen involvement and support, the Conservation Department helped rebuild our forests from the stumps and ashes of overharvest and uncontrolled fires. We've established large populations of game species. We've built up important fisheries in streams and reservoirs throughout the state. We've enhanced the habitat for native species and brought back some species that were on the verge of extinction. Our partnership and education and outreach programs are the best in the country.

Since it was first created in 1936, the Conservation Department has succeeded in large part because of the leadership of a series of dedicated and talented directors. Any celebration of our achievements would be incomplete without recognizing their contributions.

I.T. Bode was the first director, served the longest and faced the greatest challenge. By insisting on professional management untainted by politics, he built a successful organization that gained national acclaim.

Equally professional and courageous was his successor, William E. Towell. I can't imagine a better pair of leaders to help establish the roots of a new, ambitious department. Bill went on to become chief executive of the American Forestry Association, but on his yearly treks to Missouri he stops by my office to hand out some fatherly advice.

Carl Noren, the third director, pioneered the effort that enabled the Conservation Department to obtain the funds it needed for conducting a comprehensive conservation program. Carl believed passionately that all citizens should benefit from, and participate in, funding broad-based management programs for the state's fish, wildlife and forest resources.

Noren teamed with Ed Stegner, who was "The Man" at the Conservation Federation of Missouri for many years. The two worked tirelessly on behalf of conservation efforts. Reportedly, Noren and Stegner were two of the few in the dark days before the election who believed that Missourians would vote to implement Design for Conservation.

The next two directors, Larry Gale and Jerry Presley, served after the passage of the Conservation Sales Tax Amendment. They reshaped the Conservation Department and formed partnerships to enable the dream of Design for Conservation to spring into life.

During their tenure, Missouri's reputation as the nation's leading conservation department was clearly established.

My sincere compliments to these pioneers in conservation. Together with the Conservation Commissioners, they excelled in giving the professional staff a chance to shine in their profession.

In 1943, Aldo Leopold, one of conservation's founding fathers, said, "If conservation can become a living reality anywhere, it will do so in Missouri. This is because Missourians are not yet completely industrialized in mind and spirit, and I hope never will be." He's still right today!

I believe our department is still well positioned to continue running at the head of the conservation pack. Clearly more folks in Missouri each day collectively realize how dependent our human lives are on the natural world for subsistence-be it food or inspiration. A former governor I worked with said conservationists need to always work to help folks make a worthwhile living-and to make their living worthwhile. That's the Missouri way; use some, save some and pass some on to the next generation! That's what Design for Conservation was intended to do. It succeeded pretty well!

Jerry Conley, Director

This Issue's Staff

Editor - Tom Cwynar
Managing Editor - Bryan Hendricks
Art Editor - Dickson Stauffer
Artist - Dave Besenger
Artist - Mark Raithel
Photographer - Jim Rathert
Photographer - Cliff White
Staff Writer - Jim Low
Staff Writer - Joan McKee
Composition - Libby Bode Block
Circulation - Bertha Bainer