Nature Lab

By Bonnie Chasteen | May 1, 2020
From Missouri Conservationist: May 2020

Each month, we highlight research MDC uses to improve fish, forest, and wildlife management.

Resource Science

Opinion Surveys

“Natural resource management is just as much about managing for people as it is for turkeys, trout, or trees,” said Social Science Program Supervisor Ron Reitz. “The department considers how its management decisions affect you, the resource user, and your recreational opportunities.”

Reitz’s team of social scientists uses mail surveys, public meetings, focus groups, and web surveys to ask Missourians about their views. Last year, his team contacted nearly 200,000 Missourians to get their input on everything from deer and turkey regulations to elk viewing and unstaffed shooting range use.

You might say, “Nobody asked my opinion.” It’s true MDC can’t contact everyone. But, through sampling, staff can learn what you likely think about a given topic.

This is because surveys assume that an opinion held by one person is also held by others. “If you ask enough of the right people, you get a pretty good idea of what a group of people, whether landowners, anglers, hikers, hunters, homeowners, farmers, or even all Missourians think about an issue,” Reitz said.

In fact, for simple survey questions, a sample size of about 1,000 can accurately represent the answers of Missouri’s 6 million people. “The results are almost the same as if everyone had been asked and responded,” Reitz said.

One survey that helped MDC learn more and do more for a group of Missouri recreationists occurred between 2013 and 2015. “This three-stage effort focused on unstaffed shooting range users,” Reitz said. “The information we gained will help us better manage unstaffed ranges, meet public needs, and comply with federal guidelines.”

User Survey of Unstaffed Ranges at a Glance

Info Needed
  • Who uses MDC’s 70 unstaffed shooting ranges?
  • What are their needs, desires, and compliance with rules and regulations?
  1. Create a map of all shooting ranges, regardless of ownership
  2. Survey key area managers
  3. Conduct user surveys at 39 unstaffed firearms ranges
  • Over 89% of Missourians live within 30 minutes of a shooting range (of any ownership)
  • About 51% live within 30 minutes of an MDC shooting range
  • Area managers reported three common rule violations: littering, improper firearm use, and vandalism
  • An estimated 299,810 visitors used the study’s 39 unstaffed firearms ranges
  • Missourians made up 95% of the visitors
  • MDC’s unstaffed ranges provided users over $1.8 million in recreation value
  • The estimated economic impact on Missouri’s economy is $7.3 million
Using the Info
  • Evaluate potential for staffing and prioritize maintenance and renovation/construction projects
  • Modify rules, encourage compliance, and improve customer service and safety

This Issue's Staff

Magazine Manager - Stephanie Thurber

Editor - Angie Daly Morfeld

Associate Editor - Larry Archer

Staff Writer - Bonnie Chasteen
Staff Writer - Heather Feeler
Staff Writer - Kristie Hilgedick
Staff Writer - Joe Jerek

Art Director - Cliff White

Designer - Shawn Carey
Designer - Les Fortenberry
Designer - Marci Porter

Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner

Circulation - Laura Scheuler