Up Front With Sara Parker Pauley

By Sara Parker Pauley | July 1, 2022
From Missouri Conservationist: July 2022

A latecomer to the TV series Yellowstone, I’m drawn to this drama depicting the modern Wild West. The real wild West has its own challenges, with record drought and wildfires wreaking havoc, while growing in frequency and intensity. In 2022 so far, over 29,050 wildfires have burned more than 2 million acres.

For decades, MDC has joined forces with our Western partners battling these rampant blazes. In 2021 alone, 48 MDC firefighters joined colleagues on the fire lines in Oregon, California, Colorado, and Montana. 

Missouri used to be the wild West when it came to uncontrolled wildfires. More than a million acres burned annually across the Ozarks, according to MDC Fire Supervisor Ben Webster, himself a veteran of several Western firefighting deployments and a man with the look of an extra, fresh off the Yellowstone set. Then came the 1930s constitutional mandate giving the Conservation Commission wildfire suppression oversight, with MDC staff shouldering the largest load in fighting wildfires for the next few decades. Today, local fire departments respond to more than 95 percent of all Missouri’s wild blazes, thanks in part to training and equipment grants from MDC and the U.S. Forest Service. This expanded local capacity, improved technology, and education have greatly reduced Missouri’s unwanted fires. In 2021, an estimated 20,320 acres burned.

We’ve come a long way from the old days in Missouri. Here’s to hoping our Western friends see better times as well.

Sara Parker Pauley, Director



This Issue's Staff

Magazine Manager - Stephanie Thurber
Editor - Angie Daly Morfeld
Associate Editor - Larry Archer
Photography Editor - Cliff White
Staff Writer - Kristie Hilgedick
Staff Writer - Joe Jerek
Staff Writer – Dianne Van Dien
Designer - Shawn Carey
Designer - Marci Porter
Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner
Circulation Manager - Laura Scheuler