MDC collects public input at 80th anniversary open house

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St. Joseph, Mo. – The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) held an open house Sept. 26 in St. Joseph to celebrate 80 years of science-based conservation and to collect feedback from the public on programs and issues. A valuable piece of art tied to national and Missouri conservation history was also presented to MDC at Spratt Hall on the Missouri Western State University campus in St. Joseph.

R. Philip Acuff, a longtime St. Joseph medical doctor and duck hunter, donated a waterfowl print by J.N. Ding Darling that was signed twice by the artist in 1947 to E. Sydney Stephens and Bob Brown. Darling, who won two Pulitzer Prizes for his editorial cartoons, was a key national leader for critical conservation programs that serve nature and outdoor sports today. E. Sidney Stephens was a Columbia civic leader who led efforts to create MDC 80 years ago, and he served two terms as the first chairman of the Missouri Conservation Commission. Robert A. “Bob” Brown from St. Joseph served as a commissioner from 1945 to 1951, key early years in the development of conservation programs in Missouri.

“To Bob Brown and may he carry out the traditions which the state of Missouri has set for the USA,” Darling wrote on the print.

Brown’s son gave him the print years ago, Acuff said. He had hung it on the wall of a Holt County duck hunting club shack for years. Acuff wanted the next home for the print to be the MDC archives.

“It has Sidney Stephens name on it, and he was the initial founder of MDC,” Acuff said.

MDC Director Sara Parker Pauley and Conservation Commissioner Dave Murphy accepted the print from Acuff, thanking him for the generous donation.

“We promise to take good care of this,” Pauley said. “It’s a piece of history, and an important piece of history.”

Director Pauley thanked attendees for their support for conservation. She said the MDC staff is dedicated to the mission of protecting and enhancing Missouri’s forests, fish, and wildlife resources, and the public’s input is important to that mission.

“Your continued engagement is critically important to everything we do,” Pauley said.

Jeff Leonard, a St. Joseph sportsman and business owner, hosts the weekly radio show “Road's End Outdoors” and made opening remarks. Leonard noted that in the Department’s 80-year history, deer and turkey made a comeback across the state and were now a valued outdoor resource. When they region’s hunters and anglers head outdoors, Leonard said, they’re often headed to MDC conservation areas or river accesses.

“Places to go were once scarce, and now we have them,” Leonard said.

Chuck Kempf, director of St. Joseph Parks, Recreation and Civic Facilities, thanked MDC for a partnership in restoring fishing opportunities for the public at a lagoon in the city’s historic Krug Park.  He noted that MDC also provides nature programs and other services for the city.

“It’s been a great opportunity,” Kempf said. “I want to congratulate MDC on the 80th anniversary. They do a tremendous amount of good in St. Joseph and across the state of Missouri.”

After opening remarks, attendees visited with MDC staff at exhibits on topics such as native grassland restoration, fisheries management, white-tailed deer diseases, forestry, and volunteer opportunities. MDC staff also collected input from visitors about conservation regulations, programs and issues.

The free event was part of a series of open houses MDC has held throughout the state. The next open house will be from 5 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 26, at the Anita B. Gorman Discovery Center, 4750 Troost Ave., in Kansas City. For information, call 816-759-7300.

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