MDC inducts “Woody” Bledsoe into Conservation Hall of Fame

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) and Missouri Conservation Commission posthumously honored Herschel “Woody the Singing Forester” Bledsoe, formerly of Jefferson City, by inducting him into the Missouri Conservation Hall of Fame during the Commission’s Dec. 2 open meeting in Jefferson City. Bledsoe died on Nov. 11, 1991, at age 67.

Bledsoe was nominated for the Conservation Hall of Fame by his son-in-law, Jim Dickson, of Jefferson City.

Bledsoe is the 46th inductee into the Missouri Conservation Hall of Fame. The award honors deceased citizen conservationists and former employees of MDC, other conservation-related government agencies, universities, or organizations who have made substantial and lasting contributions to the state’s fisheries, forestry, or wildlife resources. To be eligible, an individual must have performed an outstanding act or demonstrated dedicated service resulting in major progress in conservation in Missouri. Nominations are carefully screened by a diverse committee and their recommendations are presented to the Conservation Commission for consideration and final approval. Learn more at

Bledsoe began his career with MDC in 1942 as a towerman and firefighter. He served in the MDC Forestry division in several capacities before being promoted to a new assignment in 1951 where he traveled the state promoting forestry conservation. He took a “mobile motion picture unit” to rural schools throughout the state to show conservation films and lecture on wildlife and forestry conservation. He would entertain his audiences by playing his guitar and singing ballads to emphasize the conservation philosophy and movement in Missouri.

In 1953, Bledsoe formed a country music band with other MDC staff and produced a pilot radio show called "Woody and the Ozark Smoke Eaters."

“Although the show was high in entertainment content, Woody used it to preach the dangers of forest fires and to sell good wildlife and forestry practices,” explained MDC Director Sara Parker Pauley. “The pilot show was presented to MDC administration and they were so impressed they had him produce the show for use on about 25 radio stations throughout the state as a public service. The show was an immediate success and evoked good responses from the public and radio stations. Thus, ‘Woody the Singing Forester’ was born.”

Pauley added that the show expanded into 26 annual episodes and ran on more than 40 radio stations for 20 years.

In 1954 Bledsoe was promoted to Radio-TV Specialist in Jefferson City and placed in charge of radio and television productions for MDC.

Bledsoe was placed in charge of MDC exhibits in 1957 where he became the voice of Smokey Bear in Missouri and made hundreds of personal appearances with an animated Smokey at county fairs throughout the state. He also became a much sought-after speaker for civic organizations and sportsmen’s clubs and presented at hundreds of school assembly programs around the state.

Bledsoe began producing and hosting a 30-minute television show for MDC called "Missouri Outdoors" in the early sixties. The popular show aired until 2007 with episodes still available online.

“Woody's radio show, TV show, exhibits, and publications won 20 international awards from the Association for Conservation Information,” said Pauley. “This association is comprised of information and education sections of state, federal, and provincial conservation agencies throughout the United States and Canada. These are prestigious awards and Woody's productions placed first, second, and third consistently, which not only reflects well on his ability, but has been a contributing factor in making the Missouri Department of Conservation recognized as one of the best in the nation.”

Listen to the “Singing Forester” through an MDC vintage video circa 1960 at