Three Conservation Department employees honored

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COLUMBIA, Mo. – Three Columbia residents who work for the Missouri Department of Conservation were honored with Conservationist of the Year Awards at the Conservation Federation of Missouri (CFM) 78th annual conference in Jefferson City March 21.

CFM’s Conservationist of the Year Awards Program honors individuals and organizations that make outstanding contributions in various conservation fields. Columbians honored this year included:

  • Joanie Straub, Conservation Communicator of the Year. Straub is a media specialist with the Missouri Department of Conservation. She is credited with taking conservation communication to an unprecedented level in central and northeastern Missouri. Her efforts include reaching more than 400,000 viewers and listeners through partnerships with radio and television stations. She also coordinated the first-ever conservation awareness event at an MU Tigers football game, reaching 65,000 fans with educational messages about Operation Game Thief, hunter education, and fish and wildlife habitat.
  • Ann Koenig, Columbia, Forest Conservationist of the Year. An urban forester with the Conservation Department, Koenig currently works on special assignment to create and implement a campaign encouraging all Missourians to appreciate their trees. This new project, known as Trees Work, is designed to increase public awareness of the aesthetic, social, health, environmental, and economic benefits of healthy trees in cities and suburbs as well as rural areas. The campaign uses the full range of media to communicate the message that trees work for Missourians in many ways.
  • Chris McLeland, Soil Conservationist of the Year. A private land services biologist for the Conservation Department, McLeland was recognized for his efforts to promote the benefits of cover crops for water quality, agricultural productivity, and wildlife habitat. He formed the Cover Crops Working Group comprising representatives of several agencies, universities, and the Conservation Department. He coordinated efforts to document cover crop benefits and develop a suggested do-not-plant list of cover crops that can become invasive or provide little or no wildlife benefit. These efforts led to a research grant to examine the potential effect of diverse cover crops on insects, grassland birds, small game, and other wildlife species.

Any resident of Missouri is eligible to be nominated for a Conservationist of the Year Award. Visit for more information.