As a token gift for my appearance at the Missouri Department of Conservation 80th Anniversary Celebration, I received a copy of a hard-cover book the department printed recognizing its 75th year.
Titled “The Promise Continues,” it is an account of history and a documentary of art and stories that focuses on the partnerships between the department and residents of the state who work together to make efforts to restore wildlife and wild lands in our state successful.
I haven’t finished the book yet, but I was struck by something in the Foreword by former director Robert Ziehmer that highlighted the insight of those who founded the department 80 years ago and presented a challenge for its future.
In 1936 an amendment to the state constitution was proposed that created the department, and the first objective as documented in early reporting rings much louder today:
“To protect, as far as legally possible, the administration of the state’s wildlife resources from the influence of partisan politics.”
Nothing seems to happen in government these days that doesn’t seem to find a base in partisanship. Ideas are debated, decided and deleted based almost completely on who gets credit for it or who scores political points.
For all the successes the department has accomplished restoring deer, turkey and other wildlife species in the state, the biggest triumph may be its ability to rise above the fray and gain the support of both sides of a polarized populace.
NO GREATER ISSUE
Around campfires, in fishing boats, on hiking trails, recreational users of our state’s resources may not always see eye-to-eye on the politics of the day, but they seem to agree with Theodore Roosevelt’s perspective from the 1912 Progressive National Convention:
“There can be no greater issue than that of conservation in our country. The nation behaves well if it treats natural resources as assets which it must turn over to the next generation increased and not impaired in value.”
The other stated objectives of the proposal that created the department are equally important to the achievements of the past eight decades. They also carry a tone that rings around the workings of a political system:
“To provide for employment of staff members based on training and experience, and provide security of tenure so the state benefits from the training and experience of its employees.”
In other words, hiring the best qualified people rather than making patronage appointments, and keeping those good folks rather than dismissing someone just because the previous administration hired him or her.
The bulk of the book focuses on the department successfully putting plans in action on principals like science-based conservation, partnerships with landowners, making public lands available, educating residents, the economics of conservation, and preserving waters and wetlands.
The Profiles of Conservation Leaders section includes biographical information and line art drawings of the department directors, master conservationists, hall of famers and commissioners.
The book is available at Department of Conservation gift stores and the online natureshop.com for $15. Once I finish reading my copy, I’ll be happy to loan it out to someone looking for a good history lesson.
John J. Winkleman is marketing and communications regional manager at Mercy Hospital Jefferson. If you have comments or news for Outdoor Guide Magazine, send email to email@example.com or follow John on Twitter at @johnjwink99.