Monday, December 31, 2007

Planning for Conservation Success in Missouri

Recently, I paid my 2008 dues for several conservation organizations. I pay to support these organizations because of their plans for conservation and for the success they hope to achieve. I believe one of the greatest conservation benefits of these organizations is how communication is enhanced between members and with others. You can help conservation in Missouri and throughout the world by supporting one or more of the many groups that do conservation work.

For example, some groups that I support include:

The Conservation Federation of Missouri
The Missouri Chapter of The Wildlife Society
The Wildlife Society
Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Society
The International Association for Society and Natural Resources

Many more organizations that do conservation work are listed on the pages of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and the many groups listed as affiliates of the Conservation Federation of Missouri.

You can also support conservation in Missouri through the Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation or the Missouri Department of Conservation.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Vision for Conservation in Missouri

Recently, a University of Missouri class asked some questions about the vision statement of the Missouri Department of Conservation.

In answering their questions, I was reminded of two statements from John F. Kennedy. Kennedy spoke at Rice University in Texas on September 12, 1962 about landing a man on the moon. In the speech, Kennedy stated, referring to his vision of landing a man on the moon:

"...because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win..."

and later in the speech,

"But if I were to say, my fellow citizens, that we shall send to the moon, 240,000 miles away from the control station in Houston, a giant rocket more than 300 feet tall, the length of this football field, made of new metal alloys, some of which have not yet been invented, capable of standing heat and stresses several times more than have ever been experienced, fitted together with a precision better than the finest watch, carrying all the equipment needed for propulsion, guidance, control, communications, food and survival, on an untried mission, to an unknown celestial body, and then return it safely to earth, re-entering the atmosphere at speeds of over 25,000 miles per hour, causing heat about half that of the temperature of the sun--almost as hot as it is here today--and do all this, and do it right, and do it first before this decade is out--then we must be bold."

The words of Kennedy help define for me how a vision statement can be useful. I particularly like the phrase "that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills..." because I believe that was the intent of the Missouri citizens in 1936 when they crafted the language in the Missouri Constitution that is the basis for the Missouri Department of Conservation vision statement. The Department of Conservation vision provides a picture of the desired outcome and the ideal to be used to measure accomplishments.

In addition, Kennedy reinforced the role of a vision to focus and align efforts when he said "made of new metal alloys, some of which have not yet been invented..." Although the Department's vision statement is a picture of future success, it takes work, and thought, and innovation to achieve that success. Particularly innovation, since the challenges of both the current and future landscape in Missouri are not entirely known. Expertise and knowledge help to reduce uncertainty in the work to achieve a vision, but there are still unknown and unexpected events.

The vision statement of the Missouri Department of Conservation is:

"To have healthy, sustainable plant and animal communities throughout the state of Missouri for future generations to use and enjoy, and to have fish, forest and wildlife resources in appreciably better condition tomorrow than they are today.

To have all Missourians understand the relationship and value of plant and animal communities to our social and economic well-being.

To have citizens and government agencies work together to protect, sustain, enhance, restore or create sustainable plant and animal communities of local, state and national significance."

You can find more information on the Department of Conservation Web pages about the vision and mission statements of the Department of Conservation, the strategic plan The Next Generation of Conservation, and the Department's value statements "What We Believe."

Friday, November 30, 2007

Ask a Department of Conservation Expert for the Answer to a Conservation Question

This past week I found a small bird nest along my driveway. It was very small, about 1.5 inches in diameter, and my wife and I first thought it might be a hummingbird nest. It had soft plant material inside and lichens all around the outside.

I asked staff in the Wildlife Division in the Department of Conservation about the nest. They guided me to look up the blue-gray gnatcatcher. That's it! The Department also has an information page about the blue-gray gnatcatcher.

The Department of Conservation has experts that can help answer a wide variety of fish, forest, and wildlife questions. You can ask a question online, or contact your local office. There are eight Department regional offices in Missouri. You can also look up specific staff and subject areas on the Department's media contacts roster.

A wide variety of information that can help answer questions is available on the Department's Web pages and in the online articles from the Missouri Conservationist magazine.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

You Can Make a Difference for Conservation in Missouri by Planting a Tree or Many Trees

In 1992, when my boys were still in elementary school, we planted some trees that we ordered from the Department of Conservation's forest nursery. We planted a variety of trees, but one of my favorites is the bald cypress. One bald cypress that we planted is nearly 40 feet tall today. It started out less than one foot tall and the boys poked it in the ground in the front yard.

It grew quickly. If you would plant one next spring, it could be over 20 feet tall in less than 10 years.

I like the bald cypress. It is found mostly in the bootheel region of southeast Missouri, but it can adapt and grow well even on dryer upland areas, like yards and hillsides, all over the state. Bald cypress trees can live a long time. The tree we planted could still be living in 600 years.

That's a long time to make a statement and make a difference by simply planting a tree.

Missourians think planting trees is important. In a statewide survey in 2003, most Missourians, 82 percent, agreed that the Department of Conservation should help private landowners who want to restore native communities of plants and animals.

You can learn more about the Department of Conservation tree nursery program that offers Missouri residents a variety of seedlings for reforestation, windbreaks, erosion control, and wildlife food and cover. Much more information about forests in Missouri is available on the forestry library pages of the Department of Conservation.

Or you can learn more about using native plants for landscaping or other wildlife benefits on the Grow Native! Web pages.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Deer Harvest Map and Totals for Missouri on Department of Conservation Web Pages

A post in the Fresh Afield blog yesterday on the Missouri Department of Conservation Web pages showed a link to a map that has the overall total deer harvest in Missouri and the harvest for each county.

The state and county totals are updated from the Department's Deer and Turkey Telecheck system, which is an online and telephone checking system to report harvest.

In checking the map page again while writing this, I've watched the deer harvest numbers go up, both for the statewide total and for Callaway County where I live.

I'll use a phrase another Department of Conservation biologist frequently uses when describing really interesting things, "How cool is that?"

You can learn more about deer hunting in Missouri and the other kinds of fall hunting opportunities on the Department of Conservation Web pages.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Attend the Excellence in Missouri Conference to Learn How to Improve Quality and Performance

The Excellence in Missouri Foundation will hold it's annual conference on November 14-16, 2007. The conference is a great place to learn about the criteria of performance excellence used for the Missouri Quality Award and how other businesses and organizations are improving quality, customer satisfaction, and their operational performance.

The conference will include speakers from the 2006 award recipients of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.

What does this have to do with the next generation of conservation in Missouri? One of the strategic goals of the Department of Conservation is to continue to operate effectively with accountability for public funds and respect for Missouri citizens. The criteria of the Missouri Quality Award provide a framework to do exactly that and staff in the Department are learning more about the criteria and how it can be used in conservation efforts.

Even if you can't attend the conference, you can learn more by reading about the criteria and the specific items of the seven categories.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Hunters Have Supported Conservation and Wildlife Management in Missouri and the United States Since 1937

The November National Geographic magazine came in the mail to my home today.

There is an article on page 112 about "Hunters for love of the land."

Hunters in the United States, and also in Missouri, have been strong supporters of conservation and fish, forest, and wildlife management since 1937.

In the article on page 126 is a chart that indicates that 75 percent of the revenue for state wildlife agencies comes from license sales and federal excise taxes. The excise taxes are from the Federal Aid in Sport Fish and Wildlife Restoration programs. The federal wildlife program began in 1937 to help states manage wildlife and to implement conservation management activities.

Many people talk about conservation or what should be done. Hunters have put their money on the table for over 70 years for fish, wildlife, and habitat management. In many states, hunters and anglers have been and continue to be the folks that pay for conservation.

Only Missouri and Arkansas have state sales taxes dedicated to conservation. Several other states have a variety of other methods to help fund conservation, including income tax check-off opportunities and other methods. In Missouri, no other general revenue from the state is used for the Department of Conservation.

Missouri was the first state, in 1976, to have a majority of the residents recognize the need to have long-term and stable funding for conservation activities. Healthy fish, forests, and wildlife benefit all Missourians with increased quality of life and economic benefits.

You can read the article online, or if you're like my family, we often look at the pictures first and the online article has a picture gallery.

A Career as a Wildlife Biologist or Photographer for the Missouri Department of Conservation

Here is a YouTube video on being a Wildlife Biologist:

and another on being a photographer for the Missouri Department of Conservation:

A Career as a Conservation Agent for the Missouri Department of Conservation

Department of Conservation staff have been adding videos to YouTube. Here is one on being a Conservation Agent:

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Insight from Aldo Leopold's "Why and How Research" for Conservation and the Core Concepts of Performance Excellence

Why and how research. In 1948, Aldo Leopold, Professor of Wildlife Management at the University of Wisconsin, wrote a paper titled "Why and How Research" that was read by Robert McCabe at the North American Wildlife Conference. I have returned to the words of this paper again and again since I first saw it in the mid 1980s. The paper is available in the Transactions of the North American Wildlife Conference, Volume 13, pages 44-48.

I read it again this week and realized that his thoughts address many of the core concepts of performance excellence in the quality improvement criteria of the Missouri Quality Award from a wildlife perspective. Leopold's writing from nearly 60 years ago has important insights for how we conduct our learning and research efforts today to improve the fish, forests, and wildlife in Missouri through our conservation efforts.

A systems perspective. I believe Leopold intuitively understood the core concepts of performance excellence as they have been written recently, and they include:
  • visionary leadership
  • customer-driven excellence
  • organizational and personal learning
  • valuing employees and partners
  • agility
  • focus on the future
  • managing for innovation
  • management by fact
  • social responsibility
  • focus on results and creating value
  • systems perspective

Leopold's words. Leopold wrote "Much of the confusion about wildlife research arises, I think, from a false premise as to its purpose." He continues "the primary purpose of wildlife research is, in my view, to develop and expand this understanding of the biotic drama. It must, of course, contrive also to keep wildlife on the map, in good quantity, and in as much diversity as possible."

Leopold builds his case for both long- and short-term research by stating "Once in a blue moon research will, by accident, hit upon a discovery of practical value without any preliminary work on fundamentals, but when pursued as a policy, such accidental hits are a losing game."

Leopold was concerned in 1948 that funding for a broad-based, long-term research program based on fundamentals, what he called "deep-digging," was not being supported across the 50 states, and that too much emphasis was being placed on short-term "practical" efforts that produced quick answers.

He wrote "This is why research on most American game species is in a blind alley today. The proof that we are in a blind alley is that we are unable to explain, much less to predict, current events." He continues "in fact it could be said that deer and waterfowl are about the only major game groups in which current ups and downs can be explained, with confidence, in terms of visible causes."

A balanced program to reduce fumbling. Leopold admonishes us with his closing words "What I am asking for is a balanced program, which recognizes that some research jobs are short while others are long, and that neglect of either is poor policy." He proposes "To reduce fumbling is our most important job. If we fail to reduce this fumbling today, the well-springs of funds will dry up tomorrow."

Visionary leadership. In writing "Why and How Research," Leopold certainly places an emphasis on resource managers that can think; managers that can design research and take the time to understand all the components of nature and the different expectations of people to benefit from and experience nature. Leopold's admonition to produce information from "deep-digging" is his call to take a broad, "systems perspective" and to make conservation management decisions that are innovative, based on facts, that focus on results and the future, and that meet the expectations and exemplary performance demanded by a broad-based constituency of hunters, anglers, wildlife watchers, and everyone that understands that the natural world is the foundation of our economic success and quality of life.

Increasing organizational learning with valued employees and partners. I believe Leopold would be pleased at where the staff of the Missouri Department of Conservation have been and where they are going with research on wildlife, and with research on fish and forests.

Leopold, had he had the benefit of the current words, would have said it's our "social responsibility" to take a balanced approach to gathering information, as he clearly indicates in "Why and How Research" when he states that in the 1948 time period, the state of Wisconsin might have to proceed with its long-term quail research project without outside funding because "the value of what we find may extend far beyond quail."

Leopold was concerned about performance, including his own, the performance of the relatively new, at that time, profession of wildlife management, and the ultimate performance of improving fish, forests, and wildlife and increasing the level of understanding of the complex biological relationships of animals and their habitats.

When I sit in a meeting, as I did last week, to hear discussion about the methods of a research project and if it should be funded, I think about "Why and How Research." I think Leopold would be pleased with our attempts to reduce "fumbling." He said it best: "To reduce fumbling is our most important job." And to reduce fumbling, and to increase performance, is what the quality performance criteria is also all about.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Support Conservation and Make Your Own Statement for Fish, Forest, and Wildlife Management

Do you support conservation activities in Missouri? Everyone in Missouri, or anyone who visits Missouri, benefits from the beauty and economic advantages of healthy fish, forests, and wildlife. Healthy plants, animals, and habitats help keep water clean in Missouri and a long list of other benefits.

You can support conservation and make your own statement at the same time by choosing a personalized conservation license plate. There are three choices, a deer, bluebird, and morel mushroom.

You can view the choices and information on how to obtain the license plate on the Web pages of the Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation.

Or, you can see how your own choice of letters will look on the license plate of your choice on the Department of Revenue's Web pages. On the Department of Revenue page, near the bottom of the page, you'll want to select "Organizational" in the first drop-down box, then Conservation deer, bluebird, or mushroom, and then put in your own personalized letters. Clicking "Submit" will show you how your plate might look.

The basic process to purchase a conservation license plate is to go to any vendor that sells hunting and fishing permits and pay at least the minimum donation to the Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation for one- or two-years (depending if you want a one- or two-year license). Then take the authorization permit to the license bureau and tell them what you want, for example, you might ask for a two-year license, on a conservation plate, with the deer. There is also a mailing address.

I took the permit authorization into the license bureau at the same time I renewed my vehicle license this year.

Gnomon is an indicator. If you are interested, the "gnomon" is the part of a sundial that casts the shadow so you can determine the time of day. I liked the many meanings of the word "gnomon," in that the health of fish, forests, and wildlife is like an indicator, and the human dimensions information I work with is an indicator of the expectations and satisfaction of Missourians for the Department of Conservation.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Make a Time to be Outdoors in Missouri and Experience Fish, Forests, and Wildlife

With the cool weather of the Missouri fall season, it's a great time to be outside. There are so many things you can do outside in the fall. Even just sitting outside can be fun. The temperature is cool in the morning and gently warm through the day, there are virtually no biting insects, the colorful leaves rustle in the breeze, and there are a variety of fishing and hunting seasons open.

Yet in surveys since the mid 1990s in Missouri, people report that lack of time is their biggest obstacle to enjoying outdoor recreation.

I certainly don't know how add more time to each day.

I do know that I can make a little time to be outdoors each day to take a walk, exercise, or walk the dog. Or to schedule longer outings on the weekend to go walking, camping, fishing, hunting, or a wide variety of outdoor activities. You can do this with your family or friends and make a lifetime of memories with every trip.

If you can't get outside of your yard, try one of those free-standing firepit bowls from the local hardware or department store and sit around a small fire, roasting marshmallows in the cool fall evenings. One of the coolest marshmallow roasters I've seen is the "rolla-roaster" and you can buy it for a great price from REI Equipment. You can put one or two marshmallows on the end, use the thumbwheel to rotate the marshmallow until it is golden brown, and eat it between two graham crackers. They certainly taste better than the blackened marshmallows I produced as a child after the marshmallow turned into a fiery torch; except I seem to recall I really enjoyed watching the marshmallow flame up dramatically and turn black.

You can also use the firepit to try outdoor cooking. I've used our firepit near the house with charcoal for dutch oven cooking. You can feel like you are camping in fall weather and never leave home. This makes it easy to squeeze in some outdoor time, even if finding time is an obstacle.

If you want to try out dutch oven cooking, I've purchased some dutch oven supplies from Chuckwagon Supply and learned about new recipes from the blog 'Round the Chuckbox. I prefer the pre-seasoned "Lodge-Logic" dutch ovens from Lodge Manufacturing. You can get a cool Lewis and Clark dutch oven on sale from Lodge with a specially cast lid or look at the wide variety of ovens available from Chuckwagon Supply.

Go outside. I think you'll really enjoy it.

You can learn more about going outdoors from the Missouri Outdoor Families Web pages and events from the Missouri Department of Conservation. You can learn more about places to go near you from the Missouri Department of Conservation or find a state park or historic site managed by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Recruiting People With Fire in Their Eye for Conservation

At a meeting this week, I heard the statement "how do we find people with fire in their eye for conservation?" The discussion was about finding and selecting the next generation of conservation employees.

When I was an undergraduate student, it seemed like there were few jobs for the many folks who wanted a career in fish, forest, or wildlife management. I worked in a gas station near campus and I put gas into the cars of my fellow students as they also worked at other jobs, teaching, selling cars, other career fields. I was persistent, stayed in school, and found opportunities. Some of the other folks also found jobs in conservation.

On the way to Columbia to another meeting this week I saw a billboard for, I believe the Marines, that said something like "We don't take applications, we take commitment." The Fish and Wildlife Service Web page about careers also has the word commitment in the first sentence of their information, where it says "Working for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is more than a career. It is also a commitment..." A common theme in the personal descriptions of what several Forest Service employees do each day is their opportunity to make a difference and they often comment they enjoy their jobs.

Jim Keefe, in the video "The Spirit of Conservation" comments that Department employees did not feel they were working just a job, "it was a crusade."

I think as we keep telling people, including young people still in school, about our job opportunities, our future vision of what conservation is about, and the values we believe in, that we'll continue to find the right folks with fire in their eyes for conservation.

Here is another helpful hint: future leaders in conservation will need to be excellent managers as well as biologists, and learning about the criteria for performance excellence used in the Missouri Quality Award and the National Malcolm Baldrige Award is a good start.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

National Hunting and Fishing Day Highlights Conservation Success

National Hunting and Fishing Day was September 22. The day designates the importance of the support from anglers and hunters to conserve fish, wildlife, and habitat and the personal benefits of being involved in the activities of fishing and hunting. Individuals and families can create a lifetime of memories by going fishing and hunting.

The Web pages have a wide variety of information about events held in most states, information about the history of the day, and facts about the participation and economic impacts of fishing and hunting.

Even if you don't fish or hunt, or if you missed the events on September 22 this year, the fall weather is a great time to be outdoors. Go outside!

You can learn more about a wide variety of outdoor activities and how you can be involved in conservation efforts on the Web pages of the Missouri Department of Conservation.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Walk or Run to Support Conservation in Missouri

I like to walk. And apparently, many other Missourians like to walk also. In a 2003 survey conducted for the Department by the University of Missouri, 76 percent of Missourians said they had walked in their neighborhood in the last 12 months. Fifty percent said they had hiked in the outdoors. And 27 percent said they had run or jogged.

I support conservation efforts for animals and plants in Missouri. And most Missourians feel the same way. More than three-quarters of Missourians agree that “the Missouri Department of Conservation should make an effort to restore animals that once lived here or are currently very rare in Missouri” (79 percent) and that the Department “should conserve and restore rare and endangered plants” (79 percent).

We can walk, or run, and show support for conservation at the same time. The 2007 Endangered Species Walk/Run, co-hosted by the Department of Conservation, the Department of Natural Resources, the Department of Health and Senior Services, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Jefferson City Parks, Recreation, and Forestry Department, will raise money to help restore habitat, conduct research, and support education projects for endangered animals and plants in Missouri. It will be held October 13, 2007 at the North Jefferson City Pavilion, in Jefferson City, Missouri. The pavilion is near the Katy Trail at the intersection of Highways 63 and 54.

If you can't make it to the event, you can still learn more about the endangered animals and plants in Missouri on the Web pages of the Missouri Department of Conservation.

The event is also one of the many ways that the Department of Conservation is accomplishing its goal to encourage and support partnerships between communities, local governments and developers to reduce the impact of Missouri’s growth upon our fish, forest and wildlife resources.

I can't attend this year to walk, but the shirt looks cool, and the registration information indicates that I can make a $25.00 donation and receive a shirt to show my support for conservation in Missouri.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Fence Lizards, Flying Squirrels, Annual Crops, and Agriculture Data for Conservation in Missouri

Producing sustained annual crops. We have a new "crop" of fence lizards on our stone wall near the garage. And although I have not seen them yet this year, I'm sure we have another "crop" of flying squirrels that are gliding about in the trees near the house. For most of the late summer, I've been watching the growth of two young deer as I see them near the garden or along the driveway.

These are just some of the "annual crops" produced near my home. The fields of corn I pass by on the way home are what many people commonly think of as an annual crop. Wildlife and many other natural resources can be sustainably produced each year and we can think of that production as an annual crop.

Agriculture data and economic information for Missouri. There is a tremendous amount of agricultural data about annual crops and farm production in Missouri which is available from the USDA Agricultural Statistics Service. I routinely use this information to learn more about Missouri crops and the economic impacts of agriculture.

For example, this overview from 2006 shows that there are 105,000 farms in Missouri and the average farm size is 287 acres. Overall in 2006, there were 30.1 million acres in farms in Missouri, which is just over two-thirds of all the acres in Missouri. In the current estimates pages, the overall cash receipts for crop production in 2006 are listed as over $2.5 billion dollars and for livestock production as over $2.8 billion dollars. Agriculture is an important part of the Missouri economy and farmers and landowners are important partners with the Department of Conservation to manage lands for conservation benefits.

Fish, forest, and wildlife results equal agriculture receipts. I can use information from the National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation to learn about the economic impacts of fish, forests, and wildlife in Missouri.

The preliminary numbers from the 2006 National Survey show that anglers, hunters, and wildlife viewers spent, in one year, over $3 billion dollars on wildlife-related recreation. These numbers do not include the contributions from forest and wood products that are produced each year. And the dollar amounts do not count the overall natural resource benefits produced in other sustainable "annual crops" like fence lizards, flying squirrels, deer, turkeys, hummingbirds, prairie chickens, fish, and a wide variety of other plants, animals, and habitats on the land and in the waters of the state.

Conservation benefits are important in Missouri. In my thinking, recreation spending, wood products, and fish, forest, and wildlife production are pretty awesome "annual crops" and are obviously on par with the dollar amounts from livestock and agriculture crop production. Conservation results and activities are an important part of the Missouri economy.

Learn more about conservation in Missouri. You can learn more about conservation activities in Missouri on the Department's Web pages, both what you can do to enjoy the outdoors and what the staff of the Missouri Department of Conservation are doing to manage fish, forest, and wildlife resources in Missouri.

Or you can read about interesting aspects of conservation on the Department's blog, Fresh Afield or in the monthly magazine, free to Missouri residents that request it, the Missouri Conservationist.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Using the Internet for Conservation Communication and Information in Missouri, to Infinity, and Beyond

The Internet has changed many ways of doing business. The first things I purchased through the Internet were two rubber chickens from the company Archie McPhee in 1998. It felt odd then to type in a credit card number into the online form to order an object I could only see in a picture. Now I conduct most of my banking and bill paying through the Internet. For several years, I considered a newsletter or weekly e-mail to communicate about the human dimensions of conservation but rejected those methods either because of the amount of work to format a newsletter or the problems of keeping an e-mail list current. Now, I use this blog approach as one way of communicating conservation information.

A blog works to communicate conservation. In a blog, I can communicate my observations and facts about conservation as fast as I can type. And nobody is bothered with it unless they want to find it and read the information. In addition, as the character Buzz says in the movie Toy Story, the information can be used by anyone in Missouri, anyone using the Internet, or "to infinity, and beyond."

Read about conservation online. You can read more about conservation, using the Internet, at a wide variety of Web pages and blogs. Here are just a few of my favorites:

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Surveys are Useful for Fish, Forest, and Wildlife Management in Missouri

All surveys have error and some surveys are useful. A statistician I know that works for the Missouri Department of Conservation frequently reminds me that all surveys have error. And he says in the same sentence, that some surveys are useful. The key for usefulness is proper design, careful attention to details, and appropriate analysis and reporting. Proper design and implementation of a survey reduce the level of error so the survey information is useful.

Managing by facts. The reason surveys need to be useful, and we want to eliminate error, is to have information to guide conservation decisions. The words "using the best scientific information" are used in several of the "Results we want to achieve" statements of the Department of Conservation's strategic plan, in addition to "increased availability and use of conservation-related information."

Over seven decades of best-in-class work. The staff in the Missouri of Department of Conservation started on a journey of best-in-class research and science soon after the Department was established in 1936. That research and information gathering continues today to produce accountable information that can be used for conservation decisions.

The human dimensions of conservation. In the 1970s, Department of Conservation staff began to use surveys and other public input methods very frequently to learn about the expectations, participation levels, and satisfaction of Missourians for fish, forest, and wildlife activities. These "human dimensions" of management are now included in almost every aspect of conservation work.

You can read more about how the human dimensions of conservation has been used in decisions about fish, forests, and wildlife, in the Missouri Conservationist magazine. A recent article, "Your Opinion Counts" was in the January, 2007 issue and another article, "When Missourians Speak" was in the February, 2000 issue.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Impress Your Family and Friends by Identifying Birds, Wildlife, and Plants in Missouri

There goes an "lbb," what?. When I enrolled in a class on ornithology (the study of birds) as an undergraduate, I had three obstacles to overcome. First, my brain was not quite functional at 5:30 a.m. when the lab began. Second, at that time, binoculars that would work well with my glasses were fairly expensive and I could not afford them (the ones with fold-down eye cups to get the binocular closer to my glasses). Third, somehow I seemed to always be in the middle of the group, or towards the back, and the comments and the birds were gone by the time I heard them or got close enough to see. I was left with "there went a little brown bird" or "lbb" identification which was not useful on the tests.

An encouraging example. The teaching assistant was Dave Murphy, now Executive Director of the Conservation Federation of Missouri. Dave was full of energy and his enthusiasm helped me to stay interested and I actually did learn to identify many more birds than I thought possible.

It's easy to learn about birds and other wildlife in Missouri. It actually is really easy to identify birds, the different kinds of wildlife, and the plants of Missouri. You simply learn about one at a time.

Impress your family and friends. You may find that learning more about the natural world has a social benefit in that you can impress your family and friends with your knowledge of cool birds, animals, and plants. Besides that, it's fun. Learning about natural resources helps us understand how the natural world is the foundation of our economy and how we fit into the world.

Learn more. You can learn more about the birds, all wildlife that lives in Missouri, and the many kinds of native plants in the state on the Web pages of the Missouri Department of Conservation or read the many articles in the Department's monthly magazine, the Missouri Conservationist, also available online.

Find an encouraging person to help. Dave Murphy still encourages me through his efforts to support conservation in Missouri. You can learn more about the efforts of Dave and the Conservation Federation of Missouri on their Web pages. If you need someone to help identify birds, wildlife, or plants, then look up some of the programs on outdoor skills at the Conservation Nature Centers located throughout the state or check out the many educational opportunities for Missourians of all ages.

You can join one of the over 3,400 Stream Teams that have knowledgeable individuals. Or you could join one of the many fishing, hunting, or conservation groups in the state. Look at this list on the Federation pages or look for a group in the online conservation directory of the National Wildlife Federation.

You can also contact your local office of the Missouri Department of Conservation or use the online comment form to ask a question of the Department's Ombudsman.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Talking Fish, Forest, and Wildlife Conservation in Missouri

Want to talk about and communicate conservation messages? The results of several focus groups suggest some useful tips. Ongoing surveys continue to support the following observations.

The general public does not have an adequate understanding of conservation terminology and is not influenced by conservation messages directed to them. Respondents were asked to give their level of understanding of a list of 13 conservation terms:

most said they understood: conservation, natural resources, and water quality;

1/3 said they didn't understand: technical assistance, wetlands, and stewardship;

1/2 or more said they didn't understand: biodiversity, locally led conservation, best management practices, sustainable agriculture, watershed, nutrient management, and nonpoint source pollution.

Public understanding of conservation issues is largely based on popular opinion of the day.

Consumers generally don't think in terms of private land conservation or associated benefits.

Respondents liked the statement 'Conserving natural resources for our children and future generations.'

The statement most liked by respondents was 'Helping citizens become better stewards of natural resources in their own backyards.'

Respondents recommended the primary focus be on local government involvement with state and federal support.

Respondents said that nature-oriented messages and appropriate graphics have strong appeal.

Respondents were concerned about the potential negative impact conservation efforts may have on jobs and business success.

Emphasize water quality in communication efforts, as it is a well understood and important issue.

Use the phrase natural resources freely as it is a well understood term.

Use the term conservation in communication efforts, but provide some explanation. This explanation must emphasize conservation on private lands because consumers today generally limit their interpretation to that of preservation related to public lands.

When using the locally-led conservation concept make sure to explain what it means.

Identify partnership entities who have an interest and ability to communicate similar messages.

Work the volunteer element into outreach efforts.

Don't make the public choose between conservation and business success.

Specify the benefits of private land conservation, such as wildlife habitat, water quality, air quality, tourism, aesthetics, and recreation (fishing and hunting).

The National Association of Conservation Districts coordinated the research in cooperation with the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Marketing Horizons, Inc., of St. Louis, conducted the research during July, 1997, and prepared the final report.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Increasing Your Conservation "Mileage" in Missouri

"It's not the years, honey, it's the mileage." In the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones tells the leading lady, Marion, "it's not the years, honey, it's the mileage." One of my vehicles has traveled well over 250 thousand miles and is still meeting my objectives for reliable transportation.

It's not the acres, it's the results. This phrase could be applied to managing land in Missouri for fish, forest, wildlife, and people. About 93 percent of Missouri is privately owned. This means that "it's not the acres, it's the results" is appropriate when thinking about land management in Missouri. And each landowner and Missourian can have different expectations about those results.

In the Department of Conservation strategic plan, The Next Generation of Conservation, there is a goal category for helping private landowners advance conservation. The goal statement is:

"The Conservation Department will expand efforts to help private landowners and address the key factors limiting the ability of some to effectively manage their land— knowledge, time, money and equipment."

These words are used to describe the importance of the goal:

"Improving conservation efforts on the privately owned lands that constitute more than 90 percent of the state is essential to the overall well-being of Missouri’s fish, forests and wildlife. Landowners, whether they have large agricultural tracts or small residential parcels, need access to timely information and professional assistance. This will help farmers and landowners implement practices that benefit natural resources and serve their own needs. In some cases, landowners may require specialized equipment or a helping hand from several sources to achieve their objectives in a manner beneficial to conservation."

A focus on results. The picture of success for this goal is in the "Results we want to achieve" statements:
  • Private landowners and farmers actively managing their land for natural resource and financial sustainability.

  • Landowners working together to achieve conservation successes on a larger scale.

  • Landowners effectively using state, federal and private conservation assistance programs and technical support.

Manage your backyard or learn more. Whether you have a backyard to manage, hundreds of acres, or simply want to know more about how the land can produce natural resource benefits, you can find answers and access to assistance at the Department of Conservation Web pages about private land.

Here is information about improving your backyard for wildlife or how native plants can improve your property;

more information about how the Department of Conservation can help your community;

information about improving a pond, stream, or wetland on your property;

and information about improving the trees and forests on your property or in your community.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Social Significance of Conservation in Missouri

Eighty pounds of sugar. At my home this summer, we've used 80 pounds of sugar so far to keep our four hummingbird feeders filled. Especially just before dark, there have been over 40 hummingbirds at one time flying about the feeders. We enjoy watching them and apparently the feeders have helped keep the hummers productive in the dry weather and close to the house for us to watch.

Is this what Leopold had in mind? In 1933, Aldo Leopold wrote as the first sentence of the first chapter, in his book Game Management, that "Game management is the art of making land produce sustained annual crops of wild game for recreational use."

Supplying food and cover for hummingbirds has produced an annual "crop" and we've done this for several years. Yet feeding hummingbirds is just the tip of a really large iceberg to what is required to accomplish sustainable land management that supports a variety of native plants and animals.

Leopold had a much bigger vision of conservation management. Leopold continues in his book, through another 15 chapters and 391 pages discussing biology, research, the importance of science, and successful techniques before making this statement on page 392, "But it is not merely a supply of game, in the strictly quantitative sense, that is in question. The conservation movement seeks rather to maintain values in which quality and distribution matter quite as much as quantity."

He continues in the same chapter on page 403, "The objective of the game management program is to retain for the average citizen an opportunity to hunt" and "The objective of a conservation program for non-game wild life should be exactly parallel: to retain for the average citizen the opportunity to see, admire and enjoy, and the challenge to understand, the varied forms of birds and mammals indigenous to his state. It implies not only that these forms be kept in existence, but that the greatest possible variety of them exist in each community."

He states on page 405, "There is, in short, a fundamental unity of purpose and method between bird-lovers and sportsmen. Their common task of teaching the public how to modify economic activities for conservation purposes is of infinitely greater importance, and difficulty, than their current differences of opinion over details of legislative and administrative policy."

Social significance of conservation. Leopold concludes in the last four pages "The game manager manipulates animals and vegetation to produce a game crop. This, however, is only a superficial indication of his social significance. What he really labors for is to bring about a new attitude toward the land" and "Herein lies the social significance of game management. It promulgates no doctrine, it simply asks for land and the chance to show that farm, forest, and wild life products can be grown on it, to the mutual advantage of each other, of the landowner, and of the public."

Seventy five years later in Missouri. Today, most Missourians (93 percent), indicate they are interested in Missouri's fish, forests, and wildlife. Thirty-six percent say they fish, and 27 percent say they hunt. Many Missouri households have one or more participants who watch birds and wildlife (72 percent), feed birds and wildlife (64 percent), and observe wildflowers (61 percent).

Even with this level of support and participation, however, surveys and focus groups also provide hints that Missourians are pressed for time to stay knowledgeable and remain in touch with the natural world. A big task of conservation workers is to do exactly what Leopold wrote nearly 75 years ago, which is to "bring about a new attitude toward the land."

I'm not just feeding hummingbirds, I'm participating in a social movement of conservation.

If you want to know more about conservation, you can read about the Department of Conservation's plan for the future of conservation in Missouri in The Next Generation of Conservation. Leopold would be especially pleased with the approach to define wildlife very broadly in the Department's Comprehensive Wildlife Strategy, or any one of the other state wildlife action plans.

You can see some great photographs of wildlife and read about conservation work in the Department's monthly magazine, the Missouri Conservationist, which is free to Missourians who request it.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Hike, The Missouri Constitution, and The Vision of Conservation

The Hike. An article in the August issue of High Country, the publication of the Philmont Staff Association, was titled "The Hike." The article begins with the words that "Actually, it is about The Hike. Not 'To Hike"...that is a verb. The Hike is more of a state of mind."

The article explains that "The Hike" is the author's way of describing the bigger picture of the Philmont experience for the Philmont Rangers, the staff that provide training and lead groups of Scouts into the mountains of New Mexico at Philmont Scout Ranch for backpacking treks. The Hike is not just about walking, but about helping others grow and succeed, about connecting with nature and the backcountry, about teaching, learning, friendship, and fun.

Making the vision of conservation bigger. I have never been a Philmont Ranger, but I have been to Philmont and hiked. And Using "The Hike" to describe a bigger picture of success for backcountry walking is similar, I think, to using the words in the vision statement of the Missouri Conservation Department to describe what is written in the Missouri Constitution about conservation of fish, forests, and wildlife.

The Missouri Constitution in Article IV, Section 40(a) starts with the words "The control, management, restoration, conservation and regulation of the bird, fish, game, forestry and all wildlife resources of the state..."

The words of "The Vision" of the Missouri Department of Conservation describe a picture of success for conservation with a bit more passion than the words in the Constitution:

"To have healthy, sustainable plant and animal communities throughout the state of Missouri for future generations to use and enjoy, and to have fish, forest and wildlife resources in appreciably better condition tomorrow than they are today.

To have all Missourians understand the relationship and value of plant and animal communities to our social and economic well-being.

To have citizens and government agencies work together to protect, sustain, enhance, restore or create sustainable plant and animal communities of local, state and national significance."
Missourians certainly seem to support what is described in "The Vision." In a 2003 survey, 91 percent agreed with the statement "It is important for outdoor places to be protected even if you don't plan to visit the area." Almost all Missourians, 92 percent, agreed that they "enjoy observing wildlife," nearly three-quarters of Missourians, 74 percent, indicated that they personally worry a fair amount or a great deal about "the loss of natural habitat for wildlife," and 84 percent worry a fair amount or great deal "about pollution of rivers, streams, and lakes."

The vision, a picture of success. The words in "The Vision" describe a picture of success for conservation in Missouri. That picture of success implies exemplary service by the staff of the Department, accountable and efficient practices that are based on facts, and strong partnership, education, and information efforts to connect Missourians with the outdoors through a variety of methods. The vision is not just about fish, forest, and wildlife management, it's about the bigger picture of success in making conservation real for each one of us.

Learn more about it. You can read more about the vision for conservation in the Department's plan for future actions in The Next Generation of Conservation.

And you can learn more about places to go, things to do, and the Conservation Department in general on the Department's Web pages.

Want to learn about the different kinds of plants in Missouri, then click here; to learn more about fishing, here; hunting, here; or to learn how you can manage your property for your own objectives and to enhance conservation benefits, then click here.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Preliminary Results for Missouri Released for Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife Viewing from the National Survey

Preliminary report available. A preliminary report has been released with the state numbers from the 2006 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation.

New participation numbers for Missouri. For Missouri, on page 9 of the report, it appears that compared with the 2001 survey:
  • fishing participants declined slightly to 1,075,000;
  • hunting participants increased to 613,000;
  • and wildlife watching participants increased for both around the home, 1,976,000, and away from home, at 825,000.

We'll have to wait until November when the individual state reports begin to be released to see if any of these levels are statistically different from the 2001 and 1996 levels.

Expenditures look way up from 2001. This is great news, since the economic impacts in Missouri from fish and wildlife recreation, that is, business impacts, jobs supported, sales tax generated, and income tax revenue generated, will all be increased compared to 2001.

Conservation continues to pay its way in Missouri. This is certainly the result of the continued outdoor interests of Missourians, the efforts of conservation-minded individuals and organizations, and the work of the Missouri Department of Conservation.

The Midwest in general continues to have higher levels of participation in fishing, hunting, and wildlife viewing than the rest of the nation.

Missouri is in the top 10 list of states for numbers of participants for fishing, hunting, and wildlife viewing.

More reports from the National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation are available from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Blogs are Good for Business and Conservation Information in Missouri

The Wall Street Journal has an article that describes how blogs are good for several businesses.

Nothing really new in the article, other than the specific examples.

When I was growing up, if it was in the Wall Street Journal, and good for business, it was generally an acceptable thing to do.

A company that has a great blog approach is Edelman; I particularly like their listing down the left side of their "Speak Up" page with a photograph of the employee and title of the blog.

A recent blog in Missouri is about the Missouri State Fair, the Fair Fan Blog.

The Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies has a conservation news blog that has articles about all 50 states, national news about fish and wildlife, and links to state news.

And don't forget the new Missouri Department of Conservation blog, Fresh Afield.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Big Benefits for Conservation in Missouri for a Few Dollars

Conservation in Missouri has big benefits. I looked at the State of Missouri budget this evening and was comparing the amounts spent on various things in state government.

I think conservation is a real bargain compared to what is spent throughout the rest of government. The budget for conservation is less than one percent of the total, at less than 0.8 percent. On the other hand, every dollar spent on conservation results in over 50 dollars of economic impact in the state. And that economic impact is only the direct impact of spending. It does not include the quality of life benefits we receive daily from healthy fish, forest, and wildlife, healthy streams and habitats, and the fact that the outdoor world and sustainable natural resources are the very foundation of our Missouri economy.

For a few dollars. Looking at the Missouri budget, consider what 0.8 percent of the total represents. I'll put it in a scale that is easier for me to understand and perhaps you also. The current fiscal year budget was proposed at over $21 billion dollars in Missouri and the conservation operating budget at just over $143 million. Those seem like big amounts, but on a more personal level, the average income per person in Missouri from the U.S. Census Bureau is $23,026. I can remember making much less than $23 thousand a year and that's a number I can understand easily.

If I take 0.8 percent of that average income of $23,026; that yields $184.21. One hundred and eighty four dollars and twenty-one cents. If the State of Missouri budget were this average income amount of $23,026, only $184 of that amount would be spent on conservation.

Now consider this, in 2007 the State of Missouri budget included 10.4 percent for transportation costs, which is $2,394.70 of the $23,026. Education was 28.1 percent, which accounts for $6,470.31. Health and social services accounts for 37.8 percent, which is $8,703.83. Other government services were 20.1 percent, which is $4,628.23 of the $23,026.

On a percentage basis, 0.8 percent, especially compared to what is spent on other services in Missouri, is almost nothing. Conservation is a bargain for the economic activity that it generates and all the natural world and recreation benefits that are produced.

I could easily spend 10 times the amount that 0.8 percent represents of the average per person income in Missouri for a television. I compare what I spend in my budget at home like I look at comparisons in the State of Missouri budget. For example, what do I spend on food, on gas for the car, on health care, education for my children, and what do I give away?

Now, my old television is developing weird color patterns and I've looked at some new LCD televisions. Wow. Standing in the local electronics store and seeing folks pay over $2,000 for a new large screen television is amazing.

Those large screens do look pretty good. I could enjoy watching one of those at home. Now I consider that average $23,026 income level per year. If I'm willing to spend, and apparently other Missourians are willing as well, over $2,000 for a television, that makes the example percentage of the average income, $184, seem pretty small. That 0.8 percent level in the State of Missouri budget is only a few dollars.

In those terms, I think conservation is a huge bargain in Missouri, for the few dollars spent, compared to the overall state budget.

More information about the conservation budget is available in a two-page summary of the annual report that was in the January, 2007 issue of the Missouri Conservationist magazine.

A recent entry in the Missouri Department of Conservation Blog included comments about how conservation pays its way in Missouri.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Conservation Information Arrives Faster and Is Easier to Obtain in Missouri

Using human dimensions to learn about human dimensions. A news release this week from the company FusionPR about a survey of journalists and their use of technology information prompted me to consider how conservation knowledge has become much more available and easier to obtain in Missouri.

Their survey results show that for technology journalists:

78 percent read Blogs;
67 percent cite Blogs;
and 35 percent maintain their own Blog.

Blogs did not exist a few years ago. This is a new way that these technology journalists are obtaining and distributing information. The complete survey results are described in the press release as being available later in September.

The results made me think about conservation information and how it is more available and easier to obtain in Missouri. Conservation information is delivered much faster than in the past, both by journalists and by conservation workers. And it's far easier to obtain, through print, radio, television, and the Internet, including Blogs.

In a conservation survey in 2003 (where over 6,000 responded with an adequate return rate of 39 percent), 71 percent of Missourians indicated they could use information about places to enjoy the outdoors close to them. On the other hand, in the same survey, 74 percent indicated they had obtained no information about conservation from the Department's Web site.

There is an incredible amount of information delivered to the news media and individuals through a variety of methods by the Department of Conservation and particularly through Web sources. There is more information about conservation on the Web every day. The Department's Web pages receive high levels of visits and the frequency of use continues to increase. Missourians are obviously using the Web pages, Blogs, and other Internet sources to find and obtain conservation information much more than in the past. I'll be very interested to see how Missourians respond about their use of the Department's Web pages in future Department surveys.

If you want to know more about places to enjoy the outdoors, use the Department's online Conservation Atlas, or visit the Department's Web pages to learn more about conservation, read about interesting items on the new Department Blog, or learn more about places to go and the many Conservation Areas in Missouri.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Missourians Make Conservation History Happen Every Day

I watched conservation history happen on Thursday. Actually, I watch history happen every day, just like everyone does, except that on most days I don't really notice. The events of some days are more important than others, and it's not always easy to know until later.

Today I was careful to notice. I watched as the Chair of the Missouri Conservation Commission introduced and welcomed two new members to the Conservation Commission. This is important for conservation history, since both are new at the same time, and they will serve regular terms of six years. They will have six years to make conservation decisions that may last beyond my lifetime.

As an employee of the Department, it is inspiring to hear compelling words about conservation from the Missouri individuals that are Conservation Commission members.

As a Missouri citizen, it is even more inspiring to see the interest of the Commissioners and their obvious passion for the fish, forest, and wildlife resources of Missouri. This makes me feel that we surely have the best team of citizens and professionals to make conservation history happen every day in Missouri.

You can read more about the Conservation Commission and the beginnings of the Department in 1936 on the Department of Conservation's Web pages.

An excellent article about the role of private citizens, the start of the Conservation Federation of Missouri, and how Missourians made conservation history in the 1930s is in the January, 2005 issue of the Missouri Conservationist magazine.

Another article about Missourians and how they made conservation history in the 1970s is in the September, 2006 issue of the magazine and is about the role of Missourians to establish the Conservation Sales Tax in Missouri.

And if you want to see today's conservation history, you can read the current issue of the magazine, look at what is happening on the new Department Blog, see the current news of the Department, or simply start at the Department's home page.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

New Commissioners Appointed for Missouri Conservation Commission

Governor Matt Blunt recently appointed two new Commissioners to the Missouri Conservation Commission.

Ms. Becky Plattner, of Grand Pass, was announced as a Commissioner on August 7 and on July 18, Mr. Don Johnson, of Festus, was announced as a Commissioner.

More information about the Conservation Commission is available on the Missouri Department of Conservation Web pages.

A particularly insightful commentary on the importance of the citizen-led, citizen-driven efforts for conservation in Missouri is available in the Vantage Point article by the Director of the Missouri Department of Conservation in the June, 2005 issue of the Missouri Conservationist magazine.

The magazine is available free to adult Missourians that request it and information about how to subscribe is available online.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Human Dimensions, the Gnomon, and Indicators of Satisfaction with Conservation Performance

During late June and July, I spent two weeks at Philmont Scout Ranch in northeastern New Mexico helping with the National Advanced Youth Leadership Experience (NAYLE), a leadership training course for Scouts. In several parts of the program, the staff and participants pledge to be servant leaders with the statement that "as the sun dial measures the passage of time, so will my service be measured over time, by my impact on others."

The post on a sun dial, the part that casts a shadow, is called the gnomon. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the gnomon as "an object that by the position or length of its shadow serves as an indicator."

Driving home, I thought about how the human dimensions of resource management can be used like the gnomon on the sun dial, in that the attitudes and opinions of Missourians about fish, forest, and wildlife management are an indicator. We can use human dimensions information as an indicator of satisfaction with conservation performance.

In several surveys, the Department of Conservation has asked Missourians to rate the job the Department is doing to provide conservation services. In 2003, 64.1 percent of Missourians indicated, for themselves, that the Department was doing an "Excellent" or "Good" job. In addition, 26.5 percent indicated "Don't Know," 8.5 percent said "Fair," and less than one percent said "Poor."

This level of satisfaction with the Department has remained almost exactly the same over the last 10 years. I can use this human dimensions information to help Department of Conservation staff understand the level of satisfaction that Missourians have for our conservation performance. Then the information can be used to help make plans for the future.

Human dimensions information is a very useful indicator of performance, just like using the gnomon on a sun dial to measure the passage of time.

More information about the Missouri Department of Conservation's performance is available in the Department's annual reports, and you can find more information about conservation programs on the Department's Web pages.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Using The Gallup Organization Brain to Understand Conservation Opinions in Missouri

The Gallup Organization has useful survey results. An online resource that I use frequently is provided by The Gallup Organization. They have an extensive list of polling results organized in an alphabetical list.

Or, the "Gallup Brain" is a database of questionnaires and opinion results. They describe the Gallup Brain as "a searchable, living record of 70 years of public opinion. Inside, you'll find answers to more than 136,000 questions, and responses from more than 3.5 million people interviewed by The Gallup Poll since 1935." Much of the information in the database requires a paid subscription, although there are a wide variety of reports and updates of current issues that are available without cost.

For example, in an article titled "The People's Priorities: Gallup's Top 10" they list the top 10 priorities that are the "American public's priorities for their elected representatives in Washington -- the men and women sent to the nation's capital to do the people's bidding. The Top 10 Priorities list is based on an analysis of open-ended responses to questions asking Americans to name the top priorities for the government and to name the most important problem facing the nation today, plus a series of additional questions in which Americans rate the priorities of the issues and concerns facing the nation today."

I compare the opinions of the American public with the opinions of Missourians. I find it useful to compare results from surveys conducted in Missouri for the Missouri Department of Conservation with the results reported by Gallup.

I noted in the Gallup list of the top 10 priorities that the environment is listed tenth.

The Gallup commentary describes the American public's opinions about environmental issues as "the environment is not highly likely to be mentioned spontaneously by Americans as a top problem facing the United States at this time, and has a low top-of-mind presence when the public is asked about priorities for government. The environment is seen as more important when Americans respond to a prompted list of issues. Americans willingly say the government is doing too little to protect the environment. Many worry about environmental conditions. A significant majority believes that the quality of the environment is getting worse, not better. While there has been an increase in Americans' general concern about the environment and awareness of global warming, their willingness to compromise economic growth or energy production in the furtherance of environmental quality has not grown."

Further, the commentary concludes that "the environmental policy initiatives Americans would most welcome would appear to be those with the most direct impact: maintaining the safety of drinking water, curbing toxic waste, and improving water and air quality."

Missourians support conservation. In Missouri, there are some similar feelings about the environment as the results from Gallup and yet some differences also. In an earlier post, I showed results for Missourians and their opinions about some conservation issues in Missouri. When asked about several conservation issues, Missourians indicated that they worry the most about drinking water pollution, pollution of rivers, streams, and lakes, air pollution, and the loss of natural habitat for wildlife. And like the Gallup results, conservation tasks may not be exactly at the top of many Missourians priority list, since in a survey conducted in 2000, only a few Missourians could agree on any one thing that the Department of Conservation could do to better serve them.

In a 2003 survey in Missouri, a majority of Missourians, 55 percent, agreed with the statement "I approve of protecting wildlife, unless it hurts the economic livelihood of people who make a living off the land" yet only 22 percent of Missourians agreed with the statement "I approve of filling wetlands if the land can be used to produce more jobs and income."

Regarding forests, 94 percent of Missourians approve of cutting trees to remove diseased or dying trees and 91 percent approve of cutting trees to improve forest health yet only 31 percent of Missourians approve of cutting trees to produce income for landowners.

Overall, 91 percent of Missourians agree that "it is important for outdoor places to be protected even if you don't plan to visit the area."

Clearly the Gallup results seem to match some of the general opinions of Missourians. On the other hand, the support for some issues in the Missouri survey results indicate that Missourians do support environmental issues differently than the general American public. And the overwhelming support in previous elections in Missouri, for conservation, in addition to recent continued support in elections for parks and soils, is a clear sign that Missourians recognize the benefits of conservation tasks.

I'll keep using the Gallup brain and their survey reports to compare with Missouri results as a way to better understand what Missourians are thinking about conservation.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

National Overview Report Released for 2006 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation

The preliminary findings from the 2006 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation have been released and the overview report is available here.

A previously released report that examines retention and recruitment trends from previous years and includes data from the recent survey is also available.

From the overview report:

"Results are based on data collected by the U.S. Bureau of the Census. The Census Bureau began by interviewing 85,000 households in April 2006. Samples of 31,500 potential anglers and hunters and 24,300 potential wildlife watchers were selected from those households to be interviewed in detail about their participation and expenditures. The Census Bureau conducted detailed interviews in three different waves, which began in April and September of 2006 and January of 2007. Interviews were completed in April 2007. The survey methodology used in 2006 was similar to that used for the 2001,1996, and 1991 Surveys, so the estimates are comparable."


"In 2006 over 87 million Americans 16 years old and older, 38% of the U.S. population, enjoyed some recreational activity relating to fish and wildlife. Expenditures by this group pursuant to wildlife-related recreation were $120.1 billion. This spending equates to about 1% of gross domestic product, which means that one out of every one hundred dollars of all goods and services produced in the U.S. is associated with wildlife recreation. Almost 34 million people fished and hunted in 2006. They spent $75.4 billion on their activities, including $40.3 billion on equipment, nearly $25 billion on trip expenses, and $10.6 billion on licenses and fees, magazines, membership dues and contributions, and land leasing and ownership. On average, each sportsperson spent $2,225 in 2006."

For wildlife viewing:

"Wildlife watching is a popular outdoor recreation activity. More than 71 million people 16 years old and older (31% of all Americans) fed, photographed, and observed wildlife in 2006 and spent nearly $45 billion on their activities. The Survey uses a strict definition of wildlife watching. Participants must either take a “special interest” in wildlife around their homes or take a trip for the “primary purpose” of wildlife watching. Secondary wildlife-watching activities such as incidentally observing wildlife while pleasure driving are not included."

Information about the survey and a variety of other reports are available here. A press release from the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies is also available about the recently released results.

Reports for state results will be released as an overall preliminary report later in the summer and state-specific reports with detailed tables will be released beginning in November, 2007.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Human Dimensions is Servant Leadership in Action for Conservation in Missouri

Human dimensions information for conservation is servant leadership in action. I have to recall the past to show how I believe human dimensions information for conservation is a servant leadership in action.

A decade of teaching and learning leadership skills. In 1996, I was asked to participate on the adult staff of a leadership training course for young men. While at that course, although I certainly enjoyed the experience, I would not have predicted that I would continue volunteering my vacation time for similar leadership training courses for every year since that time. This summer I will be part of the adult staff for my 10th course in Missouri. I'll also be involved in my sixth course at the national level, working with youth for an advanced experience at the Philmont Training Center in New Mexico.

Servant leadership is a concept about helping others. The training syllabus that we use has changed since 1996. In the 90s, it focused more on the rote skills of leadership, including communication, planning, conflict resolution, using resources effectively, and other skills. Today, using some of the best parts of current leadership theory and theories that have stood the test of time, the course is slightly different, with a focus more on broader concepts in addition to skills. One concept is that of servant leadership. Being a servant leader involves many things, and Larry Spears writes that the concept is "one that seeks to involve others in decision making, one strongly based in ethical and caring behavior, and one that is attempting to enhance the personal growth of people while improving the caring and quality of our many institutions." At its simplest, servant leadership is about a focus on the needs of others.

The training syllabus describes the concept as: "The concept of servant leadership encourages leaders to serve others while staying focused on achieving results in line with the organization's values and integrity. Servant leadership emphasizes collaboration, trust, empathy, and the ethical use of power."

This idea of including others in decision making, using an approach that is both ethical and respectful of others point-of-view, is what using human dimensions and public involvement in conservation decision-making is all about.

Human dimensions information is used to help others. Human dimensions helps resource mangers make informed decisions about fish, forest, and wildlife conservation. In Missouri, human dimensions efforts are some of the ways citizen opinions are included in conservation decisions. Human dimensions information helps managers and decision-makers provide conservation programs and services that meet the needs and expectations of Missourians. That is why I believe that human dimensions is servant leadership in action.

"What We Believe" statements of the Missouri Department of Conservation guide actions. Using human dimensions information helps me and the staff of the Missouri Department of Conservation demonstrate our "What We Believe" statements. The second statement is "All citizens are important; we value their trust and their point of view" and the third is "Missourians are our partners to achieve conservation success." The last statement includes: "Our decisions and behavior will be based on fairness, objectivity and the best scientific information."

Excellent public service is what we will provide. I believe that using human dimensions information for conservation decision-making helps achieve the first "What We Believe" statement "Excellent public service is what we will provide." These words in the "What We Believe" statements are very similar to the words I use each summer when teaching about the concept of servant leadership. Using human dimensions information and public involvement to meet the needs and expectations of Missourians for fish, forest, and wildlife in Missouri looks exactly like servant leadership to me.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Human Dimensions Information for Fish, Forest, and Wildlife Conservation in Missouri

Human dimensions information is used everyday for conservation decisions. As I drove home Friday evening, thinking about the events of the week, I thought about how several of the tasks I participated in during the week demonstrate how human dimensions information and the distribution of that information are a part of the decisions that are made everyday about conservation.

1. Thirty years of human dimensions work. I was interviewed by Cindi Jacobson about the Missouri Department of Conservation's approach to use human dimensions information in fish, forest, and wildlife management efforts. Ms Jacobson is an Alaska Department of Fish and Game employee who is conducting Ph.D. research through the Human Dimensions Research Unit at Cornell University. She was in Missouri interviewing individuals at the Department of Conservation. She is also interviewing individuals in Arkansas, Maine, and New Mexico. I provided comments to her about the Department's nearly 30 years of human dimensions research and public involvement efforts. The Department of Conservation employed its first full-time social researcher in 1978.

2. Public involvement is used to find solutions and provide guidance. I reviewed materials to help in a citizen forum next week to collect solutions about a forest management issue. The Department of Conservation frequently uses public meetings, forums, and focus groups to enable citizens to provide direction for conservation issues. Examples of comments from several public forums conducted by the Department are available online.

3. Using technology to increase efficiency and reduce process time and costs. I participated in a meeting with Department staff to improve our use of SharePoint, a software collaboration tool, to make a wide variety of information easier to find, access, and use, including human dimensions and policy information.

4. Managing electronic files and information. I was interviewed by an outside consultant for a statewide effort to examine the needs of Missouri government agencies for managing and retrieving electronic files and documents. Managing the increasing number of electronic files is an important issue. From my perspective, improving the ability to find and access human dimensions reports, files, and data is very important both for my work and to increase the use of human dimensions information by Department staff, other agencies, and Missourians. Improving access to human dimensions information will make it easier for that information to be used to guide and provide accountability for conservation decisions.

5. Staying in touch with conservation opinions, satisfaction, and participation. I edited questions for a statewide survey about conservation opinions, participation, and satisfaction. This particular survey of Missourians was first conducted by the Department of Conservation in 1994 and has been repeated at regular intervals. It is an important effort to understand how Missourians feel about conservation issues.

Human dimensions information improves accountability. One of the nine goal categories of the Missouri Department of Conservation's strategic plan, The Next Generation of Conservation, is "Accounting for Department Operations." The goal statement is: "The Conservation Department will operate effectively with accountability for public funds and respect for Missouri citizens." Human dimensions information helps me and other Department staff make informed decisions. Although information can certainly increase our understanding of the complexity of issues and increase our awareness of the far-reaching consequences of decisions, sometimes information can make decisions more difficult or uncertain rather than easier. Even if a decision is difficult or the outcome uncertain, however, using information almost always makes a decision more accountable.

The desired results of the goal Accounting for Department Operations include:
Missouri citizens providing frequent input into Conservation Department decisions and programs.

Conservation efforts led by a highly trained, diverse, technologically skilled and professional staff.

Fair and ethical business methods that enable Missourians to see how public funds are spent on conservation priorities.

I think that all five of the examples I thought about from the past week help achieve these desired results.

The entire document of The Next Generation of Conservation is available online. Individual sections are also on the Department of Conservation's Web pages. A special issue of the Missouri Conservationist magazine, in September 2006, included information and other articles related to The Next Generation of Conservation.

The most recent annual reports from the Department of Conservation are also available online and a two-page summary of the 2006 annual report is in the January issue of the Missouri Conservationist magazine.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Participation in Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation in Missouri

Every five years. The National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation has been conducted about every five years since 1955. The survey is conducted for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Single best source. The survey is the single best source of information about participation and spending patterns related to fishing, hunting, and wildlife-watching. There is no other nationwide survey conducted in a similar statistically valid way. There is no better source of information. Results in recent surveys have been reported for each state. More information about the survey and how it is conducted is available here.

No statistical change between 1991 and 2001 for Missouri. The report for Missouri from the National Survey, available here, indicates there was not a statistically significant change in fishing, hunting, or wildlife-viewing participation away from home between 1991 and 2001 in Missouri. You can see in the chart here that there was a slight numerical decline in the estimates of participation for all but viewing around the home, which did have a statistically significant decline.

New data available soon from 2006. Preliminary results from the 2006 survey are being released now and the final reports will be available soon. I am very interested in seeing the results, especially to compare with previous years.

Why the survey is better than license sales to understand participation. In Missouri, a variety of fishing and hunting participation does not require a permit. For example, individuals under the age of 16 and those 65 and older do not need a permit for most fishing and hunting opportunities. Landowners of parcels five acres and larger do not need a permit for many fishing and hunting activities on their own property, except for needing transportation tags for deer and turkey and for appropriate waterfowl permits. More information about fishing and hunting licenses in Missouri is available here and a library of information about who needs a permit and who is exempted is available here. License sales are certainly useful to monitor trends, but don't show the entire range of participation.

The National Survey uses a statistically valid random sample of Missourians to estimate the levels of participation and expenditures for fishing, hunting, and wildlife-related recreation. The survey provides the best overall estimate of fishing and hunting available in Missouri. The Missouri Department of Conservation does conduct its own surveys and studies of permit numbers to gain additional information that is not collected in the National Survey.

In general, for the activities of fishing, hunting, and wildlife-watching that do have results reported in the National Survey, the survey numbers provide the best picture of participation.