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.