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.