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.