Sunday, March 30, 2008

Awareness of Nature is a Key to a Larger World of Conservation in Missouri

Driving into Jefferson City last week, I noticed the tremendous number of purple flowers along the roadside. There were so many flowers that hundreds of feet of the roadside appeared purple. I wondered about how many people saw the same color and had no idea what caused it.

The flowers are most likely a low-growing plant called henbit. Up close, it's an elegant flower. When I was learning about plants as an undergraduate, I had to make a collection of dried and pressed plants. Two of the plants had to be in the same scientific grouping called a genus.

I selected henbit and deadnettle, in the genus Lamium, the mint family of plants. I had never known what those plants were until I studied them. In the picture here, henbit is on the right and deadnettle is on the left.

Learning about plants, animals, and where they live in Missouri gives me knowledge of what is outside. Then, even with a little knowledge, I can begin to think about how fish, forests, and wildlife improve our quality of life in Missouri and how conservation tasks help each Missourian. You simply have to look and ask questions. What is that plant? What makes that color? There are easy sources on the Internet to find information, including the Department of Conservation Web pages on plants.

Learning more about plants helps us understand conservation much like in the Star Wars movie where Luke Skywalker is told by Obi-Wan that he has "taken a first step into a larger world."

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Clarity for the Best Long-Term Results for Fish, Forests, Wildlife, and Conservation in Missouri

I spoke last week at the public meeting of the Missouri Conservation Commission about how the human dimensions of conservation, that is social, economic, and opinion information, has been used to shape the decision-making and outcomes of fish, forest, and wildlife management in Missouri. By human dimensions, I mean a wide variety of demographic, opinion, survey, participation, focus group, public meeting, and public comment information. It's what a business would call market information; information that can be used to make decisions based on facts.

This week I was reading again parts of the monograph by Jim Collins, Good to Great and the Social Sectors, and I believe many of the ideas in the book show clearly why human dimensions information is so valuable to improve conservation decision-making.

For example, Collins writes that great companies have a "deep understanding of three intersecting circles: 1) what you are deeply passionate about, 2) what you can be the best in the world at, and 3) what best drives your economic engine."

Now consider the human dimensions information that many Missourians participate in nature-related recreation. Many more are interested in Missouri's fish, forests, and wildlife. Add to those thoughts the highly talented Department of Conservation employees who are both deeply passionate about the resources they manage for Missourians and knowledgeable about fish, forests, and wildlife. They can be the best in the world at managing nature in Missouri. Now, as the third ingredient, add the economic engine of volunteers, partnerships, and the sustained funding of the Conservation Sales Tax that Missourians voted to establish in 1976 and I believe we have a recipe to achieve, as Collins writes, "pockets of greatness," for conservation in Missouri.

Human dimensions information also helps Department staff to, in the words of Collins, "attain piercing clarity about how to produce the best long-term results," for nature in Missouri. And this is very important, since the budget of the Department is limited and small, at less than one percent of the total State of Missouri annual budget. I believe that human dimensions information helps the Department to be accountable, to improve its performance, and will continue to be useful in the future.

More information about the success of the Missouri Department of Conservation is available in the 2006-2007 Annual Report.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Conservation Biology Certificate Program at the University of Missouri

I spoke on Thursday at the Conservation Biology Seminar at the University of Missouri. My topic was about the human dimensions of fish, forest, and wildlife conservation.

The seminar is a part of the conservation biology graduate program. Graduate students in a variety of fields can earn a certificate through the program. During the day, I met with many graduate students that are in the School of Natural Resources and the Biology programs. I was challenged by many of their questions about fish, forest, wildlife, and resource management. I was also pleased to see their passion about the outdoors and the wide range of topics that they are studying.

I'd be pleased to have any of the students I visited with on a conservation team.

The seminar is coordinated and implemented by the graduate students. I believe that's a wonderful way for them to interact with individuals already working in various fields, to interact and build working relationships with each other as professionals, and to practice conservation leadership.

I applaud their efforts and success.