Saturday, April 26, 2008

What if There Are No Students of Conservation or Nature in Missouri, or Anywhere?

What if there are no students interested in conservation? What if the general public has no interest in fish, forests, and wildlife? I attended the public meeting of the Missouri Conservation Commission on Friday, April 25 that was held on the University of Missouri campus in the Monsanto Auditorium of the Christopher S. Bond Life Sciences Center.

I did not see any students in the audience.

YES, there are students interested in conservation. I know there are students of conservation in Missouri. I visited with some outstanding students just last month at the University of Missouri, both in the School of Natural Resources and in the Department of Biological Sciences. On Friday, I waited in the lobby after the meeting was over and saw hundreds of students coming and going from the buildings, especially from the School of Natural Resources building next door.

I visited at the meeting on Friday with Dr. Mark Ryan, Director of the School of Natural Resources.

And within the last month, I met with two new faculty members at the University of Missouri to learn about their research interests and how their work might help fish, forests, and wildlife in Missouri. Dr. Carla Barbieri is working in the area of agri-tourism and Dr. Franciso Aguilar works in the area of forest economics.

YES, Missourians are interested in fish, forests, and wildlife. Surveys, focus groups, and public meetings all have information that shows that Missourians are very interested in the outdoors. The information also indicates they simply don't have time to learn about some things and are not as aware as they'd like to be about the outdoor world.

For specific issues, Missourians are extremely interested. A recent series of surveys and public meetings with Missourians provided over 8,000 comments about proposed changes to deer management regulations.

Nature programs, fishing and hunting programs, public school programs, and volunteer opportunities for adults. The Missouri Department of Conservation has many staff dedicated to producing materials, programs, and support for schools in Missouri, school teachers, and for adults that are interested in the outdoors, nature, and conservation. There are listing of events, places to go, and things to do.

Each one of us can make a difference by telling others about conservation.

Everyone in Missouri can make a difference for both conservation and to help brighten the day of others. Just tell someone else about something interesting you saw today in the outdoors.

  • The redbud trees in Missouri have bloomed almost all at once this year and are incredibly purple.

  • I told several people yesterday that Wood Duck boxes can mounted with the nest box hole about six feet off the ground when using a cone guard under the box. This makes the box easy to monitor, protects the chicks from being eaten, and the ducks still like it.

  • I can tell you that conservation efforts in Missouri have an over $10 billion dollar economic impact, and that just counts the direct recreation spending and forest products industry. There are billions of dollars of economic benefits that we each receive each day from clean water, a healthy environment to live and work in, and the products we use.
Learn one new thing every day about nature. It can be fun to be a life-long student of conservation. You just have to be curious and ask a question about something you don't know.

Take action. Conservation improvements happen because people take action, even if it's learning one new thing about fish, forests, and wildlife. It can happen in your own home or backyard.

You can learn about conservation without going to a meeting. I always learn something new when I attend a meeting of the Conservation Commission. But you don't have to go a meeting to learn something new. Check out the Department's Web pages or look outside!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Administrative Professionals Help Achieve Conservation Success in Missouri

Wednesday, April 23, is Administrative Professionals Day. The administrative professionals in my workplace are an important part of our conservation success. They are part of our team and are absolutely required to accomplish fish, forest, and wildlife tasks. They handle a wide variety of assignments, including meeting, greeting, and helping the folks who call or visit our office. Their customer focus is unmatched by anyone. I can't succeed in my own work without their help.

Yet there are few times when their name will be on a publication or they'll receive much reference to their work. They are "behind the scenes" or in the background. They work to help others look great. They demonstrate servant leadership every day.

I put flowers and a card on the desk of the professionals that directly help me so that they'll see them when they arrive on Wednesday. And our Policy Coordination folks will gather in the afternoon to thank our administrative staff.

Of course, they are only two of the many administrative professionals that work for the Missouri Department of Conservation. From the front desk in Jefferson City to the offices located throughout the state, there are many more administrative professionals in a variety of roles.

I certainly appreciate their efforts and all they do for the Department's mission of excellent fish, forest, and wildlife public service!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Individuals Make A Difference for Conservation and Nature in Missouri

One of the value statements of the Missouri Department of Conservation is "Employees are the Department’s most important resource." I see people demonstrate this every day. It's inspiring.

On Friday evening, I helped a co-worker edit a letter and the text of their resume as they apply for a different job that is open in the Department. As I looked over their experience and skills, and read about how much they had accomplished for a variety of conservation tasks, I was reminded about how important their contributions have been to the success of conservation. As an individual, they've made a difference. But few folks will ever read that resume and most will never know how many lives they have touched with their efforts.

Also on Friday, I listened in a public meeting where Dennis Steward, the Department's Protection Division Chief, complimented one of the Department's scientists who was presenting information at the meeting. Most fish, forest, and wildlife decisions must be made using a wide variety of biological research and knowledge of public opinions. The information presented was clear, to the point, and comprehensive, exactly what should be expected of a conservation professional.

The compliment from Dennis was noteworthy, because Dennis is within weeks of his own retirement, and rather than make a comment about his own experiences, he chose to compliment someone who has made a difference in Department programs and management efforts over many years. For me, this demonstrates the depth of leadership ability and integrity of Dennis. Dennis has made a difference for nature and conservation in Missouri over his career. He continued his success on Friday, by encouraging and inspiring employees.

In the past, I've watched in the public meetings of the Missouri Conservation Commission where Department employees have received service awards for 20, 25, 30, or more years of service, sometimes in jobs as focused as moving fish from a hatchery to a stream. These people quietly provided outstanding public service. They made a difference for nature, for conservation, and the future of Missouri. Most Missourians will never know about their individual efforts.

Individuals do make a difference. My co-workers make a difference every day. It might sound corny or melodramatic, but there are some days I nearly weep as I leave my office when I have witnessed something as simple and powerful as a compliment that is truly deserving, like the compliment of Dennis for another conservation professional. Or when I've seen the success of others in their own conservation tasks. The work of others often deserves complimenting. And the compliment itself makes a difference.

Employees are the Department's most important resource to make a difference for conservation and nature in Missouri.