Conservation Goes to the Capitol

  • Annual Event Reminds Lawmakers that Constituents Care About Nature.
  • Hunters, Anglers, Bird-Watchers, Hikers, Campers
  • Missouri Hunters for Fair Chase
Steve Jones, left, represented Missouri Hunters for Fair Chase at this year’s Conservation Day at the Capitol.

By Jim Low

We often hear that politicians in Washington, D.C., live in a “bubble,” where only lobbyists and other power brokers matter.  The same is true in Jefferson City, Missouri, where state lawmakers sometimes forget who sent them there. 

Two years ago, the Conservation Federation of Missouri (CFM) organized the first Conservation Day at the Capitol to remind Show-Me State politicians that their constituents care passionately about conserving their natural legacy and hold them accountable for taking care of them.  The event’s popularity as grown, as evidenced by the hundreds of hunters, anglers, trappers, paddlers, hikers, birdwatchers and conservationists of every stripe that crowded the third floor of the capitol building’s rotunda for the third celebration of the event this year.

Visitors to Conservation Day at the Capitol got to have their pictures taken with a bald eagle and a barn owl from the World Bird Sanctuary.

Besides renewing old friendships, those in attendance lobby their senators and representatives, and forge new partnerships.  The intermingling of lawmakers, lobbyists, conservation officials and citizen advocates makes Conservation Day at the Capitol an amazing networking opportunity.  Attendees also join in honoring legislators who support conservation causes.  This year’s recipient of CFM’s Legislator of the Year Award was House Speaker Todd Richardson (R-Poplar Bluff).  His conservation score card is far from perfect, but key actions last year earned him a day in the spotlight.  A bald eagle from the World Bird Sanctuary in Valley Park, Mo., looked over Richardson’s shoulder as he accepted the award.  It was a fitting metaphor for the many outdoors-loving Missourians who keep an eagle eye on the Legislature’s activities.

Representatives of several groups, along with CFM Executive Director, Brandon Butler, excused themselves from the rotunda for part of the morning to go down to the House gallery and watch debate on a bill affecting water quality regulations.  This is the kind of oversight that CFM engages in every year, as they beat back perennial attempts to inject politics into our model conservation program. 

Groups represented at this year’s event included the Missouri Trappers Association, the Sierra Club, Grow Native!, the Ozark Fly Fishers, Quail Unlimited, Pheasants Forever, Missouri State Parks, the Native Plant Society, the Missouri Outdoor Communicators and the Missouri Natural Areas Program.  If you belong to an outdoors or conservation-related organization, but don’t participate in Conservation Day at the Capitol, you are missing a prime chance to boost your group’s influence and public profile.  If your group isn’t a CFM affiliate, you are missing out on the opportunity to multiply your clout several thousand times.

CFM is the oldest, largest, broadest-based outdoor recreation and conservation advocacy group in Missouri.  This is the group that amended the Missouri State Constitution in 1936 to set up the Missouri Department of Conservation and has served as the agency’s watchdog and defender ever since.  It was instrumental in getting Missouri voters’ approval for dedicated sales taxes for state parks and for fish, wildlife, forest, soil and water conservation programs.  CFM’s policy statements – crafted by affiliates and individual members – carry real weight in Jefferson City, whether you are dealing with lawmakers, statewide elected officials or agencies like the departments of Conservation, Natural Resources or Agriculture. 

Even federal agencies, like the U.S.  Army Corps of Engineers, the National Park Service and USDA Forest Service, sit up and take notice when CFM speaks.

Take a minute to visit CFM’s website and see what they are all about.  If you care about Missouri’s outdoor resources and want to have a say in how they are administered, this is a must-join group.

Groups attending the third annual Conservation Day at the Capitol cover the spectrum from hunters and anglers to birdwatchers. All are there to remind elected officials of the high value Missourians place on outdoor resources and recreation.