Missourians care about the outdoors, whether they focus on its water, nature, soil, wildlife, air, fish, forests, natural communities, outdoor recreation or some mix of these. It's their strong concern that brought us back from the brink of destruction of forests, pollution of rivers, erosion of rich farmland soil, decimation of deer, turkey, and eagles.
At the Summit on the Future of Missouri Outdoors held last week in Columbia, people gathered from across the state to translate their interests into a renewed, unified call. I sat there marveling at the mix of interests-urban, rural, farm, business, recreation, education. And yet, as most agreed, those attending still didn't represent the diversity that Missouri is now or even less what it will be 75 years from now. Nonetheless, it's a start.
As he opened the Summit, Governor Nixon noted the importance of the outdoors to the quality of our lives. Directors of Missouri Departments of Conservation, Natural Resources, Agriculture and from the US Forest Service/Mark Twain National Forest and US Fish and Wildlife Service in Missouri shared their views on what it will take to work together and involve all Missourians. (Missouri agency people in photo from left: Agriculture, Conservation, USFWS, USFS, Natural Resources)
By looking ahead at what our future could be and then stepping back to the present, the group was able to suggest what actions now are most important to bring that vision of quality outdoors to life. Here are some of the priority goals the group picked (as I recall from my notes):
1) Get the message out that a healthy outdoors is essential for quality of life.
2) Conserve plants, animals and natural communities on public and private land so they are diverse, healthy and resilient.
3) Create stable funding for quality outdoors
4) Have an up-to-date state water plan and make it widely available
5) Next time you go outdoors, take someone with you (Help others connect to nature/the outdoors)
Sharing a passion for something is the best way to keep it alive and well in the hearts and minds of others. The Conservation Federation of Missouri served as an catalyst to pull people with a passion for the outdoors together. (Video from the opening talks will be posted on their website as soon as we get the digital files transferred to them.) There is plenty to do to ensure healthy nature/outdoors in the future. The next step will be to give that passion some form so it's not just ideas but also actions.