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New effort would damage Missouri Dept. of Conservation
To the Editor:
Missouri House Joint Resolution 100 (HJR 100), offered by Rep. Robert Ross, (R-Yukon), would irreparably damage the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) if approved by voters as an amendment to the Missouri Constitution.
HJR 100 would change the existing legislative Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) from a statutory body to one enshrined in the Missouri Constitution. Such a change would give the Legislature the power to oversee MDC, set up in 1936 intentionally as an independent, science-based agency constitutionally protected to safeguard it from such political meddling.
If approved, HJR 100 would enable legislators, for example, to set game and fish seasons and limits, regulate (or not regulate) the control of invasive species such as feral hogs and Asian carp and allow private deer breeders to ignore concerns about the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease, which threatens to wipe out our deer herd. Such decisions would be based on ignorant whims or special interest influences without utilizing the valuable scientific knowledge amassed in recent years.
Hopefully, Missouri voters are not likely to approve HJR 100 even if the legislature should adopt it.
However, the question remains: Why do Missouri legislators of Mr. Ross’ ilk continue to snipe at a state agency that is the envy of the entire nation. Founded by a vote of Missouri citizens in 1936 through a constitutional amendment, MDC’s proven record of SCIENTIFIC management of our state’s precious wild flora and fauna is unmatched in America.
Restoration of such valuable (esthetically, recreationally and economically) animals as white-tailed deer, eastern wild turkey, river otters, and others, and the ongoing scientific management of our forests and protected natural areas, is notable. Few states can come close to MDC’s accomplishments.
But ever since the 1/8-cent conservation sales tax was adopted by voters in 1976, a certain element of legislators has sought to siphon off these funds for other purposes. A familiar (but unfounded) complaint claims MDC is “not accountable.” Translation: Politicians can’t get their greedy hands on those funds, which now support MDC’s programs in the amount of about $121 million a year.
If you think that sounds like a lot of money, consider that MDC’s total budget represented only six-tenths of one percent of the total Missouri operating budget of $29.8 BILLION in 2019. And as for accountability, the Conservation Commission is a four-member bi-partisan body appointed by the governor for staggered six-year terms. That arrangement has proven to be an exemplary formula for ongoing SCIENTIFIC conservation management in Missouri.
Outdoors enthusiasts and anyone who values sound conservation practices should support Rep. Karla Eslinger, a well-respected, veteran educational administrator, in the upcoming Republican primary election in the 33rd Missouri Senate District. Her opponent, Robert Ross, if elected, likely would continue his anti-MDC campaign from a position of even more influence in the Senate. The 33rd District includes the counties of Texas, Wright, Webster, Douglas, Ozark, Howell, Oregon and Ripley.
But there’s more. Rep. Chris Dinkins, (R-Annapolis), has filed three other ill-advised measures that are anti-MDC. Her HJR 108 would change the four-member Conservation Commission to nine commissioners – one elected by local voters in each of the eight MDC regions of the state and the ninth appointed by the governor. This surely would toss MDC back into the political arena and decimate 84 years of scientific conservation management.
Dinkins’ HJR 112 is even worse. It would take two-thirds of the conservation sales tax revenue (about $80 million) away from MDC, giving one-third to veterans programs and the other to a sexual assault forensic examination program. That would be a 41% reduction in MDC’s annual revenue. Those 1976 voters approved that tax revenue for CONSERVATION.
And then there’s Dinkins’ House Concurrent Resolution (HCR) 81, which urges the U.S. Forest Service to reinstate feral hog hunting on the Mark Twain National Forest so her “hog dogging” buddies can bay hogs with hounds, stab them to death and declare themselves macho men (and women). MDC scientists have determined that trapping entire groups (sounders) of feral hogs is far more effective in controlling the hogs than hunting, which simply scatters the animals into many groups and makes eradication more difficult.
Stay alert, nature-loving Missourians, and be on the watch for these cockamamie ideas emanating from your General Assembly in the event, Heaven forbid, they make it onto a future ballot. And, let your senators and representatives know how you feel.
John R. Stanard