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Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2017

More Rural Representation on the Conservation Commission

Posted Friday, January 13, 2012, at 5:02 PM

Our conservation department here in Missouri is one of the highest ranking in the United States. Because of an issue raised by the Conservation Federation of Missouri, the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) became a reality in 1936, after a vote of the people. However, the way board and commission members are currently appointed tends to make these panels one-sided, and at times, unreliable in the work they complete or produce for the state.

The state constitution says four members can be appointed to six-year terms to serve on the Missouri Conservation Commission. The individual appointed to the commission by the governor needs Missouri Senate confirmation before the person can join the commission. Even though the 1936 legislation gave no stipulation for geographic location, it did provide language for political party and the number of terms that can be served.

An issue has been brought before the Legislature that deals with the Conservation Commission. Many folks are disappointed that appointments to the commission are all coming from the same area of the state. This is not a new concern. In addition, there is a tendency for those with law degrees to receive gubernatorial appointments over those who are not lawyers.

With such small membership, there is little geographic and occupational diversity on the commission. Currently, all four members live south of the Missouri River and two reside within about 30 miles of each other in the St. Louis area. Currently, the governor wants to appoint a new member from the same region. This nominee will replace former Saline County Presiding Commissioner, and a personal friend, Becky Plattner. A better plan might be to replace her with another member from rural Missouri.

I see nothing wrong with asking the voters of Missouri to voice their opinion on the matter, which is what Senate Joint Resolution 27, would do. It would not, however, decrease funding for -- or make any other changes to -- the MDC. It would only speak to the guidelines for appointing folks to important boards and commissions, such as the Conservation Commission. The resolution was heard by the Senate Agriculture, Food Production and Outdoor Resources Committee on Jan. 11, 2012.

Many Missourians, particularly those in rural areas, believe expanding Conservation Commission membership to include all geographic regions of the state was a good idea. This includes the Missouri Farm Bureau.

However, the bulk of the folks who testified on SJR 27 -- representing groups such as the Conservation Federation, Whitetails Unlimited and Ducks Unlimited -- seem to believe "if it's not broke, don't fix it."

During the hearing, some comments were made that downplayed the influence of agriculture in conservation. However, more than 90 percent of Missouri's lands are privately owned by folks like you and me who deal with wildlife every day. I was disappointed in parts of the testimony that ignored agriculture's need for a seat at the table when it comes to issues that deal with landowners throughout the state. Hopefully, common sense will prevail, and we can get a fair deal in place that will satisfy everybody.

Senator Stouffer serves the counties of Carroll, Chariton, Cooper, Howard, Lafayette, Macon, Ray, Saline, and a part of Clay. If you have questions or comments about this or any other issue, please call toll free 866-768-3987 or by e-mail at bstouffer@senate.mo.gov.

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Sen. Bill Stouffer, R-Napton, represented the 21st district in the Missouri Senate until January 2013, when he left after reaching established term limits. He is a life-long resident of Saline County, a farmer and small business owner. He and his wife, Sue Ellen, live on their family farm in Napton. He was the chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee and Joint Committee on Transportation Oversight. He served on a number of other committees, including Agriculture, Food Production and Outdoor Resources; Commerce, Consumer Protection, Energy & the Environment; Financial & Governmental Organizations & Elections; Joint Interim Committee on School Accreditation; Missouri Alternative Fuels Commission; Missouri Civil Air Patrol; Missouri Military Preparedness and Enhancement Commission; Missouri Senior RX Commission; Alzheimer's State Plan Task Force; Coordinating Council on Special Transportation; and Midwestern Interstate passage Rail Compact Commission.