Missouri’s Rich Outdoor Heritage
As printed in January issue of The Missouri Times
By Tyler Schwartze, Executive Director of the Conservation Federation of Missouri
Missouri is the number one state in the nation for conservation and outdoor recreation. Let that sink in.
We strive to be the top state in the nation in various categories, and sometimes fall short, but not when it comes to hunting, fishing, hiking, floating, bird watching, camping, recreation and so many other unique outdoor opportunities. We must work together to protect what we all love and cherish, so that future generations have the same great opportunities that we have.
We are proud to be the only state in the nation with two dedicated sales taxes that we, the voters of Missouri, self-imposed to furnish enjoyment of the great outdoors. Very few states have one tax, let alone two that can help us lead healthier and happier lives. This Missouri Model of Conservation, as it’s known nationally and even worldwide, is the envy of every other state.
Before 1935 our fish, forests and wildlife had become extremely decimated. The rebound began when sportsmen and conservationists from all over Missouri came together in Columbia at the Tiger Hotel to make sure future generations, which is now our generation, would not suffer any greater from the effects of over-harvesting and depleting the resources.
Our conservation founders devised a solution that was as simple as it was revolutionary. It resulted in the creation of Missouri’s non-partisan Conservation Commission, and ultimately the Missouri Department of Conservation. Then in 1976 the Design for Conservation Sales Tax was added to the Constitution by the voters.
The Parks and Soils Sales tax again passed overwhelmingly in 2016. Over 80% of Missouri voters said, “Yes” to supporting state parks, clean water, less erosion, and much more. In this day and age, it’s pretty impressive that 4 out of 5 people said yes, that they care about preserving our natural resources in the Show-Me State.
Can you imagine if we had to pay entrance fees to get into our state parks or visit a conservation area? What if we had to pay to launch at a boat ramp, hike a trail, or visit a nature center? Luckily we don’t have to. Travel to any number of
neighboring states and see how much it costs to pay to play. We certainly are lucky and cannot let making important memories with our kids and grandkids get taken advantage of or taken away from us.
Even today, with so many free outdoor recreational activities and opportunities that we have at our fingertips, Missouri is at the pinnacle of the conservation world. So we will continue to speak up and let our voices in the outdoors be heard loud and clear.
I urge you to find your outdoor passion and get outside and enjoy all the fantastic opportunities that abound in Missouri. Bike the Katy Trail, duck hunt on a conservation area, or catch a trout at one of our beautiful parks. Go camping, floating, or fishing in a clear Ozark stream. You support them, why not enjoy them.
We didn’t always have it so good, and many people in our state have fought hard over the decades to preserve these things for us to enjoy today. So together, we will continue to defend the will of the people outlined in our Constitution. We will protect and preserve our rich outdoor heritage at all costs because that is what we the people of Missouri decided. Come and join me outside, and let’s enjoy our beautiful state together.