Department of Conservation did well by listening to residents

For more than 75,000 Missouri landowners who are deer and turkey hunters it was some good news just before Christmas when the Missouri Conservation Commission decided to rescend the earlier proposal to charge them for hunting on their own land.
A flood of phone calls, emails and letters to the conservation department during the comment period that ended Dec. 16, resulted in a turnaround by the commission.
At a local barbershop, last week, the subject of charging landowners of five or more acres fired up the conversations.
One landowner said he would start up a petition to end the one-eighth of a percent sales tax that goes to the Missouri Department of Conservation while others said the timing was very bad considering the economy today.
Jack Moore, Kansas City, had recently purchased 40 acres in the Missouri Ozarks and plans on doing some deer and turkey hunting along with his family on the property.
“Although I would have purchased a tag to hunt, I was pleased to see the regulations stay the way they were,” he said. “I know there were a lot of landowners up in arms about changing the acreage from five to 80 acres, but now the MDC knows just how strong the landowners feel. I have a neighbor who owns 57 acres in the Ozarks and he said the MDC always said giving landowners free deer and turkey hunting permits was a reward for giving the wildlife a place to thrive and the thought of taking that ‘reward’ away at a time people are having hard times didn't seem right”
Dave Erickson, assistant director of the MDC said, “During the 30-day public comment we heard from small acreage landowners and we heard their message very clearly.”
MDC director John Hoskins added, “There are a growing number of Missourians who are small acreage landowners, and many of them embrace wildlife management as a primary purpose for some if not all of their land. We support them, and all landowners, and recognize the many habitat benefits that result from  landowner efforts. Private landowners have a always been, and continue to be a critical component of Missouri's successful wildlife management program. We will continue to seek input from all landowners regarding any additional changes that may effect them and will proactively seek landowner input prior to any future proposals regarding landowner permits.”
At the Dec. 19 meeting of the commission the commissioners also stopped the proposed resident permit price increases.
“Our economy is in much worse shape than it was when we first proposed the price increases,” Hoskins said. “We are sensitive to the plight of out fellow Missourians during this unprecedented recession. The higher cost of living, increasing unemployment and general economic uncertainty are affecting us all. We hope that by eliminating these price increases, we can help Missouri hunters, trappers and anglers weather these difficult times”
Rate increases for non-residents have not changed and will go in effect on July 1, 2009.
At the recent meeting of the commission, the commissioners also voted to eliminate the proposed “forever” senior permits so seniors 65 and older will still be able to hunt and fish without a permit in the state. There was considerable support from citizens on this issue.
By keeping the regulations as they were, the uproar has put at least a temporary end to one of the most controversial proposals that the MDC has in many years.