Tuesday, March 10, 2015

An Excellent Job

Someone sent me editorials from both of the two largest Ozark newspapers castigating legislators who are trying to pass legislation restricting the heretofore unstoppable spending by the Missouri Department of Conservation. Both editorials say the department is “doing an excellent job”.

Keep in mind that such editorials are written by people who sit in offices and never venture into the outdoors, never see a wildlife conservation area the MDC manages.

So I just want to invite them, any or all of them, to go with me to take a look at the real “excellent job” that is being done.  Put some boots on fellows, and take a little trip with me and let me show you where there use to be coveys of quail and rabbits which now are gone because of the MDC’s excellent job.  If you are a reader who wants to learn, you can come too.

Come and go with me and let me show you where the forests that belong to all of us have been stripped of trees by private logging companies contracting with the MDC.  

Let me show you what a den tree is, let me show you what pileated woodpeckers are, what flying squirrels are, what a screech owl looks like.  I will assure you, those editors praising the MDC’s excellent job have never seen any of those creatures.  They have never seen one of those public areas.

The editors who boast of the MDC’s excellent work, how many of them actually came from Missouri?  I am betting none of them grew up outside some major city suburb in another state.  A few years ago when I was simply trying to get a letter published in the Springfield News Leader about the MDC concerning an attempt by that agency to take land from three landowners in Wright County, I was refused by an editor who said he came from a city in the Pennsylvania. They would not use the letter.  And this column cannot be published in any form in the larger newspapers of this state.  It is taboo to criticize the great MDC.

Now I do not mind them becoming a spokesman for the Conservation Department, but I only ask that they do what newspapers were once known for…show two sides of the story.

I wrote for many years as an outdoor columnist for the Springfield News Leader when it was a local newspaper. In 1999 it was purchased by the very liberal Gannett company from back east, and shortly afterward I received from the new editor who told me her name was Kate Marymount. 

She told me that the newspaper and the Missouri Department of Conservation had met that week in the News-Leader offices and made a deal in which the MDC would supply material consisting of photos, columns and features completely free.  She said five words I will never forget… ‘We have made a deal’. 

It was followed by the statement that the newspaper would publish no criticism of the MDC from that point on, unless it was Okayed by the ‘editorial board’.  That policy continues.  Think of one thing you may have seen in that newspaper since that time which spoke of something the MDC might not have approved of.  It became clear that dissenting views could not even be placed in the ‘letters’ section.

So I ask one simple thing.  You editors who think you must publish praise of the MDC, come go with me and look at what they have done, what they are doing.  Let see if there is a big pay raise the director has given himself, and what the salaries are for those who sit in Jefferson City.  Lets look at the commissioners, what they do for a living, and how they got appointed.

Let’s look at some of those million acres the MDC manages for all of us who own those acres and are suppose to be able to use them to enjoy.  Lets take a look at the quarter million dollars the MDC gave to a judge for his personal use.  Take a look at the tax payments they make annually and ‘in perpetuity’ for a few of their friends.  Maybe they will agree to pay your property taxes too.

Lets go look at the Bass Pro Shop land which is privately owned by one of the countries richest billionaires and ask the MDC why they would do days of work on those lands completely free of charge, work that all of us citizens paid for.

Lets go out and talk to people who have been victims of conservation agents who trampled on their constitutional rights.  Lets go talk to the ex-agents who have much to say about what they saw.  Let’s find out why one agent sued the MDC for a million dollars and won, just because he was fired for reporting illegal activities by other agents, one of whom is today an MDC supervisor.  Why did a story like that never make one single newspaper?

Let's just go do what newspapers are supposed to do… show another side.  Lets talk to some of those legislators, and hear what they have to say. 

Recently I got a call from a lady who works for the MDC and she was so frustrated because in March, her department goes out and buys equipment like four-wheelers which are not needed or used, just to use up the budget money.  “If we do not use all of our budget,” she said, “then we may not get all the money we ask for next year.  So we waste it, we just give it away.”

The only way the Missouri Department of Conservation can fool, and keep the support of, millions of Missourians who live inside major cities is through the complicity of major newspapers like the Gannett-owned News-Leader in Springfield which help them suppress the truth.  While I am volunteering my time to take their editors or reporters out to really see and report on another side, I know good and well they will not do it.

I want you to reread this column.   What have I said here that you might find unfair or untrue? I grew up in the Ozarks, and have written outdoor columns for fifty years. I have published hundreds of articles about conservation and the outdoors in national outdoor magazines and dozens of major newspapers, with a degree in wildlife management from he University of Missouri.  I have been awarded ‘conservation communicator’ awards in two states.  I am a conservationist, the same kind of ranting raving lunatic that John Muir and Aldo Leopold were.

All I want is to see the truth known.  I want to see all conservation departments stand for wise use… for preservation, for the management of our areas for all creatures besides just the deer and turkey which in this day and time require no management at all.  Non-game mammals and birds, many of which are in decline because of the destruction of their habitat, are worth something too.
I want the rampant corruption I have seen in the Conservation Department controlled and corrected, because no matter who you are, where you live in this state, even if you do not partake of any outdoor activity, you pay the Missouri Department of Conservation one-eighth of a cent in tax on your ordinary daily purchases.  It is our money and it shouldn’t be wasted.  Our conservation department receives somewhere around 175 million dollars a year.  Why shouldn’t our legislators try to stop the waste and the wild spending going on there? Why shouldn’t questions be asked?   Why shouldn’t the other side of the story be given a space in our newspapers?

Maybe you editors and reporters think there is no ‘other side’.  If so, come go with me and lets take a look, far from your carpeted plush offices that you never leave.  Come with me to interview the director… come talk to the chief of the enforcement division with me, and just listen.

Put on the boots and lets go outdoors to see just what they are doing.  If you won’t do that, just put a sentence inside the next editorial that reads… “There may be another side to this MDC story but we refuse to print it.   Years ago  ‘we made a deal’.”

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