Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Governor Outlines What's at Stake with Vetoes Impacting Wildlife Management and Conservation Commission

Governor Jay Nixon spoke to a nearly packed house at a little after 10:30 am on Tuesday to give a short history lesson on the Missouri Conservation Commission, and then outline how a series of his vetoes will protect the commission from political wrangling, as well as their budget from special interest sales tax carve-outs.

Bill Crawford, 2011
In an emotional and unexpected moment, after Nixon's eloquent recount of how and why the (Read more about Bill Crawford)
commission came to be in the 1930's, he introduced Bill Crawford. Mr. Crawford was also in attendance 80 years ago in this very same room as the commission was born back in September of 1935.  He was seventeen.

For those who know the history of Missouri conservation, the state of Missouri had been decimated by the 1930's by logging, market hunters, mining, and short sighted agricultural practices to name a few.  The deer and turkey populations were down to a few thousand, elk, bison, and deer were extirpated, and fish populations were painfully small.  The commission was formed to alleviate these horrendous problems by appointing a non-political entity to faithfully steward the state's natural bounty.

Leaping forward 80 years, deer and turkey populations number in the millions, elk have been reintroduced, black bear are making a natural comeback, Ozark rivers are running clean, and they are full of smallmouth bass, rainbow trout, brown trout, as well as many other species.  Even with the management practices necessary to make these things happen, the timber industry still hums along at a sustainable level, and whatever has been lost in revenues in this industry has been amply compensated for by dollars flowing into communities and state coffers by in-state and out-of-state sportsmen and women.

The Missouri Department of Conservation, overseen by the Missouri Conservation Commission has been a shining example of how to manage natural resources all across the United States.  With very little research, one can see how much better Missouri residents have fared with this system than in states using politically beholden entities.

It is therefore a true indictment of the short sightedness of Missouri legislators, almost entirely comprised of Republicans, that they would take bold steps to jeopardize this system.  In  a last minuted money grab clearly motivated by special interest lobbyists, these "representatives of the people," carved out sales tax exemptions for a bizarre cross-section of industries.  The example Nixon cited was the dry-cleaning industry.  Did you know that under legislation passed by the Missouri House and Senate, dry cleaners now enjoy exemptions from sales taxation?  Are you happy to know that the funds thus depleted will deprive the MDC from carrying out the conservation efforts cited above...to the tune of approximately $12 million per year?

Additionally, apparently the "captive cervid" lobby is thriving in Missouri as well.  Legislation vetoed by the Governor the day of his speech would have transferred regulation of these captive whitetail deer (primarily) to the Department of Agriculture.  The legislative transfer was an attempt to remove the regulatory jurisdiction of the MDC in trying to prevent the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD).  The MDC has done an outstanding job of eradicating the outbreak of CWD detected a few years ago, first in captive deer and then in adjoining wild populations.  The transfer of authority would have greatly damaged such efforts.

Of course vetoes can be overridden.  The sportsmen and women owe it to the legacy of conservation in Missouri to make sure this does not happen.  By and large, the sporting community is made up of men and women who are not generally at great odds with conservative legislators and they will listen to us if we make our voices heard in great enough numbers.

Do not rely on your friend, your neighbor, or the organization to which you belong.  The two bills he vetoed today are SB 1326 and HB 506.  Additionally, he has already vetoed the sales tax carve-outs for special interests.  Contact your state senator and house member to let him or her know you expect them NOT to override these vetoes.  The future of our hunting, fishing, and natural resources depend on your efforts now.