Few extensions of government garner great respect these days, much less a resounding endorsement. Not so with our nationally recognized Missouri Department of Conservation.
The agency responsible for managing our forest, fish and wildlife resources consistently earns high marks from the state's residents — including a 72 percent approval rating of good or excellent in a 2009 Gallup poll.
And yet, the current session of the General Assembly is rife with legislation that would be harmful to the appointed governing board, the Missouri Conservation Commission, and the work it does in partnership with the department's professional staff.
The proposals include one that would double the size of the commission to eight members and require a representative from each of the agency's eight regions.
This idea is advanced by a lawmaker concerned northeast Missouri is slighted by not having a representative on the four-member commission. But we have heard nothing to suggest this deficit has impaired the promotion of conservation and sporting activities in the northeast region.
Further, requiring representatives by region runs the risk of creating partisan divides where none exist now. The existing commission — the one that has served the state so well — is constituted as one that serves statewide interests.
Two other proposals would make regulations set by all state agencies, including the commission, subject to review, amendment and rejection by legislators. It's hard to say what's appropriate for other agencies, but this is a terrible idea for an agency such as Conservation.
"I don't see how the Department of Conservation could operate efficiently," well-known conservationist Anita Gorman of Kansas City recently told The Kansas City Star.
Ms. Gorman, who served 12 years as an appointed commissioner, notes what true sports enthusiasts understand all too well: fish and game regulations can change yearly, and yet each goes through a significant and time-consuming review process.
Requiring legislative oversight "could delay things greatly," Ms. Gorman says, which is problematic when the next sporting season is just ahead.
Copyright St. Joseph News-Press. Reprinted with permission.