JEFFERSON CITY – Gov. Matt Blunt on Tuesday named veteran Republican lawmaker Doyle Childers to head the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.
Childers was a moderate voice during his 22-year career in the General Assembly, with a record of supporting clean-water efforts, especially in the southwestern part of the state.
Leaders of the Sierra Club were concerned about who would lead the department charged with protecting natural resources in a state government dominated by Republicans. The environmental advocacy group had some reservations about Childers but were relatively optimistic, given his moderate record on environmental issues.
Sierra Club state chapter director Carla Klein said the organization has worked with Childers on several issues. While heartened by those experiences and by Childers’ work on ensuring clean water in southwest Missouri, she did not predict the state’s environment would improve under Childers’ watch.
“The Department of Natural Resources has always tended to lean toward business interests more so than what they’re charged with, which is natural resources,” Klein said.
Despite a moderately warm reception from the nation’s largest environmental group, Childers said he is aligned with Blunt on the need to balance business and environmental interests.
“The DNR, in the past, has had a one-size-fits-all answer to the business community,” he said. “I believe that it should be more flexible than that.”
Blunt said the department must consider business interests in its decisions because the balance between the environment and the economy has been “tipped away from job creation.”
“Sometimes you’ll see groups like the Sierra Club will be disappointed, and sometimes you’ll see groups like the chamber of commerce and other business groups be disappointed,” Blunt said.
Childers, who earned degrees in science and education from Southwest Missouri State University and was involved in the first clean water study in southwest Missouri.He said he anticipates water quality, along with air quality in Kansas City and St. Louis, will be the department’s biggest challenges. The DNR is working now to comply with new clean-water regulations mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Term limits forced Childers out of the state Senate after the last legislative session. He said his General Assembly service would be an asset.
“I’ve been a part of the laws for the past 20 years, so I have a better understanding of the issues in front of the department,” Childers said.
The former lawmaker said increased efficiency is vital and suggested Missouri might coordinate with other states on conservation issues. Missouri has a complex water-flow pattern in the southwestern corner of the state that results in water draining between Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma. Childers said there might be an opportunity to coordinate conservation efforts with other states and lure federal dollars to help. He declined to offer details on any arrangement, saying it is too soon to address specifics.
Before becoming a legislator, Childers taught science at Reeds Spring High School and worked on infrastructure development in Central America for four years as a member of the Peace Corps.
His nomination is subject to approval by the Senate.