It is wonderful to have the opportunity to move from one great conservation position to another. I wasn’t quite done with the Missouri Department of Conservation, or rather, they weren’t quite done with me. The Missouri Comprehensive Conservation Strategy Version 1.0 was presented to Department leaders in November, 2014. If I had not already committed to retirement in December, another year at MDC with greater emphasis on conservation delivery would have been tempting. In any case, I retired as the Strategic Wildlife Conservation Planner after 30+ years with the Missouri Department of Conservation. I know, it was a good working title, but Coordinator for the Southeast Conservation Adaptation Strategy is good too. I think I need bigger boots.
It might be useful for me to review my background and tell you how I got to this moment in my conservation career. Problem is, when you are my age you can’t quite remember. How did I get here? I’ve been a heritage ecologist, prairie grassland ecologist, invertebrate ecologist, cave ecologist, T/E Species Coordinator, Missouri River Unit Chief, Comprehensive Wildlife Strategy Coordinator, and Strategic Conservation Planner. Except for the last presentation to the Missouri Conservation Commission, it’s pretty much been a blurrrrr. Fortunately, I worked with, and learned from, a lot of excellent people.
I supervised more than a few botanists, community ecologists, zoologists and data managers over the last 30 years. Many of the people I hired or promoted or mentored (sometimes aggravated) are now MDC leaders at the highest levels. That’s a good legacy. I am a continuous learner and extract what I can from the people I work with. That’s a good quality. And I often have a lot to say, which also turns out to be another good quality. Communication experiences include technical writing, popular writing, public speaking, radio, and television. Somewhere along the way I even had a small television segment, something like “Tim the Tool Time Guy” for the outdoors. Yep, Dennis was the star of Handy Hints for Missouri Outdoors for 7 seasons. The concept was, “If Dennis can do it, you can too”. I can show you how to make a bird feeder in 90 seconds. I can demonstrate how to fillet a fish and not cut your finger off. If that makes you laugh, well good. It should. Another quality, I laugh loud all the time. Sometimes you have to stand back.
When I suggested that SECAS Coordination was an opportunity, I meant to say challenge. Building and implementing a vision for fish and wildlife conservation is a challenge at any scale. Tackling that assignment for the southeast United States is a huge endeavor. Fortunately I am optimistic, positive, overly ambitious and frequently gullible. And I bring some experiences to the table that may help us all move forward together. I’ve spent my entire career (which started at age 6 when I sold tadpoles to fellow cub scouts for 5 cents apiece) promoting the lands and waters that sustain fish and wildlife. After the development of the Missouri Strategy I was an invited member on the National Council for Science and the Environment, Wildlife Habitat Policy Research Program -- a 5-year program that funded research to further the development of a habitat system for the nation. I later co-authored the BioScience article, A State-Based National Network for Effective Wildlife Conservation, which suggested that the emerging network of Large Landscape Conservation Cooperatives could play a fundamental role in shaping the conservation network valuable to fish and wildlife. During the last two years John Tirpak and some good folks from AR, MO and OK demonstrated conservation planning for fish and wildlife in the Ozarks at the scale of an ecological region. That was illuminating.
I am particularly excited to be working more closely on climate issues. I have been the lead from Missouri to implement the National Fish, Wildlife and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy. I am an invited member of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Climate Adaptation Technical Advisory Group. Most important of all, I know and value the work of state agencies, federal partners and the emerging LCC community. What happens if we all start working together?
But enough about me. SECAS is not about me, but about your good work and how our collective efforts will sustain fish, wildlife and plants into the future. SECAS is working with all of you to get agreement on the conservation landscapes of the future. You/We are further down the road than you realize.
Southeast Conservation Adaptation Strategy