Recently the editor of one of the newspapers using this outdoor column said that several of his readers have said they do not like it because I criticize the Missouri Department of Conservation too much. So I asked readers to let me know if it offends them when I write about what is going on inside that agency, and with agents abusing their power. I now have more than 100 letters and emails from readers of about 40 of those newspapers, and more keep coming in. Only one of those dozens of letters is critical of the columns I write about the MDC. Only one.
He says….”one thing that bothers me about your blog and articles is the constant criticism of the department. I have been a volunteer and the Springfield Nature Center for over 26 years and now volunteer at the WOW museum also. During this time I have gotten to know many, many Conservation Department people and have found them to be nothing but concerned and professional. On various hunting and fishing trips I have had contact with enforcement people and never found them to be anything but friendly and helpful. I feel like your constant harping on the Department has really diminished the conservation message of your writings. Luther Smith.
I know Mr. Smith does not have the slightest idea that the Missouri Department of Conservation gave Bass Pro Shops two and a half million dollars for that project. Then Bass Pro Shops hired the MDC director who made it happen. Should I have kept quiet about that? Doesn’t seem quite on the level to me, but maybe every one else is okay with it. I only wish I could show Mr. Smith what is being done on our public-owned wildlife management areas. I wish I could take him to talk with hundreds of innocent people targeted by agents, and I wish he could see the corruption I have documented with hours of investigation and interviews with biologists and honest employees of the MDC, who are as upset as I am about what is happening. One of them told me…”If things continue like this, you might as well rename this agency and take the word ‘conservation’ out of it.”
I have never lied about anything concerning the MDC… not ever, not once. I have told them many times that I would meet with them in a public debate to discuss what I was writing that they disagree with. I have told the MDC I would allow them to print their objections in my magazines, or I would publish an interview with any agent who felt I had described his actions erroneously. There has never been even one response to those offers.
When I spend the day Friday with the Director of the MDC, Sara Pauley, we aren’t going to just talk, I am going to take her to see the destruction of what they call ‘wildlife management areas’, through tenant farming and logging. I am going to repeat those offers to her. Let me meet with MDC people in public debates, answer the charges I and others have made against them in my magazine, and investigate the worst of them. And I will print her response in this column.
Mr. Smith is a partner with the MDC and his eyes are open to any good thing he sees and closed to what is happening that isn’t so good. He doesn’t want to believe any of this. He will never ever see or accept what I am writing about. And I wish he could know the truth. The book I hope to finish soon will document much that he couldn’t possibly accept, and he and those like him will never read it. The large-scale news media in our state will never let the truth be told through them. What they once referred to as journalism is certainly dead. While some editors do not want these columns to appear in their newspapers, the majority of them do–and they have let me know.
As a result of my columns, over several years, the department has quietly reversed charges against folks who were falsely accused. And more than two hundred acres of big beautiful timber near Lake of the Ozarks, given to the MDC by an old man who was dying, was to be secretly sold to a real estate company after his death. I wrote about it, and due to the uproar it created, and resulting threats of lawsuits from the old man’s relatives they canceled the sale.
An article I wrote about a lady who had an eight-year-old pet raccoon in southern Missouri was carried all over the world after I wrote about how two agents forced their way into her home by threatening to arrest her, and took her pet raccoon out and shot it.
I wrote about the MDC giving 235,000 dollars to a judge who let department officials hunt on his private waterfowl marsh. Today his family also has their property taxes paid by the MDC. The words ‘in perpetuity’ are in that agreement. That means taxpayers in Missouri will pay that family’s taxes forever. Should I have kept quiet about that? Maybe I should never have written about finding out, through MDC employees who ask that I do not use their name, that deer heads confiscated by agents are not destroyed, as they want you to believe. My book will detail how many have been sold by MDC employees for large amounts of money, and how many of those heads confiscated now adorn the walls of MDC agents themselves, and their friends. I could go on and on. I haven’t written about much of the worst of it. Maybe that should be kept under wraps, too.
One of those Springfield area enforcement people that Mr. Smith thinks is concerned and professional was reported by other agents as having spent many of his work hours at the home of the wife of one of his best friends, with his state vehicle hidden behind her bar. She decided to divorce her husband to marry that MDC agent. He declined because he, too, was married and had children. If that affair were on his own time it would have been his business, and no one else’s. On paid MDC time it was the business of all Missourians who pay his salary. Although the MDC officials in Jefferson city was told about all this by the woman’s husband, they kept quiet and that agent was promoted, still working today, perhaps visiting more country women on state time in his state vehicle.
Oh, I know… some readers stick their head in the sand and will believe none of it. Many of them think the MDC is still stocking deer and turkeys, a great project that ended decades ago. Most of those biologists who did that work are dead now. When someone starts citing those decades-old accomplishments and attributing that to today’s MDC employees, I wonder how anyone could be that stupid. And I wonder… How could so many outdoor oriented people want things to continue as they are? How can the media and so many citizens accept obvious corruption?
I will say again, I have a wildlife management degree and when I was young I wrote dozens of columns about the great things being done by an MDC of another age. Back then they gave me conservation awards for what I wrote. I want to see the truth come out, and nothing else. That book I am writing about the MDC will be free… I do not want to be accused of making money from it. The newspaper columns I was paid to write for 50 years are now free to any newspaper that wants to use them.
I will see to it many, maybe all, of those reader letters are read too. We will set up a website soon where they will all be printed, from all sides. And many will be used in the Lightnin’ Ridge magazine’s summer issue.
To let your feelings be heard, pro or con write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. My office phone is 417/777-5227.
DEN, NEST TREE NO MORE – The man in this photo graduated with me from the University of Missouri, his degree too in wildlife management. Showing me a logging operation the MDC had contracted for the money it would bring them. I could never write what he told me because he would have been fired.
This is a den tree held a pilated woodpecker nest, when it was cut— and had no value as lumber.
As a tree left standing… it could have nested fox gray squirrels and flying squirrels, three species of owls, three species of woodpeckers and dozens of wild bird nests.
He told me that what wildlife people in the department advised was ignored in favor of the wishes of the forestry people and their desire for so many million board feet of lumber from our public owned wildlife management areas.
Why should the public never see this photo or hear his story? That is all I want to do with what I write— tell the truth and let the public see what is happening.