Margy Eckelkamp

Congratulations to Margy Eckelkamp, of Washington, on her appointment to the prestigious Missouri Conservation Commission.

It’s good to have local representation on such an important and influential statewide committee. In our view, few commissions are as critical to our state’s future as the conservation commission, which is tasked with overseeing the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC), the agency that protects and manages the fish, forest and wildlife of our state.

Our state has hundreds of boards and commissions — many you’ve never heard of. This isn’t one of those. It’s a commission people pay attention to and scrutinize heavily. Missourians are passionate about the outdoors and our state’s natural resources. They care about the decisions that impact these things. They are passionate about the MDC.

The conservation commission consists of four members appointed by the governor with the advice and consent of the Senate. Their responsibilities include appointing the MDC director, serving as MDC policymakers, approving regulations of the Wildlife Code of Missouri, strategic planning, and budget development and major expenditure decisions.

Gov. Mike Parson made a good selection with Eckelkamp. Her background in agriculture and journalism should complement the commission’s work. We predict she will do well. She has what it takes to be a good commissioner — a passion for the outdoors and a focus on preserving our state’s natural resources for future generations.

She will need all of those attributes on the commission. Conservation should not be a political issue, but over the last 10 years or so, the MDC has come under increased assault by a state Legislature seeking greater control over it and how it spends its budget.

That is the case despite the fact that MDC performs well for Missouri and is recognized nationally for its education programs, research, recruitment and retention of fishermen and hunters and wildlife and habitat programs.

In fact, MDC is one of the most respected conservation departments in the nation. But that hasn’t stopped attacks from lawmakers over the years who say the agency lacks accountability and transparency.

Just this past session, lawmakers attempted to reshape the commission from a four-member bipartisan body appointed by the governor into a nine-member body screened by lawamkers.

The attempt failed, but MDC will likely be targeted again by a General Assembly that resents its independence.

Funny how some things never change. In 1936, Missourians approved a constitutional amendment creating the four-person conservation commission in direct response to a fish and game agency that had become ineffective due to undue influence of local and state politics.