By Jo Schaper
“The legislative assault on the Dept. of Conservation continues. The latest bill, Senate Bill 337 being heard tomorrow (April 14), would make it illegal (i.e. punishable by six months in prison) for any non-profit to work with the Mo. Dept. of Conservation. MDC does tons of great work in partnership with many nonprofits, from land management and restoration to education to, yes, river clean-ups. From the language, it seems like it would make Missouri Stream Team illegal. Here’s the definition of “prohibited conduct” – “entering into any contractual relationship with, or providing or receiving anything of value with or without compensation, including but not limited to professional or clerical services, work product, money, personal or real property, or property rights.”
“So in my life, for example, MDC will not be able to bring boats or education booths to clean-ups or the greatly appreciated funding that they provide to help us do what we do. They will not be able to partner with Mo. Prairie Foundation or Ducks Unlimited or Ozark Trail Association or Audubon Society or Missouri River Bird Observatory or Conservation Federation of Missouri or Nature Conservancy. Those kinds of partnerships leverage public and private skill and resources to get real big stuff done. I can’t imagine the purpose behind this bill but it needs to stop.”
And yes, cavers, this means you, too. Many of these state and federal bills being introduced to disassemble state-private cooperative efforts built up over many years, and to privatize public lands for profit have the backing of folks far wealthier and more mean-spirited than we shall ever be. They hope to get such things through, because “the people” aren’t looking. They do nothing to save resources (MDC already must maintain a balanced budget. And they take away the few things most people can say they value paying for with tax money.
A link to the bill is at: https://legiscan.com/MO/bill/SB337/2015 . This bill has a Missouri House companion sponsored by Representative Jay Houghton: HB 763 at https://legiscan.com/MO/bill/HB763/2015 . At the moment the House bill has been been read twice and referred to the Conservation and Natural Resources Committee. The Senate bill has been read twice and been heard in the Rules, Joint Rules, Resolutions and Ethics Committee.