The Conservation Department’s Director is resigning to take a job in the private sector.
After 25 years in the Department and more than six years as its director, Robert Ziehmer will resign effective July 15.
Ziehmer says the Department’s communication with the public has been important during his career, in order to get urban and rural residents outdoors.
“Not all that many years ago not everybody was carrying a smartphone or a handheld so in a state that continues to try to engage all of our citizens … I’m really proud of what Missouri has done in recent years taking the Conservation message to all the public school districts across the state,” said Ziehmer. “It’s important that citizens understand who their department is, what we do, and why it’s important that they engage and the school program and the educational push is one item that the Department is really leading on.”
He says the Department is in good position and has the staff to deal with the challenges it is facing.
“Those challenges are invasive species – everything from honeysuckle to feral hogs. There are also challenges, wildlife diseases, and when I say ‘wildlife,’ both fisheries diseases, forestry, as well as wildlife, and having staff prepared, well-trained, Missouri is positioned well,” said Ziehmer.
The Department’s work and decisions are not always well-received by the public or state lawmakers. Ziehmer says it’s tried to respond to criticism, under his tenure, by seeking more public opinion.
“We worked hard last year. Hundreds of public meetings across the state, creating special venues where often times those stakeholder groups create the agenda, then we would come and then talk about conservation. I work, I bounce around the state visiting with editorial boards, also doing what I would call ‘Conservation Coffees,’ in a variety of communities around the state just allowing the public and diverse stakeholder interest groups to learn more about the department, to ask questions, so we would know how better to serve our citizens,” said Ziehmer. “It’s been really helping, it’s been an area where the Department has grown, and I see the Department continuing to do that and continuing to grow in that area.”
One Department project that has gotten a lot of attention in recent years is the reintroduction of elk to Missouri. Ziehmer says the public wants an elk hunting season.
“It is a restoration program that we know full well we’ll need to manage as we go forward, and we plan to manage that through hunting,” said Ziehmer. “Utilizing hunting as something that the public has told us even before we brought elk here, they wanted elk back on Missouri’s landscape but they do look forward to an opportunity to be a part of managing a really solid, viable elk population through hunting.”
Ziehmer became Director in 2010. The Conservation Commission will select the next Director.
He declined to reveal at this time what position he is taking in the private sector.