A key Missouri lawmaker is pleased that the state Department of Conservation is conducting a pay study for all of its employees.

State Representative Craig Redmon (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

State Representative Craig Redmon (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications

State Rep. Craig Redmon (R-Canton) asked the Department in October to compare the starting salary for Missouri’s new Conservation agents to that of other states. Redmon says the Conservation Department is currently conducting a compensation study for all employees.

“I think it needs to be from top to bottom. We don’t want to be top-heavy in any department with salaries, so we need to look at what the ‘boots on the ground’ people make, because they are the face of that Department and do a lot of the lifting,” says Redmon.

The Conservation Department testifies that new agents start at $37,000.

Redmon, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources, tells Missourinet he believes that you get what you pay for.

“So if we’re not competitive with the states that are around us, we’re not going to get the cream of the crop, and we want the cream of the crop,” Redmon says. “They (the Department of Conservation) have their own funding source and it’s their choice as to how they spend it, but I would encourage them to spend it in their people.”

The Conservation Department is largely funded by a sales tax.

The pay study was approved by the Conservation Commission months ago, prior to lawmakers requesting it. Conservation Deputy Director Aaron Jeffries tells lawmakers it will be a detailed report.

“Right now, the Department is doing a compensation pay study, not just for agents but all employees to look at where our salaries are compared to equal jobs here in the state,” Jeffries testified recently.

The Department has 190 Conservation agents: 158 cover county assignments and 32 are supervisors. Jeffries says agents’ duties are split between resource enforcement and outreach/education, including public meetings.

The Department administers more than 975,000 acres across Missouri. The Department website notes that about 63 percent, or 615,000 acres, are forested.