Department of Natural Resources Director Sara Parker Pauley spoke at MU Wednesday on the current challenges the state faces and how the funding would keep resources maintained for the long haul.
The park, soils and water one-tenth cent sales tax returns to the ballot every ten years for reauthorization. The tax was first approved in 1984 when Missouri’s parks and natural resources weren’t in good shape physically or financially.
“At the time, state park funding saw a decrease in general revenue funding, federal funding, and things were in a state of disrepair,” Parker Pauley said. “We had the second highest soil erosion rate in the country.”
Since then, the state has slowly replenished state parks and soil erosion problems.
“Agriculture, and parks and environmental interests got together and said let’s take this to a vote of the people,” Parker Pauley said. “We all love our state parks, so this is an important effort for us as Missourians.”
The same message for environmental sustainability and improvement carries weight today.
“All indications are that people feel strongly in favor of funding for state parks and soil and water efforts,” Parker Pauley said.
When the tax was last brought to the ballot in 2006, 70 percent of Missouri voters approved the renewal.
Parker Pauley said the Department of Natural Resources gets bogged down by competing priorities, over-regulation and increasing water demand.
She says with new emerging contaminants and public health concerns, staff cuts have also crippled the DNR’s ability to manage data collection, monitoring and other new regulations. Parker Pauley says 350 positions in the department have been lost since 2000.
Executive Director for the Missouri Coalition for the Environment Heather Navarro backs the tax along with other organizations like the Missouri Farm Bureau and Citizens Committee for Soil, Water and State Parks.
“Missouri is home to some of the greatest natural resource treasures in this country and our parks help those natural resources,” Navarro said. “We have hundreds of thousands of miles of rivers and streams. We have native prairie. We have wetlands, Ozark forests, [and] all of those things are protected partly through our state park system.”
Missouri’s 88 state parks and historic sites depend on these funds for survival. Parker Pauley also says an added benefit of this tax is free entrance to the parks.