Walk up the 72 steps to the top of a firetower on Steegall Mountain at Peck Ranch and you’ll see miles of the Ozark Mountains reaching up towards the southern Missouri sky. You’ll see oak saplings defying the odds, sprouting up through rocky glades. And you’ll see graffiti written on the metal beams.
The graffiti — scribbled in pencil, presumably by two different people — reads, “Forests Forever.” In a disproportionately angry response another person wrote, “I believe in conservation not preservation, you damn enviro freak.”
The language used next is more “colorful” than necessary to make the point, but it speaks to a healthy debate within the environmental community. At what point is it necessary to stop altering the land for a benefit and un-regulate nature? A better question might be, does such a point exist?
“Conservation means wise use of the land,” Rochelle Renken, who works for the Missouri Department of Conservation, said. “We might would have to accept undesired consequences.”
The Department of Conservation recently reintroduced elk into certain parts of the state, including Peck Ranch. Here, the public can see elk roam freely. They can also see where trees were cut down to plant grass for elk to graze on.
Edited by Zachary Matson.