Director Sara Parker Pauley photo
Celebrating 40 years of taking care of Missouri’s natural resources

Sara Parker Pauley, director of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources

40th anniversary of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources logoDecades ago, we could see the visual impacts of pollution to our natural resources. Our air quality was so contaminated with pollutants that larger metropolitan areas urged people to stay home from work and school because the air was dangerous to breathe. The water in many of our lakes and rivers was littered with trash and pollutants, looking more like murky mug shots than picturesque portraits. But then citizens throughout the nation determined it was time to make a difference—to turn the tide toward protecting and improving our natural resources.

In 1970, the National Environmental Policy and Clean Air acts and later the Clean Water Act in 1972 were among the first environmental laws designed to build a foundation for a healthier America. The people in our great state recognized the need to protect and preserve its resources and created the Missouri Department of Natural Resources on July 1 under the Omnibus State Reorganization Act of 1974. This effort brought together nearly 15 existing agencies with complementary missions to achieve common goals in environmental cleanup and protection, conservation and management of natural, cultural and energy resources.

Although the department is relatively young, it includes older entities that joined the department due to their shared missions. Two of the oldest entities were the Missouri Geological Survey and Missouri state park system. The Geological Survey was established in 1853, largely in response to extensive mining activities that began in 1740 when settlers began mining resources such as lead, iron, limestone, sand and gravel. The Missouri state park fund was created in 1917, which supported the purchases of the first state historic site and state park in 1923 and 1924.

Today, the department helps develop mineral, oil and gas resources in an environmentally safe manner. The department protects the quality of water Missourians drink and the air they breathe, as well as Missouri’s land resources. The department provides outreach and education, technical and financial assistance to the state’s citizens, communities and businesses to protect public health and improve quality of life. Finally, the department preserves the state's natural landscapes and cultural features through an outstanding network of 87 state parks and historic sites, along with the efforts of the state historic preservation office. 

During the last 40 years, we have made significant improvements to our air, land, and water quality, such as properly disposing of nearly 17 million scrap tires from Missouri’s landscapes. With your help, the department has enacted state implementation plans to address poor air quality and reduce emissions from permitted facilities. We’ve improved water quality by issuing and enforcing permits to control the quality and amount of wastewater that enters our waters. And we’ve benefited from advancements in science and technology that have paved the way for federal standards to be strengthened through time. As an example, lab equipment that once measured contaminants in parts per thousand now measures them in parts per billion.

The last 40 years also reflect a long history of working with external partners to achieve these many successes. The department communicates with these partners through commission meetings, forums, public meetings and other avenues. These relationships are critical in our efforts to protect, preserve and enhance Missouri’s resources.

We hope you will join with us in celebrating the many successes accomplished during the last 40 years to improve Missouri’s natural resources and public health. And though the impact of pollution may not be as visibly evident 40 years later, we know there is still work to do. The department’s monitoring efforts document this fact. Our next set of environmental challenges will include some obstacles that we will have to overcome together – with due diligence, sound science and collaborative approaches. With your help, we will continue to work to provide all Missourians a healthy environment in which to live, work and recreate.

For More Information

Learn more about the Missouri Department of Natural Resources by visiting the various divisions and programs included below.