Enhancing Missouri's Natural Resources – It's in Our Nature

Department of Natural Resources fact sheet
Department of Natural Resources Director: Carol S. Comer

Missouri is abounding with natural resource diversity and abundance like no other state in the nation. The Show-Me state’s varied landscapes extend from the rolling farmlands in the north to the Ozark hills in the south to the Mississippi River bottoms in the east to the open prairies in the west.  Our water resources are equally as diverse from the crystal clear spring-fed streams to the man-made recreational lakes to the major navigational waters of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers. 

The quality of life and health for each Missourian can be closely tied to the health of our state’s natural resources.  Our air, land and water resources are essential not only to Missouri’s environment and our health; they also contribute to the economic vitality of our state and help ensure future prosperity, which further improves our quality of life. For these reasons and more, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources has dedicated its mission sine 1974 toward enhancing Missouri’s natural resources – you could say – it’s in our nature!

Passage of several significant federal environment laws including the National Environmental Policy Act, the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act helped build a foundation for a healthier America. Growing concern for protection of Missouri’s natural and cultural resources led the Missouri Legislature to create the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. The department was created on July 1 under the Omnibus State Reorganization Act of 1974 bringing together nearly 15 existing agencies with complementary missions.

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources protects, preserves and enhances Missouri’s natural and cultural resources. The department helps develop mineral resources in an environmentally safe manner, protects Missouri’s land, air and water resources and works to preserve the state's cultural and natural heritage through state parks and state historic sites and the state historic preservation office. The department has experienced many challenges and transformations since it was first created in 1974. The department will continue to work to provide an enhanced quality of life for its citizens and take the most sustainable path forward to protect, preserve and enhance Missouri’s natural and cultural resources. These resources are also critically important to the economic wellbeing of the state, and protecting these resources helps ensure future prosperity.

Our Air Resources photoOur Air Resources

Missouri’s air sustains us in everything we do. Whether working in a garden, waiting for a bus or hitting home runs, clean air is essential to our health and very existence. Protecting and enhancing air quality is a challenging responsibility that requires participation from state and local governments, regulated entities and the general public. Missouri’s air quality has steadily improved; however, tightening air quality standards are requiring additional controls to protect our air resources. The department strives to maintain and improve the quality of Missouri's air to protect public health, general welfare and the environment.


Our Geologic Resources photo

Our Geologic Resources

Since 1853, the department’s Missouri Geological Survey has provided reliable scientific information to describe and understand Missouri’s wealth of natural resources. The division provides information about the characteristics of the state’s geology that is essential for informed decision making, environmental protection and economic development that enhance and protect our quality of life.


Our Land and Soil Resources photoOur Land and Soil Resources

Our land sustains us by producing the fruits, vegetables and grains necessary to nourish our bodies and the timber that provides us shelter. The crops our land produces also are an important source of income for many in Missouri’s rural communities. Minerals and rocks contribute to the economy of the state in a variety of ways. Some of these raw materials are key components in construction of roads, bridges, buildings, homes and numerous other products. Mining is one of the largest economic incomes for the state. Limestone products are used in agricultural applications, pharmaceutical products, paper manufacturing, paint, glass making, cement and pollution control technologies. Damaging our land by soil loss, polluting our soil or improperly disposing of solid waste and hazardous waste can have far-reaching consequences. From the forested Ozarks and rolling hills to the plains and prairies full of life, our land is an asset the Department of Natural Resources is committed to protecting and enhancing.

Our Special Places photo

Our Unique Places

The Missouri state parks and historic sites offer visitors some of the greatest and most unique opportunities to get outdoors and into nature to appreciate the beauty that our state has to offer. The Missouri state park system has a proud tradition of preserving and interpreting the state’s most outstanding natural landscapes and cultural landmarks while providing a variety of recreational opportunities.

The Missouri State Park system includes 87 outstanding state parks and historic sites that provide the public more than 140,000 acres to discover, explore, learn and enjoy plus access to an additional 60,000 acres in the Roger Pryor Pioneer Backcountry. More than 60 percent of the acreage in the state park system has been donated to the state and Missourians can certainly take pride in this remarkable record, including the most recent donation of Don Robinson State Park. Missouri’s state park system offers something to suit everyone's taste – outdoor adventure, great scenery and a bit of history and continues to be recognized by the National Parks & Recreation Association as one of the Top Four state park systems in the country.

Parks, Soils and Water Sales Tax Parks photoParks, Soils and Water Sales Tax soils photoParks, Soils and Water Sales Tax

To support the state’s park system and to help protect soil and water resources, Missouri voters passed the one-tenth-of-one-percent, parks-and-soils sales tax in 1984. The tax was created through a constitutional amendment with proceeds split evenly between the state park system and efforts to protect soil and water resources. Two-thirds of voters overwhelmingly reapproved the tax in 1988, 1996 and 2006. The tax is earmarked for the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and provides funding to support the Soil and Water Conservation Program and 114 districts as well as about three-fourths of the Division of State Parks’ funding for the operation and development of state parks. Revenues generated in the state park system are the other main revenue source.

State Historic Preservation photoState Historic Preservation

Our state has a rich heritage. Historic preservation is crucial to ensure that examples of our past are available for generations to come. The department helps identify, evaluate and protect Missouri’s cultural resources. An increasing number of Missouri’s buildings, structures, objects, sites and districts have been recognized by being formally listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the nation’s honor roll of historically significant resources. Missouri has more than 2,000 listings in the register with more than 35,000 individual resources. Appreciation of the value of historic resources is one way of fostering their preservation. The department’s efforts help enhance Missouri's significant cultural landmarks for all to appreciate.

our water resources photoOur Water Resources

Missouri waters are as diverse as the varied landscapes they flow through. Missouri is blessed with natural diversity like no other state in the nation. Missouri’s flowing waterways and lakes are important to our quality of life in Missouri and play an essential role in the state’s overall health and economic well-being. Our lakes, rivers and streams provide us with quality drinking water, abundant fish stocks, irrigation, recreation and other vital services.

We have made significant improvements to our state’s water quality. We protect Missouri’s water resources by permitting and inspecting potential sources of pollution, at facilities throughout the state. Groundwater levels are monitored and well installers are regulated to assure abundant, high-quality groundwater for Missouri. Dams are inspected to ensure they are constructed properly and that people and property are protected. In addition to flood protection, the department helps Missourians plan for and respond to droughts and protect and restore wetlands. Maintaining a clean supply of drinking water also is critical for Missouri’s health and its future.

The Department of Natural Resources looks forward to serving the citizens of Missouri as we continue to take care of our state’s natural resources and provide all Missourians a healthy environment in which to live, work and enjoy the great outdoors. Enhancing Missouri's natural resources – it's in our nature!

For More Information

An important element in the successful completion of the Department of Natural Resources’ mission is helping Missourians and visitors who seek our services. The department provides a number of educational and technical services designed to help individuals, groups and businesses better understand our natural resources and the rules that exist to protect them. It also maintains a vast amount of information available to the public in the form of fact sheets, guidance documents, geologic maps, technical books and publications on a wide variety of issues.