Elk NetworkMissouri Honors RMEF Member with Master Conservationist Award

General | July 18, 2023

Below is a news release from the Missouri Department of Conservation.

The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) and the Missouri Conservation Commission recently honored retired MDC Resource Scientist Lonnie Hansen of Columbia, also a member of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, with their Master Conservationist Award. Hansen received the award with his wife, Kathy, on July 14 during a special presentation following the Commission’s open meeting in Columbia. He was nominated by former MDC colleague Eric Kurzejeski of Columbia.

Hansen is the 67th person to receive the award. The MDC Master Conservationist Award honors living or deceased citizen conservationists, former MDC commissioners, and employees of MDC and other conservation related agencies, universities, or organizations who have made substantial and lasting contributions to the fisheries, forestry, or wildlife resources of the state, including conservation law enforcement and conservation education-related activities. Learn more at mdc.mo.gov/about-us/awards-honors/master-conservationist.

Hansen began his career with MDC in 1987 as a wildlife biologist and retired as a resource scientist more than 30 years later in January 2015.

During his time with MDC, Hansen focused primarily on deer management. Early in his career, he designed and implemented a series of large-scale deer research projects designed to collect reproductive and survival data. This information allowed MDC to set more meaningful harvest quotas and better manage the state’s deer population.

He also focused on balancing the needs of hunters, landowners, and the general public with the need of a healthy, plentiful, and sustainable deer population statewide. He led MDC’s efforts to better engage and measure public opinion on deer management and related regulations. He also led the design and implementation of MDC’s electronic system to sell permits and collect harvest data and hunter demographic data, called Telecheck.

“Lonnie led numerous efforts to listen to deer hunters and provide them with added hunting opportunities and simplified regulations,” said MDC Director Sara Parker Pauley. “Muzzleloader season, youth season, antlerless seasons, longer archery seasons, and increased permit availability were all adopted thanks to his efforts.”

Hansen also led efforts to help landowners whose crops suffered deer damage with a simplified process to obtain special permits and reduce their specific problems.

“Lonnie championed all these changes, not only engaging public input but tirelessly working among MDC staff to develop consensus,” Pauley added.

Hansen also guided MDC when chronic wasting disease (CWD) became a national concern in the early 1990s. CWD is a fatal disease that infects deer and members of the deer family called cervids.

“He ensured that MDC and the public had factual and relevant information in the early days of CWD to make sound, science-based decisions about the disease and its potential impacts to Missouri’s deer population,” said Pauley.

Hansen also initially proposed, designed, and fostered a program to reintroduce once-native elk into the Ozark region of Missouri. The result of his efforts is a growing herd of free-ranging elk in select areas the Missouri Ozarks in and around Peck Ranch Conservation Area and Current River Conservation Area. The elk restoration effort has resulted in countless elk-viewing opportunities by the public and an annual elk hunting season.

“Lonnie’s mastery of biology, population management, public involvement, communications, and a sincere willingness to listen and adapt were all essential in making the MDC elk restoration program a reality,” Pauley said.

During his career with MDC, Hansen received numerous awards, including the Conservation Federation of Missouri (CFM) Professional Conservationist of the Year Award in 1996, the MDC Special Achievement Award in 2004, the CFM Wildlife Conservationist of the Year Award in 2004, the MDC Award of Excellence in 2008, and the MDC Resource Science Division Employee of the Year award in 2009.

(Photo credit: Missouri Department of Conservation)