Hoskins to retire as Missouri conservation director

JEFFERSON CITY | The director of the Missouri Department of Conservation is retiring after a three-decade career in the agency and seven years as its chief.

John Hoskins, 55, of Jefferson City, said Monday that he plans to step down as director on Jan. 15. The Conservation Department regulates and licenses hunting and fishing, manages forests and nature centers and promotes habitat conservation efforts on public and private lands.

Hoskins said he plans to retire with his wife to their farm in rural Carter County in southern Missouri to “enjoy the simple life and get close to the land and family.”

Hoskins joined the department as a conservation agent in 1977, and has served as director since July 2002.

During his tenure, the department opened new nature centers in Cape Girardeau and Winona and a regional office in Kirksville. It also expanded youth hunting programs, habitat conservation efforts with private landowners and activities to preserve threatened species such as the prairie chicken, Hoskins said.

The conservation agency also experimented for two years with a hand-fishing season for catfish on certain rivers, but canceled it after scientists said it was harming the species’ reproduction.

Hoskins said he is pleased that during his tenure the number of Missouri hunters and fishers has remained fairly stable despite declining numbers nationally.

Department spokesman Jim Low said the four-member Conservation Commission, which oversees the agency, will begin searching in September for a replacement and hopes to select someone by the time Hoskins leaves.

Hoskins is the seventh director for the department, which was created in 1937.

“Conservation in Missouri has been my life, and I really want to see it prosper and move forward,” Hoskins said.

Gov. Jay Nixon issued a statement saying Hoskins has served honorably and “has been a true guardian and steward of the land, water and wildlife of the Show-Me State.”