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Jason Sumners named director of Missouri Department of Conservation – Newstalk KZRG

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The Missouri Conservation Commission has selected Jason Sumners as the next director of the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC), effective June 1, 2024.

Sumners currently serves as deputy director of resource management for MDC and will succeed Sara Parker Pauley, who is retiring this spring after 30 years of public service, as director.

“The Commission conducted a national search for the director position because we knew we would have hard shoes to fill if Sara left,” said Steven Harrison, chairman of the Missouri Conservation Commission. “Jason’s background, experience and national connections in conservation are uniquely prepared for this director role. We look forward to a smooth transition with Jason at the helm and have high expectations for him as the next director.”

“I am excited and humbled by this opportunity that the Commission has entrusted to me, and by the conservation team I have the opportunity to work with across the state and across the country,” Sumners said. “The outdoors in Missouri have defined my personal and professional life, so it is an exciting endeavor to serve in this capacity and continue to tackle the ever-evolving challenges of conservation.”

MDC protects and manages the state’s fish, forest and wildlife resources, and provides citizens with the opportunity to use, enjoy and learn about these resources. Sumners becomes the tenth director in the Conservation Department’s 87-year history.

“We congratulate Jason on his appointment as the new MDC Director and thank the Conservation Commission for its thoughtful and thorough search to replace Director Pauley,” said Governor Mike Parson. “While we will miss Sara’s leadership, we look forward to Jason using his unique qualifications to build on Missouri’s rich history of fish, forest and wildlife conservation. MDC is one of the best departments in the country, and we thank Jason for his commitment to continuing that legacy as a member of our Cabinet.”

“Jason brings a wealth of leadership experience in conservation at both the state and national levels, as well as a diverse background in wildlife management,” said Pauley. “I am confident he will continue the exceptional leadership he has demonstrated during his career at MDC when he becomes your next director, including working with partners and the public to carry out the conservation mission.”

As deputy director of resource management, Sumners had responsibility and oversight of the agency’s resource management efforts, including statewide resource management, regional resource management and conservation. He also led the regulations committee. Prior to his role as Deputy Director, Sumners was Head of the Science Branch, leading a team of more than 80 scientists specializing in fish, forest and wildlife research and management. He began his career with MDC in 2008 as a deer biologist on private lands and later became head of the state’s deer management program.

During Sumners’ tenure at MDC, he has been instrumental in developing the agency’s strategic and operational direction, served as chief of the Wildlife Division, led the state’s white-tailed deer management program, participated in efforts to the reintroduction of elk in Missouri, he developed a privately owned deer management program, and led the Department’s efforts to develop and implement a management and surveillance strategy for chronic wasting disease (CWD). Jason also worked nationally on the Relevancy Roadmap for state fish and wildlife agencies to improve conservation efforts through broader engagement.

Jason earned a Bachelor of Science in Fisheries and Wildlife from the University of Missouri and a Master of Science in Biology from Mississippi State University. He is a fellow of the National Conservation Leadership Institute, a professional member of the Boone and Crockett Club, active in many non-governmental organizations, represents MDC on numerous regional and national committees, and is recognized by the Conservation Federation of Missouri and the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies for its leadership in science-based approaches to conservation. He has published popular and scientific articles on wildlife, natural resource management and the relevance of conservation.

Sumners grew up in the small town of Lincoln, Missouri, where his love for the outdoors began. His interests include hunting, fishing and camping. He and his family live in Hartsburg, Missouri.