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I never met Ed Stegner, but I have felt his influence hundreds of times. As the longtime executive director of the Conservation Federation of Missouri, he led the effort to create the 1/8 cent sales tax that has been the bedrock of conservation efforts in the state. The independent source of funding for conservation efforts in Missouri has made that branch of government semi-immune to the winds of politics, and has created a pool of resources allowing the Conservation Department to buy land strategically, to create trails and wild areas, and generally to promote the beauty of the Missouri outdoors in a state that otherwise would likely have lost a lot of beautiful places to development.

I lived a year in Kentucky, a state with comparable natural beauty but with no such independent conservation operation, and I can say with confidence that the preservation of natural beauty in Kentucky is generations behind that of Missouri.

Ed Stegner died last month at age 88. Thousands of Missourians who will never know his name feel his influence every day. What better legacy can a person leave?