Elk NetworkRMEF Member Named Missouri Department of Conservation Director

General | April 26, 2024

Below is a news release from the Missouri Department of Conservation. Jason Sumners joined the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation in 2015.

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 the deputy director of resource management for MDC and will succeed Sara Parker Pauley, who will retire this spring after 30 years of public service, as director.

“The Commission did a national search for the director position because we knew we had tough shoes to fill with Sara leaving,” said Missouri Conservation Commission Chair Steven Harrison. “Jason is uniquely poised for this director role with his background, experience, and national connections in conservation. We are looking forward to a smooth transition with Jason at the helm with high expectations with him as the next director.”

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

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

“We congratulate Jason on being named 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’ll miss Sara’s leadership, we look forward to Jason using his unique qualifications to build upon Missouri’s rich history of fish, forest, and wildlife preservation. MDC is one of the best departments in the nation, 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, both at the state and national level, as well as a diverse background in wildlife management,” said Pauley. “I’m confident he will continue that exceptional leadership he has exemplified during his career at MDC as he becomes your next director, including working collaboratively with partners and the public to carry out the conservation mission.”

As deputy director of resource management, Sumners had responsibility and oversight for the resource management efforts of the agency, including statewide resource management, regional resource management, and protection. He also led the regulations committee. Prior to his deputy director role, Sumners served as science branch chief, leading a team of more than 80 scientists that specialize in fish, forest, and wildlife research and management. He began his career at MDC in 2008 as a private lands deer biologist and later became the 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, took part in Missouri’s elk reintroduction efforts, developed a private lands deer management program, and led the Department’s effort to develop and implement a chronic wasting disease (CWD) management and surveillance strategy. Jason also worked at the national level on the Relevancy Roadmap for state fish and wildlife agencies to enhance conservation efforts through broader engagement.

Jason received 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 National Conservation Leadership Institute fellow, professional member of the Boone and Crockett Club, active with many non-government organization partners, represents MDC on numerous regional and national committees, and has been recognized by the Conservation Federation of Missouri and the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies for his leadership in science-based approaches to wildlife conservation. He has published popular and scientific articles on wildlife, natural resources management, and conservation relevancy.

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

(Photo credit: Missouri Department of Conservation)