Conservation Pioneer Ding Darling Program at Runge Nature Center

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This character sketch is of Pulitzer Prizing winning cartoonist and conservation luminary, “Ding” Darling. Learn about his life on Oct. 27 at Runge Nature Center.

This character sketch is of Pulitzer Prizing winning cartoonist and conservation luminary, “Ding” Darling. Learn about his life on Oct. 27 at Runge Nature Center.

Theodore Roosevelt, John Muir and Henry David Thoreau are well-known giants of the early American conservation movement. They were responsible for enormous advancements in citizen concern for conservation nationwide and led movements that resulted in protections and programs we all enjoy to this day. But they weren’t alone in their efforts.

Another early giant of conservation, one you may not be as familiar with, is Jay Norwood “Ding” Darling. Ding was a Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist from Iowa who went on to leave a lasting legacy of conservation achievement. He is the founder of the National Wildlife Federation and created the first Duck Stamp, sales of which have been used to protect nearly 6-million acres of critical wetland habitat over the last 85 years.

Now, thanks to dedicated Missouri conservationists, Bruce and Jan Sassmann, you have the opportunity to become much more acquainted with Ding at an upcoming program they are hosting through their conservation education initiative, Legends of Conservation. On Saturday, October 27, 2018, the Sassmanns are hosting, “The Art of Conservation, A Visit with Ding Darling,” at the Runge Nature Center in Jefferson City. The one man play, written and produced by Tom Milligan, chronicles Ding’s remarkable career. The program begins at 2 p.m. and is free to the public.

“A friend of Missouri, Jay Norwood “Ding” Darling was one of the original designers of the Missouri’s Amendment 4, creating for us our non-political conservation agency.  Ding also crafted the Wildlife Restoration Act, the most significant piece of conservation legislation in American history. He founded the National Wildlife Federation, led the U.S. Biological Survey, reformed the National Wildlife Refuge system, created the Federal duck stamp program, and won two Pulitzer prizes as an editorial cartoonist.  Ding is considered by many to be one of the most influential members of the modern conservation movement in the first half of the 20th century. His story needs to be told, and we are happy to do that through Legends of Conservation,” said Bruce Sassmann.

In 1936, Ding convinced President Franklin Roosevelt to convene more than 2,000 hunters, anglers and conservationists from across the country to the first North American Wildlife Conference in Washington, DC. Darling’s vision of a federation promoting conservation interests, encouraging social diversity, and demanding action from Congress lives on today. NWF is America’s largest conservation organization, with 6 million supporters, and 50 state and territorial affiliate organizations.

Legends of Conservation has entertained, enlightened, and inspired audiences with exceptional events featuring Theodore Roosevelt, John Muir and Henry David Thoreau. “America’s Holy Trinity of Conservation” and “The Tramp and the Roughrider” were outstanding events. “The Art of Conservation, A Visit with Ding Darling” will be another one of a kind experience. Also, the Runge Nature Center is currently hosting a collection of Ding’s art work. Seeing these sketches is a bonus of attending the play.

“Since 1936, when Ding Darling’s vision of a conservation army began to form with the founding of the National Wildlife Federation, this organization has been made up hunters and anglers, birders and gardeners, farmers and foresters, all of whom shared a passion for wildlife and conservation,” Collin O’Mara, CEO of NWF said. “Now more than ever, we need to speak out for fish and wildlife, clean air and water and wild places. We are making it very perfectly clear to our political leaders and candidates that, if they want our support, we expect them to support America’s public lands, to be responsible stewards, and to maintain the great conservation legacy built by their predecessors.”

If you are interested in the history of conservation in Missouri, and across this great country, you don’t want to miss this free Legends of Conservation profile of Ding Darling. For more information, visit,

See you down the trail…
Brandon Butler


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