“Ding” Darling, conservation pioneer, featured in play Oct. 27 at Runge Nature Center Sassmanns, Legends of Conservation hosting free, educational event

Thanks to the efforts of Jan and Bruce Sassmann and the Legends of Conservation, many in the area now know the significant contributions that Theodore Roosevelt, John Muir and Henry David Thoreau made to America’s conservation movement.

On Saturday, Oct. 27, the Legends of Conservation, a Missouri nonprofit, will recognize the work of another early contributor to conservation as it hosts a one-man play describing the remarkable career of Jay Norwood “Ding” Darling. The one-hour performance, offered free of charge, will take the stage at 2 p.m. on Oct. 27, 2018, at the Runge Nature Center, 330 Commerce Drive in Jefferson City. Auditorium seating is limited and on a first-come basis.

Entitled “Legends of Conservation Series: The Art of Conservation, A Visit with Ding Darling,” this one-man play was written and produced by Tom Milligan, describing Ding Darling’s remarkable career. In 2016, Humanities Iowa partnered with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources to appoint Tom Milligan to write and produce a show about Pulitzer Prize winner and conservationist, Jay N. Ding Darling, who hailed from Iowa. Milligan has been working as a theatrical professional for the past 45 years, as an actor, director, scene designer, producer and writer. This event will bring Ding Darling, portrayed by Tom Milligan and set in his 11th floor office at the Des Moines Register where he worked from 1906-1943, back to life and back to Missouri.

“A friend of Missouri, Jay Norwood “Ding” Darling was one of the original designers of 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,” said Bruce Sassmann. “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,” Sassmann added.

It was in 1936 that 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, to discuss the plight of wildlife in America. At the meeting, Darling urged conservationist from around the country to unite into a block to influence lawmakers. “It is hard to start a fire with one stick of wood!” Darling said. From that meeting, a new organization—the General Wildlife Federation–was formed around the common goal of conservation to ensure that wildlife thrived across America. This would be accomplished by promoting conservation interests, promoting social diversity and demanding action by Congress. At the same time, conference attendees—farmers, hunters, anglers, gardeners and other outdoor enthusiasts—returned home to form affiliate organizations in their states.

Two years later, the General Wildlife Federation became the National Wildlife Federation. Today, the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) is the United States’ largest private, nonprofit conservation education and advocacy organization, with over six million members and supporters, and 51 state and territorial affiliated organizations (including Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands).

In addition to the one-hour play, an exhibit of Ding’s cartoons, artwork and photographs is on display at the Runge Nature Center for the month of October.

The Legends of Conservation, a Missouri not for profit organization, has entertained, enlightened and inspired audiences with exceptional events including “America’s s Holy Trinity of Conservation” and “The Tramp and the Roughrider”. “The Art of Conservation, A Visit With Ding Darling” will be another one-of-a-kind event. For those interested in the history of conservation in Missouri and across this great country, you don’t want to miss this free Legends of Conservation event, featuring Ding Darling. For more information, visit, www.legendsofconservation.com.

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