Op Ed By Lt Gov Peter Kinder On Scenic Riverway
By Lt. Governor Peter Kinder
A battle is under way over the future of one of Missouri’s most beautiful natural treasures – the Ozark National Scenic Riverways.
Anyone who has spent time along the 134 miles of the Jacks Fork and Current rivers in southern Missouri knows the incredible beauty of this resource. But a plan by the federal government to restrict access to the area has drawn considerable opposition from those most affected, the people who live, work and play along the rivers.
Much of the debate is being waged in dichotomous terms: Is the Riverways to be a no-holds-barred recreation area, where this natural resource is degraded through unregulated overuse, or will an all-knowing and all-caring federal government manage the area in such a way that maintains its splendor for everyone?
But this debate begs another question: Who better can manage Missouri’s waterways, federal or state government?
Missouri has a robust state park system, which has been ranked as one of the top four state park systems in the nation. In its 87 state parks and historic sites, Missouri has more than 200,000 acres available to the public. The state does an outstanding job preserving forests, prairies, springs, streams and lakes.
The recent federal shutdown, which closed national parks across the country, illustrates just one of the problems of giving bureaucrats in Washington, D.C., the power to deny access to natural resources of a state to the citizens of that state.
Last summer, I helped lead efforts in Missouri to stop another overreach by the U.S. Department of the Interior to designate vast areas of land and water in southern Missouri’s White River watershed as a federal “Blueway.” Thankfully, our efforts were successful. The same concerns I and other opponents of that federal land and water grab had about the Blueway designation apply here.
The National Riverways were created in the 1960s for the purpose of protecting and preserving the natural beauty and resources along the Current and Jacks Fork rivers. Over the years, though, rowdy behavior along the rivers, illegal camping and unauthorized trails have threatened the pristine area. The federal government’s solution, at the urging of environmentalists, is to restrict access to the water and the abutting lands.
Under the supposed benevolent care of the federal government, Ozark National Riverways is threatened. The solution should not be to give that same federal government more authority and power over the area’s management. Doing so not only will restrict Missourians and visitors from enjoying time on the Jacks Fork and Current, but will hurt many small businesses in southern Missouri that depend on tourism and recreation dollars. The last thing this region needs is more overbearing management by bureaucrats in Washington.
The creation and management of parks is clearly a responsibility that Missouri handles well. There is no reason to believe it would be any different with a state-managed Ozark Scenic Riverways. It’s time for Missouri to begin efforts to reclaim this resource from the federal government.