Lt. Governor Peter Kinder today (Tuesday) joined Rep. Kevin Elmer of Nixa and other representatives in calling for the state to play a greater role in managing the federal Ozark National Scenic Riverways in Missouri.
Their remarks followed a hearing by the House Committee on Wetlands Management Issue Development at the Capitol. Rep. Elmer is chairman of the committee. At a press conference following the hearing, Elmer and Kinder were joined by Reps. Robert Ross of Yukon and Lincoln Hough of Springfield, also members of the committee, and by House Speaker Tim Jones.
The committee listened to testimony on a U.S. Park Service proposal for managing the federal park, which encompasses 80,000 acres of wilderness along the Current and Jacks Fork rivers in Missouri. Several residents from the region testified in opposition to the Park Service plan.
Kinder urged state lawmakers to strongly consider taking necessary steps to assume management of the Ozark Scenic Riverways.
“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,” Kinder said. “Under the supposed benevolent care of the federal government, this area now is considered threatened. The solution should not be to give the federal government more authority and power over management of this valuable state resource. Doing so not only restricts Missourians and visitors from enjoying the rivers, 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, D.C.,” he added.
Kinder said Missouri consistently is ranked among the top four state parks systems in the nation, and could better manage the area in Missouri’s best interests.
“The creation and management of parks is clearly a responsibility that Missouri handles well,” he said. “There is no reason to believe it would be any different with a state-managed Ozark Scenic Riverways.”
Kinder criticized Governor Jay Nixon for endorsing the federal government’s recommended management plan in a letter to the U.S. Department of the Interior.
“I deplore the Governor’s letter,” he said. “It cannot possibly be the fruit of listening to the people of Missouri.”
Rep. Elmer said it’s another example of Governor Nixon’s siding with President Barack Obama’s administration and federal bureaucrats over the needs and wishes of Missourians.
“Missourians are facing an all-out assault by our federal government to prevent us from enjoying our riverways,” he said. “As representatives of Missourians, it’s our duty to stand against the federal government interfering with Missourians’ enjoyment and use of our land and waters.”
Elmer said the committee he chairs will research the steps needed to take back control over the Ozark National Scenic Riverways.