The federal government recently ended public comment for the long-range management plan for the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, home to the Current and Jacks Fork rivers and located just three hours southwest of St. Louis. The park's 134 miles of spring-fed river and 80,000 acres of wilderness is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts.
Todd C. Frankel reports on the two sides in the debate. "The problem is that some residents living near the rivers believe any new restrictions would hurt tourism and restrict the water access they’ve enjoyed for generations," reports Frankel. That side has the political support of U.S. Rep. Jason Smith, R-Salem, who opposes new restrictions in the federal park, which runs through his district.
On the other side: "environmental and conservation groups, plus some people who live farther away and use the rivers for recreation, believe tighter rules are needed to protect the waterways from degradation." In fact, "[three] years ago, the advocacy group American Rivers listed the Ozark waterways among the nation’s 10 most endangered rivers."
The National Park Service has already announced its preference for new restrictions on motorboats, horseback riders and ATVs. Rep. Smith has responded by introducing two bills in the House, including one that would transfer the park back to state control.