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WHAT OTHERS SAY: Give Ozark waterways best chance for a healthy future

Tuesday, January 14, 2014 | 12:17 p.m. CST; updated 10:17 a.m. CST, Wednesday, January 15, 2014

People in the Ozarks love their natural surroundings — and they hate government interference.

In the case of our Ozark National Scenic Riverways, that has created a conflict of interests.

The National Park Service is proposing a new General Management Plan for the Jacks Fork and Current rivers in Missouri. The goal of the plan, according to park service folks, is to ensure the scenic natural environment stays that way and to make the rivers safer and more inviting to visitors.

Plenty of folks in the Ozarks simply don't believe the federal government can be trusted to do that.

Some of those folks include people who have canoe rental businesses along the rivers. They have genuine business interests they fear could be damaged by government overreach.

Others are folks who use the rivers, especially those who use motorboats, which would be restricted in the new plan. Motorboats are deemed to be too noisy and generally unsafe when using the same stretch of river as canoes, kayaks and inner tubes.

On the other hand, there are plenty of folks who are more interested in protecting the environment than protecting a fisherman's right to gig at night on the rivers. They say the government isn't going far enough in its restrictions.

Missouri's Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder has another idea. He would like to turn over the job of protecting the rivers to the state.

All of these points of view are valid. All represent legitimate concerns expressed by people who not only have personal and business interests at stake but also care deeply about our state and our natural resources.

The park service has invited those people to express their concerns, but has requested that they include alternatives and reasoning for an opinion.

Fair enough.

It is important that this not devolve into an anti-government rally based on unsubstantiated fears of "Big Brother."

All Missourians have a vested interest in the future of our rivers and park lands. If we expect to have a say in that future, we should also be expected to have well-reasoned arguments for our positions. We should also expect to have ideas for how those positions could be implemented.

We encourage everyone who is passionate about these rivers and their uses to bring that passion to the table — and set aside any anti-government paranoia.

We also encourage the government to be transparent about its intentions and to be genuinely open to local input.

If Kinder is right that Missouri can do a better job than the feds, we should prove it by stepping up as citizens to seriously consider the future of our beautiful Ozarks.

Copyright Springfield News-Leader. Distributed by the Associated Press.


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