Bid In Congress To Have Ozark National Scenic Riverways Given To State Of Missouri

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Will Congress go along with a plan to give the Ozark National Scenic Riverways to the state of Missouri?/Marty Koch

Is Congress in the mood to return units of the National Park System back to the states in which they are located? An indication could come Tuesday, when a U.S. House of Representatives Committee considers legislation that calls for Ozark National Scenic Riverways to be given to the state of Missouri.

The legislation is the darling of Rep. Jason Smith, a Republican who doesn't want the National Park Service to implement a management plan that would bring an end to some 65 miles of illegal horse trails in the park and place limits on the horsepower of motorboats that use the Current and Jacks Fork rivers that flow through the Riverways.

In his legislation, H.R. 4020, which was introduced to Congress back in February and is scheduled to come up for discussion Tuesday before the House Subcommittee on Public Land and Environmental Regulation, Mr. Smith argues that the proposed management plan would "prevent members of the public from accessing the lands that compose the park." To accomplish the transfer, the Republican wants the federal government to pay all costs associated with it.

Mr. Smith also provides an avenue for the federal government to reacquire the Riverways: if the state of Missouri ever attempted to sell portions of it, or if the state managed the Riverway in a way other than how its been managed under the Park Service.

Perhaps to cover his bets in case the committee fails to report the bill out to the House floor, Rep. Smith has another measure for the committee's consideration. H.R. 4182, if passed, would essentially prohibit the Park Service from implementing the General Management Plan now under consideration.

Proponents say the structure of the preferred alternative in the draft General Management Plan is long overdue and necessary to prevent further degradation of the 134 miles of the Jacks Fork and Current rivers that course through the rumpled, cave-studded, spring-gushing countryside of southern Missouri's Ozark Mountains.

Opponents, including Rep. Smith, counter that the approach would convert "the vast majority of the park to a natural area where evidence of human use is minimal." From his perspective, the Republican maintains the park's preferred alternative would be devastating to area economies and continue what he sees as efforts by the Park Service to limit access to the forests and rivers within the National Riverways.

The preferred alternative does state the Park Service's intention to gain control over motorized watercraft on the rivers, in part by increasing the percentage of river corridor open only to non-motorized watercraft (ie., canoes or kayaks). And the proposal aims to better manage camping on gravel bars by restricting to designated campsites where visitors could drive their vehicles.

The preferred alternative also would create "river management zoning," under which efforts to better manage motorized and non-motorized river use would be instituted. Under the plan, 34 percent of the Current and Jacks Fork rivers would be restricted to non-motorized craft, 14 percent would be open to motorized and non-motorized during the high season that falls between March 15 and Labor Day, and 52 percent would be open to both motorized and non-motorized traffic year-round.

Comments

Why is it that, in the eyes of a republican, everything is about soemone making a profit. They constantly complain about the national debt and what it's going to do to our grandkids but seem to care less if the planet is not fit for our grandkids to live on. We've all seen what has happened to the rivers in North Carolina, is there any reason to belive Missouri would do a better job managing theirs?

What does this proposal have to do with making a profit? I don't see any reference to such in the bill or in Kurt's discussion.

We've all seen what has happened to the rivers in North Carolina

I haven't - other than enjoying some of them. Perhaps your could elaborate.

At a glance, the management plans make sense and this bill appears to be a tantum attempt to influence something he has no contol ove.

"To accomplish the transfer, the Republican wants the federal government to pay all costs associated with it."

What, more federal spending proposed by a Republican? It would be interesting to have all the details about what "all costs associated with the transfer" really means under Rep. Smith's plan. Could end up having an aroma of frying pork before all was said and done.

What, more federal spending proposed by a Republican?

No, less. The government pays one time cost for "conveyence" and gives up the costs of operation in perpetuity.

"The Federal Government shall pay all of the costs of the conveyance under this section."

That's the details.

The NPS has grown too big and budgets are spread too thin. If we can eliminate a unit from the NPS and know that said unit will still be used for recreation (even if it is motorized, equestrain, or other forms recreation that wilderness purists do not like), lets do the transfer. I have no problem having the federal government paying to facilitate the transfer. One time cost versus an ongoing cost, as EC pointed out. NPS money not spent at this site in the future means more dollars to spend at other parks.

"Mr. Smith also provides an avenue for the federal government to reacquire the Riverways: if the state of Missouri ever attempted to sell portions of it, or if the state managed the Riverway in a way other than how its been managed under the Park Service."

This provision gives me some level of reassurance. I would support a transfer to state control.

This issue is in no way related to some western states desire to have federal land turned over to state control. In that case, future sale and devlopment is implied. In the case brought up in this article, the site will still be managed for recreation and not developed.

Generally I concur with "Rambler." But this is an interesting test of wills between those politicos who favor home rule and the vision of a "system of parks." It's true that NPS has more than it can handle, but where do we go from here? Shore up the system to do more across the nation, maintain the status quo or cut parks loose to local interests or user preferences? It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Re: my comment on the details about "The Federal Government shall pay all of the costs of the conveyance under this section." -

Contrary to ec's opinion, that very broad statement doesn't provide any "details" at all.

Nothing about "all the costs of conveyance" says it is a one-time cost. One might assume that, but never make an assumption about politicians, especially when the authority to spend money is involved!

My skepticism stems from another phrase congress likes to throw into some bills dealing with parks: "...and other purposes." That one is a favorite of politicians to stretch the original intention of a bill.

It's quite possible Rep. Smith has plenty of other "costs" in mind beyond merely changing a few signs. We don't know, and that's the issue. Never give a politican a power to spend money without some clearly defined limits.

that very broad statement doesn't provide any "details" at all.

My point was that was all the details there are. There is no hidden "frying pork" and no strawman "other purposes".

ec, if you believe politicians never have any hidden agendas or "strawmen," you're a lot more trusting than I am :-)

With tongue only slightly in cheek, I'd suggest this bill should be renamed the "Real Estate Lawyers and Land Surveyors Stimulus Act."

Among the bill's provisions:

‘‘SEC. 9. Not later than one year after the date of the enactment of this section, the Secretary shall convey to the State of Missouri, for no consideration, all right, title, and interest of the United States in and to all Federal land, facilities, and any other assets associated with the Ozark National Scenic Riverways... "

How many individual transactions were involved in acquiring the land now included in the Riverways? Probably hundreds. Would the transfer of "all right, title and interest" of that property to a new owner require new entries in courthouse records for all of those individual parcels of land? Perhaps a legal description of or reference to each of those individual parcels by deed book and page number would suffice—which, of course, requires someone to verify that information for each individual parcel.

Were there any conditions attached to the NPS acquisition of their "interest" in any of this land? No one will know unless a qualified person researches every deed involved in creation of the Riverway. If some of the land was donated to the NPS, would that donation be valid if the NPS no longer "owns" the land? Would the donor dispute the transfer in court? Resolving those legal questions could take years, and could be one of many ongoing "costs of conveyance" of the property.

How about a boundary survey? Given the disputes about land use that have occurred in this park along the boundary, it would be imprudent for the state to accept all this land without a current survey and physical marking of the boundary...at federal expense, of course.

Accomplish all of the above in a year, as required by the bill? Good luck ...and you'd better be prepared to spend some serious money.

All of the above is secondary, of course, to the larger question of whether this transfer is a good idea, and previous debate on that topic in previous stories on this forum has confirmed that opinions will vary :-)

First I'd like to ask about the profit comment. Im still trying to figure out who is making the profit?? Then I want to ask wher in the nps plan does anyone consider this a help to the people? I think a few of u hav missed JS's intentions. Those of u that think the nps is helping I urge u to come and use our land and enjoy cause if the nps has there way it will b taken from u! To truly realize what is happening one needs to b truly informed! I've been here in this area that is up for discussion all my life, along with every gen of my family. Some wer born and raised on it. I hav fished and hunted on this land. I ask of u that don't understand, before u take this land from my family please get the facts. this land has been used as family enjoyment since the beginning. Along with the economic value that it brings to the towns around and jobs. We are NOT polluteing it!! We all want to keep enjoying it. So I ask how far will u allow the nps(govt) to dictate how we will use our land?!! I also ask if wer hurting the land then id like to see the facts. Don't take it from us, find ways to help us better it for our use. So our family's can keep using it for gens to come! Like gens before us did! Many like my family when used clean on this land everytime we use it. But I'm sure some of u don't kno that. How the locals clean whlie the ones trying to take from us r at the desk figureing new ways to do it. I say again, if u don't use our land then how can u make decisions on how we use it!! Let the state hav it. They surly can't do any worse than the nps!!!

ecbuck says: "What does this proposal have to do with making a profit?"

Profit is certainly a factor.

From a local (KOMU) article from back in April:

Bob Parker owns hundreds of acres in Shannon and Texas counties and leads the Ozark Property Rights Coalition. All of his land drains into the riverways. The riverways attract 1.3-1.5 million vistors each year and deliver a $65 million annual economic impact to the local economy. Parker said tourism is one of the few ways people can make it in his region. "We have a pretty tough economy here, we're pretty limited in what we have," Parker said. "Tourism is a part of that and agriculture is a huge part of that. But that'll continue to be restricted more and more I think as they continue to get more restrictions on the river." Parker said if NPS clamps down with a greater regulatory footprint it could make things harder on certain businesses.

Now, I'm not saying Mr. Parker's concerns are illegitimate. But if local business are pushing for the NPS to give up control of the river because they think governmental regulations are going to restrict their business, then obviously that's a profit motive. Whether that's good, bad, whether they're right, wrong, whatever. But it's certainly not accurate to suggest that profit concerns don't play a role in this discussion.

If the NPS restricts certain activities, certain businesses which profit off those activities will lose profits. That's obvious.

But it's certainly not accurate to suggest that profit concerns don't play a role in this discussion.

Mr Parker may indeed have that concern. But Mr Parker isn't Rep Jason Smith and neither the language of the bill nor the Rep give any indication that the proposal is to protect Mr Parker's (or anyone elses) profits. In fact, it explicit states its purpose is to maintain public access.

Jim, You can come up with all the "if" scenerios you want and perhaps some of them are legitimate. One scenerio that isn't an if is that the federal government would not have to pay the ongoing annual operating cost. $6.5 mill can buy alot of deed recording fees and surveys.

EC, Rep. Smith has in the past voiced his belief that tourism in the area would suffer under the Park Service's preferred management alternative. That's his profit motive.

How would the regional economy fare under the Park Service's proposal? That's no doubt hard to say. But if I had the option of paddling a river with e.coli loads, which the Jacks Fork River has had on occasion from heavy horse use, or one without, I know where I'd spend my tourism dollars.

http://www.nationalparkstraveler.com/2011/05/updated-unenviable-list-oza...

Smith has in the past voiced his belief that tourism in the area would suffer under the Park Service's preferred management alternative.

That may very well be. But that is not the reason cited for the legislation

I know where I'd spend my tourism dollars.

Then I guess the "profit" is the NPS plan not Smiths.

Yum. E-coli.

Terrible NPS, to try to stop me from gargling with it.

EC, if you've followed this story, Rep Smith has made it extremely clear that he believes the NPS plan would hamper tourism, and so his move to attempt to wrest the Riverways from the federal government.

Are you saying that he simply wants a "state" park, rather than a "national" park? In light of the valuable PR a "national" park tenders, such a move would be short-sighted if he's concerned about area businesses.

Are you saying that he simply wants a "state" park, rather than a "national" park?

No, I am saying what he is saying. He wants public access and feels the NPS plan would limit that. The purpose of the legistlation is stated in the legislation and protecting tourism or profits isn't stated anywhere. As you believe, losing the NP status would hurt tourism and profits not help it. So if that were his motive, why in the world would he be attempting to make the change?

Since when have any legislators anywhere been known to honestly disclose the real reasons behind their skulduggery?

Believing anything a lawmaker says is the height of naivete.

if that were his motive, why in the world would he be attempting to make the change?

Exactly. It makes no sense when you consider his previous statements about the NPS plan being bad for business. His suggestion likely would be worse.

His suggestion likely would be worse.

Perhaps - but that isn't why he is proposing the legislation.

Wanna bet?

Believing anything a lawmaker says is the height of naivete.

Really? Every lawmaker is decieptful everytime they speak?

Rep. Smith's latest online "Weekly Capitol Report" is titled, "Eighth District Tourism Alive and Well." In it, he notes, "With the summer season now upon us many families are enjoying the outdoors. We are blessed to have tremendous recreation opportunities in the Eighth Congressional District that are enjoyed by locals and visitors alike."

He continues, "In addition to historic sites, I visited our pristine state and national parks and small businesses that rely on the rivers... I spent time on the Current River near Round Spring to learn about the small businesses that provide goods and services to visitors. Along the way I heard from business owners and private citizens who are concerned about new management plans in the Ozark National Scenic Riverways and how these changes will impact their communities. I will continue fighting any efforts to limit access to our federal lands."

Unfortunately, this particular "national park" isn't nearly as "pristine" as it should, and the proposed management plan tries to address some long-standing problems. During his trip, Rep. Smith apparently didn't bother to find out if any of those tourists supporting those local businesses are concerned about problems the new mgmt. plans tries to correct.

Imperfect or not, based on experience across the country, there seems to be little doubt the NPS label draws at least some tourists who probably wouldn't bother to come if the "national" label were removed.If this proposal actually makes it into law, it will be interesting to see what the result will be on tourism, and "the small businesses that provide goods and services to visitors." If, as some predict, the number of "outsiders" drops off, that can't be good news for local business.

Based on my experience at a similar area (Buffalo National River), most the locals who are complaining the loudest about NPS management don't spend much money in area businesses, such as canoe and boat rentals, overnight lodging and restaurants

Wanna bet?

Well, until you can prove otherwise, I have no reason to doubt the language of the legislation.

The congressman's record on this issue speaks for itself. And, frankly, there's no evidence in the Park Service's preferred alternative that it aims to, or would, reduce visitation to the Riverways. And the congressman has presented no evidence that it would.

We can all conjecture about Rep. Smith's motives, but my personal theory about this bill is it's primarily vote pandering in an election year, in a time and area where it's popular to ride the "anti-federal" platform. The sad reality is voter turnout around the country is dismally low, and the local groups in Rep. Smith's district making the most noise about the proposed management plan in the past year are those who don't like proposed steps to deal with long-identified problems on the river. He anticipates those same voters will turn out to support him.

In other words, he's addressing the squeaky wheel in his local district; even if this bill fails, he can trumpet it come election time as his attempt to defeat the heavy-handed outsiders.

Is that approach wrong? It's a reality of politics. It's "wrong" only if you believe the end-result if his bill passed would ultimately be diminished protection for the resources in the current park.

Nothing better than a pile of horse crap in a spring fed river. Who doesn't like their trout blanched in crap?

"Really? Every lawmaker is decieptful everytime they speak?"

Well, okay. I should have been more clear. It's only conservative members of the GOP.

I'm still aghast at the rhetorical gymnastics that convert "taking steps to reduce e-coli in the water" to "reduce public access".

So, if a tree falls in the woods...

Is it a Conservative's fault?

Wow! Some people would debate the politics of a Pine Cone.

What's at the crux of the issue about NPS plans to "restrict access" to the river? One point involves the practice by some local residents of cutting their own network of roads and trails across park land, to allow direct access to (and into) the river from adjoining private property. Riding horses and ATV's anywhere they please, including in the river, is another bone of contention. The resulting resource damage problems seem to be well-documented.

The proposed NPS plan would limit such activity. Supporters of Rep. Smith's plan apparently presume that if the area were turned into a state park, such practices would not be curtailed. A reading of current Missouri State Park Regulations, however, suggests otherwise.

Just two examples from current state park regs: (1)"Horses, donkeys and mules are permitted only in designated areas within state parks ... Horses, donkeys and mules shall not be ridden on foot trails, through streams, off designated trails ..."

(2) "Motorized self-propelled vehicles or equipment may be operated only on park roads and thoroughfares unless otherwise permitted by park staff." (Exceptions would be designated Off-road vehicle (ORV) areas.) If the Riverway became a state park, would the entire area become an ORV area? Based on existing state-managed lands, that seems unlikely.

Other state regs, including those dealing with alcohol use and noise in public areas, are even more restrictive than the NPS. The locals who are so upset about federal "restrictions" on "access" and activities might be in for a surprise under a state takeover.

The congressman's record on this issue speaks for itself

And never (to my knowledge - prove me wrong) has the congressman been on the record indicating this legislation is to protect profits.

And, frankly, there's no evidence in the Park Service's preferred alternative that it aims to, or would, reduce visitation to the Riverways.

That's not his claim. His concern is access not raw visitation numbers and there is no doubt that the preferred alternative limits access to areas that have been used for decades.

The locals who are so upset about federal "restrictions" on "access" and activities might be in for a surprise under a state takeover.

Then I would think you would support the plan.

Jim, I think you (and others) have too many theories and presumptions and don't pay enought attention to actually what is said and done.

EC, if someone says, as the congressman has, that one action would impact local economies, wouldn't you say that they are concerned about profits?

As for access, the preferred management plan does not aim to restrict overall access. It DOES aim to clamp down on illegal access, as Jim has noted, and better manage competing recreational demands, all of which Traveler's collection of stories on this issue have pointed out.

One thing the congressman objects to is the Park Service's efforts to shut down 65 miles of ILLEGAL horse trails. At the same time, the agency is proposing to create 25-35 miles of new horse trails, on top of the existing 23-mile network of approved horse trails, and add a 25-site horse camp. And it would prepare an official recreational horse use and management plan.

None of this "restricts" access to the Riverways. It does, though, attempt to better manage it.

As an avid outdoorsman and long time Jacks Fork patron, I pray that this does not pass. I actually learned how to swim on this river and have been going back for the last 35 years of my life. I remember staying at the NPS Alley Spring Campground when I was a child and I still refuse to stay anywhere else after some experiences at privately own campgrounds. I have also stay at other state runned campgrounds throughout the state and I find the NPS does the better job.

I realize this gets a lot of support from locals and other Red leaning Missourians but I think it is a bad idea. Let's look atn some issues to support my claim.

Anyone familiar with the area knows it is pristine until the NPS can not enforce it's laws(mainly Eminence). These areas have been overrun with horses(the leading polution cause on the lower parts of the river), ATV trails and genuine disrespect for the river and it's habitat. I know Shannon county is one of the poorest in the state but the only reason it has any money is directly because of the immeense tourism(and logging). If the river begins to sway because of human interaction/ lack of enforcement, many visitors will NOT return to the area.

The huge reason is the proposed tax cuts in the MO. How are they going to inherit what is arguably the nicest conservation environment in the state, and keep up the maintence and enforce the ignorant that do not respect the waterways- when the state will take a huge spending cut. I can almost guarentee that environmental and conservative causes are not on the Republican agenda- half of them deny global warning out of political party duty. So worst case scenario is that this bill passes, tax cuts pass and the river goes to the wayside allowing any "local yokal" to take their ATV or boat on the river without a fear of enforcement. Completely degradating or destroying the ecosystem in the process(the same item that brings in a major source of revenue to the surrounding communities).

These rivers were made a Federal Park out of their pristine beauty and ecology. Leave it that way.