For families in Missouri’s 8th Congressional District, the Ozark National Scenic Riverways are treasured resources. For generations, families have enjoyed the pristine waters that flow the 134 miles of the rivers. These rivers represent our heritage, and I can say with certainty that no group of people cares more about the health of the rivers than the folks I represent.
Recently the Post-Dispatch weighed in on the National Park Service’s plan to change management practices in the Ozark National Scenic Riverways ("Protecting a national treasure," Feb. 3). While I appreciate the Post-Dispatch’s comments, I do not agree with their assessment of what the Current and Jacks Fork Rivers need.
In November, the Park Service offered three draft General Management Plan proposals for public comment. All three proposals contain the following:
• All three could change, limit or eliminate small-business vendors from operating in the park.
• All three close 20 access points along the rivers, or move current access points.
• All three of the plans ban camping on gravel bars, a tradition enjoyed by many.
• All three will close 65 miles of horse trails and miles of other trails that will hurt small-business owners.
• All three require additional staff and tax dollars.
Instead of the three proposals offered by the Park Service, I favor a no action alternative that would keep current management practices intact in the Ozark National Scenic Riverways.
The current General Management Plan for the rivers was adopted in 1984 and has been readopted twice since. For 30 years the current management practices have struck a balance between recreation and preservation. To date, the Park Service has shown no clear and convincing data to prove that changing management practices would improve the health of the rivers. Current management practices are working in the Ozark National Scenic Riverways and should not be changed.
U.S. Rep. Jason Smith • R-Salem