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Rivers are vulnerable to the pressures of misuse
Misuse of rivers

Rivers are vulnerable to the pressures of misuse

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Regarding "At odds over future of national park" (Jan. 26):

I was very disappointed in your coverage of the public meetings on the National Park Service plan options for the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. In the quest for balanced coverage, your reporter left out a lot or glossed over the concerns for preserving the natural state of this treasured and fragile park.

There is a proposal up for discussion of designating 4 percent of land already owned as wilderness. This means closing off trails used by ATVs and horse riders that have been illegally utilized. What riles me is that none of the studies that show the degradation of the water quality by these illegal users was cited. If those using ATVs and horses illegally were not degrading the river, where are the studies that show low e-coli bacteria counts and turbidity levels from the results of steady monitoring? Just because you have a jet boat, a horse or an ATV does not mean you should be able to use it on any waterway. If they cause significant damage, then their utilization should be limited.

In other national parks, certain overuse and its concomitant degradation of these watersheds have caused access to be curtailed in the interest of preserving the quality and diversity of our natural heritage. It is always a problem to balance the interests of protecting the fragility with allowing people to enjoy nature. How else can people know something is worth the effort to protect it if they don't get to see it or know of its existence?

But as I tried to point out during my brief chance to speak to those in attendance: If you want a fiscally responsible government, you have to realize that it costs far less to protect and preserve than to have to pay for cleanup and restoration. Ask Ameren how much it would have saved if it had built and maintained a better Taum Sauk Reservoir to prevent the dam collapse.

Our ecological diversity and wild lands here are no less vulnerable to the pressures of misuse over years than a catastrophic dam break. Both will cause us to lose a priceless, irreplaceable asset. Let's fund the enforcement of the new wilderness designation for 4 percent of this beloved park, so that it doesn't get loved to death.

Rich Brown  •  Lemay

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