Our Eighth Congressional District is home to some of the most naturally beautiful areas in the country. We are fortunate to have the Jacks Fork and Current Rivers that provide families with a place to canoe, swim, boat, and fish close to home. The rivers also support numerous small businesses that cater to the needs of visitors who come from far and wide to enjoy the clear waters and natural scenery.
In 1964 the National Park Service included the Jacks Fork and Current Rivers in the Ozark National Scenic Riverways with the goal of preserving access to the rivers. Over time however, the Park Service has systematically limited public access to numerous areas in our congressional district. Just last week the Parks Service released a new management plan that would shutdown public access points on the rivers, eliminate motorized boat traffic from certain areas, further restrict boat motor horsepower in other areas, close several gravel bars, and propose additional areas to be designated as federal wilderness.
The changes proposed by the Park Service would have a devastating impact on the economies of many communities in our Eighth District. Historically, individuals and businesses have been allowed to guide tourists through the riverways, and provide them with valuable services. These folks are the backbone of our local economy. Restricting access to the park and closing public access points are extreme measures that do not make sense. Preventing the use of motors on boats in certain areas, and limiting their power in others, will damage a local economy that is already the victim of burdensome federal regulations. The land use policies associated with Wilderness Areas are unwelcome additions to a park that is well functioning and beloved by those of us who grew up here.
To add insult to injury, the Park Service knew their planned management changes in the Ozark National Scenic Riverways would be met with opposition. As a member of the House Natural Resources Committee, I had the chance to question Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell about the General Management Plan back in July. At that time I told Secretary Jewell that families in our district do not want further restrictions on their public lands and rivers. Despite my warning, further restrictions were included in the new management plan.
Generations of Missourians in our congressional district have enjoyed the Jacks Fork and Current Rivers. The rivers are also the engine that drives numerous small businesses. When bureaucrats in Washington try to restrict land and river usage for families and businesses, our district suffers. I hope residents across our Eighth District will join me in supporting access to our public lands and rivers.