With the ice, snow, and cold weather that we've seen thus far, it's hard to believe that we're only half way through December; and not actually "officially" into winter yet. Amidst the weather, your Representative has been busy working, making my way across the district visiting with constituents, attending meetings (in district and in Jefferson City), and trying to prepare for the upcoming legislative session which is rapidly approaching (2014 Regular begins on January 8).
It was an honor to attend the "welcome home" celebration for one of our local heroes, Sgt. Jesse McCart from Cabool, who was injured in an IED attack in Afghanistan. Veteran's Day was spent crossing the district from the Mountain View Veteran's Day breakfast, to the ceremony at Houston High School, where I had the pleasure of assisting in saying "Thank You" to our neighbors that have fought for our way of life.
As important as saying "Thank You" to our veterans is; of even greater importance is teaching our kids to honor, respect, and appreciate the sacrifice that has been made for our liberty; and all of our area schools that held appreciation ceremonies should be commended.
Other stops have included meeting with the staff and touring the Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) production facility in Cabool, where many of our local dairies ship their milk to be transformed into products (energy drinks, coffee, infant formula, etc.) that are sold nation-wide. I have also enjoyed getting to spend time with the 4th graders at Edgar Springs and Plato, to share a bit about the job of their Representative, and how their state government is constructed and functions.
Ozark National Scenic Riverways (General Management Plan)
For a number of years (and even prior to being elected Representative) the National Park Service's (NPS) "General Management Plan" has been an issue that I've closely followed. In addition to growing up horse riding, swimming, fishing, and floating/boating the Current and Jack's Fork rivers, hauling canoes during high school summers helped to finance my first vehicle.
In recent years, I have enjoyed spending time on the river with my family as a sort of "mini vacation" that we can enjoy one weekend at a time. This proposal will matter a great deal to many local families, and stands to impact a large sector of our local economy; tourism.
From the Agency (NPS) that attempted to force the "White River National Blueways" designation upon our area (which would have regulated/restricted private property use), and worked harder (and spent more money than any "normal" operational costs) to keep patrons from using and away from our rivers/springs during the politically motivated "Government Shutdown"; they have now wasted a pile of taxpayer dollars in developing a 534 page guide to the restrictions that they are proposing, which they have ironically labeled as "General."
Page 2 of 2 - While the NPS claims this to be a balanced proposal by "legitimizing" 60/40 outboard motors and miles of horse trails; the reality is that they plan on closing double the amount of trails/roads, restricting large sections of the rivers to motorized boat use, eliminating ATV use and designating over 3,400 acres as "Wilderness" (which will equate to foot traffic only).
In short, the NPS is now catering to the Sierra Club, Nature Conservancy, and other outside environmentalist groups that would love nothing more than to ban all recreational use of our local "public" areas.
My job as your Representative is to convey our position on legislation/proposals that will affect our interests. In a recent news story, NPS ONSR Superintendent Bill Black stated, “I get more negative comments on the draft management plan from elected officials than from the public.”
It is no secret that I have been very vocal to NPS leadership concerning my district's position on their proposal. Given the NPS's lack of understanding/interest for our local concerns, it is imperative that your voice is heard, and that we individually submit comments letting the NPS know where we stand on this proposal.
On December 19th at 5-6pm, Senator Cunningham and I will be hosting a meeting at the storm shelter in Houston to discuss the plan, and to assist our constituents in submitting their comments. Due to the recent snow/ice in the area, the previously scheduled comment meetings have been rescheduled to: 1/7/2014 - Van Buren, 6-9pm; 1/8/2014 - Salem, 10-12am; 1/8/2014 - Kirkwood, 6-9pm. While every public official that I know (from our County Commissioners to our U.S. Representative Jason Smith) has stated opposition to this proposal, it is important that we the local users/stewards speak up, and that time is now.
Most importantly - MERRY CHRISTMAS!
As always, please do not hesitate to call or write me anytime with your questions or thoughts on this or any other issue. My Capitol office is 573.751.1490 and my email is Robert.Ross@house.mo.gov.