The Joplin Globe
The proposal to place the White River, which flows through Missouri and Arkansas, on the National Blueways recognition program was initially applauded as a win for both the environment and for the tourism industry.
But, like so many things these days, the designation of the 700-plus-mile river swiftly hit rough political waters.
On Wednesday, the Department of the Interior threw up its hands and dropped the river from the new federal program after controversy arose on whether it could lead to new government regulations and even possible land seizures.
The uproar led to a group of Republican U.S. senators and representatives from Missouri and Arkansas — including Sen. Roy Blunt and Rep. Billy Long — both of Springfield — to write a letter to the Interior Department asking that the designation be revoked.
Even backers of the designation said they were worried about the backlash from local and state stakeholders. They were concerned that instead of promoting outdoor recreation, wildlife refuges and other public lands, the rancor might have the opposite effect.
It’s hard to know if the program was really flawed, or if it was rejected systematically because it is part of President Barack Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors Initiative.
The White River would have been the second waterway to be named a National Blueway. The Connecticut River was the first.
Designation includes the entire river as well as its watershed. That was 17.9 million acres for the White River.
But, we’re being told that the story ends on an encouraging note.
The issue of protecting waterways got so much attention that supporters have renewed their intentions of protecting the environment from a local and state level.
We hope that can happen without fears — either real or unfounded — of government intrusion dampening the spirits of the true conservationists among us.