Missouri made a top 10 list yesterday (May 17, 2011), but not one to brag about. The Ozark National Scenic Riverways, made up of the Current and Jacks Fork Rivers (Missouri's national park area in Van Buren), was named to American Rivers' list of "Top 10 Endangered Rivers for 2011." American Rivers founded in 1973 in a national organization whose goal in part is to protect or restore endangered rivers. In their 2009 report, found through links here the top 10 endangered rivers with the exception of one found in Minnesota and Wisconsin were found along the eastern and western sections of the US.
According to a statement released by Environment Missouri, a citizen-based environmental group, "The Ozark National Scenic Riverways are Missouri's river gems. The clear, spring-fed Current River and its major tributary, the Jacks Fork, make up the first wild river system in the country to be protected by the National Park Service. The Riverways draw more than 1.3 million visitors each year to float, fish and swim in the rivers and hike and camp in the surrounding woods. These rivers are home to over 200 globally significant species of wildlife and offer an incredible setting for families to reconnect with the outdoors.
Because of the significance of these Riverways and the finding that they are now plagued by proliferating motor vehicle access trails, largely unregulated and intense equestrian use, torn up trails and water quality problems, Ted Mathys, a Missouri advocate, believes that Missourians should come together to urge the National Park Service to turn the Riverways around.
In 1984, there were 13 developed river access point and public campgrounds in the park, Mathys pointed out. Today, there are more than 130 vehicular river access areas -- roughly one per mile along the Riverways. Commercial equestrian use has also grown exponentially, and remains largely unregulated. There are only four horse trails designated by the park, but more than 250 miles of de facto horse trails exist.
The National Park Service currently is revising the General Management Plan for the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, which will guide the management of the park for the next 20 years. Advocates from Environment Missouri as well as Friends of Ozark Riverways for the past year have been trying to raise the consciousness of citizens across Missouri to encourage swift action by the NPS to protect this valuable resource area.
If the National Park Service doesn't do a better job of protecting these rivers, everything that makes them special -- their clean water and value to paddlers and anglers -- will be lost," Fay Augustyn, conservation associate for American Rivers warned.