Missouri River Land Protection Plan: Comments Due March 16
The Missouri River has lost nearly three million acres of habitat due to the creation of six reservoirs and a navigation channel. This has led to declines in native fish and wildlife, including three species listed as threatened or endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act. The League is working on restoring the river as part of its Missouri River Initiative.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and National Park Service (NPS) have proposed a plan to increase conservation and recreational opportunities on the Missouri River. The Missouri River Land Protection Plan would focus on the area between Fort Randall Dam and Lewis and Clark Lake and from Gavins Point Dam to Sioux City, Iowa. Through the plan, FWS and NPS staff would work with landowners to set aside land for recreation or fish and wildlife habitat using easements and fee-title purchases. Funding would come from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, North American Wetlands Conservation Act grants, and other sources.
The proposal requires approval from both the NPS and FWS regional directors. The public comment period runs through March 16, and the League encourages our members and supporters to voice their support for this conservation initiatives.
To submit comments or to learn more about the issue, visit the National Park Service Web site.
SAMPLE COMMENT LETTER
I’m writing in support of the proposed Land Protection Plan for two reaches of the Missouri River. These areas are very deserving of this type of protection. The areas included in the proposal contain significant natural and cultural resources that can provide tremendous recreational and other opportunities.
This plan will preserve, and even improve the natural river processes and critical habitats for fish and wildlife. Areas that provide increased public access to the river or provide increased hunting or fishing opportunities should be targeted by the plan. Tourism and recreation already play a major role in the region. The two stretches in the proposal contribute $4 million annually to the regional economy, creating more than 170 jobs. Increasing these opportunities will also increase the economic benefit to the area.
The Missouri has experienced major changes with the altering of nearly 3 million acres of aquatic and terrestrial habitat, due to construction of the six mainstem reservoirs and a navigation channel. This loss of habitat has led to the decline in native fish and wildlife including the listing of three species, the Interior Least Tern, Piping Plover, and Pallid Sturgeon on the Federal Threatened and Endangered Species List. Currently, 51 of 67 native fish species are listed as rare or declining.
Working with willing landowners through fee title acquisition or conservation easement is a great approach for this plan. If a landowner chooses to enroll land in a conservation easement the land remains in private ownership and on property tax roles. The decision to allow public hunting or fishing on land in an easement should remain with the landowner.
Both reaches included in the plan need more public access sites, especially with the development of the MNRR Water Trail which is attracting canoers and kayakers to the MNRR. More access will mean more recreational opportunities for families and greater economic impact to the area.
The Land Protection Plan will benefit local communities, neighbors, and visitors in both the Niobrara Confluence and Ponca Bluffs areas, now and for future generations. Working with willing private landowners will enable this plan to succeed.
I thank you for this opportunity to provide comment on the Proposed Land Protection Plan for the Missouri National Recreational River.