Letter to the Editor
There is a place in the Ozarks that is reminiscent of the America that Lewis and Clark found while searching for the Northwest Passage. It is the Current and Jacks Fork Watershed area of lower central Missouri. It hasn’t changed much over the years; as a matter of fact the population is about the same as it was in 1960. Horses have been a big part of the culture here for a long time. Almost everyone owns and or rides horses, and we had open range up until the 60’s. Today there are three herds of wild horses roaming the hills, woods and streams of Shannon County, Missouri. The largest organized trail ride in the United States is located here. It is truly the heart of America, culturally and geographically. We are a conservative bunch and we believe in the second amendment and individual rights. Historically we have hunted, fished and trapped as a way of life. We like to look our politicians in the eye when they speak to us. We have an old fashioned notion that we are the Government. Our economy is built on three industries, Tourism, Logging and Trail riding, without which our community would disappear.
In the late 1960’s the United States Park Service decided that it needed to manage our river ways for us and thus created THE OZARK NATIONAL SCENIC RIVERWAYS. This was a new idea and hadn’t been done previously. They set out to obtain the privately owned land adjacent to our rivers. Through Eminent Domain and other unscrupulous means they took over the land to manage at their discretion. Not to be outdone the Missouri Department of Conservation obtained tens of thousands of acres in our area also. Professional management for the benefit of the people we were told.
These past few years have seen numerous attempts by the National Park Service to close off roads, trails and streams to people who have historically used them for 150-plus years. They intimidate our locally elected officials in an attempt to gain compliance with their regulatory acts. They contend that they can enforce the law as well as legislate it! The Missouri Department of Conservation is also closing trails and is in the process of executing a plan to devastate the natural beauty of our forests by stripping the land of timber, selling it and buying more land to do the same. While this is good for our citizens who work in the timber industry the resources are being exhausted and the jobs will soon disappear. Once the oak forests are gone the acorns will disappear and whitetail deer populations will decline. This will result in a loss of tourism revenue due to deer hunting. Both agencies are harassing tourists who are vital to our economy. Trails that have been used by horse people for decades are suddenly declared closed with little and sometimes no posting and anyone caught on them is ticketed. Once again these tourists are vital to our economic well being and one study suggests that the horse industry alone has a $40 million impact on the economy of Shannon County, which by the way is the poorest county in Missouri.
Shannon County residents are unified in their resolve to confront these large bureaucracies who, for whatever reason, are perpetually eroding our inalienable rights to the use of lands that are supposed to belong to us to begin with. A few months ago we banned together to create an organization to be heard; VOICE OF THE OZARKS. We are a nonprofit organization open to citizens of Shannon County, The State of Missouri and the United States of America. We invite American horse enthusiasts as well as anyone who believes in individual rights to join us in our attempt to keep this part of America as free as it always was.
– Jerry King, Board of Directors Member
Voice of the Ozarks, Eminence, Mo.