opinion by Maylon Rice
Editor’s note: Maylon Rice is a former newspaper reporter, columnist and editor at several newspapers over the past 40 years. He ran, unsuccessfully for the Arkansas House of Representatives in 2012. A native of Warren, Rice lives in Fayetteville.
Opinions, commentary and other essays posted in this space are wholly the view of the author(s). They may not represent the opinion of the owners of The City Wire.
It was not a swift death. But thankfully, a merciful one, albeit by the hand of a federal appointee.
Sally Jewell, the U.S. Secretary of the Interior, pulled the plug and withdrew a federal “Blueway” designation for the White River Watershed last week.
Seldom has there been an action taken by an appointee of President Barrack Obama that’s made the TEA Party and Property Rights Advocates in our state so happy.
What Secretary Jewell did was to stop the full blown assault of hot air, the mass cutting of trees for newsprint, over-hydro generation of water and the round-the-clock burning of coal, both to generate electricity for e-mails on this Blueways topic.
Her swift action stemmed a growing tide of hand-wringing and head shaking to the wild and often unsubstantiated rumors – often vile and politically heated rhetoric – on just what a “Blueways” designation actually means.
To some folks, it meant to be on the watch for the circling of those black NATO helicopters or some proliferation of brown-shirted One World Order official-making rules and regulations to run ragged over personal property rights.
Thank goodness the Obama federal appointee stopped all that madness.
Again, folks like property rights advocate Jeannie Burlsworth of Benton (which is not in the White River Watershed) need to thank the Obama administration for pulling the plug on this “Blueway” process.
With the U.S. Department of the Interior finally ending this often shrill and fact-less debate, maybe the flow of letters to the editor and daily computer in-box filled with the spam(ish) emails on alleged government takeover of your land is over.
At least for now.
The White River Watershed will not become a U.S. “Blueways” designation that was “..intended to recognize and support existing local, and regional conservation, recreation and restoration efforts by coordinating ongoing federal, state and local activities.”
Well, what sounds so bad about that?
Just wait and see …
The geographics of the White River Watershed National Blueway covers about one-third of the land area in Arkansas. It reaches from Bentonville/Fayetteville south and eastward down to Greer’s Ferry Lake, taking in such cities as Searcy and Lonoke and to the eastern edge of Desha County down to Arkansas City. On the West, this proposed Blueway would stretch to Jonesboro and then down to Helena on the Mississippi River.
The announcement of the area being selected as a National Blueway was made Jan. 9 of this year at a press conference down at the state Capitol. The nomination of the honor was first noted in August 2012.
At the announcement of the nomination in 2012, lots of state government folks thought the idea sounded good. Count in the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism, the Game and Fish Commission, the State Waterways Commission, and the Natural Resources Department, the Forestry Commission and the Natural Heritage Commission members, as being on board.
Outside of state government, kudos were given by the Nature Conservancy and the Ozarks Water Watch. Not shabby company for such a designation.
But since January, Quorum Court after Quorum Court all over the state (many not even in the designated “Blueway”) sent oddly written proclamations opposing the designation to anyone the justices of the peace thought could or might read.
Our Congressional delegation was tired of all the noise, attention and trying to explain “Blueways” back home.
All those state agencies and the Ozark Water Watch and the Nature Conservancy, apparently, so fearful that the frenzy-whipped public would not do any future business with any type of local cooperation, also filed letters recently with the U.S. Interior Department begging them to drop the campaign.
And so it ended.
Only one area under the “Blueways” designation has been approved by the federal government – that is up in the Connecticut River Watershed. Arkansas was to be the second area so designated.
Andy Fisk, executive director of the Connecticut River Watershed Council, said things are going fine up there. No opposition to the “Blueway” designation, no complaints, black helicopters or brown-shirted visitors.
Guess we will all be on alert when those “Connecticut Yankees” start showing up here.