The Current River and its tributary, the Jacks Fork, are legendary for their constant flow of clear, cool waters. Fed by more than 350 springs, including the 278 million-gallon-per-day Big Spring, which is one of the largest springs in North America, and the dazzling Blue Spring, the 134 miles of the Current and Jacks Fork rivers flow through beautiful Ozark country. The land and rivers offer memorable recreation experiences in a landscape of numerous caves and vibrant wildlife. Because of its amazing character, the Current and Jacks Fork Rivers were designated in 1964 by Congress as the Ozark National Scenic Riverways and are part of America’s National Park System. These rivers and their valleys are not surpassed in America for quality, richness, and beauty. The people of Missouri lead the effort to designate and protect these outstanding rivers. Now, 45 years later, the Current and Jacks Fork Rivers need our help and attention again. All is not well, but we have an opportunity to make a positive difference and ensure the health of the rivers 45 years from now.
Last year, the National Park Service (NPS) announced a long-awaited General Management Plan process for the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, designated by Audubon as a Globally Significant Important Bird Area in southern Missouri, long recognized for its pristine rivers and diverse wildlife now threatened by misuse and development pressures. In partnership with Friends of Ozark Riverways and dozens of other organizations, Audubon filed public comments on the proposed NPS plans and asked for better management to reduce habitat fragmentation and riparian degradation through proliferating roads, access points, unauthorized campsites, and increased ATV and horse use. Audubon called for measures to minimize noise pollution, eliminate illegal river access points, and restore damaged areas. We also called for wilderness designation at Big Spring, and we successfully spurred hundreds of additional public comments through two Audubon Action Alerts to stakeholders. More recently, we asked for designation of critical habitat for the endangered Ozark Hellbender.
The NPS just recently announced in March 2011 the draft managemnet plan will be released in late fall 2011. As this planning moves forward, Audubon has been invited to participate in planning meetings. We will continue to represent people who care about birds and other wildlife in this important area to ensure it endures for future generations.
To see the video on saving the rivers, click here.