Parsons, Kansas —
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Seeking to quell a public backlash, the U.S. Department of the Interior dropped the White River last week from a new federal program that recognizes conservation and recreation efforts along waterways.
The decision to rescind the National Blueway designation for the 700-plus-mile river, which flows through southern Missouri and parts of Arkansas, had the support of opponents and one-time backers alike. Opponents said the designation, given in January, could lead to new regulations or land seizures. One-time backers said the dispute could make landowners resistant to voluntarily cooperating with conservation efforts.
The Interior Department had received two letters from one-time Blueway backers requesting that the designation be lifted. One was from six Arkansas state agencies, while the other was from two conservation groups — the Arkansas chapter of The Nature Conservancy and Ozarks Water Watch.
“In light of requests received from local and state stakeholders to withdraw the White River and its watershed from the voluntary National Blueways recognition program, the Department has withdrawn the designation,” Jessica Kershaw, a spokeswoman for the Interior Department, said in an email.
The National Blueways System was created in 2012 and is part of President Barack Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors Initiative, a program intended to promote outdoor recreation in national parks, wildlife refuges and other public lands. The designation doesn’t include new regulations.
But Jeannie Burlsworth, founder and chairwoman of the conservative group Secure Arkansas, has said there were concerns that the designation would lead to stricter enforcement of existing laws. £