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Environmental organizations to National Park Service: protect Ozark rivers

A statewide coalition of environmental organizations is urging the National Park Service to protect Ozark rivers.

Representatives of the groups were in Washington, D.C., today meeting with the Park Service.

They submitted more than 4,400 signed petitions asking the federal agency to adopt a strong management plan for the Current River and its major tributary, the Jacks Fork.

Environment Missouri State Advocate Stuart Keating says since the last plan was put in place, off-road vehicles have cut illegal roads through the area. He also cites problems caused by commercial horse traffic.

"People taking horse tours through the park where there are no mechanisms for keeping the area cleaned up,” Keating said. “And so we're seeing some E. coli problems in the water, and we're seeing bank degradation on the watershed streams and rivers, and siltification of the water."

Keating says he and other environmental advocates want the National Park Service’s new management plan to return the area to a more natural state.

"So that involves restricting the use of all-terrain vehicles, horses, and actually banning their use in certain key areas,” Keating said. “And also ensuring that the damage that has been done is repaired, and future damage is mitigated.”

Follow Véronique LaCapra on Twitter@KWMUScience

This is the second round of petitions the Missouri environmental groups have submitted to the National Park Service.

The agency was to have released a new management plan for the Ozark riverways this past spring, but Keating says now he doesn't expect to see a draft until sometime next year.