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Neches River proposal would effect everyone

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson has recently introduced a proposal that would allow the study of the Neches River in East Texas for possible designation for protection under the National Wild and Scenic River Act.

by Emily Waldrep

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson has recently introduced a proposal that would allow the study of the Neches River in East Texas for possible designation for protection under the National Wild and Scenic River Act. This act would affect landowners, local governments, river authorities, port authorities, tourism, recreational use, the Texas Forestry Association, loggers, hunters, fishers, navigation districts, and other industries that depend on the Neches River and surrounding land to operate.

Many Tyler County residents are concerned about the proposed study and don't think that the government should step in and decide how the river should be used. On the other hand, some people who love the Neches River want it to be protected and preserved so that it will remain natural for years to come.

Many organizations are also against the Wild and Scenic River act. The Texas Forestry Association believes that no good outcomes will come from putting the act into place and that local governments would suffer from loss of tax revenue. The Texas Farm Bureau also opposed the study because designating the Neches as a Wild and Scenic River will hurt local economies and communities, and that government and federal agencies would determine the management activities of private landowners along the river.

But, there is good news. According to a press release issued by the Texas Conservation Alliance regarding the Neches Wild and Scenic River Initiative, if this proposal is passed it will be a cooperative effort between landowners, local governments, the TFA, and users of the river. If everyone who lives, uses and works on the river cannot agree on a management plan that protects the values of the river, while allowing compatible activities to continue, the river will not be designated as a scenic river.

Right now, the only thing being proposed is a study of the Neches to determine if it is eligible to become a Wild and Scenic River. If this study determines that it would benefit the river to be a Wild and Scenic River, a separate bill would have to be passed by congress to make it official. This is an added security for landowners and recreational users of the river because local congress members will listen to the concerns of the citizens the bill would affect.

Bills like the Wild and Scenic River bill have been introduced in the northeastern states as well, and like the Neches private lands and aversion to federal control dominate the rivers. Out of ten rivers that have had to face a bill like this, not a single river has been added to the Wild and Scenic Rivers System.

Although the bill is still in its beginning stages, Tyler County citizens should stay informed and be aware of the changes that could affect the lifestyle of people living along the river.