The Eleven Point River was designated as a “wild and scenic” river by the U.S. Forest Service in 1968. (Photo by Kaitlyn McConnell)

OPINION |

by Marisa Frazier, Springfield

On Friday, July 29, the ongoing battle to protect a treasured state park took a positive turn. The Missouri Court of Appeals reversed an Oregon County judge’s decision to force a sale of a portion of Eleven Point State Park.

The court unanimously reversed all six counts, setting a positive precedent that state parks can be established to preserve natural resources and scenic values. The argument centered around whether the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) held legal authority to purchase the park, because a portion of the land lies within a scenic river easement held by the U.S. Forest Service. The Court of Appeals concluded that environmental preservation is a legitimate public purpose, and that the state park is consistent with the preservation purposes of the Eleven Point Scenic River easement (the river was one of the first federally protected rivers under the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968).

DNR purchased Eleven Point State Park to restore and preserve 4,167 acres of native savanna, woodlands, streams, and riparian areas along the Eleven Point River, expanding unfragmented forest coverage to benefit migratory bird populations and reduce erosion and nutrient input to improve water quality, and to provide for public use and enjoyment of the land. Funds to purchase the land came from a legal settlement with American Smelting and Refining Company (Asarco), the lead mining company whose practices poisoned large areas with mine waste.

Part of those funds are targeted to rehabilitating damaged land, while another part is dedicated to purchasing mitigation land in the same eco-region. This ruling is a vote of confidence in our state parks as a respected and trusted caretaker of our public lands. We are grateful to finally protect this wonderful park which preserves natural beauty and resources in a highly prized wildlife corridor.

Many thanks to the team of lawyers and conservation groups, including the Missouri Sierra Club, representing more than 100,000 Missourians who diligently advocated for the park’s protection.

Marisa Frazier is the Public Lands Organizer for the Missouri Chapter of the Sierra Club.

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