The time to speak

Saturday, September 8, 2007

out for our parks

Dear Editor:

I am astonished, astounded, angers, and if that's not enough alliteration for you, absolutely appalled and almost, but not quite, speechless about the Department of Natural Resources' issuance of an operating permit for a 65,000-plus chicken CAFO very near Roaring River State Park while a stay has been ordered against the very construction of that CAFO. This defies even a modicum of common sense. You can't build it, but you can operate it. That makes my head swim.

The DNR explains their action by stating "It is not necessary for the commission to lift a stay on a construction permit before an operating permit can be issued. The Administrative Hearing Commission (AHC) did not state an operating permit could not be issue. They did not prohibit that in their order. There is no state law that prohibits the issuance of an operating permit when a stay is in effect on a construction permit."

Perhaps the AHC assumed common sense that is apparently lacking. The convoluted reasoning seems to be that because the AHC didn't tell them they couldn't, and there is no state law prohibiting it, they can. Well no commission has told me I can't, and as far as I know, no state law exists that prohibits me from emitting excrement in my neighbor's bath tub. Does that mean I can" That analogy is not as off-the-wall as you might suppose. Think of it this way. Imagine the excrement emitted by 65,000-plus chickens and Roaring River and Table Rock Lake s the neighbor's bathtub.

The original mission statement of the DNR states, "The Department serves all the state's citizens through its involvement in environmental and resource-related issues of the day . . . protects Missouri's land, air and water resources and works to preserve the state's historical and natural heritage through state parks and state historic sites." It is becoming painfully obvious that the DNR is no longer striving toward that mission.

In a meeting in Barry County some months ago, DNR Director Doyle Childers stated that he had been appointed by the governor, in part, to help speed up the permitting process for CAFOs. Any attempt to balance business interests against those of our natural resources has been compromised. The scales have been tipped. Business now has the edge - big business. That's what these big CAFOs are - big business.

Last spring, a bill was introduced in the Missouri House and heavily backed by the Farm Bureau. HB367 would have eased the already lenient restrictions placed on CAFOs and taken away any local control. An outcry went up, legislators' phones rang and the bill was dropped.

I am not a radical, tree-hugging idealogue. I recognize the need to feed people, even if it means huge, sterile, ugly buildings dotting our landscape - but not right next door to our beautiful state parks. After 10 years, the length of their permits, the rusted-out hulls will be ugly enough back away from view. If you doubt this, take a drive through rural central and northwest Arkansas. Please don't place them right next to a priceless, revered state park.

Perhaps this is what it took for me to find my outraged voice. I sincerely ask - no, make that urge - all concerned citizens of Missouri who have at the most reverence, and at the very least respect, for our priceless state parks to write or call or do both. Express your views and concerns to state legislators, the governor, the Department of Natural Resources, the Missouri State Parks Advisory Board, the Clean Water Commission or any other person or department you can think of that might have some influence.

Evidently, two or three gnats can be brushed off quite easily, but if a large enough swarm of gnats attack collectively, we might get the attention we deserve. I don't know about you, but I don't enjoy being treated like chopped chicken liver.


Kaye Smith

Pierce City, Missouri?