It Isn't Rocket Science

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The adage "Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it" rings true all too often in federal and state government.

This past January, the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) announced the designation of the White River National Blueway . The designation was the second mission. Our own Missouri Department of Conservation submitted a letter of support for the nomination in September 2012 .

Following the official designation, attention turned to implementation. Not so fast. It turns out the diverse stakeholder group missed one key constituency. Many landowners in the watershed knew nothing about the program, and suspicions grew like dandelions in May. Some people are naturally wary of programs hatched in a cloak of secrecy . Others became concerned upon learning some of the strategic objectives focused on agriculture practices Nebulous goals don't automatically incite opposition. But the DOI, and the stakeholder group that made the nomination, should have consulted landowners early in the process. There are two possible explanations for their actions: they either didn't realize they should work with those impacted by the nomination, or sim- ply didn't care.

It's difficult to comprehend that 26 organizations, including the Missouri Department of Conservation, didn't understand landowners would be interested in a project encompassing an area the size of West Virginia. This isn't simply a case of "Who's on First?," but more so another example of "we know what's best for you."

To their credit, in light of growing public opposition, the nominating organizations asked the DOI to withdraw the designation. The DOI should do so quickly, and everyone involved step back and consider the lesson to be learned. The merits of any project will be ignored if steps aren't taken up front to work with those who will be affected. This isn't rocket science, but common sense.

(Dan Cassidy, of Fulton, is chief administrative officer for the Missouri Farm Bureau, the state's largest farm organization.)