FORESTRY ASSOCIATION OPPOSES STUDY OF NECHES RIVER DESIGNATION
Lufkin, Texas -- The Texas Forestry Association, which represents forest landowners, loggers and forest products manufacturers in Texas, has announced its opposition to S. 2324 recently introduced by Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, which would allow the study of the Neches River in East Texas for possible designation for protection under the National Wild & Scenic River (NW&SR) Act. Texas Forestry Association makes this announcement following approval at their May 4th Board of Directors Meeting held in Lufkin.
"Designation of the Neches River as wild and scenic is not in the best interest of landowners and would have devastating effects on the forest industry and surrounding communities," said Ron Hufford, Executive Vice President of Texas Forestry Association. "Designation would infringe on private property rights of landowners and limit the use of the land for agricultural and forestry practices, as well as encumber the future economic growth of the forest industry in East Texas," Hufford said.
The Neches River flows from Northeast Texas to the Gulf of Mexico. Since 1995, Texas Forestry Association has implemented a program to ensure that the quality of water in rivers and streams are protected through voluntary Best Management Practices. "Thousands of landowners and loggers have received information and training to effectively prevent or minimize the amount of nonpoint source pollution generated during forestry operations. They help protect soil and water, two key elements necessary for growing a healthy, sustainable and productive forest," Hufford said. "Most timber contracts require the use of Best Management Practices and yearly monitoring proves they are effective," he added.
Texas Forestry Association asserts that designating a river as wild and scenic brings unintended consequences to the local communities, such as loss of tax revenue for local governments, schools and even economies. "Once a river is designated as wild and scenic the federal government, and not state and local government, is in control of the river," Hufford said. "The act does infringe on private property rights because the act clearly states that nothing shall preclude the use of condemnation when necessary to provide the public access to the river."
The Texas Farm Bureau has also restated its opposition to the study. Nolan Alders, a landowner in Nacogdoches County and member of the Texas Farm Bureau, said that "designation of the Neches River as wild and scenic would limit the economic growth of our local and rural communities and bring harmful effects to landowners and agriculture. To bring federal designation to the Neches River would mean that management activities of private landowners would be determined by the federal government and federal agencies," he added.
The Texas Forestry Association supports incentives that encourage land stewardship as well as the rights of willing landowners to enter into land conservation easements. "A more common sense approach would involve working with private landowners to encourage land stewardship practices that are available through the Farm Bill," Hufford said.
The far reaching impacts on future economic development and landowners' rights to manage their land are viable concerns to Texas Forestry Association. "The Association is deeply committed to the future of the local economy and we are concerned that if the federal government even begins a study of the criteria of the Neches River, provisions of the NW&SR Act would immediately take effect," Hufford said.
Texas Forestry Association is a non-profit trade association representing 2,900 members who grow, manage, harvest and process the forest resource of Texas.