POSTED: Thursday, May 10, 2012 - 6:20pm
UPDATED: Friday, May 10, 2013 - 11:13am
The Upper Neches Wild and Scenic River Study Act, S. 2324, by Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, contains landowner protection provisions that do not allow any condemnation in association with studying or designating the Neches River as a National Wild and Scenic River. Additional provisions insure that private property owners can continue to use their land for agriculture, timber production, home-building, recreation, and other uses they currently enjoy.
S. 2324, which can be accessed at http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c112:S.2324: , would amend the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968. The original act does allow for condemnation; Senator Hutchison’s bill would take precedence over the earlier act.
“The Texas Forestry Association  is of course free to oppose this or any other bill,” Mack Turner, chairman of Texas Conservation Alliance. “But it is important to keep our facts straight. Studying or designating the upper Neches River as a Wild and Scenic River will not infringe on any private property rights or limit landowners’ use of land for agriculture, forestry, or other economic uses. It will not allow condemnation of land in the Neches River study area.”
Designating the Neches as a National Wild and Scenic River would prohibit dam-building on the river segment that is designated. This protects riverside landowners from having their land condemned for a reservoir. The designation does not give the federal government the authority to direct management of private lands nor does it change the authority of state and local governments on issues other than dam building.
“Texas Conservation Alliance commends the Texas Forestry Association for advocating Best Management Practices and voluntary stewardship,” continued Turner. “But these activities would not prevent damming of the river.”
Reservoirs proposed for the Neches River would require condemnation of tens of thousands of acres of land. The land would be taken out of production for timber and taken off the tax rolls.
“Designating the upper Neches River as a National Wild and Scenic river protects landowners from condemnation,” concluded Turner. “It protects the timber industry from having tens of thousands of acres taken out of production for a reservoir. In other places the increased tourism from designating a Wild and Scenic River has been very positive on local economies.”