WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jason Smith called Governor Nixon’s proposal to transfer private land to state control in Oregon County “a clear misuse of funds.”
Governor Nixon’s Missouri Department of Natural Resources plans to buy the land in Oregon County with money set aside in a lawsuit settlement to restore land damaged by lead mining. The problem is that the counties damaged in the lawsuit are nowhere near Oregon County.
“As much as the governor’s administration may want to stake their legacy on this land, the agreement is clear,” said Congressman Smith. “Oregon County is outside the impact area. Misusing these funds is a violation of the settlement agreement and the public trust.”
Congressman Smith has said there are numerous projects within the impacted area of the Lead Belt that would be much better suited for restoration. He has also taken issue with the lack of transparency and has been adamant that the Oregon County community should have the opportunity to voice their concerns.
“It’s telling that the first time bureaucrats from Jefferson City come to Oregon County is once the public comment period had already closed,” Smith continued.
No public meetings were held by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources in Oregon County, and four days after the public comment period closed officials finally came before Oregon County Commissioners. Congressman Smith is confident that community meetings would have shown that folks in Oregon County do not want this new state-owned land.
“It’s ridiculous. This land grab is being done in secret. I have to question the legality of these actions,” Smith said.
Congressman Smith sent a letter outlining his concerns Monday to U.S. Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy, Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Dan Ashe, U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell, and Missouri Department of Natural Resources Director Sara Parker Pauley.