U.S. asks to establish critical habitat in Arkansas
Greetings from the Arkansas legislature! I hope you missed my article last week and I sincerely apologize for not getting it in on time. I was attending a three-meeting combined SREB (Southern Regional Education Board) conference representing Arkansas. I’ll summarize that meeting next week, but first, I want to say how much I enjoyed the Veterans Day ceremonies in Monticello and in Hamburg on Veterans Day. It is comforting to see so many people taking a short time out of their holiday to say “thank you” to our veterans. With each year’s passing fewer and fewer veterans are still with us; Drew County lost at least three WWII veterans in the week before Veterans Day. I really appreciate both counties’ efforts on Veterans Day and regret missing the bagpipes in Hamburg. Thank you to all our veterans!
When legislative committees returned to the capital on Tuesday, Nov. 12, a hearing was held regarding a proposal by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to establish a critical habitat designation which would protect certain areas where two mussels are known to live. The designation would affect 31 of Arkansas’ 75 counties and encompass about 800 river miles in Arkansas (plus several other states). The aforementioned mussels are the Neosho mucket and the rabbitsfoot mussel. It was stated that the designation would put federal restrictions on about 1/3 of the state’s private landowners. After more than four hours of hearings the legislative committees involved voted to ask the attorney general to intervene in the decision to grant the critical habitat designation. Part of the affected area is located in south Arkansas. A resolution was also passed to express support for reducing the size of the “protected” areas. We have all heard stories about federally protected areas.
Later we turned from protecting mussels to the funding issues for court reporters and trial court administrators and the approaching fiscal session. Several of the state’s trial judges came to appeal for their employees. The judges basically recommended that these personnel be paid from general revenues as opposed to being paid from the Administration of Justice (AOJ) funds as in recent years. Another meeting will be held in early December to try to reach a consensus.