Congressman Smith says Nixon’s land-use deal ‘misuses funds’
Smith’s office issued a news release Monday evening that addresses the plan that would allow the state Department of Natural Resources to buy land in Oregon County. The land would be bought with money set aside in a lawsuit settlement, the release said, that is intended to be used for restoration to land damaged by lead mining.
The problem, Smith said, is that the counties damaged, as outlined in the lawsuit, are nowhere near Oregon County.
“As long as the governor’s administration may want to stake their legacy on this land, the agreement is clear,” Smith said. “Oregon County is outside the impact area. Misusing these funds is a violation of the settlement agreement and the public trust.”
Other areas within the Lead Belt, actually within the impacted area, are better suited for restoration, Smith said. Smith has also taken issue with what he feels is a 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 has already closed,” Smith said.
No public meetings were held by the Department of Natural Resources in Oregon County. State officials waited until four days after the public comment period closed before coming before the Oregon County Commission. Smith is confident that community meetings would have shown that Oregon County residents do not want this new state-owned land.
“It’s ridiculous,” Smith said. “This land grab is being done in secret. I have to question the legality of these actions.”
Smith sent a letter earlier Monday outlining his concerns to U.S. Secretary of the 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.