Ozark National Scenic Riverways was the United States' first federally protected national river, and it's home to a key population of endangered Ozark hellbenders. These unique creatures, North America's largest amphibians, are imperiled even in protected areas like the Riverways.
Mismanagement of recreational activities like ATV use and horseback riding has contributed to the decline of these aquatic salamanders, which are protected under the Endangered Species Act. Ozark hellbenders need good water quality and serve as a barometer for the health of the freshwater ecosystems where they live. Trails that cross or are adjacent to rivers damage the hellbenders' habitat through erosion and an influx of sediment, and the huge numbers of horseback rides in the Riverways have contaminated the rivers with horse waste.
The National Park Service has just begun a process to create a new "Roads and Trails Management Plan" for the Riverways.
November 16, 2015 Action Alert ID# 299
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