Several weeks have passed since the Daily News published a multi-day series of articles on an O’Neill man’s dream to create a Great Plains National Park in the Valentine area. The highly read articles continue to attract a lot of discussion — both on the pages of this newspaper and among some elected bodies in the Niobrara River Valley area.
The Daily News chose to devote resources to reporting and writing the series of stories for a variety of reasons, including the unusual nature of a 78-year-old North Central Nebraskan pursuing a dream that many others might regard as folly.
Newspapers often report on ideas or efforts to change society, culture or government. Some come to fruition; others fade away quickly. Regardless of the ultimate outcome, the original idea or effort still qualified as newsworthy.
But the publication of a news story isn’t the same thing as an endorsement of it. A newspaper’s endorsement only comes through an editorial on an Opinion or Commentary page.
The Daily News chose to do the national park stories because it believes the idea was worthy of consideration.
For whatever reason, many people, even lifetime Nebraskans, are only vaguely aware of the river and its beauty. Most people who end up canoeing the Niobrara River or travel to The Nature Conservancy are highly impressed.
The conservancy itself is unique, a word that is often over used, but this time fits. Containing 56,000 acres mostly along the Niobrara River, the conservancy is the only place in the world where six different eco systems come together, including three kinds of prairies and three kinds of woodlands.
So, yes, if you think the Daily News considers this river and the surrounding area a national treasure, you are correct. Does the newspaper endorse the idea for a national park? That’s a question this newspaper hasn’t chosen to editorialize about.
We recognize that hundreds of landowners would have to give up or sell their land so a national park could be created. We also know it would be extremely expensive. Just to build roads on some of this land would be a challenge and perhaps not wise given the delicate nature of the eco system.
But just because there are some major challenges, it does not mean an idea isn’t worth being reported or discussed.
We believe that there should be discussions about the idea — and there has been. People have weighed in before elected bodies and in letters on this editorial page. We think that is healthy and hope it continues.
We know that with this type of proposal, there are strong opinions on all sides. Discussion of it helps the public learn about the pros and cons and often brings up new points of view.