Raising the Profile of the Buffalo River to Protect It
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Faced with possible contamination from a huge confined hog feeding operation, fans of the Buffalo River are bringing attention to the waterway in order to protect it.
On Tuesday, the National Parks Conservation Association and others will take members of the media for a float and a flyover of the river.
Emily Jones, the association’s senior program manager for the southeast region, says the point is to help people connect with the Buffalo, to see why it deserves its national park service protection.
"What it is that makes a place important to us is our personal experience with it – the sounds, the sights,” she says. “Unless you've had that opportunity to be there, you don't really understand why people are so connected to that place."
C & H Hog Farm put a confined feeding operation with 6,500 animals on a prime Buffalo tributary, over the objections of the park service, concerned about the tons of hog waste.
The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality is looking at rules that would forbid similar operations in the future.
C & H supporters argue it will be a successful business.
But retired Arkansas Tech chemistry professor Bob Allen says the feeding operation doesn't belong near one of the most pristine, longest free-flowing rivers in the country.
He says the hogs produce many times more waste than all of the people in the watershed combined. And Allen says there is a real risk that it could muck up the Buffalo to the point that people can't use it.
"You can wash the bacteria straight into the Buffalo,” he explains. “Large concentrations of things like fecal coliform bacteria, which could force the park service to close the river from human contact."
The state has put a temporary moratorium on new confined feeding operations in the watershed.
Jones says the National Parks Conservation Association would like to see that made permanent, and giving more people an experience of connecting with the Buffalo is part of how it hopes to make that happen.
"This is an experience that is owned by the American public,” he says. “The Buffalo National River belongs to all of us and it is our right to protect this place."