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  • 27 Oct 2021 8:04 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    KY3 TV

    Johnny Morris unveils plans for the former Dogpatch USA theme park

    By KY3 Staff

    Published: Oct. 27, 2021 at 6:02 PM UTC

    MARBLE FALLS, Ark. (KY3) - The Dogpatch USA theme park, which operated from 1968 to 1993, was once an important part of the area’s tourism industry, especially for the Harrison area.

    “It was our local economy at one time,” said Harrison Mayor Jerry Jackson. But over the years Dogpatch and the former Marble Falls resort (that sits on a hill overlooking the park) have fallen into a state of disrepair with the remaining buildings and equipment serving as a sad reminder of glory days long gone and ill-fated attempts to revitalize the land.

    “We’ve gone through so many ups-and-downs of people wanting to buy the property and then backing out or making all these grandiose plans,” said Harrison Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Bob Largent. “They’d move in for two or three months and work with paint and ladders and hammers and then just not show up the next day.”

    “We’ve been living with it being nothing for so long that we never expected it to be something again,” Mayor Jackson added.

    When they heard that Bass Pro Founder Johnny Morris had bought the property in 2020 they were encouraged, even though they didn’t know exactly what Morris had planned for the property.

    “It was like we just landed on the moon,” Mayor Jackson said. “It was one of the greatest things we’d heard in many decades.”

    Recently at a Buffalo River Conservation Committee meeting, more information was made available to the public about what was coming.

    While Morris is working with his staff to formulate the finished plans, he does know that he wants to keep Dogpatch’s natural beauty and that the property won’t be a housing development like one previous owner considered.

    It will instead be transformed into the Marble Falls Nature Park, which will be somewhat like Morris’ Dogwood Canyon Park just to the north in southern Missouri.

    “The first time I was exposed to it (Dogpatch property) was three or four years ago when it was pretty dilapidated and run down as far as the buildings,” Morris recalled. “But what is there is beautiful nature and the limestone bluffs and two springs. They had a huge trout hatchery there, and that’s probably one of our first goals is to reactivate that hatchery and develop the creek that runs through there. We plan to build a restaurant and nature trails. We don’t have all the answers yet, but the main thing is to have something open for people to enjoy and learn more about nature and conservation.”

    The Harrison Chamber of Commerce is certainly happy about its community reaping the benefits. As a town that depends heavily on 15 manufacturing companies, its economic engine is expecting some changes.

    “If you look at what Dogwood Canyon has become we can see the Marble Falls Nature Park as that on steroids,” Largent said. “Our largest single industry is now going to become tourism.”

    “We will become one of the main destination places in the whole central area of the United States,” added Mayor Jackson.

  • 26 Oct 2021 2:42 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Food and Water Watch

    Washington, D.C. - As President Biden continues to promise that his administration will address the climate crisis and protect the air we breathe from industrial polluters, 24 advocacy organizations are demanding Biden’s EPA live up to that promise by doing more to protect communities from factory farms. Today, the groups filed a legal petition with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), urging it to enforce federal air pollution laws against these major polluters, something the agency has refused to do for nearly two decades. 

    Over 16 years ago, the George W. Bush administration announced an Agreement and Final Order it had secretly negotiated with the National Pork Producers Council. EPA agreed to refrain from enforcing key air pollution control and public disclosure laws like the Clean Air Act against any animal feeding operation (AFO) that signed up for the deal. In exchange, participating AFOs agreed to pay a small penalty to fund a nationwide air monitoring program that was supposed to help EPA develop more accurate air emissions estimating methodologies (EEMs) for AFOs. The methodologies were intended to allow EPA and citizens to calculate factory farms’ pollution and begin enforcing clean air laws.

    Nearly 14,000 AFOs signed up for this sweetheart deal, known as the Air Consent Agreement, which, by its own terms, should have been completed in 2010. Yet, due in part to the fundamentally flawed ways in which EPA designed, ran, and used the data collected from the air monitoring study, the agency has yet to finalize anymethodologies or end the Air Consent Agreement. 

    As a result of EPA’s protracted delay, thousands of the nation’s largest AFOs continue to enjoy protection from EPA enforcement actions, even if their air pollution emissions exceed legal limits or reporting thresholds. AFOs emit a number of deadly air pollutants like ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, particulate matter, volatile organic compounds, and climate-altering methane. According to a recent study, the livestock industry’s air pollution is responsible for over 12,700 deaths per year — more deaths than are attributed to coal-fired power plants. 

    In light of AFO air pollution’s serious and unregulated public health impacts, the advocacy groups are demanding EPA put a stop to its “unacceptable dereliction of duty” by terminating the Air Consent Agreement, and taking all actions consistent with President Biden’s executive orders to enforce applicable clean air laws against AFOs.  

    The Petitioners include: Animal Legal Defense Fund, Buffalo River Watershed Alliance (Arkansas), Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Food Safety, Clean Water for North Carolina (North Carolina), Center on Race, Poverty, & the Environment (California), Earthjustice, Environmental Integrity Project, Farm Aid, Friends of the Earth, Friends of Family Farmers (Oregon), Friends of Toppenish Creek (Washington), Food Animal Concerns Trust, Food & Water Watch, Government Accountability Project, Humane Society of the United States, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (Iowa), Institute for Agriculture & Trade Policy, Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, North Carolina Conservation Network (North Carolina), Public Justice, Socially Responsible Agriculture Project, Southern Environmental Law Center, and Waterkeeper Alliance.

    “AFO air pollution not only harms human health and our environment, it also exacerbates the suffering faced by the animals living at these facilities, ” says Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Stephen Wells. “This free pass to pollute the air is another way our federal government subsidizes this cruel industry and helps it to thrive and expand.”

    “Air pollution from factory farms kills almost 13,000 people a year, yet the EPA continues to sit on its keister as the meat industry emits more and more air pollution without consequences,” said Hannah Connor, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Multiplied out, the agency’s practice of ignoring these dangerous emissions for 16 years now makes it an accomplice in likely more than 200,000 deaths and countless harms to the environment and wildlife. Enough is enough.” 

    “Communities surrounding the mega-dairies in Oregon have suffered long enough from their air pollution,” said Amy van Saun, senior attorney with Center for Food Safety’s Pacific Northwest office. “No one wants to live near these stinking and hazardous operations, yet EPA continues to sacrifice the most marginalized people to the benefit of industry profit.”

    “We are simply asking the EPA to level the playing field and treat this industry the same way it treats every other industry,” said Abel Russ, Senior Attorney with the Environmental Integrity Project. “We strongly support the Agency’s efforts to update the science, but that process is always ongoing – it should never be used as an excuse to put critical environmental protections on hold. No other industry gets that kind of special treatment. It’s unfair, and it has important consequences to overburdened communities across the country.”   

    “The EPA has given factory farms a free pass to pollute since 2005, when it negotiated a backroom amnesty deal with the industry essentially exempting it from federal air pollution laws,” said Emily Miller, Staff Attorney at Food & Water Watch. “Since then, factory farms have been freely spewing dangerous air contaminants into the environment, not only threatening the health of nearby communities, but also contributing to climate change. This needs to stop.”

    “For decades, the factory farm industry has insulated itself from the necessary enforcement critical to a just food system and healthy climate,” said Brent Newell, Senior Attorney at the Public Justice Food Project. “The Air Consent Agreement, now more than 16 years old, has given factory farms a free pass to pollute and reflects past administrations’ failure to take urgent action and prioritize human health over the profit-driven interests of Big Ag. We urge the EPA to grant this petition and to finally abandon an agreement that not only undermines the law, but also entrenches the factory farm system in a way that harms Black, Latino, Indigenous, Asian and white rural communities.”

  • 28 Sep 2021 11:37 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)


    Tourism vs. CAFOs: A New Front in the Fight Against Industrial Animal Ag

    In rural communities, residents and family farmers are increasingly pitting the need to protect their waterways and natural areas for outdoor recreation against factory farms, which they say pollute the environment and threaten tourism dollars.


    SEPTEMBER 28, 2021

    In 2019, after seven years of public outcry, the Republican Governor of Arkansas agreed to a $6.2 million buyout of an industrial hog facility located near a major tributary of the Buffalo River, the first designated national river, which originates in the Boston Mountains of the Ozarks in northwestern Arkansas. It was a big win for clean water advocates and if it had just been an anonymous stream, the state would have never bought out the 6,500-hog JBS factory farm, said Gordon Watkins, sitting on the deck of the vacation rental he owns and manages in the watershed.

    “Because it was the Buffalo National River, it garnered nationwide attention,” said Watkins, who is a retired organic farmer and the president of the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance, one of four organizations comprising a coalition that formed almost a decade ago when the public first caught wind of the hog facility.

    More than 1.5 million people are estimated to visit the clear, bluff-lined river every year to hike, fish, camp, and paddle. They spent more than $66 million in 2020 and supported more than 960 jobs, according to data from the National Park Service. Watkins is one of many who operate vacation rentals near the park, which spans four counties, all of which have poverty rates higher than the national average.

    “Most of my business is because of the Buffalo National River,” said Watkins. “That’s what brings people here. . . . Tourism is our bread and butter. It employs a whole lot more people than one hog barn did.”

    In other regions, where animals are raised in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), it’s rare to find opponents successful in stopping the state from approving a CAFO permit, let alone altogether halting operations that have persisted for years. So the campaign to close C&H Hog Farms stands out—and it could be a sign of what’s ahead.

    In rural communities, residents and family farmers are increasingly pitting the need to protect their waterways and natural areas for outdoor recreation against factory farms, which they say pollute the environment and threaten tourism dollars. In framing their opposition to industrial animal agriculture in this way, the groups open the door for unlikely allies to join the fight for heavier regulations. In some cases, these campaigns have resulted in bipartisan support for stricter monitoring of the environmental impacts of CAFOs—and have even led to cross-the-aisle discussions about creating CAFO moratoriums in environmentally sensitive regions.

    Two years after the anti-CAFO faction near the Buffalo River emerged victorious, a community near the Bloody Run Stream in Iowa is challenging a new cattle feedlot through legal action. Other communities in the Midwest are also framing the fight against industrial animal ag as a battle to protect open spaces and the right to clean, safe outdoor recreation. And, as family farming and environmental advocates realize success with this strategy, they are creating a roadmap for others to challenge the proliferation of factory farms in their own backyards.

    Risks CAFOs Pose to Recreational Water Bodies

    In the fight to “Save the Buffalo . . . Again,” a slogan that refers to environmentalists’ initial attempts to prevent the damming of the river in the 1960s, supporting rural recreation became a key leverage point in challenging the power of Big Ag. Outdoor recreation, of course, relies upon the health of local natural resources.

    “There was the saying that ‘Brazil gets the meat, JBS gets the money, and the Buffalo River gets the shit,’” said Watkins, referring to the lack of local benefits corporate-backed CAFOs provide. Typically, corporations own the hogs in the facility while local operators care for the animals and own the land upon which the CAFO was built, as well as the debt it takes to build it and the manure the hogs leave behind.

    When C&H was in operation, it stored up to two million gallons of liquid hog waste in open pits, referred to as “lagoons,” on the property, and it periodically spread the waste on nearby farm fields as fertilizer. Some CAFO manure has been shown to have enough nitrogen, phosphorusantibiotics, and pathogens such as E. coli to wreak havoc on sensitive ecosystems and pollute water used for drinking and recreating.

    The C&H farm was situated in a karst topography, a type of landscape known for its fractured limestone bedrock, caves, and sinkholes. Some scientists refer to karst as an underground terrain of “swiss cheese,” where pollutants that exist on the earth’s surface are at higher risk of reaching groundwater and spreading beyond the intended application sites. While the topography contributes to the beauty of the region and its appeal for nature-loving tourists, it also means that pollutants can spread quickly.

    With the help of a professor emeritus in hydrogeology from the University of Arkansas, advocates put together a series of dye tracing tests that showed the complex system of subsurface water flow near the CAFO. The authors cited the need for further in-depth study to monitor the spread of possible pollutants far beyond the farm site and the surrounding spreading fields.

    But a five-year study conducted by Big Creek Research and Extension Team (BCRET), a state-funded project to evaluate the impact of C&H Farms on the watershed, found no proof of direct pollution from the farm. Still, advocates were not convinced. They raised the alarm about the threat of pollution and publicized their loss of faith in the state to conduct “sound” research, which was ultimately enough to mobilize statewide opposition to the continued operation of the facility.

    Leaks and spills due to improper storage or transport of the manure, as well as runoff from mismanaged application to farm fields, can contribute to a host of environmental and public health complications, including toxic algal blooms, fish kills, and blue baby syndrome.

    Ben Milburn, owner of Buffalo River Outfitters, a canoe rental and lodging company that serves park visitors, has perennial concerns about the river’s water quality. For Milburn, the mismanagement of human wastewater in surrounding communities and decreased funding for park maintenance compounds with the acute pollution pressures from industrial agriculture.

    Milburn, who also serves as a member of the state-funded Buffalo River Conservation Committee, said the state should be responsible for creating restrictions for farmers in the watershed.

    “Without [the state] protecting it and limiting what a farmer can do when it comes to fertilizer in their fields or in agricultural production” the community is in trouble, he said. “There’s got to be some type of oversight or there is the potential for problems.”

    The potential for pollution from CAFOs can be extreme. In 2018, flooding in North Carolina due to Hurricane Florence caused 50 manure lagoons to overflow. In Iowa, the state with the largest number of permitted CAFOs in the nation, environmental groups have estimated the plan to clean up nitrates in the capital’s drinking water will take 22,000 years to complete.

    Nitrate pollution not only results from excessive applications of manure to crop fields, but also from applications of synthetic fertilizer. Both sources are used to enhance the fertility of fields growing grains that, among other uses, end up in the mouths of livestock in these factory farms.

    Turning to Recreation as an Economic Driver

    While CAFO opponents have long cited the risks these facilities pose to both environmental and human health in their campaigns, some communities are bringing in a third element: preserving local recreation industries.

    Jenna Pollock grew up on a family farm in the northeast corner of Iowa among the rolling hills, limestone bluffs, and meandering rivers of the Driftless region. She still helps her family raise cattle, hogs, hay, corn, and soybeans while serving as the Clayton County Conservation Director. She says she’s accustomed to the tensions that arise between agriculture and outdoor recreation, and it can be a struggle to keep a foot in both worlds.

    “We have to do things with a little greater care, because we are in such a volatile ecosystem,” Pollock said.

    Pollock’s community is grappling with the risks posed by a large cattle feedlot owned by Supreme Beef, LLC. It is situated near Bloody Run Creek, a cold-water trout stream designated as one of Iowa’s 34 “outstanding waters” (which stand out when compared to the agency’s 773 impaired water segments).

    Earlier this year, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR)—the same agency that designates Bloody Run as protected—approved the expansion of a cattle feedlot near the headwaters of the stream from 2,700-head of cattle to 11,600, making it one of the largest livestock facilities in the County. The feedlot’s plans include spreading manure on more than 40 fields near the creek. Like the area where C&H is located in Arkansas, the Driftless region in Iowa is known for its karst topography.

    Small, rural economies cannot ignore the local dollars that sites like Bloody Run bring in through hosting sites for camping, fishing, and hiking. In 2015, visitor expenditures equaled more than $33 million in Clayton County, in addition to the $50 million attributed to the nearby River Bluffs Scenic By-Way, which passes through both Clayton and Fayette counties, according to the most recent available data from the U.S. Travel Association.

    Recreation economies are gaining attention on a national scale as well. In 2017, spurred by the Outdoor Recreation Jobs and Economic Impact Act passed by Congress, the Bureau of Economic Analysis included the outdoor recreation industry in its GDP calculations for the first time. The agency’s most recent report, released in 2020, shows that the outdoor recreation industry makes up 2.1 percent of U.S. gross domestic product and exceeds the size of the agriculture industry.

    “More places are thinking about outdoor recreation as a viable economic development strategy, especially in places that have been reliant on natural resources, at least with those more extractive industries,” said Megan Lawson, an economist with Headwaters Economics, a community development and land management research firm.

    “Communities are seeing outdoor recreation as a way to even out the booms and busts of those extractive industries . . . as they respond to big macroeconomic fluctuations,” Lawson continued. “That’s something that I’ve really seen change.”

    Still, recreation economies are no silver bullet. For one, Lawson said, counties with developed recreation economies have lower wages and higher housing costs on average. But wages are growing at a faster rate than those in counties without recreation, according to Headwaters Economics data.

    A Bipartisan Issue?

    While agribusiness has long touted itself as one of the only industries that continues to invest in the rural Midwest, it has become an increasingly concentrated sector that pushes out small producers and prioritizes corporate profits.

    Because of the pollution risks posed to lands and waters used for hunting and fishing, Jessica Mazour of the Sierra Club’s Iowa Chapter said that unlikely allies are joining the fight to close down the Supreme Beef feedlot near Bloody Run, including politically conservative residents who typically support the development of industrial agriculture in their region.

    “Recreation has become a bigger piece of the puzzle than it ever has been before,” said Mazour. “[Iowans] are not going to get any benefit from the factory farm moving into their area, but they will benefit if they have an area where people are coming and spending money to make use of the natural resources.”

    Organizers in Arkansas reported similar cross-the-aisle efforts. Carol Bitting, a longtime caver in the Buffalo River Watershed and advocate for the closure of the hog CAFO there, found that she often received the support of landowners who wouldn’t speak out publicly, but who allowed her and a team of researchers to use their land in order to conduct the dye-tracing tests.

    “The community supported me during the testing,” said Bitting. “But they also said, ‘If you tell anybody I agree with you, I’ll never admit it in public. We can’t talk about that here.’”

    Other CAFO opposition campaigns in the Midwest are also seeing gradual bipartisan support for heavier regulation of these facilities. Rural sociology scholar Loka Ashwood has tracked two bipartisan efforts that led to operators withdrawing CAFO plans in Illinois, resulting in what she calls “pragmatic politics without parties.” In Missouri, the owner of a hog CAFO withdrew their application for a 10,500 hog facility after months of bipartisan opposition from folks motivated by protecting a nearby 6,000 acre conservation area.

    Despite these recent patterns, the fate of Iowa’s Bloody Run Creek remains unknown. The Sierra Club and affiliated groups have filed suit against Iowa DNR’s approval of the Supreme Beef feedlot, based on what they view to be miscalculations in the operation’s manure spreading plans.

    “Being an Iowa farm boy, you understand that agriculture is a part of life,” said David Klemme, who grew up on a corn and soybean farm and is now a member of Trout Unlimited in Iowa, a national organization funded by fishers to conserve and recover waterways that host wild and native trout populations.

    “I think the question is, how can we try to balance the agricultural practices with the needs of the environment? And if we know CAFOs are [going to be] in Iowa, how do we make sure that where they’re being placed makes the most sense for everyone?”

    All photos by Mallory Daily.

    Mallory Daily is a 2021 Pulitzer Center Reporting Fellow; this reporting was supported by the Pulitzer Center.

  • 28 Sep 2021 6:55 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Newton County Times

    By JEFF DEZORT jeffd@newtoncountytimes.com

    JASPER — Bob Ziehmer, senior director of conservation for Bass Pro Shops, the premiere outdoor and conservation company whose mission is to inspire everyone to enjoy, love and conserve the great outdoors, said he welcomes the opportunity to work with state and local officials as the Springfield, Missouri-based business develops one of its latest projects, the Marble Falls Nature Park.

    Ziehmer and other company officials, attended the quarterly meeting of the Buffalo River Conservation Committee (BRCC) held at the Jasper School Cafeteria on Tuesday afternoon. They were featured on the agenda to present what Bass Pro Shops founder and CEO John L. “Johnny” Morris has in mind for the former Dogpatch USA theme park in Newton County.

    Morris purchased the 400-acre piece of property just over a year ago. At the time the company announced in a press release that Morris was in the early stages of exploring specific plans for the property, but any possible future development will be an extension of his other projects, which aim to connect families to nature.

    Ziehmer confirmed that the project is continuing towards that goal of meeting the company’s three pillars of protecting wildlife and habitat, connecting new audiences to the outdoors and advocating for sportsmen’s rights and the outdoors.

    The BRCC was established by an Executive Order of Gov. Asa Hutchinson in 2019. Its purpose is to implement projects in the Buffalo River Watershed to protect the quality and enhance the value of the Buffalo National River in partnership with local stakeholders.

    Members of the committee are the secretaries of the Department of Agriculture, Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism, Department of Energy and Environment and the Department of Health. Wes Ward, secretary of the agriculture department, is the chairman and he presided over Tuesday’s meeting. While several of the members attended virtually, many of their staff members were present.

    Spencer Jones, PE, Great River Engineering, of Springfield, Missouri, involved in the development of the former theme park, gave the committee a sneak peak of what Bass Pro Shop’s newest outdoor venue will be about. Its name is Marble Falls Nature Park and will have features almost identical to the much larger Dogwood Canyon Nature Park near Lampe, Missouri.

    Spencer said the park will focus on the community’s history which includes being the site where a block of marble was quarried, carved and transported to the nation’s capital in 1836 and was one of the first stones to be incorporated into the Washington Monument. The site was also where Peter Bellah built the original water powered grist mill. The town, then known as Marble City, became a health resort featuring the healing waters from the spring. Later, Albert Raney Sr. developed the site on Mill Creek into a trout hatchery which eventually led to the development of the area into Dogpatch USA.

    Like Dogwood Canyon, Marble Falls Nature Park may include a working mill and restaurant, offer trout fishing and fly-fishing lessons, provide wildlife tours with displays of animals such as buffalo, horseback riding and mostly programs dedicated to educating the public on conservation.

    The deterioration of the theme park has had a negative impact on the water quality of the creek which is a part of the Buffalo River Watershed.

    Water resources appears to be the priority issue of the new owner. Spencer said working with BRCC will be needed to repair and update the drinking water and waste water systems serving the park and the surrounding community. The Basin Valley Water District has a very leaky system. It was built in 1969. “They are pumping more water than they are selling.”

    The gravity sewer system was also built in 1969. It was designed to operate with a large flow, but with the lower flow today it does not meet discharge limits, Spencer said.

    Another area of concern is the transportation system, namely state Highway 7. He said the highway’s alignment has created accidents and congestion. “We are working with the state to help address those issues.”

    It comes down to a public/private partnership. The company is reaching out into the community to work with the Marble Falls Sewer Improvement District, the Basin Valley Water District and the Arkansas Department of Transportation to deal with these environmental and safety issues and improve the quality of life and economic development for the entire region, Spencer concluded in the presentation to the BRCC.

  • 15 Sep 2021 12:25 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Read the article with photos: Southern Living Magazine

    Adventures in Arkansas: Plan a Trip to the Ozarks This Fall

    America’s first national river beckons with blazing color and mountain adventures.

    By Katie Strasberg Rousso 

    September 15, 2021

    Bordered by multicolored bluffs and tucked deep in the deciduous forests of Northwest Arkansas, a ribbon of rapids and pools reflects the Americana charm and natural splendor you can find only in the Ozark Mountains. On either side of the cool, free-flowing river, hollows flanking the water conceal outtakes from another time—from prehistoric sites dating back thousands of years to untamed wilderness and waterfalls left wholly untouched. On the Buffalo National River, the park's waters stretch as wide from west to east as they reach back into history, preserving a landscape riddled with culture yet unharmed by the passage of time.

    In 1972, the Buffalo became the first national river in America, a designation that allowed its unique waters to remain naturally dependent on rainfall without any dams. This swath of preserved currents reaches more than 135 miles across the top of the Natural State, beginning in the Boston Mountains and traveling farther into the Ozarks. It's long enough to have upper, middle, and lower sections and intimately connects communities in four counties. Sloshing waters framed by massive bluffs thread through campgrounds and gravel bars, offering self-proclaimed "river rats" a haven for both kayaking and rafting trips. But the river's reliance on rainfall lends it a distinct seasonality, because it doesn't have any dams to control it. In the spring and summer, it's a magnet for paddle-armed explorers eager to get wet. When fall rolls around, lower water levels in the western section of the park (the Upper Buffalo Wilderness area) lead to land-based excursions that are more laid-back.

    "The Buffalo National River is the crown jewel of the state when it comes to scenery," says Austin Albers, president of the Buffalo Outdoor Center. "That is especially true in the fall, when colorful leaves dot the bluff lines." Born and raised in the area, Albers has witnessed the floating season's crowds give way to a more relaxed mix of couples and retirees when the weather cools off here.

    While you'll find bustling river waters in the Lower Buffalo Wilderness area during the autumn months, the upper section turns into a trickle, allowing foliage seekers to relish the region's kaleidoscopic display from the banks and bluffs. Pleasant weather lures hikers farther into the park's 94,293 acres, where wooded paths reveal shelters of prehistoric hunters and gatherers as well as sites where Mississippian communities once farmed the floodplain.

    Savor the woodlands and waterfalls this season by making your home base in the upper region of the river at Ponca, a tiny, off-the-grid mountain town near the edge of the park. In this area, the Lost Valley Trail is a must. The 2.4-mile walk winds past natural bridges to the 53-foot plunge of Eden Falls and the mouth of Cob Cave, which was once a shelter for Native Americans. Hikers seeking a challenge can get a bird's-eye view on the Goat Trail. The 5.9-mile, moderately challenging path climbs onto the ledge of Big Bluff, which is the tallest sheer bluff face between the Appalachian Mountains and the Rockies. History lovers should check out the Parker-Hickman Farmstead along the Buffalo River Trail. Built in the 1840s, the home offers a fascinating snapshot of the lifestyle of those who settled in the Ozarks then.

    More of the past awaits in the Boxley Valley Historic District, where the remains of an enduring agrarian community collide with some of the park's most beloved wildlife. Elk were reintroduced here in the 1980s, and these animals now number in the hundreds. In fall, they flock to wide-open fields to graze in this area of the park, allowing for frequent sightings against a backdrop of crimson-speckled trees.

    If you'd prefer a horseback ride, book a guided trip at Rimrock Cove Ranch. Saddle up, and they will lead you through thick, fire-toned forests and bubbling streams. Bikers can catch a thrill nearby, where almost 40 miles of switchbacks on the Upper Buffalo Mountain Bike Trail trace their way through the highest points in the Ozarks. 

    At nightfall, don't forget to look up, says Cassie Branstetter, branch chief of interpretation on the Buffalo National River. "The area is a designated International Dark Sky Park, and it is known for having particularly clear views of the Milky Way during fall and winter, when there is less moisture in the air," says Branstetter.

    Hit These Ozark Trails 

    Don't miss one of the most photographed scenes in the state at Hawksbill Crag. This rocky cliff overlooking the valley is accessible through the 3-mile Whitaker Point Trail.

    Deceptively named, Twin Falls Trail is less than a half-mile walk to a gorgeous triple waterfall.

    Explore the Pedestal Rocks Scenic Area via the Kings Bluff or Pedestal Rocks Trails. Both offer nearly 2-mile walks through bluffs and promise wooded hillside views.

    Scramble to the top of Sam's Throne Trail for stellar rock formations and panoramic vistas.

  • 31 Aug 2021 12:50 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)



    Can’t take clean water for granted

    by Fran Alexander | August 31, 2021 at 1:00 a.m.

    Over my many decades as a homeowner and having experienced life in both a big city (Houston) and an Arkansas rural county (Newton), I’ve learned a lot about necessities. In my book, water tops every list.

    We depended on well water in Newton County, but it was very limited so we learned how to wash dishes using only a gallon. We’d flush sparingly sometimes using saved bath water; we siphoned rainwater from the roof gutters into our cistern-like well; and we bought our drinking water in 5-gallon bottles.

    During our once a week trip into Jasper, I’d start our dirty clothes washing at the laundromat and go next door to take care of my shopping at Bob’s Grocery. Such is the efficiency of a small town. When we moved into medium-sized Fayetteville, we felt really spoiled to have drinkable and dependable water.

    People rarely get excited over water until nothing is coming out of their spigot. My goal lately in writing about this most precious of liquids is to acquaint the thousands of newcomers to this region with where their water comes from, what watershed provides it, and how people impact water quality and supply.

    Last time I wrote about the Illinois River Watershed Partnership that advocates for water quality on the western flanks of Rogers, Benton-ville, Springdale and Fayetteville. But those four primary cities, and the smaller secondary ones that they supply with wholesale water, all depend on the Beaver Water District. It is the largest drinking water provider in Northwest Arkansas serving over a half a million people (about one in six Arkansawyers).

    The Beaver Lake-White River watershed that feeds the district’s supply stretches east past Huntsville, north as far as Gateway, south to Winslow and into Crawford County, and its west rim runs through parts of the four larger cities. (“Watershed Maps” at: www.bwdh2.orgdetail the boundaries. To see which watershed you live in, go to: https://watersheds.cast.uark.edu/find_your_watershed.html)

    The history of the dam, finished in 1966, that impounded the White River to form the reservoir is documented on the website in, “Beaver Lake: NW Arkansas’ Ace In The Hole.”

    That web location is also packed with video tours of the treatment facilities and educational materials, which include lesson plans, events, games, experiments and even a virtual science fair.

    The district has three independent water treatment plants to furnish the area’s needs. The four primary cities’ resource demand in 1973 was about 15 million gallons per day (mgd). Data in 2019 reported the treated demand average at 55 mgd and a peak summer day may reach 90 mgd. The pumping capacity the district has at its intake at the lake is 150 mgd. How water quality becomes degraded and addressing that harm boils down to understanding that water flows downhill and picks up stuff as it travels.

    District information states, “Lake water quality is still good but under stress due to rising levels of sediment and algae-feeding nutrients,” and “45% of the watershed is ranked moderate to severe in erosion hazard potential.”

    We all need to comprehend that anything that stirs up dirt, like road building and building developments, can send that dirt into creeks and rivers. So, to protect water we have to also protect land and its vegetation. The old adage about “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” really rings true against the high costs of cleaning water for its next use and for our next drink.

    Our beloved Buffalo River’s threatened watershed from hog manure taught us some hard geological lessons about water passing through fractured and soluble limestone karst. Anything that goes on or under the ground can go into the water.

    The district’s information warns that, “78% of the watershed is very limited for conventional septic system suitability.” And, clean water advocates even emphasize that dog poop is a real problem so please, clean up after Fido and Rover!

    In Houston our water adventures were in the extremes of drought and flood. In Newton County we learned that every drop was precious. In Fayetteville we’ve led a charmed life water-wise, but I’ll never take water for granted thanks to knowing what life is like without its abundance. If this region does reach 800,000 population by 2040, as has been projected, we need to respect our water supply and practice sustainability of this resource that we cannot live without.

    As goes its water, so goes Northwest Arkansas.


  • 26 Jul 2021 3:41 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Forest Service Monitoring Efforts Locate Indiana Bat Maternity Colony

    Release Date: Jul 26, 2021

    RUSSELLVILLE, Ark.– July 26, 2021— Ozark-St. Francis National Forest biologists located an Indiana bat maternity colony while conducting monitoring surveys on the Big Piney Ranger District in Newton County, in July.

    The discovery is the first time that an Indiana bat maternity colony has been found in the Ozark Region in Arkansas.

    Female Indiana bats form social colonies, typically under peeling bark on dead trees, to birth and raise their young. Indiana bat use of caves in the Ozarks for winter hibernation is well known, and some stay in nearby forests through the summer, but all prior evidence indicated that females migrated to large rivers or bottomland forests during the summer to form maternity colonies.

    “This exciting discovery offers an opportunity to learn more about the habitat and use of forested lands by this rare species,” said Ozark-St. Francis Forest Supervisor Lori Wood. “We are taking protective steps as identified in the recent Forest Plan Bat Amendment to protect this maternity colony and the surrounding area.”

    Biologists net bats and record their calls as they feed at night in order to understand the distribution of different species and understand how they are using forest habitats on the Ozark-St. Francis National Forests. Forest Service biologists work closely with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, and other partners to collect bat monitoring data, which is shared with researchers, partners and biologists to help promote conservation efforts.

    Now that a maternity colony has been found, the Ozark-St. Francis National Forests will continue monitoring the bats to determine which trees the bats use. The Forest Service will ensure that maternity trees are protected and natural resource management activities within a quarter mile of those trees are avoided during the time of year that the colony is active in raising their young.

    Indiana bats were listed as endangered in 1967 and have recently been impacted by white-nose syndrome, a serious bat disease caused by a fungus.

    •            The recent Forest Plan Bat Amendment documents are available online at: https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=55628.

    •            A copy of the 2005 Revised Land and Resources Management Plan (Forest Plan) and associated amendments for the Ozark-St. Francis National Forests are available online at: https://www.fs.usda.gov/main/osfnf/landmanagement/planning

    For more information on the Ozark St. Francis National Forests, visit https://www.fs.usda.gov/osfnf/.

    Indiana bat maternity colony

    Indiana Bat Photo Caption:

    Ozark-St. Francis National Forest biologists located an Indiana bat maternity colony while conducting monitoring surveys on the Big Piney Ranger District in Newton County, in July. The discovery is the first time that an Indiana bat maternity colony has been found in the Ozark Region in Arkansas. Photo by Brian Dennis, Environmental Solutions Innovations, Inc.


    The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) prohibits discrimination in all its programs and activities on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, and where applicable, sex, marital status, familial status, parental status, religion, sexual orientation, genetic information, political beliefs, reprisal, or because all or part of an individual’s income is derived from any public assistance program. (Not all prohibited bases apply to all programs.) Persons with disabilities who require alternative means for communication of program information (Braille, large print, audiotape, etc.) should contact USDA’s TARGET Center at (202) 720-2600 (voice and TDD). To file a complaint of discrimination, write USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20250-9410, or call (800) 795-3272 (voice) or (202) 720-6382 (TDD). USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

  • 14 Jul 2021 7:50 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Newton County Times

    Tourism to Buffalo National River creates $66 million in economic benefits

    National Park Service Buffalo National River

    A new National Park Service (NPS) report shows that 1.5 million visitors to Buffalo National River in 2020 spent $66.3 million in communities near the park. That spending supported 960 jobs in the local area and had a cumulative benefit to the local economy of $76.1 million. 
    “Buffalo National River is a one of a kind Arkansas jewel that attracts visitors from all over the country. During the Covid-19 pandemic, even more folks came out to enjoy the river and the outdoors. It is great to see our local communities' benefit from the positive economic impacts from park visitors.” said Superintendent Mark Foust. “We are working hard with Buffalo River Watershed partners to conserve the National River and provide for its enjoyment for future generations of visitors, especially at a time when park visitation is increasing.” 
    The peer-reviewed visitor spending analysis was conducted by economists with the National Park Service and the U.S. Geological Survey. Across the country, the report shows $14.5 billion of direct spending by more than 237 million park visitors in communities within 60 miles of a national park. This spending supported 234,000 jobs nationally; 194,400 of those jobs are found in these gateway communities. The cumulative benefit to the U.S. economy was $28.6 billion. 
    Looking at the economics of National Park Service visitor spending nationally, the lodging sector had the highest direct effects, with $5 billion in economic output. The restaurants sector had the second greatest effects, with $3 billion in economic output. National Park Service visitor spending on lodging supported more than 43,100 jobs and more than 45,900 jobs in restaurants across the country. Visitor spending in the recreation industries supported more than 18,100 jobs and spending in retail supported more than 14,300 jobs. 
    Report authors also produce an interactive tool that enables users to explore visitor spending, jobs, labor income, value added, and output effects by sector for national, state, and local economies. Users can also view year-by-year trend data. The interactive tool and report are available on the NPS Social Science Program page on NPS.gov

  • 30 May 2021 9:08 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)


    Forest Service sets Robert's Gap plans

    But some groups still have concerns

    by Ashton Eley 

    The National Forest Service plans to move forward with a wide variety of proposed activities at Robert's Gap, though some environmental groups remain concerned about the possibility of negative ecological effects. 

    The Robert's Gap Project spans 39,697 acres in the northwest corner of the Big Piney Ranger District in Newton and Madison counties, including the headwaters of the Kings, White and Buffalo rivers. It has been three years in the making and includes commercial timber harvesting, prescribed burning, wildlife activities and mountain bike trail improvements and additions.

    The goals of the project are to increase species diversity on the land and to protect adjacent private property, said Tim Jones, Big Piney District ranger.

    "Overall, the Forest Service long-term goal is the productivity and health and diversity across this landscape. This plan implements that," he said.

    The Ozark Society, Buffalo River Watershed Alliance and National Parks Conservation Association have each written objections to most aspects of the project, raising concerns about protecting water quality and native species, including the endangered bat populations.

    "Our biggest concern is with the cumulative effects of this pretty large project. This is at the headwaters of two of Arkansas' most important recreational streams -- the Kings River and the Buffalo River -- and adjacent to the Upper Buffalo Wilderness Area," said Gordon Watkins, president of the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance, which submitted its latest objection letter May 20.


    The first public notice of the project came in January 2018. Since then, the Forest Service has held two public meetings, notified neighboring landowners, met with local officials and consulted other state and federal agencies as well as advocacy organizations.

    "The initial proposal was based on the best science available," Jones said. "The public involvement led to the development of a different alternative that the public has helped shape and has been a big help."

    Changes to the initial proposal included cutting down on herbicides from 18.2% to 7.7% of the area and shifting to more spot and manual treatment methods. The herbicides are used to control invasive or encroaching plant species.

    "We would really rather them eliminate the use of herbicides altogether because of risks involved in a primary contact waterway that's used by millions of people," Watkins said.

    More than 10,000 acres of prescribed burns were proposed to help reduce overcrowded vegetation that can lead to wildfires and also limit diversity of the forest floor, Jones said. However, Ozark Society President David Peterson said it can be irritating to those in the area and may not do as much good for the forest as some think.

    The watershed alliance voiced concerns in its letter about how the proposals could affect bat populations as well as their food sources in the area. The Forest Service plans to take precautions in known maternity roost sites and to avoid burning during pup season.

    Erosion in these steep areas into the waterways has been a point both for and against parts of the project. According to the Forest Service's assessment, roads and trails and the adjacent areas proposed for reconstruction, maintenance, closure and decommissioning would continue to deteriorate if nothing were done.

    New, temporary roads would be created for the proposed timber harvesting. These proposed 38 miles of road, along with 20 miles of burn-control lines, could lead to more erosion, Watkins said.

    "Any logging road you build creates erosion problems. We asked them to limit the amount of road work," Peterson said. "[Overall] it isn't ideal from our point of view, but it isn't too bad."

    The alliance would like the Forest Service to complete an updated environmental impact statement, which would be more extensive than the assessment published in March, Watkins said.


    Recreational interest in the area is high, Jones said. About 40,000 people hike the trails each year, according to pre-pandemic Forest Service estimates.

    "With covid, we've seen an uptick in visitation to national forests all across the country," he said.

    Residents have complained about some visitors parking on their private properties, Jones said. The Forest Service plans to add about 50 parking spaces at Hawksbill Crag along the west side of Cave Mountain Road by widening the road up to 30 feet.

    It also plans to modify some trails based on use and maintenance resources.

    The area also attracts mountain bikers from around the U.S. who are looking for the backcountry experience offered by the 35-mile Buffalo Headwaters Mountain Bike Trail. During the last weekend in January, 300-400 riders visited for the Headwaters Challenge -- three days of rides and camping hosted by the Ozark Off Road Cyclists.

    The Robert's Gap Project includes construction of nearly 14 miles of mountain bike trail, the majority of which would be easy to moderate in difficulty level. It would also remove more than 8 miles of trail that is currently on county and Forest Service system roads.

    This is a decrease from the original proposal of 24 miles of new trails because of public input, according to the Forest Service.

    "It's very steep and subject to erosion. The bike trails they have now seem pretty well-designed, but if you put more and more bike trails, then it will become something other than a natural area," Peterson said.

    Although compromises were made, the current plan will still lead to better trail alignment and take away the risk of riding on the road, said David VanSandt, president of Ozark Off Road Cyclists.

    The nonprofit will oversee the additions with grant funding and continue to maintain the system by hand, which it does with the help of volunteers.

    The public commentary period on the proposal ends today. More information can be found and comments can be submitted at www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=53597.

    The Forest Service plans to start implementing parts of the project as early as this fall.

  • 07 Apr 2021 3:06 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    KUAF Radio

    Natural Resources Conservation Service Proposes Removing Karst Terminology From Handbook 


    Listen here

    USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service is calling forpublic comment on a proposal to remove the term “karst” from its National Handbook of Conservation Practices, regarding sinkholes. Ozarks environmental consultant Dane Schumacher says karst designations are critical to conserving watersheds. The deadline to comment is Thursday, Apr. 8, 2021. Submit your comments here

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