Log in

Buffalo River Watershed Alliance

Log in


24 Oct 2023 12:40 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

Democrat Gazette

EDITORIAL: Where the Buffalo roams

This calls for immediate discussion! 

October 24, 2023 

Recently, a suggestion was pushed forward that changing the Buffalo National River to a National Park might be a good thing. It's an interesting idea, and all interesting ideas evoke different reactions.

The Runway Group of Bentonville, underwritten by Steuart and Tom Walton--heirs to a really big global retail store whose family does a whole lot of really good things for Arkansas--released the detailed results of a poll pondering the question.

First, a little background. In 1972, the Buffalo, one of the few free-flowing rivers left in the United States, was designated as the first-ever National River. It provided a lot of good before it was designated and has since.

Most Arkansans who are so inclined to get in a canoe for the sake of getting in a canoe have gently paddled alongside its high bluffs and breathtaking beauty at least once. It's a Natural State staple for any outdoors-minded Arkansan. A YouTube search will reveal numerous videos of out-of-staters who travel here to paddle specific sections, or its entirety in some cases.

Last year alone, the Buffalo, already administered by the National Park Service, attracted 1.3 million visitors and contributed nearly $65 million in economic output to the state.

That's good money, but could it be better?

It was for West Virginia when the New River Gorge converted from National River to National Park in 2020. As a National Park, visitors increased from about 1 million to just south of 1.7 million in the first year. Economic activity increased from $152 million to $269 million. That's real money.

But talking is all we're doing, at least for now.

If this is going to happen, Arkansas Rep. Bruce Westerman will be key. The path (or river in this case) to becoming a National Park runs right through the House Natural Resources Committee, which Representative Westerman chairs.

He says, "We're a long ways from me even writing a bill . . . What I've said all along is you need buy-in from the community. This is not a process that should be rushed. We're just discussing an issue and . . . hearing different sides . . . "

This calls for immediate discussion! (Python, M.) That's where the Runway Group comes in as the first, but certainly not last, mover. This is some of what they found in their survey:

40 percent of respondents said the river gets too many visitors already

58 percent said they think that's a bad reason to be against re-designation

82 percent said it was "very important" that no private land be taken for this purpose

75 percent said it was "very important" that no new taxes be involved (14 percent said this was fairly important and 10 percent said it was unimportant)

While it's true that opinions may change in light of any new details that may arise from public meetings, the Runway Group should be applauded for getting the ball rolling and getting a pulse on how the public feels about it today.

It's not hard to see the foundation of what a piece of legislation could look like based on this data. It's a start. Where it ends will be up to the public.

Buffalo River Watershed Alliance is a non profit 501(c)(3) organization

Copyright @ 2019

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software