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Buffalo River Watershed Alliance

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24 Oct 2023 11:12 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

Axios NW Arkansas

Oct 24, 2023 - 


Buffalo National River town hall set for Thursday in Jasper


The Runway Group won't participate in an informational town hall to provide locals clarity about the future of Buffalo National River's designation.

  • The meeting is scheduled for 6pm Thursday at the Jasper public school.

Driving the news: Runway — a holding company owned by Walmart heirs Steuart and Tom Walton — posted results of a poll online this month that said nearly two-thirds of respondentswould support changing the national river to a national park and preserve.

  • Those results and the poll itself have driven fear of what the change could mean to the river and its neighbors.

"We think the town hall is a great idea and the first step to bringing this idea to the table," a spokesperson for Runway said in an email. 

  • "For all voices to be heard without distractions, Runway will not be formally attending."

Why it matters: A national park designation could boost the state's tourism economy by bringing in more federal money to develop modern amenities like roads, campsites and bathrooms.

  • Yes, but: More tourists could have a negative impact on the river and the environment.

Catch up quick: Survey results were published on a website titled "Coalition for the Future of the Buffalo National River." The site says the coalition is "made of people who want to sit around a table and discuss new ideas."

  • While it's noted that the Runway Group commissioned the poll, the motivation behind it isn't apparent to many living near the river, Misty Langdon, a representative of a Newton County historical group, the Remnants Project, told Axios.
  • In a statement on its website, Runway said it does not support drilling or taking of private land.

Langdon and state Sen. Bryan King (R-Green Forest) said they feel Runway hasn't been transparent about the poll.

  • After several conversations with the group and her neighbors, Langdon organized the town hall as an educational platform for communities that could be impacted.

King; Gordon Watkins, president of the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance;  Jack Stewart of the Audubon Society; and others will be panelists at the meeting. 

Context: The Buffalo became the first national river in 1972. Changing it from a national river to a national park and preserve would safeguard hunting and fishing access but could lead to land-use restrictions.

By the numbers: 412 registered voters in Baxter, Madison, Marion, Newton and Searcy counties were asked 14 questions about the issue.

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

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