Arkansas Democrat Gazette
The Buffalo in fall
By Mike Masterson
Did you see that an article published by USA Today lists our Buffalo National River as America's second most spectacular national park for autumn scenery? The magnificent Buffalo was rated only behind North Carolina and Virginia's Blue Ridge Parkway.
Sure hope Cargill Inc. of Minnesota appreciated the story which said the Buffalo region offers "one of America's most scenic rivers ... lined with breathtaking oak and hickory trees."
Arkansans, and growing numbers across the nation, know multinational Cargill sponsors and supports the controversial large hog factory called C&H Hog Farms at Mount Judea. That factory regularly sprays raw hog waste from as many as 6,500 swine across pastures along or around the Big Creek tributary of the Buffalo, which flows six miles downstream.
I asked Gordon Watkins, who heads the always-active Buffalo Watershed Alliance, for his thoughts on the latest honor for the river, which became the first national river in 1972 thanks in largest measure to legislation by former 3rd District Congressman John Paul Hammerschmidt of Harrison.
Watkins said the newspaper's second-place national rating "is a feather in the cap of the Natural State and serves to reinforce the importance of the Buffalo not only to the Ozarks and Arkansas, but to the nation as a whole."
"It also points to the serious mistake made by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality when it allowed a 6,500-head swine CAFO to be placed where it poses a very real threat to that national jewel. Dr. Van Brahana's recent dye-trace studies have shown multiple direct underground pathways from the waste-application area to the Buffalo, so this is not a hypothetical, what-if contention.
"The risk is real. I'm sure if sections of the river were to be closed for human contact due to elevated E. coli levels, our second-place ranking would change. Maybe then we would rank high on the Top 10 list of 'Most Needlessly Damaged National Treasures.'
"Surely there are plenty more appropriate locations for such an industrial facility that would not threaten what is an economic engine for our poor corner of the state and a recreational attraction for people across the nation," he said.
To that I'd add: Surely.