National Parks TravelerJustice Department Drops Its Appeal On Buffalo National River Hog Farm CaseSubmitted by NPT Staff on April 27, 2015 - 1:10am
A decision by the Department of Justice to drop its appeal in a case involving a hog farm upstream of the Buffalo National River means the Farm Service Agency and Small Business Administration will have review the project's potential environmental impacts.
A federal judge back in December had ruled that the two agencies failed to do such a review before issuing more than $3 million in loan guarantees for the C&H Hog Farms operation. Last week the Justice Department decided to drop its appeal of that ruling, according to a release from Earthjustice, which represented a number of environmental and conservation groups in the matter.
The C&H facility is located on the banks of Big Creek in Mount Judea, Arkansas. Under a contract with Cargill, Inc., an international agricultural and food conglomerate, C&H confines approximately 6,500 pigs at a time, making the operation the first of its size and scale in the Buffalo River watershed.
The hog farm is located in a region of karst geology, which is is composed of easily dissolved rocks, such as limestone and dolomite. Via sinkholes and underground caves in the geology, groundwater can flow miles very quickly. In the National Park System, karst geology is perhaps mostly visibly connected to Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky, but it can also be found along the Buffalo National River and at Ozark National Scenic Riverways in Missouri.
When the groups -- the Arkansas Canoe Club, Buffalo River Watershed Alliance, National Parks Conservation Association, and The Ozark Society - brought their lawsuit last year, they argued that the loan guarantees to the hog facility hinged on a flawed environmental review process that violated the law and did not follow the U.S. Department of Agriculture's own regulations.
“This outcome sends a strong message that federal agencies that are subsidizing and supporting industrial-sized concentrated animal feeding operations through loans and guarantees will have to follow NEPA and the ESA in the future,” said Earthjustice attorney Marianne Engelman Lado.
“This is a truly significant victory, but the fight to remove C & H Hog Farms from the Buffalo River watershed goes on,” said Dane Schumacher, Buffalo River Watershed Alliance Board member. “We continue to monitor signs for bacterial content that filters into Big Creek and ultimately the Buffalo National River. Much damage could be done if C & H continues to operate in the watershed, and we intend to keep up the pressure to ensure that this ill-placed industrial hog facility never has the chance to foul Arkansas’ crown jewel and America’s first national river.”