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  • 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:

    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:

    •            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:

    For more information on the Ozark St. Francis National Forests, visit

    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

  • 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

    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

  • 22 Mar 2021 3:03 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Columbia Missourian

    As regulations vanish, one Missouri county is ground zero for factory farming debate

    Mallory Daily

    In January 2020, a pork corporation came knocking in Livingston County.

    United Hog Systems notified nearby landowners that they were filing an application for a 5,700-hog operation.

    It was the first permit for a concentrated animal feeding operation, also known as a CAFO, issued for the northwest Missouri county in more than two decades.

    The timing was no accident. State lawmakers had recently passed legislation that would wipe a 1997 county ordinance off the books that allowed local officials to regulate such operations and the millions of gallons of waste they produce.

    When the Missouri Department of Natural Resources approved the United Hog permit in May of 2020, local residents banded together to file an appeal. They named themselves Poosey Neighbors United after their beloved nearby Poosey Conservation area. In addition to the list of common concerns raised when huge animal feeding operations move in nearby, they feared that mismanagement of the CAFO’s hog manure would compromise water quality in Poosey’s fishing lakes and perhaps even their own water supply.

    A few months later, the state struck another blow. The Missouri Department of Natural Resources proposed a change to the regulatory definition of the groundwater table as it concerns CAFO designs. The change would exclude a form of groundwater called “perched water," which may be present on the proposed CAFO site.

    “These rollbacks have been systematic,” said Susan Fair, a Livingston County resident advocating for stricter CAFO regulations. “And this won’t be the last of it.”

    Local health ordinances

    As industrial agriculture moved into the state in the 1990s, a handful of counties saw the need to create local regulations for CAFOs.

    Livingston County was one of the earliest to pass such an ordinance, in 1997. Since then, a total of 20 counties have put similar health ordinances in place, though enforcement is varied.

    “There was just an awful lot of things that DNR addressed that we thought needed to be stronger,” said Eva Danner Horton, former presiding commissioner in Livingston County.

    Danner Horton was among the team of elected officials who drafted and signed the original ordinance and later revised it in 2009. She said it was never the intention of the commission to keep CAFOs out completely.

    “The intent was to make them good neighbors,” Danner Horton said.

    Compared to statewide regulations, the Livingston County ordinance provides stronger setback distances between CAFOs and residences. It also outlines the option for the commission to enforce groundwater and emissions monitoring. CAFO operators are required to furnish a surety bond between $15,000 and $100,000 to the county treasurer for manure storage systems to cover any future liability. Additionally, before the permit is approved, the county is required to hold a local public hearing.

    In 2019, Senate Bill 391 passed, preempting local health ordinances like the one in Livingston County that are more stringent than statewide regulations. The law is being challenged in court by a small group of counties and concerned citizens, who are hoping, at the very least, that their local ordinances will be grandfathered in. Livingston County Presiding Commissioner Ed Douglas said he is glad to see the lawsuit but didn’t feel the need to join it.

    As residents await the judgment, they face the reality of having little control over who moves in next door.

    A new neighbor

    Bert Wire’s property is roughly 2,200 feet from the proposed CAFO site. He remembers the day he officially found out about the application through a letter in the mail, after hearing about the possibility around town for months.

    “Nobody wants a CAFO in their own backyard,” Wire said. “I’ve been in the farming industry for over 40 years. I grew up on a dairy farm in Illinois. I’m used to the smell of livestock. But this is something completely different.”

    Wire is referring to the odorous cocktail of particulate matter and pollutants such as ammonia and hydrogen sulfide churned out of the massive hog barns by exhaust fans. After Wire and his neighbors appealed the initial United Hog permit granted by the Department of Natural Resources, the company withdrew its original application and submitted a new one for approximately 10,500 hogs, making it a Class 1B Operation. At that size, the CAFO would hold more than 8 million gallons of manure in a 12-foot-deep cemented underground storage pit roughly the area of two-and-a-half football fields.

    The department requires that those pits must be at least two feet above the groundwater table. But, last spring, Wire and two neighbors had a hunch that groundwater was more accessible than United Hog Systems let on in their application.

    At the time, one of his neighbors was renting a parcel of land on the proposed CAFO footprint. To investigate, they fixed a posthole digger to a skid loader and set out to dig a series of holes. Out of the six holes they dug at depths of two to three feet, four filled with water. To them, this was evidence that the groundwater table was accessible at shallow depths and that the CAFO construction would violate those regulations.

    During the administrative court hearing, as part of the CAFO permit appeal process, Jeff Browning, an engineer hired by United Hog Systems, testified that based on the photo evidence, the water in the holes dug by the Poosey Neighbors group “look artificial.” But Browning also noted that the company hired to complete borings to determine groundwater depth had “hit a little perched water” during their site survey. Since then, many debates have ensued about perched water, and whether it could interfere with underground manure pits.

    Those debates were amplified months later when the Missouri Clean Water Commission announced a plan to exclude perched water from the definition of the groundwater table used in CAFO design regulations. The Department of Natural Resources’ Water Protection Program Director Chris Wieberg said during a public meeting that they were attempting to fix an error discovered during the appeal process of the United Hog permit.

    Perched groundwater occurs when a body of groundwater is sandwiched between two sections of unsaturated earth above the main body of groundwater. Perched water bodies can come and go depending on the season and amounts of precipitation. Sometimes perched water happens to be the only potable water supply available, meaning that some wells pull directly from it.

    “You don’t know how deep perched water goes unless you install groundwater monitoring wells around the perimeter of the entire site and you take groundwater samples over an extended period of time,” said Stephen Jeffery, the lawyer representing Neighbors United and the challenge to SB 391. “From that data, you can make scientific conclusions. But right now, DNR is jumping the gun. They are reaching these conclusions, but they have no data to back it up.”

    Opponents of this definition change also find it odd that the Department of Natural Resources is only attempting to exclude perched water from CAFO regulations, but that they are not advocating for a perched groundwater exemption for all waste containment design regulations.

    A Department of Natural Resources spokesperson stated that the agency’s intention for the definition change is to correct an “inadvertent deletion” of the exemption to the groundwater table definition, which occurred during efforts to reduce “red tape” language while Eric Greitens was governor. The agency did not provide further comment to the Missourian.

    Robert Brundage, a representative of the Missouri Pork Association and the Missouri Cattlemen's Association, has also spoken in favor of the definition change. During DNR's first public meeting on the issue, he stated that a failure to correct the inadvertent deletion is “not fair to the regulated community” who rely on clear definitions to conduct their business in accordance with state laws.

    Brundage, who has also represented United Hog Systems in the past but did not provide comment to the Missourian about their pending application, also denied assertions that CAFOs pose a threat to groundwater.

    “If it’s some kind of chronic problem that exists every single day that a CAFO is out there and operating, and they’ve been operating for years in the state of Missouri, where are all the people with their polluted wells and their health being impacted?” asked Brundage during the meeting. “We haven’t seen it.”

    Wieberg echoed that sentiment. He said during the November meeting that DNR probably works two cases a year related to unintentional discharge of manure from transfer technologies or land application equipment.

    “I can’t put my finger on or think towards a case that we worked where we had groundwater contamination as a result of a spill, and definitely not a result of a leak,” said Wieberg, in response to a question submitted by the public during the meeting.

    Though there are no documented cases of groundwater contamination as a result of CAFO mismanagement or infrastructure failure, proponents for stricter regulations say that DNR is not looking closely enough.

    Potential risks

    DNR does not require ongoing groundwater monitoring for Class 1B or Class 1C CAFOs. This essentially means that they rely on operators to self-report when something goes awry. Danner Horton, the former Livingston County commissioner, says this is like having “the fox watch the chickens,” and it’s a big reason why she advocated for the ability for local officials to monitor CAFO sites while she was in office.

    “When’s the last time you drove down the highway over the speed limit and said, ‘Well, now, I’m going to call the sheriff so he can sit and watch me?’” asked Wire. “(The operators) are not going to call DNR. They’re going to wait to respond until somebody like me raises hell.”

    It’s not just spills or leaks that advocates worry about. Mismanagement of the millions of gallons of manure applied on nearby farm fields is also a point of concern, and there’s no shortage of documented cases. Advocates point toward a 10,000-gallon manure runoff event from a 5,600-hog CAFO in Callaway County in 2014, which made its way to a tributary of Millers Creek in the Mark Twain National Forest, resulting in a $12,000 fine, according to DNR documents.

    Another incident in Audrain County led to more than 45,000 aquatic animals dying as a result of hog effluent discharged into Sandy Creek in 2018. A year later, another incident occurred along a tributary of the West Fork Cuivre River that resulted in a 3,300 fish kill. Neither Callaway nor Audrain counties had local health ordinances for CAFOs.

    In other words, opponents of the proposed United Hog CAFO aren’t just worried about perched water. They argue a mismanagement incident of equivalent size could pollute their much beloved Poosey Conservation area, an approximately 6,000-acre site with hardwood forests, tallgrass prairie and several lakes for fishing.

    “Our conservation areas are funded by the one-eighth cent sales tax that was passed in 1976,” said Doug Doughty, a row crop farmer with a small cow-calf herd in Livingston County. He is also a member of the Jackson Township board. “When you think about the millions of dollars that Missourians have invested into our conservation areas and state parks system, what are people going to do when CAFOs move in here like they did in Iowa and their outdoor experiences are not what they used to be?”

    Hydrogeologists have also gotten involved in the debate. The Missouri section of the American Institute of Professional Geologists wrote a letter to urge Wieberg to create a working group of geologists and other qualified professionals to provide input on the proposed perched water exemption.

    “Why did they make an exception to selectively exclude perched water?” asked Matthew Rhoades, president-elect of AIPG and a member of the Missouri section. “It doesn't make scientific sense. It doesn't make good technical sense. You wouldn't do that with any other kind of industrial facility.”

    Rhoades, who describes himself as a “capitalist, pro-ag, pork guy,” said AIPG did not receive a response from DNR, although the offer still stands to create a working group of geologic experts to discuss the issue.

    The Clean Water Commission not only moved forward with the definition change in mid-December, but they also invoked an emergency rule change that expedites the approval process. That move was quickly challenged in court and parties are awaiting the judgment. In the meantime, the public comment period is underway.

    Local impact

    Opponents to the rule change say that this is just the most recent in a pattern of loosening statewide regulations for CAFOs.

    “We’re seeing agribusiness corporations getting even more concentrated, so concentrated that they own and control huge percentages of commodity markets and industries,” said Tim Gibbons, communications director for the Missouri Rural Crisis Center. “And when you lose competition and you have huge amounts of corporate concentration, family farmers lose, consumers lose, our environment loses and our fight for democracy loses.”

    State Rep. Rusty Black, R-Chillicothe, has property just a few miles from the proposed CAFO site in Livingston County. He says that while he doesn’t have an issue with CAFOs coming into his district, as a small-scale cattle farmer he recognizes the future implications of letting big agriculture operations take up space.

    “I’ve been told I will live long enough to no longer be viable in the cattle business,” Black said. “I used to not think that was true, but since I’ve been here, maybe I’ll be able to raise cows for hobby, but me being able to sell is probably on its way out.”

    Black said he would love for his grandchildren to experience the days he spent in his youth on his grandparent’s farm but agriculture is “ever evolving.”

    Part of that evolution has been ushered in by Missouri lawmakers as they’ve opened their arms to agribusiness in the state.

    But rural communities do not always experience the financial boom they’re promised when big agriculture operations move in. According to Livingston County Presiding Commissioner Ed Douglas, it remains unclear how many jobs will be created by the United Hog CAFO, how transportation infrastructure will be affected due to increased truck traffic and to what extent property values may decline over the long term in the areas surrounding the facilities.

    “A lot of times CAFOs are actually extractive of the community’s resources and they’re actually going to impose more costs, especially to the taxpayer, for having to maintain the roads with all of these truckloads of animals or feed or tankers of manure,” said Ashlen Busick, a regional representative of the Socially Responsible Agriculture Project, an advocate for family farms. “These smaller communities and townships have to foot the bill for keeping up with road maintenance. They really have to carry the burden for the CAFO.”

    Human health is also a factor in the argument to heavily regulate CAFOs. Some studies show that human proximity to CAFOs has been linked to exacerbated asthma symptoms and allergies, and the CDC reports that repeated exposure to emissions from CAFOs can increase a person’s likelihood of developing respiratory diseases.

    But for some, the benefits of being a welcoming state to industrial agriculture far outweigh the potential risks. According to the MU Extension website, Missouri ranks in the top ten for pork production in the U.S., amounting to a nearly $1 billion industry for the state.

    Ray Massey, professor of agricultural economics with MU Extension, said that few people raise small numbers of pigs these days because it’s difficult to make a profit on a small scale. “The larger you are, you can raise pigs for a lower price. Now, it doesn’t go on forever, but if you have 5,000 pigs you can raise them cheaper than if you had 1,000 pigs,” Massey said.

    According to Massey, who has worked for MU Extension for 25 years, CAFOs provide some of the only agriculture jobs available in rural regions. “So do you want zero employment ... or do you want a business that will raise pigs, employ construction and feed manufacturers and veterinarians?” Massey asked.

    It can be difficult to track CAFO contract arrangements because oftentimes U.S. companies own the land and the facilities but foreign corporations own the livestock. United Hog Systems, the company behind the Livingston County CAFO permit, is a domestic company based in Marshall, and the land the CAFO would be built on is managed by a firm based in Grower. These project stakeholders are not in Livingston County.

    According to testimony in the administrative commission hearing regarding the appeal of United Hog's initial permit, Brazilian-based JBS owns the hogs in United Hog operations. JBS is a Brazilian corporation and the largest meat producer in the world. They received $78 million in U.S. bailout assistance in 2019, according to reporting by The Washington Post. The company has also been charged with price fixingmeat contamination and violating U.S. anti-corruption laws.

    “Industrialization and corporate takeover of our livestock markets would not look the way it looks without a lot of unintentional backing by taxpayers. It’s all a setup game for them to control our food system,” Gibbons said.

    Foreign ownership, diminished local control and jargon-filled regulatory debates inaccessible to most members of the public are intersecting issues that come with a globalized, industrial food system. But the future implications for Livingston County residents remain unknown.

    “What’s going to happen to our town?” asked Susan Fair, a Livingston County resident organizing around these issues. “If we have no say, I mean, do they just get to do what they want? It makes me nervous, but we don’t have to just roll over.”

    One family's experience

    Ashlen Busick grew up about a mile from a 72-barn CAFO that housed 80,000 hogs in Putnam County, just a few hours northeast of Livingston County. 

    She remembers having to hold her breath as her school bus passed the CAFO each day to avoid the surrounding “blanket of stench.” Her family was one of the few opposed to its construction shortly after Missouri lawmakers opened up Putnam, Mercer and Sullivan counties to corporate farms through an exemption to the 1975 family farm law.

    “When the CAFO was first proposed, I remember the divide beginning to grow,” said Busick, who is now a regional representative of the Socially Responsible Agriculture Project, an advocate for family farms. “Because my family chose to speak out against this CAFO being located near our farm, my family no longer felt welcome at our church. And people made threats. There’s a lot of that I’m actually still learning about because my parents shielded me from it.” 

    Chief among her family’s concerns was the impact corporate-backed farms would have on small farmer livelihoods. The presence of CAFOs in the United States has risen rapidly since the 1980s, when market-driven consolidation of livestock farms began forcing many small family farmers out of business, and legislators began introducing legislation to support those trends. 

    Since then, Missouri has lost 80% of its hog farmers.

  • 13 Mar 2021 9:58 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)


    OPINION | REX NELSON: Neil Compton's battle

    by Rex Nelson

    In the late 1950s and early 1960s, there was increased interest across Arkansas in preventing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from building a dam on the Buffalo River. On May 24, 1962, the first members of what would become known as the Ozark Society held an organizational meeting on the campus of the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville.

    Members of the Nature Conservancy were there that night to show a film about the float trip U.S. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas had taken on the Buffalo earlier in the spring.

    People were asked to pay $1 each to join the organization. A Bentonville doctor named Neil Compton was elected as the first president. Joe and Maxine Clark became editors of the Ozark Society Bulletin. A Little Rock chapter led by Charles Johnston Jr. was organized in February 1963.

    The Ozark Society sponsored a float on the Buffalo in the spring of 1963. The first statewide meeting was held at Fort Smith that summer. Membership grew rapidly. The organization attracted national publicity and received the 1968 National Conservation Achievement Award.

    The Ozark Society was successful in its primary mission. Not only was no dam built, Congress in 1972 established a new designation within the national park system. The Buffalo River became America's first national river, setting the stage for more to come. President Richard Nixon signed the bill in March 1972.

    "What a lot of us forget when we're recreating on the 135 miles of this free-flowing river or the surrounding 95,000 acres is that before this was public land, it was people's homes and livelihoods," the National Park Service wrote in a social media post that marked the 49th anniversary of Nixon signing the bill. "Many of the trails you can enjoy here today were originally built by early settlers as roadways connecting their communities' homesteads, churches, farms, mines and mills. Many of the park's campgrounds used to be somebody's agricultural fields.

    "Many bluff shelters and bottomlands were seasonal hunting camps for indigenous peoples. The river itself was a means of transportation and commerce, connecting rural communities along the Buffalo to larger outposts across the White and Mississippi River basins."

    The society didn't simply bask in past successes. It attempted to prevent dams on other streams in Arkansas and led the fight for more public access to the Mulberry River. It lobbied for creation of the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission and passage of the Arkansas Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. It worked in Washington to ensure that places in Arkansas were protected by the National Wilderness Acts of 1975 and 1983. Chapters were added in Missouri and Louisiana.

    "The challenge goes on," Compton said. "There are other lands and rivers, other wilderness areas, to save and to share with all."

    In 1975, the nonprofit Ozark Society Foundation was created to support the society's educational and recreational activities in the region. The foundation became a publisher of high-quality conservation and nature-related books. Since 1967, the society and foundation have produced more than two dozen publications. These include canoe and hiking guides, natural and cultural histories, and field guides.

    The most recent publication is a monumental 520-page guide, "Trees, Shrubs and Woody Vines of Arkansas." It will be the go-to guide for Arkansas trees for years to come. I think Compton, who died in February 1999 at age 86, would be pleased with this effort were he still around.

    In writing and discussing Arkansas history, we tend to focus on political and business leaders. But Compton, who was born in August 1912 at Falling Springs Flats in Benton County, should be recognized alongside our greatest Arkansans ever for his efforts to preserve parts of what we now refer to as the Natural State. He had a deep love for the natural aspects of this state from the start.

    Compton attended elementary school at Bozarth, a rural school near Gentry. After graduating from high school at Bentonville in 1931, Compton entered the UA. He graduated four years later with degrees in geology and zoology.

    Compton married hiking and canoeing partner Laurene Putman of Bentonville in September 1935. In 1939, Compton graduated from medical school in Little Rock. After an internship in Camden, N.J., he went to work as a health officer in Bradley County and later Washington County for the state Board of Health.

    He was a resident in obstetrics at St. Vincent Infirmary at Little Rock in 1948-49 after having served during World War II in the U.S. Navy. Following a long practice in the field of obstetrics and gynecology, Compton would often joke that he had "delivered enough babies to staff my own navy."

    It's for his conservation efforts, though, that this avid hiker and canoeist will be remembered. That 1962 meeting at Waterman Hall on the UA campus was the start of a 12-year tenure as Ozark Society president.

    A book titled "The High Ozarks: A Vision of Eden," which featured Compton's photographs, was published in 1982. In 1992, the University of Arkansas Press published his book "The Battle for the Buffalo River: A Conservation Crisis in the Ozarks." Five years later, the Ozark Society published Compton's "The Buffalo River in Black and White."

    In September 1987, National Park Service director William Penn Mott appointed Compton an honorary national park ranger. It's fitting that after his death in 1999, his family chose to scatter some of his ashes in the Buffalo River.

    Senior Editor Rex Nelson's column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. He's also the author of the Southern Fried blog at

  • 11 Mar 2021 4:51 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Feral hog eradication resources available to Buffalo River Watershed landowners

    • By Ryan McGeeney U of A System Division of Agriculture
    • Mar 11, 2021

    LITTLE ROCK — Landowners in the Buffalo River Watershed are eligible to receive assistance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture aimed at eradicating feral hog populations in the area.

    Additionally, as part of the Buffalo River Watershed Enhancement Project, funding for conservation assistance is also currently available to landowners as well as agricultural producers in the watershed who are interested in implementing conservation practices to help maintain and improve water quality.

    The sign-up period for conservation practices ends March 26, 2021. Interested landowners should check in with their local USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service field office to apply.

    John Pennington, extension water quality educator for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, said there will be multiple sign-up opportunities for this special assistance over the next five years with up to $400,000 additional conservation funding available for qualifying landowners annually.

    “The importance is that not only can these forms of conservation assistance help protect water quality in the watershed, but they can also improve farm profitability and habitat for native wildlife,” Pennington said. “Also of importance, this opportunity does not come around every day, or even very often.”

    The Cooperative Extensions Service, part of the Division of Agriculture, is helping to provide site visits, outreach and information within the project area, as well as providing feral hog control informational resources.

    While the funding is potentially available throughout the Buffalo River Watershed, priority areas are: Calf Creek, Bear Creek, Lower Big Creek, Tomahawk Creek and Brush Creek sub-watersheds in portions of Baxter, Marion, Pope, Searcy, Stone and Van Buren counties.

    The funded conservation practices are intended to increase farm efficiency and reduce nutrients, sediment, and bacteria from moving off the landscape and into tributaries, and align with the recommendations from the Buffalo River Watershed Management Plan. Some examples of supported conservation practices include brush management, prescribed burning and pasture fencing.

    To receive assistance with feral hog eradication, landowners should call the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Arkansas Wildlife Services at (501) 835-2318. Wildlife Service technicians use state-of-the-art technology, including remotely triggered enclosure gates, to trap and remove feral hogs from residents’ property.

    Other agencies and organizations on the Arkansas Feral Hog Eradication Task Force are available to help. Residents who prefer to learn how to trap hogs themselves using new technologies, and are willing to host a field demonstration, or would like to pick up an Arkansas Feral Hog Handbook, contact your local county extension office (

    Other steps to help in the eradication of feral hogs and improvement of water quality are to report sightings and kills of feral hogs using the "Feral Hog Reporting Survey" app from the Arkansas Feral Hog Eradication Task Force, available at

  • 08 Mar 2021 4:23 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Newton County Times

    Buffalo Theater to become visitor’s center

    By TERRI SMITH For the Newton County Times

    The Jasper City Council met Thursday, Feb. 25 at City Hall.

    Don Nelms, owner of the Buffalo River Theater will donate the building to be turned into a visitor’s center with public restrooms. He requests that a plaque be placed on the property honoring one of his businesses, announced Jasper Mayor Jan Larson. The city looks forward to putting the building to use, she told the council.. The council spoke of the possibility of allowing vendors to operate in the visitor center.

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

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