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  • 09 Oct 2019 3:43 PM | Anonymous member

    BRENDA BLAGG: Unhogging the Buffalo

    Governor sets farm-ridding plan in motion

    The new Buffalo River Conservation Committee should soon be functional.

    Gov. Asa Hutchinson recently announced creation of the panel, pledging $1 million from the governor's discretionary fund to match another $1 million promised from private, nonprofit organizations.

    The panel will eventually be using the money to fund conservation and water quality grants within the Buffalo River watershed.

    This is the latest step in a Hutchinson administration effort to preserve and protect the Buffalo, the nation's first national river.

    The free-flowing river winds through rugged wilderness and beneath soaring bluffs in the Ozarks. It has been a treasured destination for generations.

    Then came the hog farm controversy and the threat of pollution to the Buffalo and its tributaries.

    Gov. Mike Beebe's administration granted C&H Hog Farms a permit for a large-scale concentrated swine feeding operation at Mount Judea in Newton County. The farm was allowed to have 2,500 sows and up to 4,000 piglets at the site adjacent to Big Creek, which flows into the Buffalo just 6.6 miles away from the feeding operation.

    Beebe, reflecting on the matter as he was about to leave office in 2014, acknowledged regret about his administration's role in the controversy.

    C&H started the feeding operation in 2013, after complying with then-existing state law to get the permit.

    The Beebe administration did manage later to stop future concentrated animal feeding operations temporarily and set up monitoring systems to track water quality in the Buffalo.

    But the controversy continued.

    This year, it was Hutchinson's administration that found a way to end C&H's operation. The state negotiated a $6.2 million buyout. The money has come mostly from the state government, with something less than $1 million contributed by The Nature Conservancy.

    The buyout was announced in June. The farm owners have since been getting the money to pay the balance on their multimillion-dollar loan and to compensate them for other closure-related costs. They're in the process of selling the hogs now. A site cleanup will follow.

    Just this week, an engineering firm submitted a draft closure plan to the state regulators who hired them.

    The Arkansas Department of Energy and Environment will take comments on the plan through Tuesday. The department will then decide whether to alter or finalize the plan.

    Under the buyout agreement, C&H Hog Farms must be fully closed by early February.

    On the administrative front, Hutchinson also named a Beautiful Buffalo River Action Committee in 2016.

    The group drafted a watershed management plan that this new Buffalo River Conservation Committee will use to choose projects to fund with the $2 million Hutchinson said it will have to spend.

    The state money is contingent upon legislative review and approval, but that should be readily forthcoming.

    The private money will come from the Nature Conservancy and the similarly private, nonprofit Buffalo River Foundation.

    The new panel will be chaired by Agriculture Secretary Wes Ward. State secretaries (or their designees) from the Departments of Health; Energy and Environment; and Parks, Heritage and Tourism will fill out the panel.

    The effect is to put key people inside state government on the front line, looking out for the best interests of the Buffalo and rewarding those actively safeguarding this treasure for future generations.

    Commentary on 10/09/2019

  • 07 Oct 2019 7:13 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)


    Firm submits closure plans for Arkansas hog farm

    State to review proposal to remove watershed waste

    by Emily Walkenhorst 

    An engineering firm has submitted a draft closure plan for C&H Hog Farms to state environmental regulators.

    The plan would prevent farm owners from placing any remaining hog manure on the ground in the Buffalo National River's watershed. C&H opponents have expressed concern for years about the use of manure as fertilizer in the watershed.

    The land there is already "oversaturated" with manure and phosphorus from it, said Gordon Watkins, president of the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance. In high enough amounts, phosphorus can cause algae growth in surface waters.

    Watkins said his group plans to submit comments on the closure plan but broadly feels comfortable with it.

    "We'd like to see some efforts to continue monitoring around the storage ponds as well as Big Creek itself, to see if phosphorus could continue to leach out into Big Creek" or to spot evidence of ponds seeping," Watkins said.

    C&H abuts on Big Creek about 6.6 miles from where the creek flows into the Buffalo. Owners did not respond to a request for comment, but research has not explicitly found that C&H has caused the algae increasingly found in the Buffalo River or to other pollution in waters near C&H.

    The Big Creek Research and Extension Team at the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture has been studying C&H, neighboring Big Creek and the Buffalo River for several years. That study ended in June, and the team is expected to release its final report soon.

    [DOCUMENT: Read closure plan for hog farm » arkansasonline.com/107hogfarm]

    C&H Hog Farms, which was permitted to house 6,503 swine, took a $6.2 million buyout from the state this summer after years of concerns were raised about such a large farm's potential impact on the river, which is the country's first "national" river. The farm must close by early February. Farmers have begun removing the pigs.

    Arkansas Department of Energy and Environment spokesman Jacob Harper said in an email to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that the next steps are washing down the facilities and closing the manure storage ponds.

    The department hired Harbor Environmental to write the closure plan, which was completed Sept. 27. It consists of four pages and diagrams of how the manure holding ponds will be deconstructed.

    Interested people have until 4:30 p.m. Oct. 15 to submit comments on the plan. After that, the department will decide whether the alter and/or finalize it.

    The plan calls for removing at least six inches of the manure pond liners, in addition to the manure. That follows department policy.

    In other states, including Oklahoma, regulators specifically prohibit removal of the pond lining, Watkins said. The U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Association recommends maintaining pond liners when removing sludge.

    Watkins cited a white paper done by researchers at five different universities and published by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The researchers caution against trying to remove the liner because of the risk of seepage into the ground. Liners should only be removed if they are damaged, they wrote.

    After the manure is removed, the plan calls for demolishing the ponds by filling and grading them. Workers will then plant vegetation on the land to minimize erosion.

    Metro on 10/07/2019

  • 06 Oct 2019 8:05 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Harrison Daily Times

    State Rep. Keith Slape has questions about watershed conservation grants

    By JAMES L. WHITE jamesw@harrisondaily.com

    State Rep. Keith Slape of Jasper said he is waiting for more information on a plan to offer conservation grants to property owners in the Buffalo National River watershed before he gets completely on board.

    In September, Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed an executive order establishing the Buffalo River Conservation Committee, or BRCC, and said $2 million in state and private funding would be made available for conservation and water quality grants within the watershed.

    Half of that money would come from the governor’s discretionary, or “rainy day,” funds and the other half from two private entities, the Nature Conservancy and the Buffalo River Foundation. The plan would require legislative approval.

    Slape said he had been talking to officials in the governor’s office, explaining that many of the people in his district are skeptical when they hear someone is from the government and they want to help.

    He said the plan as it has been explained to him so far is for grants to help with controlling erosion on property in the watershed and similar measures. The state wants to appoint local officials without outside influence to help administer the plan with local control.

    However, Slape said the rules for how the plan would actually work are being developed and will have to go through the Arkansas Legislative Council. He was asked if he saw any potential hiccups in the legislative approval process.

    “Anytime the government’s involved in anything I see hiccups,” Slape said.

    For instance, many rural quorum courts in 2005 adopted land use plans to prevent the government from seizing property or telling owners how they could use their property.

    Slape said one of the questions legislators will want to know is if those land use plans have been studied to make sure there are no conflicts with any regulations that might come along with grant money.

    Once he sees the actual plan, he said, his background as sheriff will help in investigating all the intricacies of potential requirements.

    Slape said state Agriculture Secretary Wes Ward will be conducting meetings with property owners in the near future.

    “They’re going to let me know when the meetings are set up,” he said. “I want it to be a very public meeting so people can see what’s going on.

    “Plus, there’s going to be some serious questions asked at the ALC when it comes to rainy-day money. Is this something that the state’s going to come in and have conservatory deeds and easements?

    “They assured me it would not be, but once I get to read the plans of how they’re going to do this, then I’ll know more about it,” Slape concluded.

  • 05 Oct 2019 8:02 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Harrison Daily Times

    Buffalo National River Discovery Center in old junior high?

    By JAMES L. WHITE jamesw@harrisondaily.com 

    • Oct 5, 2019

    The old Harrison School junior high has been vacant for about two years now. Many people wonder what might become of it, but a group met last week to look at the possibility of using part of it for a Buffalo National River Discovery Center.

    Dave Fitton, long-time Harrison resident and a former city council member, called the group together. That group included:

    -Jack Stewart and Ellen Corley with the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance were present, although they were representing themselves as Newton County residents only.

    -Layne Ragsdale, a former Harrison Regional Chamber of Commerce president and a member of the CORE downtown revitalization group that had years ago explored the possibility of a BNR center in Harrison.

    -Tina Cole and Patty Methvin with the Northwest Arkansas Economic Development District.

    -Harrison School Superintendent Dr. Stewart Pratt.

    -Current chamber president/CEO Bob Largent.

    -BNR Superintendent Mark Foust.

    -Arkansas Game and Fish Commission chairman Ken Reeves.

    -North Arkansas College president Dr. Randy Esters.

    -Harrison Mayor Jerry Jackson.

    -Dave Morton with Equity Bank.

    Fitton explained that the general idea behind the afternoon’s meeting was to discuss a way to not only promote the river as a destination for tourism, but to leverage that asset for Harrison and all other gateway communities in the area, especially Jasper, Marshall and Yellville. Other such communities include Big Flat, Pindall, St. Joe and Western Grove.

    Although the river does not flow through Boone County, the concept is to take advantage of the traffic flow through Harrison to educate visitors and even local school students about the different aspects of the river.

    A comparison was made between Harrison and Manhattan, Kansas, in that the latter town houses a discovery center dedicated to the Flint Hills even though the city isn’t technically in the Flint Hills. It does, however, have significant traffic and people learn about the Flint Hills and might visit the area.

    Fitton displayed the floor plan of the old junior high and ways the building could be modified to accommodate a discovery center. It has almost 80,000 square feet in the main part of the school to the south of College Avenue.

    The cost of the plan was questioned, including purchase of the building.

    The property was recently appraised, but there had been no offers to buy it at the appraised price. The school district has been authorized to sell it for the highest possible price.

    There was no indication what that price might be, but Fitton estimated it would require $2.5 million in start-up capital.

    The group discussed possible grants and other financing sources from both public and private entities. Members also discussed the fact that community support will be key to making the proposal a reality.

    Fitton told the Daily Times that there could be a public meeting scheduled in the future for more public input.

  • 29 Sep 2019 7:47 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)



    REX NELSON: Creating a natural state

    by Rex Nelson

    In a place that likes to refer to itself as the Natural State, I can think of no more important project right now than the quail restoration efforts that I outline in a story on the cover of today's Perspective section. That's because this program will benefit other types of birds that are in decline, along with pollinators such as honeybees and monarch butterflies.

    Such initiatives are crucial to the future of American agriculture. And agriculture still represents the largest segment of the Arkansas economy.

    The value of honeybee pollination to U.S. agriculture is estimated at $18.9 billion annually. About 75 percent of flowering plants rely on pollinators for reproduction. Ideal pollinator habitat must have native flowers with a variety of colors, shapes and heights that bloom throughout the growing season.

    How do we get back there as a state?

    "We just have to get people used to these controlled burns," wildlife biologist Austin Klais told me. "We also need to help them come to the realization that you can manage your land for wildlife and still make money off it."

    As Michael Widner wrote in this newspaper two weeks ago: "While landscape changes after the Civil War helped quail numbers greatly, mechanized agriculture introduced about the era of World War II resulted in profound changes to land ownership patterns, field size and vegetation control using herbicides. Pasture grasses, land fertilization, commercial timber production methods and many other facets of forestry and farming were introduced. These changes parallel the decline in quail numbers because modern agricultural and forestry practices have destroyed most quail habitats."

    If Arkansas is to be the Natural State--increasing the quality of life for current Arkansans while attracting new residents--three additional efforts must take place to complement the quail habitat restoration initiative:

    • The first is a concerted push to make the Keep Arkansas Beautiful program the strongest entity of its type in the country. The Keep Arkansas Beautiful Commission is a division of the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism and is one of the state agencies that shares proceeds from Amendment 75 to the Arkansas Constitution.

    The one percent that Keep Arkansas Beautiful receives from that one-eighth-of-a-cent sales tax provides an annual budget of almost $700,000. Keep Arkansas Beautiful is the certified state affiliate of Keep America Beautiful Inc.

    Keep Arkansas Beautiful recruits people to join the Keep America Beautiful network as members of certified local affiliates. There are affiliates at Bryant, Camden, El Dorado, Fayetteville, Fort Smith, Little Rock, North Little Rock, Ozark, Sherwood, Van Buren, West Memphis and Pine Bluff. The number of affiliates needs to at least triple in the next year.

    It's time for people across Arkansas to step up in this place of great natural beauty that's unfortunately where residents litter roadsides on a regular basis and use illegal dumps. I love my native state, but as someone who has been in all 75 counties the past two years, I can say this with certainty: We're a trashy place. Let's clean up Arkansas and give the hardworking folks at Keep Arkansas Beautiful some help.

    • The second effort is a significant expansion of the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission's Stream Team program. There are more than 90,000 miles of rivers, creeks and bayous in Arkansas. The state has lost thousands of miles of free-flowing streams to dams, industrial pollution and agricultural pollution. The quality of many smallmouth bass streams is declining at an alarming rate.

    There has been an increased focus on stream quality in Arkansas in recent months due to the battle over the C&H Hog Farms in the Buffalo River watershed. During the administration of Gov. Mike Beebe, the state allowed C&H to house more than 6,500 swine on land along Big Creek, which flows into the Buffalo.

    In June, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced that state funds would be combined with funds from The Nature Conservancy for a $6.2 million buyout of C&H. Funds were transferred in August, and the farm's owners have started to sell their hogs.

    "We still want to have a long-term effort to make sure the Buffalo River is pristine for generations to come," Hutchinson said.

    Along those lines, it was announced last week that The Nature Conservancy and the Buffalo River Foundation have pledged $1 million for the newly formed Buffalo River Conservation Committee to give out for conservation projects. Hutchinson will add $1 million from his discretionary fund, pending legislative approval.

    The current momentum must be seized. It's time to recruit additional Stream Team members who will adopt hundreds of streams across the state. These members are allowed to plan projects along streams with landowner approval and technical assistance from program sponsors.

    Projects can include litter reduction, water quality monitoring, erosion control such as stream-side tree plantings, and more. Volunteers already have repaired hundreds of miles of eroding stream banks in the state, but that number should be in the thousands.

    • The third thing that's needed is a massive expansion of projects that are replacing marginal farmland in the Arkansas Delta with hardwood trees. Two years ago, I accompanied Kyle Peterson, who at the time headed the Bentonville-based Walton Family Foundation, on a tour of Delta initiatives funded by the foundation. One program returns farmland to bottomland hardwood forests in conjunction with Ducks Unlimited, The Nature Conservancy and other organizations.

    In the quarter-century since Congress created the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program and the Wetlands Reserve Program, more than 700,000 acres have been protected in Delta regions of Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi. These programs allow the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service to compensate farmers for removing cropland from production and returning land to a natural state.

    For decades, Delta farmers cleared and drained bottomland forests when soybean prices were high. Much of that land was marginal at best for row-crop agriculture.

    In the words of James Cummins of Wildlife Mississippi: "You had millions of acres of bottomland hardwoods being pushed up. There were bulldozers running around the clock. They weren't even harvesting the timber because people were frantically trying to clear the land and plant it with soybeans. A lot of this low-lying land wasn't meant for farming."

    The Walton Family Foundation has played a direct role in helping restore 75,000 acres. It would be wonderful to see that number quadrupled. From bike trails to education initiatives, the foundation has had a positive impact on Arkansas. But if Walton family members really want to see Arkansas thrive decades from now, the biggest bang for the buck will come from hardwood restoration.

    One of the largest expanses of forested wetlands in the world was once the 24 million acres of hardwoods along the lower Mississippi River. Fewer than five million forested acres survive in the area once known as the Big Woods. The most extensive remaining tract of the Big Woods is the White River National Wildlife Refuge and the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge of Arkansas.

    We're talking about planting trees on marginal cropland from the standpoint of farmers making a profit. It's past time to pick up the pace of Big Woods restoration.

  • 27 Sep 2019 9:19 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)


    NWA EDITORIAL: The money flows

    Governor, nonprofits collaborate on Buffalo’s future

    by NWA Democrat-Gazette 

    The astonishing thing, perhaps is that it took until 2019 for an Arkansas governor get around to creating a panel specifically interested in not just protecting the Buffalo National River, but actually devoting money to its future well-being.

    Let's be clear (which is also the way we prefer our waterways, by the way) about one thing from the get-go: Arkansas has a lot of creeks, streams and rivers worth seeing and protecting. And, with a way of life that relies heavily on agriculture as an economic powerhouse, the state also faces serious challenges to ensure those activities thrive without doing damage to its natural beauty and diverse ecosystem.

    What’s the point?

    A state committee created by Gov. Asa Hutchinson can be a valuable collaborative effort in the protection and preservation of the nation’s first national river.

    In recent years, many Arkansans have re-awakened to the necessity of protecting beloved waterways. The chief reason for that revival of concern is the controversial state-permitted operation of a large-scale commercial hog farm too close to the jewel of natural resource tourism, the Buffalo National River. C&H Hog Farms was permitted in 2013 to house more than 6,500 swine.

    Ask whether that hog farm's operation was doing harm to the Buffalo and its tributaries and you'll get an argument from some folks. But earlier this year, Gov. Asa Hutchinson recognized a unique opportunity to rescue the 135-mile river from even the potential of degradation. Working with the Nature Conservancy -- an organization Arkansas is fortunate to have operating within its borders -- Hutchinson negotiated a $6.2 million buyout of C&H.

    That deal recognized the need to compensate the family that invested in the hog farm. The owners, according to Hutchinson, have started the process of removing the hogs. As part of the deal, the land on which the hog farm operated will be given to the state as a conservation easement, limiting its future use.

    State regulators are now going through a process to make permanent a ban on new medium- and large-scale hog farms in the Buffalo River watershed. Hutchinson has said he supports the ban around the Buffalo, which Congress in 1972 named as the United States' first national river. The river itself is under the management of the National Park Service, but its watershed is far, far bigger than what that agency controls.

    While Hutchinson and any Arkansas governor who has any sense will and must support farmers and the state's agricultural economy, it also cannot and must not go unnoticed that tourism is also a massive economic driver. Just this week, state tourism officials released the numbers for 2018: More than 32 million visitors spent around $7.37 billion dollars, directly supporting nearly 68,000 jobs within the travel industry.

    As far as the Buffalo National River, it accounts for well more than 1 million visitors a year. Many of those who don't live in Arkansas undoubtedly become ambassadors for the state in the aftermath of their journey. How could they not? A visit to the river, with its majestic bluffs, massive boulders and beautiful waters, can be described as anything from great outdoor fun to an almost spiritual experience.

    Now comes news that Gov. Hutchinson is upping the ante on the Buffalo River. Early this week, he created the Buffalo River Conservation Committee. Now, establishing a committee isn't necessarily progress. After all, the first committee he created in 2016, the Beautiful Buffalo River Action Committee, is required to hold quarterly meetings but has only met once in 2019. But the new committee will get $1 million from the governor's discretionary fund, pending legislative approval, and has already received pledges totalling $1 million from the Nature Conservancy and the Buffalo River Foundation.

    The combined effort will help allocate money toward conservation projects in the Buffalo River's watershed. The conservation committee will use a state and federally approved watershed management plan as its guide.

    "We still want to have a long-term effort to make sure the Buffalo River is pristine for generations to come," he said.

  • 24 Sep 2019 9:09 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)


    Buffalo River project panel formsGovernor-made group to choose conservation endeavors

    by Emily Walkenhorst 

    Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, using executive powers, created a new state committee Monday that is to select conservation projects within the watershed of the Buffalo National River.

    Private funds and a planned contribution from Hutchinson's discretionary funds will go toward the projects. The Nature Conservancy and the Buffalo River Foundation have collectively pledged $1 million toward the new Buffalo River Conservation Committee.

    Buffalo River Foundation Executive Director Ross Noland said the funding from each nonprofit organization has not been determined. The groups will together fund conservation projects worth a total of $1 million, and their contributions would be figured once projects are approved, Noland said.

    Hutchinson also intends to use $1 million from his discretionary fund toward the committee, pending legislative approval.

    The new endeavor is the latest from the governor's office regarding the Buffalo River, which has been the subject of heated political debate in recent years on how best to protect it. The major issue has been the existence of C&H Hog Farms, which was permitted in 2013 under Gov. Mike Beebe's administration to house 6,503 swine on land that abuts Big Creek, 6.6 miles from where it runs into the Buffalo River.

    Hutchinson announced a $6.2 million buyout of C&H in June, with most of the funds coming from the state and some money coming from The Nature Conservancy.

    After being paid in August, the farm's owners have started to sell the hogs, Hutchinson said.

    "We still want to have a long-term effort to make sure the Buffalo River is pristine for generations to come," he said.

    The announcement was met positively.

    "Protecting this watershed is vital for the ability of Arkansans to enjoy this beautiful free-flowing resource," U.S. Rep. French Hill, R-Ark., said in a statement issued Monday.

    The new Buffalo River Conservation Committee will provide grants for conservation projects using the river's state and federally approved watershed management plan as a guide.

    Committee members include the secretaries or designees of the departments of agriculture; energy and environment; parks, heritage and tourism; and health.

    The Nature Conservancy, the Buffalo River Foundation and the committee will ideally find ways to combine their unique missions on conservation projects, Noland said.

    "That's when you make a difference," he said.

    The Buffalo River Foundation is a private land trust and works on conservation easements and targeted land acquisitions. Easements limit the use of land. Its money would be limited to that mission, Noland said.

    He said the foundation is glad to see emphasis from state government placed on protecting the Buffalo.

    "The Nature Conservancy and many of our supporters appreciate Gov. Hutchinson's commitment to the Buffalo River," Scott Simon, director of The Nature Conservancy in Arkansas, said in a statement. "We are interested in being part of a collaborative effort that involves many stakeholders and landowners working together for the Buffalo."

    The Buffalo River Conservation Committee is the second committee associated with the Buffalo River that Hutchinson has created as governor, with the first being the Beautiful Buffalo River Action Committee in 2016.

    That committee is required to hold quarterly meetings but has met only once in 2019.

    The Department of Energy and Environment said the action committee met in June and remains active.

    Metro on 09/24/2019

    Print Headline: Buffalo River project panel forms

  • 23 Sep 2019 11:39 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)


    September 23, 2019

    Governor Hutchinson Announces Buffalo River 
    Conservation Committee
    $2 million in state and private funds going to conservation 
    grant programs

    LITTLE ROCK –– Governor Asa Hutchinson signed Executive Order 19-14 today establishing the Buffalo River Conservation Committee (BRCC) and announced that $2 million in state and private funds will be allocated for conservation and water quality grants within the Buffalo River Watershed.

    In 2016, at the direction of Governor Hutchinson, the Beautiful Buffalo River Action Committee (BBRAC) was organized to establish an Arkansas-led approach to identify and address potential issues of concern in the Buffalo River Watershed through the development of a non-regulatory, watershed-based management plan.

    BRCC is the next step in the process, and members of the committee will utilize the watershed management plan to prioritize and fund projects in the most critical areas of the watershed. 

    “We want the protection and enhancement of water quality in the Buffalo River Watershed to continue as a state-led effort,” said Governor Hutchinson. “Now that the watershed management plan is in place, it is the right time to engage with stakeholders and landowners to start implementing projects that make a difference. The Buffalo National River is an irreplaceable resource, both for Arkansas and the nation. Protecting its quality and enhancing its value as a driver of economic development will require a unique cooperative effort. The Buffalo River Conservation Committee comprises the state departments with the most engagement in the watershed, and I am confident in their ability to connect with other engaged leaders to coordinate this effort.”

    The State of Arkansas, pending legislative approval, will provide $1 million from the Governor’s discretionary funds to the grant programs, which will be aided by an additional $1 million from the Nature Conservancy and the Buffalo River Foundation.

    The committee will be composed of the following Cabinet Secretaries or their designates:

    • Wes Ward, Secretary of Agriculture – Chair 
    • Becky Keogh, Secretary of Energy and Environment
    • Stacy Hurst, Secretary of Parks, Heritage, and Tourism
    • Dr. Nathaniel Smith, Secretary of Health

    BRCC shall establish subcommittees to lead various aspects of implementing the watershed management plan.

    For the purpose of establishing subcommittees, the BRCC shall engage and include key stakeholders representing local landowners, conservation organizations, environmental and technical experts, representatives of the tourism industry, local county and municipal officials and federal partners as identified by the Committee.

    All members of the BRCC shall work in cooperation with one another to identify opportunities to leverage their Department’s unique expertise, relationships, focus areas, and funding mechanisms in support of the vitality of the watershed.

    There shall be an annual review of the Buffalo River Watershed Management Plan, with recommendations for updates of the plan and a report on successes during the year as identified by BRCC to be submitted to the Governor’s Office.

    CONTACT: Press Shop (press@governor.arkansas.gov or 501.682.3642)

  • 19 Sep 2019 9:30 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Columbia Missourian

    Large storms pose greatest risk of CAFO runoff, experts say

    Storms caused the greatest increase in pollutants from an industrial hog farm in northern Arkansas, a water expert said Tuesday during a talk at MU.

    Andrew Sharpley, a distinguished professor of soils and water quality at the University of Arkansas, found that the greatest pollution threat to the Buffalo National River watershed came from nitrogen and phosphorus spread in just two storms over a five-year period. His team was sponsored by the state legislature to monitor the ecological impact of C&H Hog Farms.

    Sharpley talked to graduate students as part of a series of seminars sponsored by the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. He talked to about 40 students and a handful of faculty about the challenges and takeaways from his study on watershed impact from the now-closed C&H Hog Farms in Newton County, Arkansas.

    CAFOs, or concentrated animal feeding operations, like C&H Hog Farms, which had a permit for 6,500 hogs, have been a subject of debate in Missouri this year and especially since Gov. Mike Parson signed Senate Bill 391.

    The bill prohibits county health boards from enacting more stringent regulations of CAFOs than state law, according to previous Missourian reporting. The bill was signed into law by the governor in May, but Cole County Presiding Judge Patricia Joyce issued a temporary restraining order to delay the bill from going into effect, as its constitutionality is in question. This has given county health boards additional time to enact new regulation of the feeding operations, since SB 391 will not have a retroactive effect on the law, Ken Midkiff previously told the Missourian.

    In Arkansas, the C&H farm was a divisive venture from the start, as there was strong community opposition to industrial farming, Sharpley said. Community concern about the Buffalo River was already high due to past contamination. The river was declared biologically dead in 1967, and in 1968, it caught fire due to the its content of oil and grease, which Sharpley said spurred the Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments of 1972.

    C&H also raised concerns about how pollution could impact river tourism demand, which generates roughly $1.5 million annually, he said.

    However, there was also strong support for C&H as the farm was expected to create jobs and benefit the local economy. Among the supporters were farmers who thought that since the planning requirements met the standards to attain permits, the right to farm was in jeopardy.

    Sharpley’s team was focused on measuring the impact on nearby streams, springs, groundwater and soil, which were at risk of impact from nutrients and bacteria present in the C&H manure slurry.

    His team found that the greatest amount of nitrogen and phosphate on the farm and adjacent waterways was caused by “100-year storms,” which occurred twice during the five-year study. Increases in the chemicals are a problem because both nutrients lead to algal blooms, which can absorb too much oxygen in the water and cause mass die-offs of marine life. Algae blooms and die-offs cause bacterial growth and release toxins which increase the likelihood of sickness for people who come into contact with contaminated water, according to the EPA.

    Sharpley attributed these changes to climate change, “or whatever you want to call it,” he said. “It’s indicative of changing weather patterns the region is seeing.”

    Local agricultural activist and retired U.S Geological Survey technical information specialist Jeanne Heuser, who attended Sharpley’s talk, said “there’s a real disconnect” between farmers’ desire for economic freedom and their support of CAFOs. Heuser a Moniteau County resident, said after Tuesday’s talk that she’s concerned about the public health effects and foreign and corporate ownership of CAFOs.

    Studies have shown factory farms make it harder for small farming operations to compete, and drive down regional wages due to their employment of fewer high-paying jobs than multiple family farms would require.

    A 2008 analysis by the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production found that because of the benefits CAFOs collect through tax breaks and government subsidies, they can actually act as a burden to taxpayers. Their presence has also been linked to decreased retail trade, higher rates of poverty and less active main streets.

    Sharpley’s team has yet to complete its final report on the C&H study. Its methodology and data are being further reviewed for accuracy by an independent panel of experts. Sharpley cautioned that years of additional field study are still needed to draw clear conclusions about runoff and its potential risk to watersheds, due to the lack of scientific control in field studies.

    “Some of these effects might be long-term effects,” he said. “(C&H’s) impact may not be apparent now, but in a couple more years, after it rains, we might see some more impact.”

    Meanwhile, C&H farm has closed as the state found that its permits shouldn’t have been approved in the first place. The farm’s owners accepted $6.2 million to shut down the facility,according to reporting by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

    Supervising editor is Katherine Reed.

  • 11 Sep 2019 7:28 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Nation of Change

    Activists follow the money fueling Amazon fires

    Protesters around the world are singling out the bad actors profiting off deforestation. 


     Negin Owliaei and Kelsey Hawkins-Johnson


    September 11, 2019

    While the world watches in horror as fires rage on in the Amazon, activists are shining a light on the big businesses destroying what’s popularly known as the “lungs of the Earth.” On September 5, people around the globe stood in solidarity with the rainforest’s indigenous communities by partaking in the Global Day of Action for the Amazon, staging protests and singling out the bad actors profiting off deforestation. 

    In Washington, D.C. protesters chanted “Put out the flames, we name your names — politicians, corporate vultures, you’re the ones we blame,” as they marched from the White House to the Brazilian Consulate. Activists around the world have been protesting Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who has steadily rolled back indigenous land rights and environmental protections from his very first hours in office. A coalition — which includes Amazon Watch and Friends of the Earth, among others — is also putting pressure on the multinational corporations turning a profit off the destruction of the Amazon. 

    Amazon Watch, a California-based organization that works in concert with indigenous and environmental groups, issued a report earlier this year documenting the dozens of companies that stand to make money as Bolsonaro strips regulations in Brazil. The report, titled Complicity in Destruction, highlights the main drivers of deforestation — from soy and beef commodity traders like Cargill and JBS, to their financiers in North America and Europe, like BlackRock, Santander, and JP Morgan Chase. And research from Mighty Earth has documented the retailers most associated with those traders, like Costco, Walmart, and Ahold Delhaize — which owns Stop & Shop, Giant, and Food Lion. 

    Protesters in D.C. took aim at the U.S.-based companies highlighted in the campaign to defund deforestation. “There are many, many large corporations in the United States — including Cargill, ADM and BlackRock — who all have a hand in the destruction of the Amazon and we encourage all Americans to use their economic power to put pressure on these companies to do the right thing,” Todd Larsen, the Executive Co-Director for Consumer & Corporate Engagement at Green America told Inequality.org. Green America is encouraging Americans to use their investments to put economic pressure on the companies profiting off deforestation.

    “The only reason these companies are able to keep burning down the forest year over year is because their customers keep paying them to do so,”  Bárbara Amaral of Brazilians for Democracy and Social Justice told the crowd in D.C. “It’s time for supermarket giants like Costco, Walmart, Ahold, to immediately suspend contacts with Cargill and JBS, and for the public to show up at the front doors of Cargill headquarters and yell that it’s time to protect the Amazon.” 

    Protecting the environment must include structural changes to the economy that keep companies from making a quick buck off climate disaster, protesters said. “I came out today because I am in support of changing the climate debate into a debate that is critical about the current economic system that exists in the world that is perpetuating climate change,” Gabby Rosazza, a campaigner with the International Labor Rights Forum told Inequality.org. “In particular, I’m tired of hearing about how individual actions can address climate change such as buying metal straws versus plastic straws. I’m more interested in learning about who is profiting from climate change.”

    One of the companies profiting the most? BlackRock — the largest asset manager in the world. A report released last month by Amazon Watch and Friends of the Earth found BlackRock to be among the top three shareholders in 25 of the largest publicly-traded deforestation-risk companies. And the asset manager’s deforestation presence grew by more than $500 million between 2014 and 2018. Activists in London, Stockholm, San Francisco, Boston and Hong Kong targeted BlackRock during Thursday’s Global Day of Action, holding protests and die-ins outside the asset manager’s offices. 

    The recent report and protests are the latest addition to a pressure campaign mounting on BlackRock for continuously profiting off climate destruction, from the Amazon to the Alberta tar sands to Arctic oil reserves. Indigenous and environmental activists held protests at BlackRock’s annual general meeting earlier this year. Luiz Eloy Terena, legal counsel for the National Indigenous Organization of Brazil (also known as APIB) and a member of Brazil’s indigenous Terena community, expressed her criticism to BlackRock CEO Larry Fink directly during the meeting and demanded an audit of BlackRock investees operating on Brazilian indigenous territories.

     “Brazilian indigenous peoples and lands are under immense threat from the beef and soy industries working hand in glove with the Bolsonaro regime to undermine protections that keep our forests standing and our climate stable,” Terena said in a statement released after his conversation with Fink. 

    “When BlackRock funnels investments to these bad actors in Brazil, it is complicit in the destruction of tropical forests and violation of human rights. BlackRock must use its significant influence over these companies to signal that it will not tolerate policies that violate indigenous rights and damage the climate.”

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

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