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The Buffalo National River is 153 miles of Arkansas wilderness and great memories, and today I’d like to share some thoughts about why we must be diligent in protecting it.
The Buffalo was the first river in the United States to be designated a national river. That happened because so many Arkansans said we want it as a natural river without dams or obstructions.
Every year, thousands of adventurers brave the whitewater rapids in the upper reaches of the Buffalo or float the more placid waters downstream. Like so many others, my family and I have canoed down the river and hiked along the banks. I have observed Arkansas’s only elk herd in the woods near Ponca.
The wilderness that is the Buffalo is more than a clear-running river. The land tells much of our history. Three features of the Buffalo are on the National Register of Historic Places: The Big Buffalo Valley Historic District, the Buffalo River Bridge on Highway 7, and the Parker-Hickman Farm-Historic District.
The Arkansas Department of Heritage is assessing two other sites for possible nomination to the Register – the home sites of Granny Henderson and “Wild Vic” Flowers.
The very popularity of the Buffalo creates issues, such as litter that washes into the streams, and requires certain accommodations, such as public facilities. The National Park Service is working to improve its waste treatment, which is necessary for its restrooms along the river.
Some hazards aren’t as obvious or as easy to solve, such as aging municipal wastewater and septic systems, streambank erosion, and the sediment and nutrients that run into tributaries from unpaved roads.
We want to preserve this treasured resource. We want the families who have lived there for generations to have the resources to continue their good stewardship of this watershed and the river that runs through it.
As governor, I have a responsibility to protect the Buffalo River. As an outdoorsman, I have a personal interest in preserving its health and beauty.
In 2016, I established the Beautiful Buffalo River Action Committee to address issues of concern in the Buffalo River Watershed. I asked the members of the committee to develop a non-regulatory, watershed-based management plan. In September, I took the next step by establishing the Buffalo River Conservation Committee, which will utilize the watershed management plan to prioritize and fund projects that would be supported by farmers and the local communities.
I was in law school when I discovered the Buffalo River, and like so many Arkansans, I value the Buffalo as a particularly beautiful part of God’s creation. Let’s work together to safeguard this jewel so that our children can share this natural masterpiece with their children and those who come after.