The Delta Grassroots Caucus (DGC) is a broad coalition of grassroots leaders in the eight-state Delta region. DGC is also a founding partner of the Economic Equality Caucus,
which advocates for economic equality across the USA.

Gov. Hutchinson's Great Leadership for Environmental Preservation for the Buffalo River

Posted on June 15, 2019 at 01:07 PM

The Delta Caucus partners are strong advocates for environmental preservation. Therefore, we were immensely pleased by a recent victory for the environment: Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced a $6.2 million buyout of a hog farm that was unfortunately placed in the Buffalo River Watershed and risked pollution of this national treasure.

Moreover, the governor also stated that a temporary ban on large-scale hog farms in the Buffalo River watershed should be made permanent.

Many people in the Delta region and across the country were concerned that the farm hog would produce E. coli in this majestic river. There was the risk that hog waste could lead to accumulation of bacteria downstream in the Buffalo.

Gov. Hutchinson’s follows in the great tradition of an earlier generation of environmental leaders who championed the Buffalo when it faced a threat of pollution back in the 1960s and 1970:

Senator J. William Fulbright sponsored legislation beginning in the 1960s to preserve the beautiful Buffalo against the intrusion of dams and business developments that were creating unacceptable risks of pollution. Fulbright enlisted the aid of many other national leaders from both parties, including Congressman John Paul Hammerschmidt (R-AR), Senator John McClellan (D-Ar), Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall, US Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, the famous artist William Hart Benton, and many others.

Fulbright’s efforts culminated in the passage of legislation in 1972 designating the Buffalo as America’s first national river. Delta Caucus Director Lee Powell knew Fulbright for 20 years and is the author of a comprehensive biography (J. William Fulbright and His Time, published in 1995 with a Foreword by President William Jefferson Clinton)m and on behalf of the Delta Caucus wrote a letter to Gov. Hutchinson praising his efforts to continue the earlier generation of leaders’ work in preserving the iconic Buffalo River (letter is below in this message):

The owners of C & H Hog Farms had followed all the proper legal actions in applying for their permit for the farm. A state agency, however, erred in allowing a farm producing large levels of hog waste to be located so close to the Buffalo. Gov. Hutchinson’s action corrects this error while being fair to the farmers.

The geographical area involved is slightly farther west of the Delta, but many people from our region travel there every year, as do tourists from all over the country and over the world. All Americans should be delighted that we will be able to see the beauties of the Buffalo for generations to come.

(Delta Caucus letter to Gov. Hutchinson, June 14, 2019)

Delta Grassroots Caucus

June 14, 2019

Dear Governor Hutchinson:

As supporters of environmental preservation in Arkansas, the Delta Caucus would like to extend our profound appreciation to you and the State of Arkansas for the buyout of C & H Hog Farms as a great victory for supporters of the Buffalo River and environmentalists across the country.

As a biographer and friend of the late, great Senator J. William Fulbright, I know he would be tremendously proud of you for taking action to preserve the national treasure of the Buffalo River. Senator Fulbright championed the cause of the Buffalo in the 1960s and 1970s, when dam construction and development projects led to excessive sewage and environmental concerns for the river. Fulbright endorsed National Park Service status for the river as early as 1961 and introduced legislation in 1967 to make the Buffalo a National River. In 1972 Congress made the Buffalo the first river in the USA to be designated as a national river.

Your action preserves and builds upon the work of earlier advocates for this iconic natural treasure, including J. William Fulbright, Senator John McClellan, Congressman John Paul Hammerschmidt, Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, the great painter Thomas Hart Benton, and many other champions of the Buffalo River.

You are absolutely correct that the permit to C & H Hog Farms should never have been granted. We also understand that the farmers followed all the legal steps and did nothing wrong. It is just that they are being treated fairly in your wise action.

Countless people from the Delta region and across the country visit the Buffalo River every year. This is a decision that all Arkansans and environmentalists everywhere will appreciate from this day forward.

As a result of your leadership, we are confident that the Buffalo River will not suffer environmental degradation, and Americans will be able to witness the majestic scenery of this national treasure for many generations to come. We know you will continue to keep a watchful eye over the completion of this endeavor in the months and years ahead.

Please know that Senator Fulbright and the earlier generation of champions for the Buffalo River are looking upon you with tremendous pride and appreciation today.

Lee Riley Powell, Executive Director, on behalf of the Delta Grassroots Caucus

Background of the original effort to preserve the Buffalo River

In the 1950s and 1960s, the Army Corps of Engineers began building dams that created many large lakes in Arkansas that supplied electricity and flood control, as well as the growth of large real estate investment projects. Some of the lakes began having problems with boat traffic jams and excessive sewage caused in part by the presence of too many septic tanks. Despite these environmental concerns, promoters in the 1960s and 1970s encouraged the Corps to dam more and more free-flowing streams. The influx of retirees from the North encouraged the promoters in their business ventures.

The Buffalo River was one of the major free-flowing streams in Arkansas, and it provided spectacular scenery as it passed through the heart of the Ozark Mountains. Environmentalists from all over the country supported the efforts of Fulbright and others to preserve the river. Justice William O. Douglas floated down the river in a canoe and afterward exclaimed that “it is worth fighting to the death to preserve.” Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall called it a “national treasure.”

The business promoters nonetheless persisted in their narrow focus on development projects, and the US House of Representatives–unfortunately including many in the Arkansas House delegation–endorsed the proposal for yet another dam.

Fulbright found allies in Congressman John Paul Hammerschmidt, a Republican representing the northwest Arkansas district, Sen. John McClellan–and won the unlikely support of Gov. Orval Faubus, with whom Fulbright had always held a difficult relationship. With Faubus’ surprising endorsement, Fulbright fought for a bill giving National Parks service to the river, and in 1972 the bill passed and the Buffalo became America’s first National River. (see Lee Riley Powell, J. William Fulbright and His Time, page 451)

The C & H Hog Farm presented a different but nonetheless serious threat to the Buffalo River. The Delta Caucus joins environmentalists across the globe in praising Gov. Asa Hutchinson for this action to remove the threat of pollution presented by a large hog farm in the river’s watershed.