In the late 60’s and early 70’s, the Buffalo River, one of the last free-flowing rivers in America, was embattled: the Corps of Engineers, supported by many of the Ozarks’ businessmen and politicians, wanted to dam the river in two places. For the first time Arkansans had to stand together in saving the river, its ecology, and its natural beauty. On March 1, 1972, President Nixon signed a bill to establish the Buffalo as our nation’s first National River, under the protection of the National Parks Service.
Under the bill, the park is limited to 95,730 acres of land. This means that, while the river and its banks are protected, much of the surrounding land is not, and can still be bought and developed by individuals or corporations who may not exercise care for our treasured river. Thus, a few passionate residents near the river created the Buffalo River Foundation (BRF), a non-profit land trust that works with private landowners to conserve their property either by purchasing property or agreeing to a conservation easement which preserves scenic, historical, ecological or other important values of the property, while providing a tax benefit to the owner. Simply put, they aim to keep the Buffalo beautiful, healthy, and open to all those who love it.
Why is a land trust like the BRF important? Without the BRF’s efforts, the wilderness and scenic areas along the Buffalo would slowly disappear. As private lands next to the river are developed (such as the Cargill Hog Farms), such subdivision of property, second homes, new roads and other developments can result in sedimentation of the river and degradation of the natural environment surrounding the river. The BRF works to protect the land while working alongside local landowners to come to solutions that work for everyone.
The BRF’s obtainment of Gossett Hollow, a 120 acre hollow near Ponca that drains directly into the Buffalo, acts as an example of the BRF's success, as the easement protects the property, guaranteeing it will provide high quality runoff to the river. By working with the landowner, the BRF obtained an easement that “prohibits alteration of the natural water courses and protects the forest canopy, which lies within full view of Highway 43,” while preserving the landowner’s rights to cut down select trees for timber, use ATVs, and build a house out of sight of the road. This method of negotiating, established by the BRF, encourages cooperation from landowners.
Fayettechill works to support the Buffalo River Foundation through funding (made possible via our “round-up program” at basecamp), events, and collaborations. If you enjoy floating, hiking, camping, fishing, swimming, bluff-jumping, and relaxing on the beautiful Buffalo as much as we do, you can get involved too. Many folks in NWA own property in the watershed. A great way to help is to donate an easement or piece of property in the Buffalo's watershed. In addition, help them raise funds by attending events that support them and spread awareness among your friends, family, and outdoor community.