Keeping the Hogs Out of the Buffalo
Gordon Watkins, Parthenon, Arkansas
Gordon, a certified organic farmer and owner of a cabin rental business, is the president of the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance, a nonprofit created in 2013 in direct response to the threat posed by C&H Hog Farms, Inc. Having lived along the Little Buffalo for nearly 50 years and having floated as much of the Buffalo as possible, Gordon knew what was at stake with the hog farm’s arrival. His years of tireless, on-the- ground advocacy proved invaluable to NPCA and to the health of America’s first national river.
The Buffalo National River, located in northern Arkansas, is America’s first national river. Its 135 miles of breathtaking landscape attracts nearly 1.2 million visitors annually who spend more than $60 million in nearby communities. They come to float, fish and swim in the river, visit the historic sites and hike the park’s 100 miles of trails.
Like many rivers, though, the Buffalo’s water quality is affected by tributaries that lie outside of the park’s boundaries. In 2012, the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality granted a permit to C&H Hog Farms, Inc., to operate on the banks of Big Creek, a major tributary of the Buffalo. The company housed over 6,500 hogs, two storage ponds for hog manure and multiple fields where millions of gallons of manure were spread as fertilizer.
For more than six years, NPCA and our allies fought to protect the waters of the Buffalo National River from this untreated hog waste. Our members and supporters, partner organizations and thousands of Arkansans and national park advocates from across the country submitted comments calling on the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality and Governor Asa Hutchinson to do the right thing and prohibit C&H industrial hog farm from operating in the national river’s watershed.
In June 2019, the governor announced that a deal had been reached to remove C&H Hog Farms, Inc. Even better, he declared a permanent moratorium on large swine confined animal feeding operations in the river’s watershed.