The message to river conservation advocates inside the beltway is clear: “Get out of town fast!” Anyone interested in the conservation of anything other than capital gains tax breaks has already fled the capitol. The only river conservation now happening is happening in the boondocks.
In this kind of political climate, the only realistic tactic for river conservationists is to go back to ground zero and begin rebuilding the whole philosophy and structure of river conservation from the ground up. The Buffalo River is a case in point.
The Buffalo River, in northern Arkansas, was designated by Congress as America’s first National River in 1973. The river is currently threatened by agricultural runoff and deforestation in its watershed, but the politics of the region makes any environmental protection difficult.
So river protection advocates founded a group to work with land owners and farmers instead of using the power of government to try to control them. The Buffalo River Stewardship Foundation, based in Harrison, Arkansas, buys “conservation easements” along the tributaries to the Buffalo River. The easements pay land owners to grow trees on land within 100 feet of the tributaries, instead of grazing cattle or growing crops which increases surface runoff and erosion. Land owners hence earn money for “good stewardship” which protects a precious natural resource. According to Timothy T. Jones, the Stewardship Foundation’s Executive Director: “We work directly with local land owners who can directly contribute to protecting the river. We expect high compliance because our programs are voluntary. We expect significant water quality improvements because everyone will be working towards the same goal: maintaining the Buffalo River as a pristine waterway.”
“Our program works because people are willing to pay to protect the Buffalo River,” adds Jesse Gordon, the Stewardship Foundation’s environmental economist. “We bring together those who are willing to pay with those who can provide an environmental benefit. We provide an opportunity for environmentalists to contribute directly to environmental improvement.”
The Stewardship Foundation also conducts economic studies and produces educational material concerning the Buffalo watershed, as well as facilitating a “Watershed Council” where all parties discuss mutually acceptable solutions to watershed problems.
From “American Whitewater,” May/June 1995, p. 33, “Conservation” section, “Inside the Beltway” by Ed E. Lyne.
Saving a watershed from cattle grazing in the heart of “Wise Use” country might seem like a long shot, but the Buffalo River Stewardship Foundation is beating the odds. “Other environmental groups petition Little Rock or Washington for years to get a single rule changed in the Buffalo River watershed,” says Timothy Jones, BRSF’s executive director. “Instead, we work with local land owners who can directly contribute to protecting the river” from agricultural runoff and livestock wastes. BRSF buys “conservation easements” and pays farmers and cattle ranchers to grow trees on the shores of the river and its tributaries. If it works in Arkansas, BRSF believes, it can work anywhere.
Earth Island Journal, Summer 1995, p. 5, “Good News” column.
A new Buffalo River conservation group has been formed in Harrison. The Buffalo River Stewardship Foundation is dedicated to bringing land owners, farmers and environmentalists together for the purpose of protecting the Buffalo River.
The Stewardship Foundation’s main goal is to buy conservation easements along the tributaries to the Buffalo River. An easement contract pays landowners to grow trees within 100 feet of the tributaries.
The Stewardship Foundation also conducts economic studies, produces educational material concerning the Buffalo watershed, and facilitates a Watershed Council. An annual membership in the Buffalo River Stewardship Foundation costs $35. All of the membership dues are used for conservation easements.
“We collect funds from people who live outside the watershed but care about the Buffalo River,” says Timothy Jones, the Stewardship Foundation’s Executive Director and a long-time resident of the Ozarks. “Then we bring those funds into the watershed, where they directly contribute to protecting the river. There’s no government involvement, no new taxes, no new laws, no outsiders telling land owners what to do against their will, and the Buffalo River remains the pristine waterway that makes it so special to all of us.”
“Our program works because people are willing to pay to protect the Buffalo River,” adds Jesse Gordon, the Stewardship Foundation’s environmental economist. “We bring together those who are willing to pay with those who can provide an environmental benefit.” Gordon is also editor of the Stewardship Foundation’s quarterly journal, The Steward, of which the premier edition arrives today in the mailboxes of thousands of environmentalists in Arkansas and surrounding states. The Steward is available at outfitter shops in the Buffalo watershed, or direct from the Stewardship Foundation for $3 plus $1 for postage and handling.
The Newton County Times / Informer / Informer-Times / Observer Record, Newton County, Arkansas, March 16, 1995.
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