Last week almost 1,200 people showed up at Jasper because they are concerned about reported changes threatening the Buffalo National River.
The meeting drew stakeholders from all sides, such as landowners and farmers, mom and pop outfitters and businesses that cater to tourists, environmentalists and of course, some government officials. Unfortunately, the people who are behind the proposed changes declined to show up. That’s interesting because they’re the same people who would profit the most if the federal government changes the protective status of the river.
Most of them were alerted to the threat a few weeks ago, when the Madison County Record published an article based on information from courthouse records and interviews. I was one of the local people interviewed.
The news article outlined large land purchases in rural areas near the Buffalo River. It included the results of a poll commissioned by the Runway Group of Bentonville. Among the investors in the Runway Group are the Waltons, and their stated goal is to change the official designation of the Buffalo River from a National River to a National Park and Preserve, a change that would require passage of federal legislation.
The group has hired a lobbyist, but he also declined to attend the hearing at Jasper to answer questions.
While fair-minded should be willing listen to proposed changes, that has been impossible because the proposals were developed in secret and kept private from federal and state officials.
Far-reaching changes that would affect most of the property owners and businesses along the river should be discussed openly. They should have begun at the local level and never should have been held in secret, behind closed doors.
If you’re planning to impact my home or my business, why are you hiding your intentions?