Buffalo National River named one of America’s Most Endangered Rivers of 2019

April 16, 2019

Pollution from hog operation threatens clean water


Jessie Thomas-Blate, American Rivers, (202) 347-7550

Lin Wellford, Ozark River Stewards, (870) 480-8644

Washington, D.C. – American Rivers today named the Buffalo National River among America’s Most Endangered Rivers® of 2019, citing the grave threat that a massive hog operation poses to the river’s clean water. American Rivers and its partners called on Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson to close down the Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) to save the river and its clean water for future generations.

“The America’s Most Endangered Rivers report is a call to action to save rivers that face a critical decision in the coming year,” said Jessie Thomas-Blate with American Rivers. “Governor Hutchinson must take a stand to ensure that hog waste doesn’t destroy everything that makes the Buffalo such a treasure for the state and the nation.”

A 6,500-head hog CAFO, including massive indoor feedlots and two manure filled ponds, sits on a hill along one of Buffalo National River’s main tributaries, Big Creek, less than six miles from the mainstem of the river. Each year, millions of gallons of liquid hog waste are sprayed onto pastures and fields, some of which lie in the floodplain. Contaminants in the manure fields and ponds are having far reaching effects, including polluting groundwater wells and threatening endangered species. CAFOs are one of the largest sources of pollution to streams and waterways across the U.S., according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Following the listing of the Buffalo as one of America’s Most Endangered Rivers® of 2017, the state denied the permit for the CAFO’s operations and ordered it to shut down. Rather than comply, the owners have decided to fight the issue in court. American Rivers and its partners called on Governor Hutchinson to close the facility down and save America’s first National River. The National River designation should protect the river from industrial uses, dams and other obstructions that would impact fish and wildlife habitat.

“If we can’t as a nation protect the country’s first National River, is any river safe from pollution?” asked local resident Teresa Turk with Ozark River Stewards.

“Industrial-scale animal farming is a huge and growing threat to most American waterways. Our rivers will continue to get dirtier until corporations are forced to find safe and sustainable ways to deal with the massive waste that their animals are producing,” said Lin Wellford, a local resident with Ozark River Stewards.

Winding its way through the forested Ozark Mountains of northwest Arkansas, the 153-mile long Buffalo National River flows through soaring bluffs, deep pools and gravel bars that lure millions of visitors annually from all over the world. People come to camp, paddle, hike and enjoy the river’s sparkling waters, vistas and clean air. In 2017, more than 1.47 million people visited the Buffalo National River generating $62 million in revenue and employing over 900 people in tourism related activities (e.g., cabins and hotels, restaurants, kayak/canoe rental).

The annual America’s Most Endangered Rivers® report is a list of rivers at a crossroads, where key decisions in the coming months will determine the rivers’ fates. Over the years, the report has helped spur many successes including the removal of outdated dams, the protection of rivers with Wild and Scenic designations, and the prevention of harmful development and pollution.

The Buffalo National River was previously included on this list in 2017. Other rivers in the region listed as most endangered in recent years include the Big Sunflower River (2018) and Pascagoula River (2016).

America’s Most Endangered Rivers® of 2019

#1 Gila River, New Mexico
Gov. Grisham must choose a healthier, more cost-effective way to provide water to agriculture than by drying up the state’s last major free-flowing river.

#2 Hudson River, New York

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers must consider effective, nature-based alternatives to storm-surge barriers that would choke off this biologically rich tidal estuary.

#3 Upper Mississippi River, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri

State and federal agencies must enforce laws that prohibit illegal levees, which increase flood risk for communities and degrade vital fish and wildlife habitat.

#4 Green-Duwamish River, Washington

Local leaders must produce a flood protection plan that safeguards communities and restores habitat for chinook salmon — fish that are essential to the diet of Puget Sound’s endangered orca whales.

#5 Willamette River, Oregon

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers must immediately improve 13 dams to save wild chinook salmon and steelhead from going extinct.

#6 Chilkat River, Alaska

The Japanese investment firm, DOWA, must do the responsible thing and back out of a mining project that could decimate native salmon.

#7 South Fork Salmon River, Idaho

The U.S. Forest Service must safeguard endangered fish by denying a mining proposal that could pollute this tributary of the Wild and Scenic Salmon River.

#8 Buffalo National River, Arkansas

Gov. Hutchinson must demand closure of an industrial hog-farming facility that pollutes groundwater and threatens endangered species.

#9 Big Darby Creek, Ohio

Local leaders must use state-of-the-art science to craft a responsible development plan that protects this pristine stream.

#10 Stikine River, Alaska

The International Joint Commission of the United States and Canada must protect the river’s clean water, fish and wildlife, and indigenous communities by stopping harmful, polluting mines.

2019’s “River of the Year”: Cuyahoga River, Ohio

American Rivers celebrates the progress Cleveland has made in cleaning up the Cuyahoga River, fifty years since the river’s famous fire that sparked the nation’s environmental movement.


American Rivers believes every community in our country should have clean water and a healthy river. Since 1973, we have been protecting wild rivers, restoring damaged rivers and conserving clean water for people and nature. With headquarters in Washington, D.C., and offices across the country, we are the most effective river conservation organization in the United States, delivering solutions that will last for generations to come. Connect with us at AmericanRivers.org.