Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Legality of hog-farm permit questioned by National Parks Conservation Association

Melissa Terry10:53pm Apr 8
From Grant Scarsdale (Harrison photographer): National Parks Conservation Association Calls Permitting Process Flawed for Hog Farm on Buffalo National River Tributary National Parks Group Urges U.S. Department of Agriculture and Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality to Pull Permit.

Mt. Judea, Ark. - On March 29th, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Services Agency (FSA) responded to a written request from the National Park Service (NPS) seeking clarity around a permit that was issued earlier this year for a hog farm along Big Creek – a tributary that empties into Buffalo National River just 5 miles downstream. An analysis of the process by which C & H Hog Farms, Inc. obtained a loan guarantee suggests that the permit was issued without proper consultation of the Park Service – a requirement of the Farm Services Agency for projects located below or above a national river.

“Based upon the Farm Services Agency’s own guidelines, the entire permitting process for the hog farm was flawed and the decision should be thrown out,” said National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) Senior Program Manager Emily Jones. “This hog farm could do real damage to the resources at Buffalo National River. If a proper review was completed, the environmental assessment would have shown the impacts.”

The hog farm would hold as many as 6,500 animals and generate roughly 2 million gallons of waste annually, which could impact the Buffalo River downstream. The operation could harm several endangered or threatened species in the region, including the gray bat and the endangered snuffbox mussel. Under Endangered Species Act regulations, federal agencies must ensure their actions don’t jeopardize the continued existence of listed species. In addition to failing to consult with the Park Service on impacts to the river, the Farm Services Agency did not submit a determination of effects on endangered species to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, as required by law.

The Buffalo National River is America’s first national river. In 2011, over 1 million visitors to the river spent over $38 million in surrounding communities, creating jobs, attending festivals, and supporting local businesses. Canoe and kayak enthusiasts, equestrians, hikers, fisherman, and birders enjoy the 132 mile free flowing river. Elk, deer and turkey, along with more than 300 species of fish, freshwater mussels, insects, and aquatic plants depend on the Buffalo, America’s first National River. A hog farm could jeopardize this economic benefit for the State of Arkansas and impact local communities.

“On behalf of the National Parks Conservation Association’s over 800,000 members and supporters, we call on the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality to work cooperatively to pull this permit,

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