We are pleased to announce that the Schoolcraft Chapter in the Springfield Missouri area is renewing its mission and will be meeting soon.  Here is an article by Andy Ostmeyer from the Joplin Globe on the details:

Andy Ostmeyer: Battles with CAFOs spark new interest in Ozark Society
Battles with CAFOs spark new interest in Ozark Society

A fight over a large hog farm on a tributary of the Buffalo River in Arkansas has become a catalyst for a new round of conservation action, including in the Ozark Society.  Sixty years ago, efforts to protect the Buffalo River in Arkansas launched the Ozark Society, which led the fight to save the river. A more recent fight to protect the river has sparked new interest in the Ozark Society.

A dormant chapter of the Ozark Society in southern Missouri is being revived.  It’s a good sign for Ozark rivers and our public lands.  This timing is no coincidence, either, but the latest proof of a pattern that repeats throughout the Ozarks as surely as our rhythm of hill and hollow.

I’ve seen it happen time and again: Residents, busy with their lives and trusting politicians and regulators to protect their water, air, land and public resources, are startled to learn that some agency or corporation has an agenda that threatens all of that. Too often, these politicians, regulators and corporations are in cahoots. So residents get angry, then they get active.

The latest episode played out over the past decade in a sacred Ozarks place — Buffalo National River.

In 2011, Arkansas regulators approved a permit for a large hog operation on Big Creek, a major tributary of the upper Buffalo. River lovers were caught off guard by the announcement that thousands of hogs generating millions of gallons of untreated waste annually had suddenly become a reality in the watershed of America’s first national river. Among those caught off guard: the National Park Service, which owns the corridor along the river and manages the park and was not consulted nor even informed of the plan.

To make a long story short, after Ozark residents learned what had happened, they got angry and active. In the end, the state of Arkansas, with help from The Nature Conservancy, not only ended up buying out the farm for a total of $6.2 million but also assumed responsibility for closing out waste ponds. The deal wrapped up just a couple of weeks ago. It was an expensive reminder for Arkansas of what Ozark inhabitants think of their rivers.

The whole thing echoes back to an earlier fight 60 years ago along the Buffalo, when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers tried to push forward with plans to dam the Buffalo. A public hearing was held at Marshall, Arkansas. A Bentonville doctor who loved the river believed that meeting had been “manipulated” to favor the dam and to “silence those of us who wish to save the stream.”

Sound familiar?

So they got angry. And active. The launched the Ozark Society, which Compton described as “Ozarkans defending the Ozark scene.” A decade later, the Buffalo was named America’s first national river.

It was the first of many victories for the group, which also fought for Arkansas wilderness areas; worked with others to stop dams elsewhere in the region, including the Strawberry, Meramec (in Missouri) and Eleven Point; promoted creation of the Department of Arkansas Heritage; and led the way on Wild and Scenic River protection for other rivers and streams.

David Peterson and Loring Bullard see the latest fight on the Buffalo as a catalyst for a new round of conservation action.

Peterson is president of the Ozark Society, which has about 1,000 members and six chapters today, including two in Northwest Arkansas.

“There seems to be a revival in interest. It may have been sparked in part by the controversy about the hog farm on the Buffalo,” he told me in a telephone interview last week. There’s been an uptick in financial support for the group too.

“Everybody would like these things (environmental issues) to be settled on the basis of science,” he said but acknowledged that is not reality.

“People have to make their wishes known,” he added, noting that in less than a decade the state of Arkansas went from quietly permitting the hog farm to publicly buying it out, committing additional money to help protect the watershed and pushing for a permanent moratorium on medium and large hog CAFOs in the Buffalo River watershed.

Asked what drove that about-face, Peterson said: “Sixteen thousand people making comments. … It was just a groundswell.”

It also was CAFO issues that got Bullard interested in reviving the southern Missouri chapter. He’s referring not only to what happened in Arkansas but also in Missouri, where lawmakers passed a bill recently that struck down local regulations of these large, industrial farms.

“The CAFO issue has galvanized at least me,” Bullard said. “The CAFO thing is what brought me out of the woodwork.”

Talking about the Buffalo, he told me: “We saved the river corridor, but we didn’t save the watershed.”

Bullard is a longtime leader in water conservation issues in the region who noted that southern Missouri once had a chapter of the Ozark Society: “It was called the Schoolcraft Chapter, and it was going pretty strong when I moved to Springfield in 1975.”

The group took its name from Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, who traveled through the Ozarks for three months in the winter of 1818-1819 and left behind a detailed description of the region’s rivers, forests and wildlife. He described one Ozark river as “enchanting” and possessing the “purity of crystal,” and wrote that he could see every pebble, rock and fish in it “with the most perfect accuracy,” adding, “Our canoe often seemed as if suspended in air, such is the remarkable transparency of the water.”

The Schoolcraft Chapter during the 1970s and 1980s was a voice involved in the management of public lands and for protecting parts of the Mark Twain National Forest as wilderness areas, Bullard said.

Wes Johnson, of the Springfield News-Leader, wrote recently of the effort to revive the southern Missouri chapter of the Ozark Society, and as soon as word went out, Bullard started getting calls, texts and emails from people saying, “I’m in.”

Anyone who wants to join can reach out to him at lbullard1415@gmail.com.

The next step is a formational meeting, probably this spring, as well as discussion of priorities and projects. Dues will be $30, with $20 of that for the larger organization and $10 staying with the local chapter.

The Ozark Society has a three-fold mission: conservation, education, recreation, and that is why local chapters also organize outings, including hikes and float trips.

There are a lot of environmental groups active in the region, including the Sierra Club and The Nature Conservancy. Each has a niche, but the genius of the Ozark Society is that it is local.

“It’s place based,” said Bullard, echoing back to Compton’s comments. “It’s people who live here taking care of what we have here. It’s people taking care care of their own.”

Andy Ostmeyer is the editor for The Joplin Globe. Contact him at aostmeyer@joplinglobe.com