Governor Asa Hutchinson signed Executive Order 19-14 today establishing the Buffalo River Conservation Committee (BRCC) and announced that $2 million in state and private funds will be allocated for conservation and water quality grants within the Buffalo River Watershed.
In 2016, at the direction of Governor Hutchinson, the Beautiful Buffalo River Action Committee (BBRAC) was organized to establish an Arkansas-led approach to identify and address potential issues of concern in the Buffalo River Watershed through the development of a non-regulatory, watershed-based management plan.
BRCC is the next step in the process, and members of the committee will utilize the watershed management plan to prioritize and fund projects in the most critical areas of the watershed.
“We want the protection and enhancement of water quality in the Buffalo River Watershed to continue as a state-led effort,” said Governor Hutchinson. “Now that the watershed management plan is in place, it is the right time to engage with stakeholders and landowners to start implementing projects that make a difference. The Buffalo National River is an irreplaceable resource, both for Arkansas and the nation. Protecting its quality and enhancing its value as a driver of economic development will require a unique cooperative effort. The Buffalo River Conservation Committee comprises the state departments with the most engagement in the watershed, and I am confident in their ability to connect with other engaged leaders to coordinate this effort.”
The State of Arkansas, pending legislative approval, will provide $1 million from the Governor’s discretionary funds to the grant programs, which will be aided by an additional $1 million from the Nature Conservancy and the Buffalo River Foundation.
The committee will be composed of the following Cabinet Secretaries or their designates:
- Wes Ward, Secretary of Agriculture – Chair
- Becky Keogh, Secretary of Energy and Environment
- Stacy Hurst, Secretary of Parks, Heritage, and Tourism
- Dr. Nathaniel Smith, Secretary of Health
BRCC shall establish subcommittees to lead various aspects of implementing the watershed management plan.
For the purpose of establishing subcommittees, the BRCC shall engage and include key stakeholders representing local landowners, conservation organizations, environmental and technical experts, representatives of the tourism industry, local county and municipal officials and federal partners as identified by the Committee.
All members of the BRCC shall work in cooperation with one another to identify opportunities to leverage their Department’s unique expertise, relationships, focus areas, and funding mechanisms in support of the vitality of the watershed.
There shall be an annual review of the Buffalo River Watershed Management Plan, with recommendations for updates of the plan and a report on successes during the year as identified by BRCC to be submitted to the Governor’s Office.
(from media release)