MISSOULA, Mont.—Arkansas elk are helping secure the future of a national treasure.
A new documentary film about America’s first national river, the Buffalo River in northwest Arkansas, celebrates the area’s restored elk herd—a conservation and economic success tied to major support from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.
“The Buffalo Flows” by Emmy winning filmmaker Larry Foley will be screened Nov. 20 at the University of Arkansas. The film airs in February on the Arkansas Educational Television Network. It is one of many programs to be presented in 2009 in conjunction with the nationally anticipated PBS series, “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea.”
Foley said, “I knew I was going to produce a documentary film about the Buffalo River. I also knew from the beginning that I wanted to include the story of the elk, including the successful elk restoration program. However, when I discovered how well the elk are doing, the story expanded in scope.”
Since 1992, the Elk Foundation has teamed with the National Park Service and Arkansas Game and Fish Commission to protect or enhance more than 25,400 acres of habitat along the Buffalo River. In 2007, elk enthusiasts Bert and Cheryl Haralson and Rick and Penny Oncken donated a 314-acre conservation easement on Lick Mountain. In 2000, the Elk Foundation’s help with the Dixie Point acquisition moved 200 acres into public ownership and permanent protection from development.
“The elk have brought something new to the Buffalo River,” said Foley. “In the past, people would come in spring and summer to float the river or hike the trails. Now the elk are drawing more folks to the river to see something different, especially in the fall. A new form of tourism has come to the region, helping boost the economy.”
The film shows biologists conducting aerial surveys of elk populations, the annual Elk Festival in Jasper, Ark., tourists watching and photographing elk, and lucky hunters drawing a permit for an Arkansas elk hunt.
In the fall of 1998, Arkansas held its first elk hunt in more than a century.
Elk had been absent in Arkansas since the Civil War. Between 1981 and 1985, 112 elk from Nebraska and Colorado were transplanted into the Buffalo River area. Today, Arkansas’ elk herd is flourishing with around 500 animals.
Congress designated the Buffalo as America’s first national river in 1972. It is one of the few remaining U.S. rivers without a dam, flowing free throughout its 135-mile course.
About the Rocky Mountain Elk FoundationSnowy peaks, dark timber basins and grassy meadows. RMEF is leading an elk country initiative that has already conserved or enhanced habitat on over 5.4 million acres—a land area equivalent to a swath three miles wide and stretching along the entire Continental Divide from Canada to Mexico. Most work occurs on public lands. More than 570,000 acres have been opened or secured for public access including hunting, fishing and other recreation. Get involved at www.rmef.org or 800-CALL ELK.