Buffalo National River accepting hay field permit applications

Photo: The tradition of hay operations continues at Buffalo National River as a man rides a tractor while performing hay operations in a park field. Photo: Courtesy NPS

HARRISON, Ark. – The National Park Service (NPS) is accepting public bid applications until Jan. 15 for 27 Agricultural Special Use Permits for haying of designated fields located within Buffalo National River in portions of Newton, Searcy, and Marion counties.

Through these permits, Buffalo National River maintains hay fields that visually preserve the unique agricultural history of the area and continue providing important habitat for game animals, such as elk and deer, and non-game animals, such as ground nesting birds and small mammals.

Hard copies of the permit bid package, which include details about each permit and associated fields, such as maps, approximate acreages, bid instructions and a sample permit with conditions, may be requested by emailing or calling Buffalo National River’s office at 870-365-2732 or buff_superintendent@nps.gov. Hard copies will also be available for contactless pick up at the entry to the headquarters building located at 402 North Walnut in Harrison. Each permit will be for a term of five years.

The park’s hay field management strategy and permit conditions have been developed to be consistent with the collaborative conservation efforts throughout the Buffalo River watershed, including following guidelines from the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Some updates to the permit program include:

Fertilizer and lime shall be applied at the rates recommended for individual fields by the University of Arkansas Extension Service’s soil sample reports.
One-hundred foot unmowed vegetative areas will be established between fields and waterways by the NPS, if not already present.
Hay shall not be transported outside of the Arkansas chronic wasting disease zone.
Spill trays will be required to be placed under tractor motors, if tractors are left in fields longer than five days.

Mark Foust, superintendent of Buffalo National River, states, “Farmed fields have long been a part of the landscape along the Buffalo River. Preserving this historical look and feel of the area also provides a wide variety of open grass habitat for wildlife. Thoughtful stewardship of the hay field permit program helps to reduce potential impacts to water quality in the watershed. Keeping areas of unmowed vegetation around fields, soil testing, and meeting best-practice guidelines on fertilizer use are a few of the ways the park can work with permit holders to conserve the scenery and provide for the protection of the watershed.”

Agricultural Special Use Permit applications must be received by mail no later than 4 p.m. on Jan. 15. Applications will be reviewed by a panel of subject matter experts shortly after bidding closes, and each applicant will be notified of his or her submission’s status.

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