Mary Hennigan

The Madison County Record had another good story yesterday on area residents’ efforts to prevent changes to the Buffalo National River despite the wishes otherwise of the Waltons and apparently the governor’s husband.

The weekly newspaper’s latest article on the controversy focuses on the Newton County Quorum Court‘s unanimous decision Monday to approve a resolution opposing the “the changing of the name designation or expansion of the Buffalo National River, and any further negative impact on the agricultural lands or infringement on private ownership on the Buffalo National River Watershed.”


Anyone can read the article, written by Madison County Record publisher Ellen Kreth, because the newspaper is continuing to share its Buffalo coverage off its paywall.

Residents in the counties near the Buffalo became alarmed and angry in September when they started getting phone calls for a survey on whether they would approve of converting the national river into a national park and preserve.


Runway Group LLC, owned by brothers Steuart Walton and Tom Walton, had commissioned the survey. Some critics felt the poll was skewed to get a favorable result, which it did. But the outcry from residents was anything but favorable.

A huge town hall was soon organized in Jasper, where residents expressed frustration that they and their local leaders weren’t consulted before Runway started trying to sell a congressman and others on the plan. Runway did not attend the town hall and later said it was not moving forward at this time.


Still, the Record reported, Justice of the Peace Jamie Mefford said, “I think the next time we’ll hear about it, it’ll be up in Congress.”

“You know, the people that are pushing this are very powerful and they have the money and they have the lobbyists,” Mefford said.

According to a state lawmaker, one of those powerful people is Bryan Sanders, husband of Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders and friend of the third-generation Walton brothers.