March 29, 2011
Wealthy Hunters Face Off Against Local Unemployed in Arkansas
By Chad Love
An interesting dynamic is playing out in a small Arkansas town torn between preservation for the benefit of a few wealthy duck hunters versus jobs for the many, but jobs in an industry under fire for pollution.
From this AP story in the Washington Post:
The barbed-wire fence surrounding the Hempstead County Hunting Club divides more than property lines. It separates rich from poor. On one side: wealthy duck hunters who have preserved a private forested paradise largely untouched by chain saws. On the other: the people of this struggling Arkansas town where jobs are scarce and families live in run-down trailers. The hunters are now waging a bitter legal battle over construction of a coal-fired power plant, and the dispute has laid bare the class tensions that have long beset this rural area. Townspeople welcome the new facility because it will bring jobs and valuable tax revenue. But club members fear the plant will spew pollutants that cause acid rain, threatening the pristine hunting grounds they have protected for more than a century.
The club is a wonderland of cypress groves, winding paths and a lake so thick with plants that unsuspecting dogs still think they are walking on land, not water. Yet poverty and blight are never far away. Car parts, propane tanks and washing machines are abandoned on dry grass between trailers. Some people throw their trash on the side of the road. Others burn garbage in their backyards, fouling the air with acrid smoke and the unmistakable smell of waste. On the other side of the fence, litter is unknown. “This is ours,” club member Yancey Reynolds said. “It doesn’t belong to everybody else. And the reason you don’t see people all over and trash all over is because it’s privately owned.” John Pettit, a former sheriff’s deputy who now helps to build the power plant, sees the hunters not as stewards of the environment but as wealthy elites trying to save their weekend homes. “That’s all it is,” he said. “It’s the rich guys trying to keep us poor people down.”
Thoughts? Reaction? What side of the debate do you come down on?