Arkansas’s Unlikely Environmental Activists

The Natural State of America

Written and produced by Brian Campbell (2010)

Film Review

The Natural State of America is an inspiring documentary about an unlikely group of Arkansas environmental activists who take on their rural electric cooperative for spraying toxic herbicide in the Ozark highlands.

The Newton County Wildlife Association (NCWA) was first formed back in the 1970s, when they took on the US Forest Service over their plan to spray Agent Orange to destroy hardwood Ozark forest to benefit private timber interests seeking to replace it with quick growing pine.

Their success in obtaining a court injunction against the Forest Service inspired environmental activists in Washington and Oregon to undertake similar campaigns – resulting in an ban on domestic Agent Orange use in 1978.

A few years later the NWCA blocked the Army Corps of Engineers from damming the Buffalo River.

In recent years, the NWCA has joined with the Organic Growers Association and back-to-the-land homesteaders to protest a 2006 decision by the Carroll Electric Cooperative to spray toxic herbicides without consulting their membership.

Prior to watching this film, I was unacquainted with the pristine natural beauty of the Ozark region or the wealth of medicinal herbs found nowhere else in North America. I was also intrigued by the unusual personal profiles of the activists and their intimate knowledge of the geology and natural history of the region.

That being said, the film’s soundtrack was the high point for me. I’m pretty passionate about blue grass.

*Agent Orange is an equal mixture of 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D that was used by the US military to defoliate the jungle during the Vietnam War. Thousands of GIs who were exposed to it developed cancer, autoimmune and neurological disease and other health problems and have seen major birth defects in their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. In 2014, the EPA generated major controversy by approving a new Dow herbicide containing a combination of 2,4-D and glyphosate (Roundup) EPA approves new 2,4-D blend

12 thoughts on “Arkansas’s Unlikely Environmental Activists

  1. “The Newton County Wildlife Association (NCWA) was first formed back in the 1970s, when they took on the US Forest Service over their plan to spray Agent Orange to destroy hardwood Ozark forest to benefit private timber interests seeking to replace it with quick growing pine.”

    Unbelievable! Any agency of this low life government is for sale, as they always have been.

    Haven’t watched it yet, but will have to turn down the sound! I am not a fan of Blue Grass, or any other form of “country and western.”

    But I am glad to know that there are Southerners who have their crap together!

    I didn’t experience much of that when I lived in Nashville.


  2. Also Monsanto is suing California because the state of California is attempting to put Roundup off the list of carcinogens even though that foul company IS a carcinogen in itself and so what else can it produce but carcinogens?

    It is good to know that people are not taking this lying down. It is an uphill battle, but at least people are willing to fight and I can only hope that the state of California will prevail and classify Monsanto’s herbicides exactly what they are, carcinogens; a killer of human, animal and vegetable life!

    And as always, I thank you for providing us with this valuable information. Thanks to you, we are kept informed!

    “Monsanto Co stepped up its defense of a widely used weed killer on Thursday by filing a lawsuit in California seeking to prevent glyphosate, the main ingredient in its Roundup herbicide, from being added to the state’s list of known carcinogens.”


  3. The Co-op directors don’t understand the implications of the spraying; the contractors and their ‘trained’ spraying ‘specialists’ don’t have a clue . . . but, ya, someone is making money and has more clout than others who would like a bite of the same apple, but who would do in more environmentally friendlier ways and probably a whole lot cheaper.

    This doc. is a testament to the insanity of our culture: money becoming even more money above all else.

    Always liked the Ozark Mountain Daredevils, so I guess I also like Bluegrass-ish sounds and rythms. Next time I’m in Arkansas I’ll have to find me a place where the real thing is happening (hopefully next summer if certain things continue to go my way).

    And yes, the people in this doc. are not your run-of-the-mill folk, but a fairly well educated segment of the local community, and somewhat ironically well-nigh powerless to bring ‘their’ electrical co-op to heel. Yep, its crazy.


    • To my mind, Norman, there is far too little attention paid at all levels to the immense human health problems stemming from toxic chemicals. What I find even more alarming than this case, is women’s routine use of beauty products containing endocrine disruptors and carcinogens. Avon is one of the biggest culprits in this regard, especially in view of their high level sponsorship of pink ribbon breast cancer campaigns.

      Liked by 1 person

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