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Rural News

Potholes in the plans to rebuild America

The Hill | Posted on August 25, 2016

In recent weeks, both presidential candidates have unveiled plans to repair and improve the country’s bridges, roads, internet and water systems. Democratic nominee Clinton says she will allocate $275 billion to the cause, including the creation of a national infrastructure bank designed to spur private investment, in what she has called the “biggest job creation program since World War II.”  Meanwhile, presidential hopeful Trump boasts that he would “at least double” Clinton’s pledged investment. Taken at face value, that means Trump would allocate more than half a trillion dollars to reviving America’s infrastructure. There certainly needs to be a major investment in modernizing and repairing America’s infrastructure. Far too many of us worry if the water our children drink is safe, how we will get to work despite crumbling roads and broken public transit systems or how we will get vital information without access to reliable communications technologies. An investment in the systems we rely on could resolve these issues, but it could also do so much more.  While there has been much discussion of how improvements and repairs to our infrastructure will be financed, there has been little talk of how it will be pursued. If paired with an equity agenda, such an investment could provide a bold vision for tackling the most pressing problems of our time. The decisions embedded in how we pursue a massive modernization project could provide an opportunity to address climate change and racial and economic inequity.

Washington county authorizes action against wolves

Capital Press | Posted on August 25, 2016

Ferry County commissioners unanimously passed a resolution Friday authorizing the sheriff’s office to kill the remaining nine members of a wolf pack in the northeastern Washington county, if state wildlife officials don’t resume shooting wolves.  “That pack of wolves needs to be gone,” Commissioner Mike Blankenship said. “I feel the sheriff has that power and that obligation as much as he would with a wild dog out there.” The Department of Fish and Wildlife halted the search Thursday for the Profanity Peak pack 13 days after shooting two adult female wolves from a helicopter. Four adults and five pups survive. It may not be necessary. WDFW says it will resume hunting for the Profanity Peak pack if more depredations occur. If the county targets wolves, it would test WDFW’s jurisdiction over the state’s wildlife.

Rural-Urban Voters False Dichotomy

Daily Yonder | Posted on August 25, 2016

One key to understanding current political reporting is that many national reporters seem to think that any area that is not within a major U.S. city is rural. Which leads to an aside: Isn’t it interesting how this data is always pitched as rural versus urban. A better description is that the nation’s huge cities are voting very differently from everyone else.  The NPR reporter runs down the differences between major cities and the rest of the country – major cities are more mixed racially, for example, and people there on average have more education. But she makes the case that “living in a rural area by itself shapes a person’s politics, and can particularly drive a voter toward Trump.” Finally, we would remind everyone that if the fight is between rural and urban voters, urban is going to win every time. Only about 15 percent of the population lives in a rural county.

Digital Access Gap Hits Some Subgroups Harder

Daily Yonder | Posted on August 25, 2016

The overall gap between Internet use in rural and urban areas has remained relatively consistent for the past two decades. Since 1998, rural people have used the Internet at a rate that is 6 to 9 points lower than urban residents. Lower levels of Internet usage are not uniform across different segments of the rural population. Some rural Americans use the Internet at rates comparable to their urban counterparts, but the rural-urban gap gets more pronounced for those with less education and money.  A new report from the National Telecommunications and Infrastructure Administration shows that there are significant differences within the rural-urban digital divide when you look below the surface at sub-groups of rural Americans. Rural college graduates, for example, use the Internet at about the same rate as urban graduates (83 and 84 percent respectively). But as education levels fall, the gap between rural and urban usage increases. Sixty-three percent of rural residents with just a high school diploma use the Internet. That’s 6 points lower than the rate for urban residents with a high school diploma. The gap was slightly larger for rural residents who did not have diploma. For that group, 52 percent of rural residents used the Internet, while 59 percent of urban residents who lacked a high school diploma used the Internet.

Flood relief in a West Virginia town

Daily Yonder | Posted on August 25, 2016

In this summer of catastrophic floods – first in West Virginia in late June and now in Louisiana – scores of small communities will face the daunting task of digging out and trying to start over. For one inundated West Virginia town, help came from down the road, across the country, and next door. And a good bit of that help came from folks who once called Richwood, West Virginia, home. Townspeople rallied, and a state official stepped in briefly to lead until the mayor-elect, Bob Henry Baber, could take over. The situation was dire for a town already long impoverished by the demise of the coal industry. The sewer system was largely destroyed. Water intakes were compromised. Roads were torn up. Ninety residents of a nursing and rehabilitation center had been evacuated by staff and neighbors amid waist-deep rising waters; the building was later abandoned and 130 jobs lost. Only 5 percent of homeowners had flood insurance. Already a food desert, the town’s last place to buy groceries, Dollar General, had been ravaged. Experts were calling it a 1,000-year flood. Within hours of the flooding, a dozen utility workers from the town of Hurricane, West Virginia, more than two hours away, came with everything from a dump truck and jetter to a 1,000-gallon water buffalo. They got water and sewer to most of the town up and running that same evening, and to more people later. Then they cleaned out churches, community centers, and houses, staying six days in all, the guests of a church miles away. Hurricane later sent four more crew members and three police officers. Its mayor, Scott Edwards, himself came down a week later and helped clean out debris under houses.

New Iowa lawsuit seeks 'emergency' stop to pipeline construction

Storm Lake Pilot Tribune | Posted on August 24, 2016

the Davis Brown Law Firm filed an emergency motion with the Iowa Utilities Board to temporarily prevent construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline across the property of fifteen Iowa landowners while a lawsuit remains pending in Polk County District Court. The motion filed with the IUB is a result of guidance from District Court Judge Jeffrey Farrell after a hearing held Friday, August 19 to decide whether to apply an emergency stay against pipeline construction. The pending lawsuit in Polk County asks whether a private company, which provides no service to Iowans, may use the state's power of eminent domain to seize land from Iowa citizens for its private use. Earlier this year, the Iowa Utilities Board ruled that Dakota Access may use the state's power of eminent domain and could proceed with its proposed oil pipeline.

New Ohio law requires migrant worker housing upgrades

Toledo Blade | Posted on August 24, 2016

A series of improvements to housing facilities in Ohio migrant worker camps, including running water, smoke detectors, and improved toilets, will soon be required with a state regulation that goes into effect Jan. 1. The new rule, instituted by the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review, requires installing sinks with hot and cold running water in existing structures and including them in any new facilities built. Also required will be smoke detectors in housing units, the installation of partitions in communal toilets, and mandates that non-flush toilets be emptied and cleaned at least once a week. Farm owners will have five years to come into compliance with the most substantial change regarding hot and cold running water. Proponents say the upgrades will improve health and safety of everyone involved in the agriculture business.

Park Service ended a wolf study in Alaska, since so many have been killed

High Country News | Posted on August 23, 2016

For more than two decades, the National Park Service monitored the wolf packs in Alaska’s Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve. Now, so many of the predators have been killed by the state’s Department of Fish and Game that the feds have had to drop the program. It's no longer feasible to conduct research.  The state has been shooting the wolves when they wander outside the boundaries of the federal preserve, to try to increase populations of moose and caribou for human hunters. According to Greg Dudgeon, superintendent of the preserve, since 2005, 90 wolves with ranges in Yukon-Charley have been killed, including 13 radio-collared animals that were essential to the park’s study. Each of the preserve’s nine wolf packs has lost members, and three packs have been entirely eliminated, while another five have been reduced to a single wolf each. The last population count by the National Park Service in 2011 came up with 77 wolves. Since that count, the Park Service wound down its study, officially ending it in 2014. Jeff Rasic, chief of resources for Yukon-Charley Rivers and Gates of the Arctic National Park, says that federal budget constrictions played a factor in ending the study, but so did the number of collared wolves killed by ADFG and the fact that the state stopped giving the Park Service permits for collaring wolves on state land. “The state was pretty successful in killing wolves,” Rasic adds.

WDFW calls off hunt after shooting two wolves

Capital Press | Posted on August 23, 2016

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife today ended its hunt for wolves in the Profanity Peak pack, 13 days after shooting two females.  WDFW issued a statement Thursday afternoon, saying it will resume lethally removing the pack in Ferry County if there is another confirmed attack on livestock. WDFW Jim Unsworth authorized the partial removal of the pack after the department confirmed its members had killed at least four calves and a cow in the past month. State wildlife officials shot and killed the two wolves, including the pack’s breeding female, from a helicopter Aug. 5. The department has not reported shooting any more wolves. The last confirmed depredations on livestock occurred on Aug. 3.

Groups file lawsuits to stop plan to spay wild horses

Capital Press | Posted on August 23, 2016

More advocacy groups have filed lawsuits seeking injunctions to stop researchers from surgically sterilizing more than 200 wild mares in Central Oregon.  The Bulletin reports the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign and The Cloud Foundation jointly filed a lawsuit on Monday against the Bureau of Land Management arguing that the agency had violated the groups’ First Amendment rights by rejecting their request to record the procedures. Bureau officials say they are still reviewing the latest lawsuits. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has said the research in Hines, Oregon, would help determine whether the three methods to be studied could be safely used to control the wild horse population. Front Range Equine Rescue and Friends of Animals have also sued the agency over the proposed sterilization.