A fight is brewing over the Endangered Species Act after congressional Republicans and federal agencies this year proposed major changes, including shifting more control over species protection to the states. Many states, especially Western ones with vast expanses of federal land, have long pushed for changes to the law. But what seemed unlikely under prior administrations has a better shot under the Trump presidency.A package of bills introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by members of the Congressional Western Caucus, all with Republican sponsors, would alter how species are listed and habitat is protected. States are most focused on measures that would affect their power, including bills that would allow them greater say over which species get protections. A draft bill in the U.S. Senate being circulated by Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, a Republican, would “elevate the role of state conservation agencies,” according to a news release from the U.S. Senate committee.While the various pieces of legislation may face a heavy lift getting through Congress, federal agencies last month finished taking public comments on proposed rule changes. Unveiled in July, the agency revisions would allow agencies to consider economic costs when deciding whether to protect species, possibly reduce the amount of protected habitat and make it easier to take species off the endangered and threatened species list, among other changes proposed by the Department of the Interior and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Urban farming in Minnesota reached a milestone this summer, when the state announced the first round of grants for agriculture education and development projects in cities. It’s the first time the state has allocated money specifically for urban agriculture, and it took several tries to get the legislation passed. Michael Chaney, a long-time advocate from north Minneapolis who founded Project Sweetie Pie, a grant recipient, said he approached lawmakers with the idea about four years ago. At the time, he saw plenty of interest in urban agriculture — but not the kind of financial support that exists for rural farmers. “I was disenchanted and discouraged,” Chaney said.Advocates said state investment is crucial because it lends credibility to what Chaney calls the “changing face of agriculture.” Such state funding, even a small amount, can usher in a shift toward seeing urban areas as potential farms and their residents as fellow food producers.
This north-central Iowa town of about 4,200 people faces many of the problems other rural communities face: Shrinking population, deteriorating downtowns, aging homes and consolidating schools. But a unique agreement with a Des Moines technology consultant could change its future — and possibly provide a model for revitalizing other rural Iowa communities. Pillar Technology plans to open a $1.7 million office in Jefferson and hire up to 30 workers. Jefferson, in turn, will build a new career academy that begins an intensive student software development training program that feeds the company's workforce pipeline. The payoff for high school students is a chance at Pillar jobs that pay $75,000 per year by the time they're in their early twenties. It's twice the average pay rural Iowans receive.This north-central Iowa town of about 4,200 people faces many of the problems other rural communities face: Shrinking population, deteriorating downtowns, aging homes and consolidating schools.But a unique agreement with a Des Moines technology consultant could change its future — and possibly provide a model for revitalizing other rural Iowa communities.Pillar Technology plans to open a $1.7 million office in Jefferson and hire up to 30 workers. Jefferson, in turn, will build a new career academy that begins an intensive student software development training program that feeds the company's workforce pipeline.The payoff for high school students is a chance at Pillar jobs that pay $75,000 per year by the time they're in their early twenties. It's twice the average pay rural Iowans receive.
Hundreds of migrant families seeking asylum in the U.S. were released from detention in Arizona this week without warning and without instructions on where to go, how to find relatives or travel to their court hearings. A senior Department of Homeland Security official told NBC News the release is "the start of a dam breaking" as family detention facilities, which now hold thousands of migrants, reach capacity.U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers are releasing the families from detention en masse without following their usual protocol that ensures immigrants have a means to travel to their court hearing and reunite with potential relatives in the U.S.The adults have ankle monitors to track their whereabouts until their scheduled court date to make their case before a judge for asylum.
Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Anne Hazlett announced the United States Department of Agriculture has launched an interactive data tool to help community leaders build grassroots strategies to address the opioid epidemic. The opioid misuse Community Assessment Tool enables users to overlay substance misuse data against socioeconomic, census and other public information. This data will help leaders, researchers and policymakers assess what actions will be most effective in addressing the opioid crisis at the local level.The Community Assessment Tool is free and available to the public. It can be accessed on USDA’s Rural Opioid Misuse Webpage or at opioidmisusetool.norc.org.USDA’s launch of the Community Assessment Tool closely follows President Trump’s declaration of October as National Substance Abuse Prevention Month. Approximately 72,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2017; 49,000 of those deaths involved an opioid. Many of these deaths have been fueled by the misuse of prescription pain medications. The severity of the current opioid misuse crisis requires immediate action.
There are more than 19 million people living in rural America who lack access to a broadband internet connections, including about 22 percent of people in rural Iowa, 36 percent of people in rural Illinois, and 25 percent of people in rural South Dakota. A partnership between Microsoft and an Illinois-based wireless internet provider hope to cut into those numbers at least a little. On Thursday, the agreement with the Microsoft Airband Initiative and Network Business Systems to deliver broadband internet access to about 126,700 people in those three states was announced.On Thursday, Network Business Systems Inc., an Illinois-based wireless internet provider, and Microsoft Corp. announced a new agreement to deliver broadband internet access to rural communities in Illinois, Iowa and South Dakota, including approximately 126,700 people who are currently unserved. Network Business Systems will construct and deploy wireless internet access networks using a mix of technologies including TV white spaces — vacant spectrum that can travel over long distances and rough terrain, including the heavy foliage that is common in the Midwestern landscape. But it will take time, and the projected completion date is July 4, 2022.
Southern Virginia's economy has been devastated by the loss of the tobacco and textile industries that sustained it through much of its history. Now with the help of a corporate giant, local innovators are trying to remake part of Southside in the image of the digital age.Microsoft first came to Southside Virginia when it picked a location in Mecklenberg County for a new data center in 2010. As that center has grown so has the company's interest in supporting digital infrastructure growth and education in Mecklenberg and surrounding counties. That's why the company made this one six regions nationwide to take part in TechSpark.“It's a civic program aimed at creating job growth and economic opportunity in rural localities,” says Jeremy Satterfield, TechSpark's Virginia Manager. The primary focus right now is technology training and addressing the region's critical lack of broadband access. “We have a TEALS program. It's housed at Bluestone High School. They will be beginning their second year this year in the TEALS program,” Satterfield added.
During a special meeting, the Wyoming Business Council approved the Wyoming Broadband Advisory Council’s plan to enhance internet access in the state.The broadband council was established during the state’s most recent legislative session through Senate File 100, allocating $10 million for broadband improvement projects and outlining strategies to help maximize funding distribution.
A bill to protect thousands of acres and miles of river in Oregon has passed out of a key U.S. Senate committee. The Oregon Wildlands Act, introduced by Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, both D-Ore., would designate more than 200,000 acres as wilderness and national recreation areas and add more than 250 miles of wild-and-scenic river protections to the state. Much of it is centered around the Rogue River, one of the original eight to gain wild-and-scenic protections 50 years ago, but Robyn Janssen, director of Rogue Riverkeeper, said those protections only extend a quarter-mile up the waterway's canyons, leaving much of the area vulnerable to development."The forest and wild lands way up on the ridge tops above the river aren't protected," she said, "and those really important tributary streams that feed lots of cold, clear water into the Rogue and support our amazing salmon fishery, those tributaries aren't totally supported and protected."The bill would add acreage to the Wild Rogue and Devil's Staircase Wilderness areas and wild-and-scenic river protections to western Oregon rivers. It also would give recreation-area protections to the Molalla and Rogue rivers.The bill, Senate Bill 1548, represents more than 20 years of negotiations, and backers have said it would conserve lands integral to Oregon's recreation economy, which generates $16.4 billion annually in consumer spending and supports more than 170,000 jobs, according to the Outdoor Industry Association.
A new study says wildlife-related activities on Bureau of Land Management land brings in millions of dollars to western states. The study found things like hunting, fishing and wildlife watching on BLM land brings in more than $3 billion in total economic output to 12 western states including Idaho.the 246 million acres of land supports 26,500 jobs and generates $1 billion in salaries and wages. The land also brought in $421 million in federal, state and local tax revenue.For Idaho, that translated into $85 million in salaries and wages in 2016. Another $295 million came in from sales from BLM lands in the Gem State.The study was commissioned by several wildlife groups, including the Pew Charitable Trusts, Trout Unlimited and the Wildlife Management Institute.The study covered twelve western states including Idaho, Oregon, Washington and Montana.