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Rural News

Oil Drilling—Coming to a National Park or Monument Near You?

Sierra Club | Posted on November 1, 2017

You know that a proposed oil and gas lease is really, truly an awful idea when even Governor Gary Herbert, Utah’s normally pro–fossil fuel development leader, is against it. This summer, Herbert wrote to federal officials, asking them to defer planned oil and gas lease sales near Dinosaur National Monument and Zion National Park. While the Bureau of Land Management did eventually decide to delay two planned lease sales near Dinosaur National Monument and defer the auctions on another three parcels near the entrance to Zion, conservation groups and some former National Park Service officials remain on high alert. They warn that the Trump administration’s rush toward “energy dominance” and its promise to increase oil, gas, and coal extraction on federal lands threatens dozens of protected sites across the country.In North Dakota, federal officials are considering auctioning a 120-acre parcel adjacent to Teddy Roosevelt National Park for oil and gas exploration, a site that is already ringed with the oil infrastructure that popped up on the prairie during the Bakken boom. In New Mexico, new oil and gas development might be coming soon to the desert lands surrounding Chaco Culture National Historical Park. According to the National Parks Conservation Association, the government is also considering offering new oil and gas leases at sites near Hovenweep National Monument, on the Utah-Colorado border; near the Fort Laramie National Historic Site in Wyoming; near Capitol Reef National Park in Utah; and in proximity to New Mexico’s Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Sadly, Denver’s proposed cat declawing ordinance would hurt some cats

The Denver Post | Posted on November 1, 2017

In his book “Applied Economics: Thinking Beyond Stage One,” economist Thomas Sowell describes an insight he gained while he was an undergraduate at Harvard. After the young Sowell had enthusiastically listed the benefits of a favorite public policy proposal, his professor asked “And then what will happen?” over and over until Sowell began to see the unintended consequences that would surely follow.When lawmakers stop at stage-one thinking and don’t anticipate what happens next, the consequences are often worse than the problem the policy was intended to solve in the first place. Thus the road paved with good intentions leads to Prohibition crime syndicates, home building on flood plains backed by cheap government insurance, decrepit housing projects, and endless military involvement in faraway places.Earlier this week, Denver City Council committee members engaged in stage-one thinking when they approved a ban on cat declawing within the city limits with little exception. The full council will take up the proposed ordinance early next month. If approved, Denver would join eight cities in California with similar prohibitions on the procedure. Proponents assume that if they outlaw declawing, cat owners will simply not do it. True, some Denver residents will respond this way. Others, however, will go to a vet in the suburbs. Still others will choose not to adopt a cat or to relinquish a cat to a shelter if they are unable to control the scratching behavior. A declaw prohibition would not pose a major deterrent to cat ownership, but it would affect the lives of some cats for the worse. A cat is better off declawed and in a home than in a shelter or put down.

Trump declares opioid crisis a 'health emergency' but requests no funds

The New York Times | Posted on October 27, 2017

President Trump on Thursday directed the Department of Health and Human Services to declare the opioid crisis a public health emergency, taking long-anticipated action to address a rapidly escalating epidemic of drug use.But even as he vowed to alleviate the scourge of drug addiction and abuse that has swept the country — a priority that resonated strongly with the working-class voters who supported his presidential campaign — Mr. Trump fell short of fulfilling his promise in August to declare “a national emergency” on opioids, which would have prompted the rapid allocation of federal funding to address the issue.His directive does not on its own release any additional funds to deal with a drug crisis that claimed more than 59,000 lives in 2016, and the president did not request any, although his aides said he would soon do so. And he made little mention of the need for the rapid and costly expansion of medical treatment that public health specialists, including some in his own administration, argue is crucial to addressing the epidemic. Mr. Trump said his plan would include a requirement that federally employed prescribers be trained in safe practices for opioid prescriptions, and a new federal initiative to develop nonaddictive painkillers, as well as intensified efforts to block shipments of fentanyl, a cheap and extremely potent synthetic opioid manufactured in China, into the United States.He also said he would act to suspend a rule that currently prevents Medicaid from funding many drug rehabilitation facilities.

Tesla starts work on first Puerto Rico energy project to help rebuild island

CNBC | Posted on October 26, 2017

Tesla has begun making good on its promise to help Puerto Ricorebuild its energy grid after a devastating hurricane caused massive damage on the island. On Tuesday, Tesla announced via Twitter that Hospital del Nino in Puerto Rico is "first of many" solar and storage projects going live.

Coalition bands together to protect rural

Daily Yonder | Posted on October 26, 2017

More than 130 organizations representing ranchers, farmers, foresters, conservationists, sportsmen and women, and businesses have endorsed a set of unifying principles to achieve rural economic health, a productive agricultural sector, provide for human needs, and protect the landscapes in which we live and work. While people will always find differences, it is our innate ability to work together that enables us to survive, raise families and create prosperous communities. Place-based collaboration, built on strong relationships and trust, is a proven and successful strategy to resolve long-standing conflicts. Communities and organizations are working together to restore and manage forests and rangelands while creating local jobs. Though not a panacea for all of the challenges we face today, place-based collaboration is an essential framework for implementing successful social, economic and environmental solutions.

Large rural manufacturers may score higher than urban ones on innovation

Daily Yonder | Posted on October 26, 2017

Large manufacturing firms in rural America are at least as likely as similar urban firms to use innovative methods that can contribute to job creation and increased earnings, a new report says. Though preliminary, the study may indicate that there are exceptions to the oft-repeated rule that economic innovation is the nearly exclusive purview of urban-based businesses.“The findings in this report regarding the prevalence of rural innovation challenge the conventional wisdom that rural nonfarm innovation is relatively rare and idiosyncratic,” the report says. While large rural manufacturers had an innovation edge, that finding did not hold true for small and medium-sized rural manufacturers, the study shows.

Rural hospital closures hit poor minority communities hardest

Daily Yonder | Posted on October 26, 2017

Of the 122 hospitals that have closed since 2005, 60% have been in the South. The hospitals that have closed are more likely to serve people of color and lower-income communities.“To conclude, from this study, communities served by hospitals at high risk of financial distress had significantly higher percentages of residents who were black, who did not graduate high school, and are unemployed, again high-needs communities,” Dr. Pink reported. The communities also had high levels of fair-to-poor health, obesity, smoking and risk factors for potential years of lost life.“This really is a very worrisome finding, because, essentially, it’s saying that the communities that are served by these hospitals are more vulnerable,” Dr. Pink said. “They are at increased risk of losing access, perhaps exacerbating some health disparities, as well as the loss of hospital and other types of local employment, which could make the consequences of closure even more concerning.”

California conflagration prompts more calls for wildfire funding fix

Daily Yonder | Posted on October 26, 2017

If Congress spent more money to prevent fires, it wouldn’t have to spend so much to fight them. Advocates and politicians from both parties agree. But that doesn’t appear to result in any action. We’ve grown accustomed to disagreement creating political impasse. But is political division so bad that there’s no progress even when folks agree on a solution? That’s the question Western conservation groups are asking as they push Congress to reform the way the government allocates funding to fight wildfires. “I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Dylan Kruse of Sustainable Northwest. “We have more than 100 legislators from both parties in agreement. We have more than 200 organizations calling for the same legislative package. Everybody knows we need to fix this problem. And still, while disaster funding is moving, once again the chance to solve the problem is lost.”Kruse’s frustration, along with a chorus of other rural voices in the West, is about how the federal government spends more and more money fighting catastrophic wildfires while reducing money from programs that could keep the fires from getting out of hand in the first place.A further complication is that wildfires are not treated like other disasters, such as hurricanes and flooding, where Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funding can support emergency response and re-building.

Michigan bill would prevent public networks

Daily Yonder | Posted on October 26, 2017

House Bill 5099 would prohibit counties and cities from putting any public funds into a government-owned or -managed network. The tight restrictions would replace Michigan’s current municipal-network limitations. So-called “municipal networks,” which are built or managed with local government involvement, are seen as a way to create competition and jumpstart broadband access in areas where commercial telecommunications companies have not stepped in to provide adequate service.A law already exists mandating safeguards against bad municipal financial decision-making.“There are statutory restrictions, competitive bidding with an industry bias built in, mildly onerous separate accounting and projection requirements, industry-biased geographic limitations and artificial time delays,” says Michael J. Watza, head of the governmental litigation and affairs practice at the Kitch Drutchas Wagner Valitutti & Sherbrook law firm.The bill does allow local governments to contract with private companies to provide internet access. Michigan is one of 21 states that limit or ban publicly owned networks. Michigan’s existing law dates to 2001. It requires cities to get council approval, issue a request for proposals to the private sector, and wait 61 days for responses. If fewer than three “qualified” internet service providers respond, the city can take on the project—but only after it prepares and presents to council a cost-benefit analysis that predicts costs and number of subscribers, and posts this publicly for 30 days.Assuming cities decide to move forward and no ISP responds, there must be a public hearing to authorize construction, and then a CPA must review the document. Cities must pay for all of these tasks.

What America Is Losing as Its Small Towns Struggle

The Atlantic | Posted on October 26, 2017

To erode small-town culture is to erode the culture of the nation. Small towns have always risked losing young people for good, but especially after the Great Recession, the American economy has conspired against returners. Economic and agricultural concentration, declining industries, and lower wages aren’t giving younger people much reason to go home. Many small towns are becoming older, poorer, less educated.  Small towns and rural areas send a disproportionate number of their children into the military. America’s food is grown around small towns. And as was made clear last year, smaller towns, acting together, can do a lot to elect a president. “In certain parts of the country those towns functioned as the glue that held everybody together,” Conn says. But if such initiatives are to succeed, Conn suggests, they’ll have to listen to Arthur Morgan and stay open-minded. Immigrants can boost local economies; small towns should welcome them, not oppose them. Government is not the enemy of small towns, but many in small towns have grown to distrust government at all levels: The TVA, a giant federal project, was largely a success, and so was rural electrification, another federal project. Today, many small towns rely heavily on state and federal money to keep their economies afloat. Resentment of cities, especially the often mistaken impression that cities soak up all the government spending, is counterproductive. Even Morgan recognized that “the village was too small a unit to fulfill the destinies of human society.” The United States needs its cities. But it need its small towns and rural areas, too.