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Rural News

Texas Lawmaker Revives Eminent Domain Question for Bullet Train

Texas Tribune | Posted on June 29, 2016

State Rep. Byron Cook asked Texas Attorney General to rule on whether a private company developing a high-speed train project in the state has the power of eminent domain.  Texas Central Partners has been developing a privately funded bullet train intended to travel between Houston and Dallas in less than 90 minutes. While the project has garnered strong support in those cities, residents in the largely rural communities along the proposed route have voice opposition. Cook asks Paxton to determine whether the company has the right, under state law, to enter private property to conduct land surveys "and ultimately take" private land.

There are currently hundreds of private companies afforded eminent domain authority in Texas, including dozens of private railroad companies. State law asserts that high-speed rails have the same rights as other railroad companies — including the right of eminent domain. In 2015, several lawmakers unsuccessfully pursued measures to block Texas Central's multibillion-dollar project. One of those efforts, from state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R- Brenham, would have specifically stripped firms developing high speed rail projects from having eminent domain authority.

New poll shows how many Americans want to bar all immigration from surprising countries

Business Insider | Posted on June 28, 2016

A poll from Morning Consult found that many Americans are in favor of barring immigration from certain parts of the world - even from countries bordering the US. Nearly half of Republicans polled by Morning Consult said that they "strongly" support such a plan, while 48% of all Americans said they support barring Muslim immigration.  Morning Consult asked respondents whether they support an overall ban on immigration from 11 countries: Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Mexico, Egypt, Belgium, France, and Canada.  Syria had the greatest support among respondents in favor of an immigration ban, with 56% saying they supported it. Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan all followed close behind, each breaking 51% support. Belgium, France, and even Canada all received significant support for a total immigration ban. Roughly 30% of respondents were in favor of a ban on all immigration from Belgium and France, the sites of two of the worst terror attacks in the past year, while almost one-quarter of respondents were for banning Canadian immigration into America.

Rural America - What's going right?

Daily Yonder | Posted on June 28, 2016

Whether it’s building a relationship with a local banker or networking with housing practitioners in another county, personal and professional links may be the single most important element for rural community-based organizations working to change results in small towns. These relationships help rural community developers overcome obstacles—like distance, limited funding opportunities, and fewer technology and communications tools—that are not as pronounced for their urban colleagues.  That was the consensus of 250 of the country’s most innovative and passionate rural housing and community developers who attended the seminar. More than a third were first-time attendees, and many are new to the community development field: a sign of the growing concern around—and optimistic, new energy directed toward—rural poverty. Conversation shifted away from what’s going wrong in rural America to what’s being done right. Stakeholders focused on how to capitalize on their community’s assets as a way to unlock innovation, tackle challenges and restore stability.

St Louis's Grant's Farm future is in hands of trust manager, judge rules

St Louis Today | Posted on June 27, 2016

The future of Grant’s Farm is one step closer to being determined, after a St. Louis judge ruled Tuesday that the trust manager, Wells Fargo, has the power to decide whether to sell the property and who buys it. Two groups of Busch family siblings have submitted competing plans for buying and operating the wildlife attraction, in the Affton area of St. Louis County.

State ponders huge conservation buy

apalachtimes | Posted on June 24, 2016

The state has blessed investigating the acquisition of 17,000 acres in eastern Franklin County for a conservation area.  The land proposed for conservation passed its first review by the Florida Acquisition and Restoration Council, which will now order environmental surveys of the area.   The land is owned by the Ochlocknee Timberlands LLC, a holding of the Mormon Church. The acquisition, if approved, would put into public ownership most of the vacant land between Bald Point State Park and Tate’s Hell State Forest.  Pierce said the state acquisition process is long, as there is a great deal of competition for state funds. Much of the area in question was formerly owned by the St. Joe Company, which at one time proposed to build several housing developments there. When the county backed off a proposed land use change that would have led to a mixed-use development, with a marina and up to 2,000 residential units on central sewer and water, the St. Joe Company sold the land in April 2014 to the Mormons. The land was a portion of 382,834 acres of timberland in the Panhandle that was bought by AgReserve from the St. Joe Co. for $565 million, the equivalent of about $1,475 per acre.

Farm Bureau Asks Congress to Save Rangelands, Control Wild Horse and Burro Population

Farm Bureau | Posted on June 24, 2016

Congress must act quickly to keep fast-growing herds of feral horses and burros from further damaging the environment of the western United States, the American Farm Bureau Federation said today. At current rates, AFBF said, their already excessive numbers will double in a mere four years. Callie Hendrickson, chair of AFBF’s Federal Lands Issue Advisory Committee, testified before the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands. Hendrickson also serves as executive director of the White River and Douglas Creek Conservation Districts in Rio Blanco County, Colorado.  “The rangeland of the West has its share of unique natural resource challenges, not least of which is the burden it carries of an overpopulation of wild horses and burros,” Hendrickson said. “This overabundance is critically damaging the ecology of western rangelands with severe, long-term consequences for the native plant and animal life that call it home.”  Even though law requires it, the Bureau of Land Management has neither the money nor the ability to fairly balance wild horse and burro populations so that other wildlife, livestock and vegetation can thrive. Ranchers face rapidly shrinking grazing allotments while continuing to pay for the allotments they once had lest they lose them – if and when the grazing lands recover from severe overgrazing by feral horses and burros.

Drought Killed 66 Million Trees in California

US News | Posted on June 24, 2016

The number of trees in California's Sierra Nevada forests killed by drought, a bark beetle epidemic and warmer temperatures has dramatically increased since last year, raising fears they will fuel catastrophic wildfires and endanger people's lives, officials said. Since 2010, an estimated 66 million trees have died in a six-county region of the central and southern Sierra hardest hit by the epidemic, the U.S. Forest Service said. Officials flying over the region captured images of dead patches that have turned a rust-colored red. The mortality from Tuolumne to Kern counties has increased by 65 percent since the last count announced in October, which found 40 million dead trees.California is in the fifth year of a historic drought, which officials say has deprived trees of water, making them more vulnerable to attack from beetles. Gov. Jerry Brown in October declared an emergency, forming a task force charged with finding ways to remove the trees that threaten motorists and mountain communities. These efforts have hit obstacles, slowing the tree removal as California enters a potentially explosive wildfire season.

No Puppy Left Behind

Boston Globe | Posted on June 24, 2016

Considering that dogs are already sleeping in their owners’ beds, shaping family vacations, and spending time in the workplace, it would seem their integration into human society is complete.  But not quite. Like children before them, a growing number of dogs are being enrolled in enrichment programs — undergoing a formal education in a way once reserved for show dogs. They are taking puppy kindergarten, basic manners classes, manners classes so advanced they have prerequisites, agility and tricks courses, and “nosework” —a wildly popular program that teaches civilian dogs police-dog style scent detection.

Mock derailment helps first responders stay on track

Daily Yonder | Posted on June 22, 2016

Freight train derailments have been making national news in recent days, including in Washington D.C., in which 16 cars went off the tracks, some of them leaking sodium hydroxide or ethanol. Closer to home along the Upper Mississippi River, freight trains carrying ethanol have jumped their tracks on both the east and west sides of the river, leaking fuel into the river or its tributaries. The geography here is unglaciated bluff country, with thick timber leading to mostly undeveloped waterfront. Derailments in areas like this that leak fuel and toxic chemicals aren’t usually immediate threats to human life and property like they are in urban areas. But they create environmental consequences to the river and riparian areas.

Moving to Arizona Soon? You Might Need a License

New York Times | Posted on June 20, 2016

Animal masseuses are hardly alone. Over the years, states across the country have added licensing requirements for a bewildering variety of jobs, requiring months or years of expensive education, along with assessing costly fees. ontinue reading the main story Today, nearly 30 percent of the American work force needs a license to work, up from about 10 percent in the 1970s. the White House announced that it would provide $7.5 million in grants to organizations interested in working with states to reduce overly burdensome licensing and make it easier for licensed practitioners to work across state lines, an issue of particular importance to military families.