Lawmakers have begun diving into the issue of land conservation programs, which supporters say benefit surrounding communities and Republican Gov. Paul LePage has often derided as a tax giveaway for wealthy interests. LePage has, for years, criticized lawmakers for catering to wealthy groups and individuals whom he claims enjoy scenic views on tax-exempt land that increase property taxes for seniors and poor Mainers. In the days before this year's three-day government shutdown over the state budget, LePage claimed that Democrats were ignoring his proposal to remove property tax exemptions for land trusts and nonprofits that hold large tracts of land.
Ammon, Idaho (pop. 13,800), today celebrates its success at thinking differently to produce a city-owned gig network. The city built the network with no debt and got an impressive 70% of the potential customers to sign up for service. One key is new technology. The other is that the “private” in this PPP structure is citizens themselves. “Ammon has created a unique and interesting model,” says Deb Socia, executive director of Next Century Cities, a national organization of mayors and other civic leaders who are trying to improve broadband connectivity locally. “The funding structure for Ammon’s [system] worked perfectly for them and may possibly work for others.”No one has to convince Technology Director Bruce Patterson of the City of Ammon the value a bringing new thinking to the table. He recalled a city he knew that recently hired a consultant to do a broadband feasibility study.A city in eastern Idaho figured out how to build a gig network for its city of 13,800 residents with no debt and a strong sign-up rate. Maybe there’s a lesson for other communities here.
Just a week after the state Department of Fish and Wildlife approved shipment of 1 million more farmed Atlantic salmon to Cooke Aquaculture’s fish farm near Bainbridge Island, another state agency says it has found holes in the nets and corrosion in the structure of the facility. The Department of Natural Resources on Monday notified Cooke that it is in default of the terms of its lease at its Rich Passage operation. It ordered the facility repaired within 60 days, or the department may cancel the company’s lease for the facility, which operates over public bed lands.
The 21 fires currently burning across the northern part of the state have killed at least 24 people, destroyed more than 3,500 buildings and torched more than 191,000 acres — a collective area nearly the size of New York City. Nine fires are now burning in Sonoma and Napa counties, the heart of California’s wine-growing industry. One of the biggest and by far the deadliest, the Tubbs Fire in Sonoma grew about 6,000 acres overnight before conditions began to improve.As thousands of firefighters work to contain the blazes, officials have started looking at what’s ahead: Cleaning up the charred remains of thousands of structures, some of which could contain potentially hazardous materials.“You can imagine what it’s going to take,” said Dugan, the Sonoma County spokesman. “You just take one area in Santa Rosa, the Coffey Park area. There’s dozens if not hundreds of [destroyed] homes. That’s a lot of cleanup and a lot of debris. Once the fire is under control, there’ll still a lot of work to do.”He added: “This is going to be months and years of recovery for the county.”Amid these grim bulletins, the huge utility company PG&E acknowledged that the extreme winds late Sunday and early Monday had knocked trees into power lines in conditions conducive to wildfires.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, the devastation to Puerto Rico has sunk in. Many of the island's 3.4 million residents are still without access to power, running water, and health services. The Category 4 storm also left Puerto Rico without most of its farmland, roughly a quarter of the island's land divided into over 13,000 farms. After Maria barreled through with 155-mph winds, it wiped out approximately 80% of the territory's crop value.
Manufacturing is more important to the rural economy than to the urban economy. Rural manufacturing plants survive longer than urban plants, making rural areas better poised to retain manufacturing jobs.Access to financial capital is strongly associated with rural plant survival, while State and local tax rates may not be. However, U.S. manufacturing employment has been declining since the 1950s. Between 2001 and 2015, a period that included the 2001 and 2007-09 recessions, manufacturing employment fell by close to 30 percent. Because of manufacturing’s prevalence in rural America, this decline hit rural areas disproportionately hard. A better understanding of the factors affecting the survival of rural manufacturing plants may help develop strategies to retain these jobs. Despite the sector’s declining employment since the 1950s, manufacturing jobs still represented 14 percent of rural private nonfarm jobs in 2015 (compared to 7 percent for urban). As a share, manufacturing earnings are even more important to rural America. Manufacturing earnings represented 21 percent of rural private nonfarm earnings in 2015 (compared to 11 percent for urban).
Leaders for sportsmen's and conservation groups in Western states are becoming more critical over the Trump administration's decision last week to reopen a protection agreement for the greater sage grouse in 11 states. After months of internal discussions, the Department of Interior's Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced last week it would reopen public comments on 98 greater sage grouse land-management plans across the West. BLM cited the need to respond to a U.S. District Court decision last March out of Nevada in which a federal judge ruled BLM violated the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 by failing to prepare a supplemental Environmental Impact Statement on the sage grouse land management plans in Nevada. The court case stemmed from a pair of counties and a mining firm fearful of mining restrictions because of the sage grouse compromise.The decision comes after BLM also canceled 10 million acres of proposed sagebrush protection for the grouse in Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming, opening up those lands for energy development.
The old town hall and community center, a once-vital building on a once-vital Main Street, dominates the downtown of this old potato- and cabbage-farming town. It’s two stories high and sprawling, and if you squint deeply you can imagine it in its heyday, many decades ago. Hastings was founded in 1890 when Florida railroad and hotel king Henry Flagler sent a relative, Thomas Horace Hastings, inland to grow vegetables for his Flagler’s resorts. It was incorporated as a town 19 years later.In Hastings’ heyday, potatoes and cabbages flooded in from surrounding farms to be processed, packed and shipped by rail or truck across the country. Businesses lined busy Main Street. The Dixie Highway, the main north-south route from Michigan to Miami, came through town in 1916, paved with bricks and busy with vacationers. By the railroad track at the town limits is an old potato-packing plant that once employed hundreds of people. It’s abandoned now.A trip to the supermarket or drugtore means heading down Florida 207 through flat farm land to Palatka or St. Augustine; schoolchildren all have to leave the town limits for class.It’s gotten to this point: In November, Hastings voters will decide if the town government should dissolve itself. Hastings would still be a mailing address but, as a town, it would no longer exist.Instead, it would become an unincorporated part of St. Johns County, which would then take over management of the area early next year.Stanton, 62, pushed to get dissolution on the ballot, saying his hometown is in such financial straits — population is small, tax revenues and property values have declined, businesses have moved out or failed — that there are no other options.
The day illustrated that as a farmer herself, Moynihan understands about the need for a new state program she just planted at the Minnesota Agriculture Department: Farm and Rural Helpline. The line is a new service, replacing an earlier farm crisis line, that allows rural Minnesotans to call (833) 600-2670 to deal with all sorts of problems, even if they do not rise to crisis level, Moynihan said.“Farmers love to farm, but it is an extremely challenging profession,” she said on the dreary Friday.They have no control over costs such as for implements, seed and fertilizer. Others control how much they are paid for crops, milk and livestock.In the fall, “you are watching the clock for frost and watching the skies for rain. It can be a very stressful time.”In the spring, “you realize you are borrowing a lot.”So it is no surprise that mental health issues are big in rural areas. The helpline will be answered by trained counselors who can help immediately and can refer rural Minnesotans to other resources, such as finance experts.
The CDC estimates that nearly 80 people die of opioid overdose each day in the United States. Opioid overuse is a critical issue, and the need for interventions is becoming an urgent priority for many health systems. Utah-based Intermountain Healthcare has made preventing prescription opioid misuse a top community health priority. Utah ranks eighth in the nation for opioid overdose deaths. In 2016, Intermountain helped create an Opioid Community Collaborative, partnering with public health organizations, behavioral health providers and law enforcement agencies to address the problem, which is causing nearly one death in Utah every day.In addition, Intermountain caregivers made developing a comprehensive pain management strategy a top priority. Intermountain sought to develop an end-to-end pain management strategy to tackle the opioid over-prescription problem head-on, while maintaining quality pain management for patients.