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Rural News

The ‘scenery economy’ reinvigorates a Montana town

High Country News | Posted on January 17, 2018

As the holiday season gets its start on a clear morning in late November, Main Street here looks like something out of a Hallmark movie. A window washer cleans down storefronts along blocks of historic brick buildings — a candy store, a microbrewery, coffee shops, restaurants, antique stores. Wreaths hang off ornate light posts. The surrounding hills are scattered with snow. Banners hung from windows and balconies celebrate the high school football team, the Titans, which has won a state 8-man class championship the previous weekend. This was a much different scene a quarter century ago. By the early 90s, the mining, timber and agriculture jobs the town was built on in the 1860s had faded, leaving businesses shuttered, many properties owned by the bank. The motto of the one-time silver boomtown — “Founded on hope” — seemed tarnished.These days, though, Philipsburg’s historic district is one of the state’s small-town success stories — its buildings restored and bustling, with brightly painted facades that have won national recognition in places like Sunset Magazine. If there’s anywhere in rural Montana that’s managed to make the shift from the mines-and-mills industry of the past to the scenery economy of the New West, it’s here.

How to turn motorized rec into a sustainable economy

High Country News | Posted on January 17, 2018

Mining and ranching is the main economy of Challis, Idaho. When the Thompson Creek Mining Company, a molybdenum mine west of Challis, ended their mining operations in 2014, the bust in the economy rattled the community. At its peak, the molybdenum mine employed around 400 people, accounting for more than half of Custer County’s tax roll. Today, around 50 remain. “They were the largest employer but now they are probably the second largest,” said Greg Webster, owner of The Bent Rod outdoor store and president of Challis’ Chamber of Commerce. “They were like Santa Claus for everything and everyone. When that kind of stuff shuts down, it kind of kicks you in the stomach and makes you figure out what you are going to do next.” Like many communities in the West, Challis is looking to tourism to help diversify and bolster their economy.  “It is sort of the chicken and the egg,” said Webster. “There are a lot of communities that are quite the places to go for people to ride their bikes, little breweries popping up and little mountain-type groups. You have to get the trail systems so people know about it before you can get people to come.”While the community did not initiate the trail, the businesses that have shifted their business model and embraced the visitors are seeing an economic boost.

Washington Senate committee advances bill on rural water wells

Capital Press | Posted on January 17, 2018

A bill to reopen rural Washington to new wells unanimously passed the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee on Thursday, an unprecedented but tenuous bipartisan response to the Hirst court decision. The committee’s lead Republican, Moses Lake Sen. Judy Warnick, said she expects the full Senate to vote on the legislation in the next few days.“This is a necessary bill for the fishermen and all the people who want to live and work in rural areas,” she said.Senate Bill 6091 proposes short-term regulations for new household wells. By mid-2021, rules drawn up by watershed panels would prevail in some basins. The plans would set limits on water withdrawals and authorize projects to more than offset water diverted from streams by new wells.

Interior plans to move thousands of workers in the biggest reorganization in its history

The Washington Post | Posted on January 16, 2018

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke launched an unprecedented effort Wednesday to undertake the largest reorganization in the department’s 168-year history, moving to shift tens of thousands of workers to new locations and change the way the federal government manages more than 500 million acres of land and water across the country. The proposal would divide the United States into 13 regions and centralize authority for different parts of Interior within those boundaries. The regions would be defined by watersheds and geographic basins, rather than individual states and the current boundaries that now guide Interior’s operations. This new structure would be accompanied by a dramatic shift in location of the headquarters of major bureaus within Interior, such as the Bureau of Land Management and the Bureau of Reclamation. Moving thousands of employees around the country would require congressional authorization. Zinke said the Trump administration plans to negotiate the reorganization in the upcoming budget approval process. “This proposal is concerning because it appears to eliminate the Navajo Regional Office of the Bureau of Indian Affairs,” said  Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.). “A change of this magnitude should only come after extensive, meaningful government-to-government consultation with the affected tribes.  On its face, this looks more like a dismantling than a reorganization.” The politics of moving employees is often difficult, Jewell said. Interior sought to consolidate the BLM offices for New Mexico and Arizona because the topography of the states is so similar. “Congress came after us. You would’ve thought we were ending the world as we knew it. Politicians came out of the woodwork,” Jewell said. “You throw up your hands and say it’s not worth it. If you’re a politician it looks like your district lost and another district won.”At a budget hearing in June, Zinke defended a $1.6 billion proposed budget cut at Interior, saying he planned to shave 4,000 positions from the workforce. In September, he said a third of Interior’s staff was “not loyal to the flag,” meaning the Trump administration.

Animal research helps pets, too

JAVMA | Posted on January 14, 2018

This past October, the Foundation for Biomedical Research launched its "Love Animals? Support Animal Research" campaign to educate the public about how animal research has improved the health and welfare of companion animals. Similar public outreach efforts have focused on the benefits to human health derived from animal research, such as development of vaccines for polio and hepatitis A and B. "Love Animals? Support Animal Research" takes a new approach by highlighting a lesser-known issue: how animal research has led to innovations in veterinary medicine that help sick and injured cats and dogs.Animal research has improved and saved the lives of countless companion animals, according to a promotional brochure, which cites the following examples: vaccines to prevent distemper, rabies, infectious hepatitis, tetanus, parvovirus, and feline leukemia; technologies such as CT, MRI, and ultrasonography to help diagnose potentially deadly diseases; lifesaving emergency care for dogs and cats injured by cars; advanced surgical procedures to treat joint and ligament problems in dogs and cats, to transplant organs, and to implant pacemakers; and nutritional products to help puppies and kittens grow into

Trump declared an opioids emergency. Then nothing changed.

Politico | Posted on January 12, 2018

President Donald Trump in October promised to "liberate" Americans from the "scourge of addiction," officially declaring a 90-day public health emergency that would urgently mobilize the federal government to tackle the opioid epidemic. That declaration runs out on Jan. 23, and beyond drawing more attention to the crisis, virtually nothing of consequence has been done.Trump has not formally proposed any new resources or spending, typically the starting point for any emergency response. He promised to roll out a “really tough, really big, really great” advertising campaign to spread awareness about addiction, but that has yet to take shape. And key public health and drug posts in the administration remain vacant, so it’s not clear who has the authority to get new programs moving. A senior White House official disputed the assessment of inaction, saying the emergency declaration has allowed the president to use "his bully pulpit to draw further attention to this emergency that he inherited." The official added that the declaration has enabled federal agencies to "really change their focus and prioritize the crisis," and that getting an effective media campaign underway "takes time."

Single payer could solve the rural hospital crisis

Jacobin | Posted on January 12, 2018

America’s rural hospitals are closing down at an alarming rate. According to the North Carolina Rural Health Research Program, there were seventy-two rural hospital closures between 2010 and 2016, close to double the number that shut down between 2005 and 2009. Hundreds more are teetering on the brink of closure. Consequently, rural America faces a serious health care delivery challenge, which is made all the more urgent by the fact that rural residents tend to be much sicker to begin with. They have higher rates of chronic conditions and greater psychological distress. Rural counties have higher death rates from unintentional injuries, more motor vehicle injuries, greater premature mortality (below age seventy-five), higher suicide rates among men, and higher infant mortality rates. Health disparities between rural and urban America are very well documented, and geographic access — the ease or difficulty of traveling to a health care provider — is one of the commonly offered explanations for this disparity, especially in the case of traumatic accidents or other medical emergencies. When these rural hospitals close their doors, the distance between a person’s home and the nearest medical facility increases dramatically, and so too does the time it would take an ambulance to reach them in an emergency. Now compare this with the possibilities of a single-payer health care system, where capital investment in health care is uncoupled from individual hospital operating budgets and individual hospital profitability and, instead, is driven by community need. In this system, whether a hospital’s operating costs remained under budget would not dictate the decision to buy a needed MRI machine or renovate the emergency room or even to keep the doors open. Instead, capital investments would be a product of conscientious regional planning that incorporates the voices and desires and health concerns of the community that the hospital serves.

Climate and Weather Disasters Cost U.S. a Record $306 Billion in 2017

Inside Climate News | Posted on January 11, 2018

Hurricane Harvey's extreme rainfall and the most devastating wildfire season on record contributed to $306 billion in damages from climate and weather disasters in the United States in 2017, shattering the previous record by more than $90 billion, according to a federal report released Monday. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's recap of the nation's climate over the past year found that 2017 was the third-warmest on record. What's more, it was warmer than average in every state across the lower 48 and Alaska for the third consecutive year. "That's pretty unusual," said Jake Crouch, a climate scientist at NOAA and the lead author of the report. Such a stretch hasn't occurred in many decades, he said, and is a sign of the degree to which the climate is warming. "The contiguous United States is a pretty big place, and there are features of the climate system that usually make some places colder."While 2017 was not the hottest year, each of the five warmest years since record-keeping began in 1895 have come since 2006. The average annual temperature in the contiguous U.S. last year was 2.6 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th Century average, and five states registered their warmest years on record: Arizona, Georgia, New Mexico, North Carolina and South Carolina.

New Jersey set to ban animals in circuses

| Posted on January 11, 2018

New Jersey could become the first state in the nation to essentially ban old-fashioned circuses, ones with wild animals. The state Assembly, in one of its last voting sessions scheduled for tomorrow, is slated to give final legislative passage to S-2508, a bill that would prohibit the use of elephants and other exotic animals in acts traveling to or around New Jersey. Odds for the bill’s passage in the lower house are good, given the full Senate approved the bill 32-5 with bipartisan support last October and the Assembly Appropriations Committee okayed it two weeks ago, also with the backing of both parties in a 10-0 vote.

Rural Pennsylvania’s Working Poor

Rural Pennsylvania | Posted on January 11, 2018

For this analysis, the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, using a modified definition from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, defined the rural working poor as: non-institutionalized individuals age 18 years old and older who spent at least 27 weeks in the labor force during the preceding 12 months and whose household income was below the poverty level.The rural working poor make up about 5 percent of the total rural Pennsylvania workforce.