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Rural News

The average distance to a forest is increasing for Americans

Research Gate | Posted on February 24, 2017

In a decade it has increased by 14 percent, or about a third of a mile. The loss of isolated forest patches has seen forests move farther on average from any given point in the continental US. In a new PLOS ONE study, Giorgos Mountrakis and colleagues looked at data from 1990 to 2000 and found that the shifting distance was more pronounced in rural areas than in urban settings, as they are at higher risk of losing forested patches.

A girl named Ehlena and a dog named Wonder win at U.S. Supreme Court

Reuters | Posted on February 24, 2017

The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday sided with a disabled Michigan girl whose school refused to let her bring her service dog to class, making it easier for students like her to seek redress for discrimination in federal court. The justices ruled 8-0 that Ehlena Fry, 13, and her parents may not be obligated to go through time-consuming administrative appeals with the local school board before suing for damages for the emotional distress she said she suffered by being denied the assistance of her dog, a goldendoodle named Wonder. Ehlena was born with cerebral palsy, a neurological condition that severely limited her mobility. Wonder was trained to help her balance, retrieve dropped items, open and close doors, turn on lights, take off her coat and other tasks.

States Expand Preparation and Mitigation Efforts as Floods Increase Nationwide

Pew Charitable Trust | Posted on February 24, 2017

Flood events are becoming more intense across the United States, affecting the physical and economic stability of communities and threatening human lives and delicate ecosystems. Every part of the country is vulnerable to losses from increased flooding; in the past five years, all 50 states have experienced flood events. Federal, state, and local entities share the responsibility for weather-related disaster preparedness and response. This series of fact sheets examines the flood risks, mitigation efforts, and associated costs for states.

Cattle, humans both help taint wells in Wisconsin's Kewaunee County

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel | Posted on February 23, 2017

In a new study of groundwater conditions in dairy farm-intensive Kewaunee County, researchers found higher levels of well contamination from cattle during wet weather events — when manure, rain and melting snow can seep quickly into the ground. But the results also show that cattle in this northeastern county are not the only source of tainted drinking water. Human waste from sanitary systems is also polluting wells. The study is the latest research on factors affecting groundwater pollution in a region where tensions over large-scale farms are the greatest in Wisconsin. “The bottom line is that both kinds of mammals — large animals and humans on the landscape — are to blame,” said Mark A. Borchardt, a microbiologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, whose work was funded by the Department of Natural Resources. Kewaunee County has one of the highest concentrations of large-scale farms in the state. The farms have come under sharp criticism for having an out-sized impact. Borchardt's study sampled water during three periods in 2016 and found polluted water was often traced to sanitary systems during relatively dry periods. But during wet conditions when groundwater was being recharged, polluted water was linked to cattle.

As Trump Eyes Infrastructure, State and Local Leaders Defend Tax-Exempt ‘Muni Bonds’

Pew Charitable Trust | Posted on February 23, 2017

Nationwide, the “muni bond” market has funded $1.65 trillion worth of projects for cities and other governments over the past decade. The borrowed money has paid for schools, roads, water and sewer systems, airports, bridges and other vital infrastructure. “These aren’t shiny baubles. These are essential infrastructure,” said Democratic Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin, who is in his second term. “This is a sacrosanct part of our taxing policy that has been in existence since 1913.” But some Republicans on Capitol Hill want to end the tax-exempt status of muni bonds as part of broader changes to the federal tax code. That has many state and local officials worried. A city’s ability to borrow depends on investors’ willingness to lend it money by purchasing bonds. And the tax-exempt status of muni bonds is part of what makes them so attractive to investors, especially high-income taxpayers looking to reduce their tax bills.

Small farmers play big role in felling Peru rainforest: satellite maps

Reuters | Posted on February 23, 2017

Deforestation in the Peruvian Amazon has risen this century - destroying an area of rainforest 14 times larger than Los Angeles - with small farmers behind most of the cutting, according to a new analysis of satellite maps. Small farmers account for about 80 percent of Peru's forest loss, the Monitoring of the Andean Amazon Project (MAAP), a Washington, D.C.-based research group, said on Wednesday. "One of the big findings of this report is that deforestation is not driven by sexier issues such as large-scale oil palm (plantations) or dams, but widespread small-scale agriculture," said Matt Finer, MAAP's director.

Oregon, Montana want to host Outdoor Retailer show

Deseret News | Posted on February 23, 2017

Tourism officials in Oregon and Montana are courting a trade show for outdoor retailers that is leaving Utah after the state's stance on public lands sparked some brands to boycott the biannual event. Outdoor Retailer organizers made the decision after Utah Gov. Gary Herbert refused to rescind his call for the reversal of a new national monument designation.  Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario said the industry is all about defending public lands and cannot stand by Utah's decision. The event has grown from 5,000 people at the first show in 1996 to about 29,000 last summer. It attracted an estimated $45 million in annual direct spending to Utah during the two shows held each year.

Bill replaces ‘no trespassing’ signs with purple paint

Atlanta Journal Constitution | Posted on February 23, 2017

A Georgia lawmaker wants to do away with “no trespassing” signs and instead allow property owners to paint their trees purple.Senate Bill 159, sponsored by freshman state Sen. Lee Anderson,  follows the decades-old lead of other states, starting in 1989 in Arkansas. At the time, according to reports, rural property owners wanted an alternative to the “no trespassing” signs that they said were too easily removed, vandalized or just wore out too quickly.Nearly a dozen states have followed suit, including Texas, North Carolina and Illinois. Why purple paint? It wasn’t used by the forestry industry, shows well in the outdoors and is one of the few colors that can be identified by someone who is color blind.

New 5G wireless will increase need for fiber, not reduce it

Daily Yonder | Posted on February 23, 2017

Minnesota legislators are now hearing that a market-based broadband solution is near. 5G wireless to the rescue!  Learning that public dollars would not be necessary for rural broadband development would be soothing music to elected officials’ ears as other groups line up for funds– roads, schools, health care, tax cuts; the list is endless. After all, many counties and regional entities are growing desperate for broadband and are actively studying the options for spurring broadband delivery to meet at least minimum FCC broadband standards.  Alternatives range from subsidizing incumbents to partnering with new or existing broadband cooperatives.  While the State of Minnesota is seen as the major finance partner, even townships are writing checks for broadband!

U.S. appeals court upholds Maryland's ban on assault rifles

Reuters | Posted on February 23, 2017

A federal appeals court on Tuesday upheld Maryland's ban on assault rifles, ruling gun owners are not protected under the U.S. Constitution to possess "weapons of war," court documents showed.  The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit decided 10-4 that the Firearm Safety Act of 2013, a law in response to the massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, by a gunman with an assault rifle, does not violate the right to bear arms within the Second Amendment