Trump quietly issued an executive order to expand logging on public land on the grounds that it will curb deadly wildfires. The declaration, issued the Friday before Christmas, reflects Trump’s interest in forest management since a spate of wildfires ravaged California last year. While many scientists and Western governors have urged federal officials to adopt a suite of policies to tackle the problem, including cuts in greenhouse gases linked to climate change, the president has focused on expanding timber sales.The executive order instructs the secretaries of agriculture and interior to consider harvesting a total of 4.4 billion board feet of timber from forest land managed by their agencies on millions of acres, and put it up for sale. The order would translate into a 31 percent increase in forest service logging since 2017. University of Colorado Boulder Professor Jennifer Balch said that while treating federal forests makes sense near homes, that policy prescription won’t make a serious dent in the size and intensity of wildfires out West. These fires have increased fivefold since the 1970s as temperatures have risen and snowpack has shrunk. Just 2 percent of lands treated by the Forest Service between 2004 and 2013 experienced a wildfire. “We can’t log our way out of the fire problem — thinning all the forests is not possible,” the fire ecologist said. “And even if it were, it won’t stop fires in the extreme weather that is happening more frequently, and will in the future.”
With billions of dollars in federal money on the line, state and local governments are budgeting hundreds of millions of dollars to convince their residents to respond to next year’s Census. Many states are budgeting far more for community outreach than they have in previous Census cycles, a reflection, some legislators said, of concern that this decade’s count is at risk of missing thousands of residents.“We’re mobilizing earlier, getting coordinated earlier and providing more resources than we ever have in the past,” said Marc Berman, a California assemblyman who chairs a special Select Committee on the Census. “The challenge is greater than it’s ever been.”
Antarctica experienced a sixfold increase in yearly ice mass loss between 1979 and 2017, according to a new study. Glaciologists additionally found that the accelerated melting caused global sea levels to rise more than half an inch during that time.
Recently, Commonwealth Magazine ran an article speculating on the economic role that independent bookstores play in our downtowns, particularly in small and mid-sized city neighborhoods. The author, Amy Dain, is a public policy researcher who was “studying zoning for multi-family housing in 100 cities and towns in Greater Boston” when she noticed a strange phenomenon: that “many of [the] region’s little downtowns—and not just those in the most affluent communities—boast independent bookstores, even in this age of online shopping.” As a researcher, Dain could only offer confident speculation based on these observations, but as someone who had spent an enormous amount of time spending cities, it certainly seemed to her that these stores were functioning as economic mainstays in their communities, riding out the rise and fall of the chain bookstore and the shopping malls in which many cities placed their faith (not to mention their tax incentives) over the course of the last generation. Anecdotal or not, what she observed was compelling. Dain said, “I am happy to find that, for the moment, independent bookstores are anchoring our charming, antique village centers and other places, too.”
Employment in Nebraska remained solid through 2018, benefiting from strong gains in recent years by residents of the state’s suburban areas. Employment in Nebraska in recent years has increased most notably among residents of west Omaha and Sarpy County with rural parts of the state still struggling to add jobs. Overall, Nebraska’s unemployment rate has remained one of the lowest in the country and job prospects throughout the state are strong heading into 2019.
Electric cooperatives want to help bridge the digital divide between rural and urban America as more federal funding becomes available for rural broadband. But a 77-year-old law may prevent one of the nation’s poorest states from fully tapping into millions of new federal dollars to expand high-speed internet service to needy rural communities.Mississippi is among the states that rely most heavily on rural electric cooperatives, nonprofits that deliver power to their members in rural areas. Mississippi’s electric cooperatives’ service area covers 85 percent of the state's land mass.Yet since 1942, Mississippi state law has restricted its cooperatives to working in electric services. Its legislature is expected to take up bills that challenge the state law and the role of electric cooperatives early in its session that began on Jan. 8.Should the Magnolia State change its law, its electric cooperatives could compete for $350 million in loans and grants set aside to improve broadband access under the federal farm bill Congress passed last month. They also could go for a separate pilot program the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced days later that offers up to $600 million in loans and grants to connect rural areas that have poor broadband service.
Two days after he took office, Gov. Ron DeSantis unveiled sweeping measures to clean up Florida's troubled waters Thursday, including spending $2.5 billion and launching more aggressive policies to address algae choking Lake Okeechobee and polluting the state's coasts. The newly minted governor, who angered environmentalists on the campaign trail by dismissing climate change as a significant threat, also promised to establish a resiliency office to address looming dangers.
The New Hampshire Department of Agriculture, Markets and Food wants to create a new label for New Hampshire milk to help keep local dairies afloat. Agriculture Commissioner Shawn Jasper is working with Gov. Chris Sununu and lawmakers on a House bill to create the program, called the Dairy Premium Fund.Gallons with the “New Hampshire’s Own” sticker would carry milk from New Hampshire farms, and would cost an extra 50 cents for customers. Some of this would go to advertising the new brand, but most of it would go back to farmers voluntarily participating in the fund.Jasper says the bill is in response to the nationwide decline in dairy revenue and dairy farms.“We’re down to under a hundred that are shipping milk in New Hampshire, and I’m aware of another three or four that will be gone by April,” he says.
The European Union’s executive body is supporting Poland’s slaughter of wild boars as a way of protecting farm pigs and meat production from the deadly African swine fever. The government’s decision to shoot some 200,000 wild boars this hunting season has drawn wide public protests but veterinary and Polish environment officials insist it’s an approved method.Massive boar hunts are planned for remaining weekends this month.
Activists in North Carolina’s two largest cities, Charlotte and Raleigh, knocked on an estimated 12,000 doors last year to talk to voters about immigration and upcoming sheriff elections. Thanks in part to that push, Democratic sheriff candidates in both counties won in November on a pledge to end participation in 287(g), a program that allows county sheriffs to help federal authorities deport immigrants living in the United States without authorization. The victors ousted incumbents who had pledged to keep the program in place.Sheriff Garry McFadden celebrated by cutting a cake frosted with an anti-287(g) message when he was elected to lead the law enforcement agency in Mecklenburg County, which includes Charlotte. He said in a recent interview that he’s gotten “a thousand complaints and nasty messages a week” about his decision to stop the program, but he hasn’t changed his mind.“We need to build trust with a community that does not trust us,” McFadden told Stateline. “Imagine a robbery victim afraid to call the police or witnesses afraid to come forward. That’s what we were dealing with.”