This year, in the dead of winter, America’s wild reindeer went extinct in the contiguous United States. After years of dwindling, the last remaining herd of caribou known to roam between Canada and the Pacific Northwest states of Idaho and Washington was down to just one known member. In January, wildlife managers in British Columbia captured the female and put her in a pen, where they hope she will have a better shot at survival than alone in the snowy wilderness.The herd was one of 15 isolated subpopulations of a broader group known as southern mountain caribou, which, as their name indicates, live in different landscape from the robust northern tundra herds. All 15 are shrinking, mostly because of human development that fatally altered their habitat.The forest has been fragmented over decades by logging, roads, power lines and, in Canada, oil exploration and mining. Smaller foliage that grew back in its place attracted moose, deer and elk, and they, in turn, drew predators. The predators make their living off the plentiful newcomers, DeGroot said, but the caribou became “bycatch.” Wolf culls in Canada did not help the Selkirk caribou.Canada plans to begin a caribou breeding program, DeGroot said. But any release of captive-bred animals is at least four years away, he said, and it’s not clear whether they would be used to restore the Selkirk herd or another precarious one.
Few if any U.S. states have been hit harder than Ohio by the crushing rise in drug use, abuse and overdose deaths. That state’s rate of overdose deaths was second in the nation in 2017: 46.5 per 100,000. Behind those numbers, too, are tragic stories that have personally touched many Ohio legislators — and helped lead their ongoing search for policy solutions.Ohio’s new law grants authority to pharmacists to dispense or administer a five-day emergency supply of naltrexone without a prescription, if they can verify the patient already has been on the drug.In 2017, Ohio expanded access to medication-assisted treatment programs (HB 49), including the creation of a specialized drug court program. According to the National Drug Court Resource Center, Ohio now has 72 drug-treatment court programs for adults, the most of any Midwestern state.An alternative sentencing option, drug courts target offenders with drug dependency problems. Treatment, monitoring, graduated sanctions and incentives are overseen by a multidisciplinary team. Drug courts have been shown to reduce recidivism and lower costs.
Environmental groups are suing the National Elk Refuge for business-as-usual elk feeding and failing to implement a 12-year-old plan. The environmental law firm Earthjustice — which has sued over Elk Refuge feeding before — filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., on behalf of the National Wildlife Refuge Association, Defenders of Wildlife and the Sierra Club. The suit claims “severe disease threats” and focuses on anticipated effects from chronic wasting disease, a lethal and incurable cervid sickness that showed up not far from the refuge boundary last fall.Earthjustice’s lawsuit asks a judge to force the Elk Refuge’s hand, by giving it 30 days to produce a detailed plan to reduce elk feeding.The refuge completed an environmental impact statement in 2007 that prescribed management for the Jackson elk and bison herds jointly with Grand Teton National Park and the Bridger-Teton National Forest. A central component of the plan was to winnow wapiti wintering on the refuge down to 5,000 animals — a number that natural forage could sustain in a winter of average severity, models predicted.
When commercial providers failed to bring broadband infrastructure to their community, the people of Wilson, North Carolina, built it themselves. Soon they’ll open a rural innovation hub where entrepreneurs, remote workers, and people learning tech skills will leverage that fiber connectivity as part of Wilson’s growing presence in the digital economy. Independence, Oregon, population 9,250, uses its municipal fiber and farming expertise to pilot cutting-edge agricultural solutions in partnership with tech companies, including Intel. “We’re practical people,” Shawn Irvine, Independence’s economic development chief, recently told us. “We’re interested in solving real-world problems.” Gigabit-speed internet is increasingly available in rural communities. Census blocks that are home to more than 10 million Americans now have fiber – a distributed workforce equal to the size of San Francisco, Boston, and New York combined. That infrastructure is far more powerful than an unsustainable East German-style cash subsidy program could ever be.
The problem of housing affordability, long a concern in popular big cities, has moved to rural America. Nearly one-fourth of the nation’s most rural counties have seen a sizeable increase this decade in the number of households spending at least half their income on housing, a category the federal government calls “severely cost-burdened.”Those counties, none with towns of more than 10,000 residents, have experienced housing cost increases significant enough to force families to scrimp on other necessities.Meanwhile, only two big-city counties — Bronx, New York, and Norfolk, Virginia — fell into the same category. Both had 2-point increases, according to a Stateline analysis of American Community Survey estimates from the U.S. Census. Stateline compared the early years of the Great Recession, 2006-2010, with the most recent economic recovery era, 2013-2017.
Americans have a couple of ways they tend to think about rural America. On one side of the coin, we see it as a post-apocalyptic wasteland of dysfunction, intolerance, and economic ruin.On the other, we see a pastoral cornucopia of small-town charm, neighbor helping neighbor, and home-grown tomatoes.In other words, it’s all bad or all good.Last week the New York Times published columns by Paul Krugman and David Brooks that fit these all-or-nothing patterns to a T. Krugman wrote about the economic dysfunction of rural America, saying unstoppable forces prevent widespread rural economic recovery. “There are powerful forces behind the … economic decline of rural America – and the truth is that nobody knows how to reverse those forces.”Brooks, on the other hand, wrote about the positive aspects rural civic life he has observed first-hand in visits to small towns in Nebraska. “I keep going to places with more moral coherence and social commitment than we have in booming urban areas.”
American grandparents have long raised their grandkids when their children are unfit or unable to do so. Now grandparents are stepping up again, Census Bureau data show, and the burden is largely falling to low-income white families.As the middle generation has been hollowed out by the abuse of opioids and other substances, the oldest generation has become increasingly responsible for their grandkids, experts say. It's a responsibility that many didn't expect and weren't prepared for. Retired folks find themselves trading their sedans for minivans, moving out of their adult-only communities and searching for work to cover the expenses that come with raising a child.
The Trump administration on Friday finalized changes to sweeping federal land use plans for the West, easing restrictions on energy companies and other industries in a way officials said would still protect a struggling bird species. The Trump administration on Friday finalized changes to sweeping federal land use plans for the West, easing restrictions on energy companies and other industries in a way officials said would still protect a struggling bird species.
The Trump administration’s proposed rule change to food stamp work requirements could leave hundreds of thousands of the most financially vulnerable Americans without the monthly assistance that allows them to purchase food, a new study finds.But approximately 755,000 people across the country would not meet the new work requirements and lose eligibility in three months, according to the USDA’s own estimates, and various states would see different degrees of impact. The brunt of the losses would be felt by 11 states: Alaska, California, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Washington.
Former President George W. Bush appeared at a naturalization ceremony Monday where he praised the nation's immigrant history and called on lawmakers to deliver comprehensive immigration reform."America's elected representatives have a duty to regulate who comes in and when," Bush said at the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas, where dozens took the oath of allegiance to become citizens. "In meeting this responsibility, it helps to remember that America's immigrant history made us who we are. Amid all the complications of policy, may we never forget that immigration is a blessing and a strength."