What happens to a rural town after it loses its only school? Arena, Wis., is about to find out. Arena Elementary is the second small rural elementary school in two years to close in the district, nearly 300 square miles of rolling pastures and dairy farms in southwestern Wisconsin. The one in the neighboring village of Lone Rock closed last spring. The district now has just one open public elementary school, in Spring Green, nine miles away.The same scene is playing out across rural America. Officials in aging communities with stretched budgets are closing small schools and busing children to larger towns. People worry about losing not just their schools but their town’s future — that the closing will prompt the remaining residents and businesses to drift away and leave the place a ghost town. Rural schools have been closing in waves for decades, but the debate has taken on sharp urgency this year, particularly in communities in the Midwest and New England that have grown smaller and older since the recession. In Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker, who is under pressure as he campaigns for a third term, signed a bill in March increasing aid to nearly 150 sparsely populated school districts. A legislative committee in Madison, noting the major shifts in population from rural areas to cities and suburbs in the last decade, has convened public sessions across the state to search for solutions and hear from frustrated parents and administrators.
cross the country, Americans’ anxiety about their finances is worsening. And rural residents are far more pessimistic about their financial prospects. Only 36% of Americans living in rural counties — who don’t earn enough to pay for the lifestyle they want — believed that situation would improve in the future, according to a new report from the Pew Research Center. Comparatively, nearly half of those living in urban and suburban areas who were in the same boat were optimistic about their financial futures. The findings were based on a survey of more than 6,000 people conducted between February and March. Driving this gap are rural residents who don’t have a bachelor’s degree. Among these people, only 34% believe they will eventually earn enough to lead the life they want. This demographic represents a larger share of residents in rural counties than it does in other parts of the country. Only 19% of people in rural areas have a bachelor’s degree, versus 31% of those in the suburbs and 35% of urban residents.Overall, the poverty rate is the highest in rural areas at 18%, versus 17% for urban areas and 14% for the suburbs. But it’s actually the suburbs that have seen a dramatic uptick in poverty: The number of residents in suburban counties who live below the poverty line increased 51% between 2000 and 2016, but only increased by 23% in rural areas.
The 28-page report, called Rural Challenges, national opportunity – Shaping the future of rural Canada, was released May 31 during the FCM annual meeting. It lists details of how important rural municipal contributions are and how unique the issues and problems these communities face. The report outlines six areas of focus — including proactive leadership, rural housing and investing in better, safer communities — with a total of 17 recommendations.Among them are: supporting development of programs to address emerging rural issues; expand federal disaster and emergency preparedness programs with a comprehensive emergency management approach; ensure new social and affordable housing construction will meet rural affordability challenges; and, design future rural infrastructure programs to provide long-term predictable support for local capital priorities.
Researchers found using formulaic forecasts that three of the five counties would see the annual collective benefit from broadband great enough to surpass public investment in just one year. A fourth county, Sibley, would take just over a year to reach that mark and the last, Lake County, the least populous, taking just over six years.While the forecast points to a quick success, only one of the county has had access to broadband long enough to show concrete progress.
Proportion of deaths that are opioid-related has increased by nearly 300 percent in 15 years
Wisconsin officials have quarantined a deer farm and an elk farm after animals on both properties tested positive for chronic wasting disease. The Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection announced the quarantines Friday. The agency said in a news release that the National Veterinary Laboratory confirmed Thursday that a 15-year-old whitetail doe and a 2-year-old elk cow tested positive. The deer farm is located in Dane and registered to Brad Madigan. The elk farm, registered as Burton Buck Creek Elk, is in Richland Center.
Bipartisan bills have been submitted in the state House and Senate that aim to address two major socioeconomic issues facing rural community hospitals.House Bill 998 would direct the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services to make recommendations by Oct. 1 for establishing incentives to expand medical education in rural counties.That would include assisting rural hospitals with gaining Medicare approval to become a teaching hospital, as well as incentivize medical residents and students to serve those rural areas after graduation.
Aspen Electric, the municipal utility serving the resort town of the same name, achieved 100 percent renewables in 2015, and it didn’t break the bank to do so. Residential rates for Aspen’s customers rank among the lowest in Colorado, while meeting a 100 percent renewable energy goal set by Aspen’s city council 13 years earlier. And this month, upgrades to a Nebraska wind farm, of which Aspen Electric is a major customer, will push the utility’s costs even lower – dropping about 15 percent annually, or $475,000.
Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Anne Hazlett issued the following statement: “Leaving no community untouched, the opioid epidemic has taken a monumental toll on many of the small towns and rural places that are the heartbeat of our country. The campaign to Stop Youth Opioid Abuse shows that at the root of this crisis, addiction is a disease driving good people to make shocking and destructive decisions. Addressing the opioid epidemic is a top priority for this Administration. With that leadership, USDA is committed to being a strong partner to rural leaders in building healthy, resilient and prosperous communities now and for generations to come.” At the direction of President Trump, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has been keenly focused on addressing the opioid crisis in rural communities. So far, the Department has been convening regional roundtables to hear firsthand accounts of the impact of the crisis and effective strategies for response in rural communities; launched an interactive webpage on opioid misuse in rural America featuring resources for rural communities and individuals facing the crisis; and prioritized investments in two key grant programs to address the crisis in rural places.
An estimated 50 to 80 percent of southern wetland forest is now gone, and that which remains provides ecosystem services totaling $500 billion as well as important wildlife habitat. Logging is considered one of the biggest threats to the 35 million acres of remaining wetland forest in the southern U.S., and conservation organizations are saying this threat is coming largely from the wood pellet biomass industry. \Touted as a renewable energy source, research shows wood pellets release more carbon dioxide than coal per megawatt of electricity produced and industry critics worry that incentivizing this energy source could actually be accelerating climate change. Experts argue that biomass energy effectively acts as a loophole for countries to under-report their carbon emissions and give a false impression of meeting Paris Agreement objectives. Research indicates pellet production plants also have a negative impact on air and water quality. But industry proponents say biomass energy is an important component of mitigating climate change and that regulations will ensure its sustainability.