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Rural News

In Nashville, what should rural look like? | Posted on June 30, 2016

Is the best representation of rural character to mandate fields remain fields as outlined in Nashville Next, or should we foster development that reflects the intent of preserving a rural look and feel?  The owners of Fontanel are challenging a decision by the Metro Planning Commission that prevents them from building a conference hotel on 30 acres next to their existing property. The planning commission, in a complicated session that had it first approve and then later deny the Fontanel request, ruled that adding the 30 acres to the Specific Plan zoning that covers Fontanel’s existing 185-acre properties jeopardizes the rural component of the Nashville Next Plan, particularly 11 parcels planners want to stay undeveloped. Part of the Fontanel plan includes one of those 11 parcels.

What does income inequality look like in your state?

Economic Policy Institute | Posted on June 30, 2016

Income inequality has risen in every state since the 1970s and in many states is up in the post–Great Recession era. In 24 states, the top 1 percent captured at least half of all income growth between 2009 and 2013, and in 15 of those states, the top 1 percent captured all income growth. In another 10 states, top 1 percent incomes grew in the double digits, while bottom 99 percent incomes fell. For the United States overall, the top 1 percent captured 85.1 percent of total income growth between 2009 and 2013. In 2013 the top 1 percent of families nationally made 25.3 times as much as the bottom 99 percent. New York and Connecticut have the largest gaps between the top 1 percent and the bottom 99 percent.  According to county-level data, Teton, Wyoming (which is one of two counties in the Jackson metropolitan area from the top of Table 2), had the largest gap between the top 1 percent and the bottom 99 percent. In Teton, Wyoming, the top 1 percent in 2013 earned on average 233 times the average income of the bottom 99 percent of families. The next nine counties with the largest gaps between the top 1 percent and the bottom 99 percent are La Salle, Texas (where the top 1 percent earned 125.6 times as much as the bottom 99 percent on average); Shackelford, Texas (117.1); New York, New York (115.6); Custer, Colorado (86.6); Fairfield, Connecticut (73.7); Franklin, Florida (73.4); Collier, Florida (73.2); Pitkin, Colorado (68.8); and San Juan, Washington (68.7).

Hidden inequality in rural America

Bowling Green Daily News | Posted on June 29, 2016

It's widely known that income inequality has grown rapidly in recent decades. As it stands in the U.S., an average member of the top 1 percent of earners makes 25 times more money than an average member of the remaining 99 percent. But this is just a national figure; across the country, the ratio ranges from 5 all the way up to 233.  What might be more surprising is precisely where income inequality hits those peaks. Yes, a lot of inequality is where you'd expect it: in big cities along the coasts. But there is also a more hidden inequality in America, deep pockets of extreme income gaps in a place where it might not be expected: rural America. The data comes from the Economic Policy Institute, which last week put out a report calculating income inequality county-by-county. Almost all similar studies have looked only at major metropolitan areas.  This rural inequality seems to come in two forms. One, which I'll call "home-grown" inequality, is where the local industries create large income disparities. The other, which I'll call "flown-in" inequality, is where rich people who made their income elsewhere take up residence.


Texas Lawmaker Revives Eminent Domain Question for Bullet Train

Texas Tribune | Posted on June 29, 2016

State Rep. Byron Cook asked Texas Attorney General to rule on whether a private company developing a high-speed train project in the state has the power of eminent domain.  Texas Central Partners has been developing a privately funded bullet train intended to travel between Houston and Dallas in less than 90 minutes. While the project has garnered strong support in those cities, residents in the largely rural communities along the proposed route have voice opposition. Cook asks Paxton to determine whether the company has the right, under state law, to enter private property to conduct land surveys "and ultimately take" private land.

There are currently hundreds of private companies afforded eminent domain authority in Texas, including dozens of private railroad companies. State law asserts that high-speed rails have the same rights as other railroad companies — including the right of eminent domain. In 2015, several lawmakers unsuccessfully pursued measures to block Texas Central's multibillion-dollar project. One of those efforts, from state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R- Brenham, would have specifically stripped firms developing high speed rail projects from having eminent domain authority.

New poll shows how many Americans want to bar all immigration from surprising countries

Business Insider | Posted on June 28, 2016

A poll from Morning Consult found that many Americans are in favor of barring immigration from certain parts of the world - even from countries bordering the US. Nearly half of Republicans polled by Morning Consult said that they "strongly" support such a plan, while 48% of all Americans said they support barring Muslim immigration.  Morning Consult asked respondents whether they support an overall ban on immigration from 11 countries: Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Mexico, Egypt, Belgium, France, and Canada.  Syria had the greatest support among respondents in favor of an immigration ban, with 56% saying they supported it. Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan all followed close behind, each breaking 51% support. Belgium, France, and even Canada all received significant support for a total immigration ban. Roughly 30% of respondents were in favor of a ban on all immigration from Belgium and France, the sites of two of the worst terror attacks in the past year, while almost one-quarter of respondents were for banning Canadian immigration into America.

Rural America - What's going right?

Daily Yonder | Posted on June 28, 2016

Whether it’s building a relationship with a local banker or networking with housing practitioners in another county, personal and professional links may be the single most important element for rural community-based organizations working to change results in small towns. These relationships help rural community developers overcome obstacles—like distance, limited funding opportunities, and fewer technology and communications tools—that are not as pronounced for their urban colleagues.  That was the consensus of 250 of the country’s most innovative and passionate rural housing and community developers who attended the seminar. More than a third were first-time attendees, and many are new to the community development field: a sign of the growing concern around—and optimistic, new energy directed toward—rural poverty. Conversation shifted away from what’s going wrong in rural America to what’s being done right. Stakeholders focused on how to capitalize on their community’s assets as a way to unlock innovation, tackle challenges and restore stability.

St Louis's Grant's Farm future is in hands of trust manager, judge rules

St Louis Today | Posted on June 27, 2016

The future of Grant’s Farm is one step closer to being determined, after a St. Louis judge ruled Tuesday that the trust manager, Wells Fargo, has the power to decide whether to sell the property and who buys it. Two groups of Busch family siblings have submitted competing plans for buying and operating the wildlife attraction, in the Affton area of St. Louis County.

State ponders huge conservation buy

apalachtimes | Posted on June 24, 2016

The state has blessed investigating the acquisition of 17,000 acres in eastern Franklin County for a conservation area.  The land proposed for conservation passed its first review by the Florida Acquisition and Restoration Council, which will now order environmental surveys of the area.   The land is owned by the Ochlocknee Timberlands LLC, a holding of the Mormon Church. The acquisition, if approved, would put into public ownership most of the vacant land between Bald Point State Park and Tate’s Hell State Forest.  Pierce said the state acquisition process is long, as there is a great deal of competition for state funds. Much of the area in question was formerly owned by the St. Joe Company, which at one time proposed to build several housing developments there. When the county backed off a proposed land use change that would have led to a mixed-use development, with a marina and up to 2,000 residential units on central sewer and water, the St. Joe Company sold the land in April 2014 to the Mormons. The land was a portion of 382,834 acres of timberland in the Panhandle that was bought by AgReserve from the St. Joe Co. for $565 million, the equivalent of about $1,475 per acre.

Farm Bureau Asks Congress to Save Rangelands, Control Wild Horse and Burro Population

Farm Bureau | Posted on June 24, 2016

Congress must act quickly to keep fast-growing herds of feral horses and burros from further damaging the environment of the western United States, the American Farm Bureau Federation said today. At current rates, AFBF said, their already excessive numbers will double in a mere four years. Callie Hendrickson, chair of AFBF’s Federal Lands Issue Advisory Committee, testified before the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands. Hendrickson also serves as executive director of the White River and Douglas Creek Conservation Districts in Rio Blanco County, Colorado.  “The rangeland of the West has its share of unique natural resource challenges, not least of which is the burden it carries of an overpopulation of wild horses and burros,” Hendrickson said. “This overabundance is critically damaging the ecology of western rangelands with severe, long-term consequences for the native plant and animal life that call it home.”  Even though law requires it, the Bureau of Land Management has neither the money nor the ability to fairly balance wild horse and burro populations so that other wildlife, livestock and vegetation can thrive. Ranchers face rapidly shrinking grazing allotments while continuing to pay for the allotments they once had lest they lose them – if and when the grazing lands recover from severe overgrazing by feral horses and burros.

Drought Killed 66 Million Trees in California

US News | Posted on June 24, 2016

The number of trees in California's Sierra Nevada forests killed by drought, a bark beetle epidemic and warmer temperatures has dramatically increased since last year, raising fears they will fuel catastrophic wildfires and endanger people's lives, officials said. Since 2010, an estimated 66 million trees have died in a six-county region of the central and southern Sierra hardest hit by the epidemic, the U.S. Forest Service said. Officials flying over the region captured images of dead patches that have turned a rust-colored red. The mortality from Tuolumne to Kern counties has increased by 65 percent since the last count announced in October, which found 40 million dead trees.California is in the fifth year of a historic drought, which officials say has deprived trees of water, making them more vulnerable to attack from beetles. Gov. Jerry Brown in October declared an emergency, forming a task force charged with finding ways to remove the trees that threaten motorists and mountain communities. These efforts have hit obstacles, slowing the tree removal as California enters a potentially explosive wildfire season.