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SARL Members and Alumni News

Wildfires burn more than 1 million acres

CNN | Posted on March 8, 2017

Wildfires across the country had consumed more than 1 million acres, taking at least 7 lives. The Oklahoma Forestry Service told CNN the fires burned 400,000 acres, and prompted Gov. Mary Fallin to declare a state of emergency for 22 counties.Officials in four other states said that 400,000 acres were destroyed in Kansas, 325,000 in the Texas Panhandle and 30,000 in Colorado -- not to mention the 6,000 acres burning in the Florida swamps near Naples that resulted in mandatory evacuations.

Six Dead, Thousands Evacuated After Strong Winds Fan Wildfires in Four Plains States

Weather Channel | Posted on March 8, 2017

Destructive wildfires broke out in the Plains on Monday and grew quickly in size, forcing thousands to evacuate and contributing to the deaths of six people.  The fires were fanned by strong winds on the western side of the same storm system that spawned an outbreak of severe storms in the Midwest. Crews battling the blazes may get a bit of a break as winds are forecast to die down to about 10 to 20 mph Wednesday.  "These conditions will make it somewhat easier for firefighting efforts, but far from perfect," Storm Prediction Center forecast operations chief Bill Bunting told the Associated Press. "The fires still will be moving. The ideal situation is that it would turn cold and rain and, unfortunately, that's not going to happen."  Parts of Kansas, Oklahoma, Colorado and the Texas Panhandle were the hardest hit by the wildfires, which were so intense and large that they could be spotted by satellites.

Oregon’s wetlands system full of surprises

Capital Press | Posted on March 6, 2017

Jesse Bounds thought the worst was over after a fire destroyed two barns, his machinery and $500,000 worth of straw last summer. In all, it was a loss of about $1 million. Then he tried to rebuild, and found his troubles had only begun. He dealt with the insurance company and got the necessary county building permits. But then a neighbor complained, and Bounds was told by the Oregon Department of State Lands that the 12 acres that had been farmed for years was actually a wetlands — a wetlands that didn’t appear on the State Wetland Inventory and had gone unnoticed. A permit to mitigate the damage to the wetlands would cost $57,000 per acre, a $684,000 extra bill to restore the family’s livelihood. Oregon landowners don’t have a simple, reliable method to find out whether their property is considered a wetland. House Bill 2785 takes the narrow approach, by exempting the replacement of a farm building “destroyed by fire or other act of God” from state wetlands mitigation laws. House Bill 2786 is more expansive, creating an exemption for any property that’s not designated as a wetland under the State Wetland Inventory.

WDFW cites threats as reason to tighten release of wolf records

Capital Press | Posted on March 6, 2017

Legislation to shield Washington wildlife managers and ranchers from death threats also could bar the public from learning where wolves are attacking livestock and what steps are being taken to prevent depredations. The House State Government Committee has unanimously endorsed withholding public records that name ranchers who report and state employees who respond to depredations. House Bill 1465 also would bar releasing “any information regarding the location of the depredation” that “reasonably could be used” to identify any person. The names of ranchers who sign agreements to use non-lethal measures to deter depredations also would be exempt from disclosure. The bill stems from unspecified threats last summer as the Department of Fish and Wildlife shot seven wolves in the Profanity Peak pack in the Colville National Forest. One producer told the Capital Press that the ranch was receiving daily death threats.

South Carolina House backs $60-a-year tax hike to repair SC’s ragged roads

The State | Posted on March 6, 2017

The S.C. House voted 97-18 Wednesday to increase the state’s gas tax and other driving fees to raise about $600 million a year to repair the state’s crumbling roads and bridges.  Under the plan, the state’s gas tax would increase by 2 cents a gallon each year for the next five years. When fully phased in, the 10-cent-a-gallon increase would cost the average S.C. driver $60 a year.  The state Department of Transportation estimates it needs an added $1 billion a year to repair and maintain S.C. roads.  “We’re at crisis point when it comes to roads in South Carolina,” said House Majority Leader Gary Simrill, R-York, who has championed the bill.



Advocates renew push for legalizing raw milk in Hawaii

Hawaii News Now | Posted on March 6, 2017

Hawaii locavores are pushing for more options, including the sale of raw milk.  Currently, raw milk is legal in 42 states in some form or another.  Hawaii law prohibits the sale of it, but advocates like Monique Vanderstroom, owner of Naked Cow Dairy Farm in Waianae, say it's long over due. "There's enough people here that want it," she said. "Anytime we can produce our own food here, I think it adds to the sustainability of the islands  as a whole." Vanderstroom said when she first opened her farm in 2008, she wanted to sell milk. But with all the rules and permitting required to bottle milk, the small farmer couldn't compete with mainland production, so her inventory only consists of cheese and butter. "We can't really afford the costs of the regulations right now," Vanderstroom said. Naked Cow is one of three dairy farms in Hawaii and the only one on Oahu. It's operation is small - with only 14 cows - but Vanderstroom wants to expand the business by adding to her herd and starting the sale of raw milk.

San Francisco bans retail sale of dogs and cats

Consumer Affairs | Posted on March 2, 2017

On February 14, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance prohibiting retail stores from selling commercially bred dogs and cats.  Stores are instead encouraged to partner with animal shelters and rescue groups to display adoptable animals. But the new law, which also prohibits the sale of puppies and kittens under eight weeks old, doesn’t make it illegal to breed companion animals. People can still legally breed dogs and cats, and San Franciscans can still purchase an animal directly from a breeder where they can “see the conditions in which the dogs or cats are bred or can confer with the breeder concerning those conditions.”

Minnesota Farm Groups Work With Lawmakers to Tweak Buffer Law

WNAX | Posted on March 2, 2017

Minnesota Farm Bureau leaders and other agricultural groups are working with state legislators to tweak the new buffer law. Lawmakers have held hearings where they heard from officials from the Board of Soil and Water Resources and Department of Natural Resources. State Farm Bureau  Associate Director of Public Policy Cole Rupprecht says the buffer maps released by DNR need to be adjusted. He says another area of the law that that needs modification deals with the alternative farming practices listed in the statute. Rupprecht says if legislators can’t find the proper fixes to the law, then implementation should be delayed. He also says an appeal process needs to be added. He says several buffer bills have been offered including one to repeal the law entirely but nothing has passed yet.

City Rights in an Era of Preemption: A State-by-State Analysis

National League of Cities | Posted on March 2, 2017

Preemption is the use of state law to nullify a municipal ordinance or authority. In some cases, preemption can lead to improved policy statewide. However, preemption that prevents cities from expanding rights, building stronger economies, and promoting innovation can be counterproductive when decision-making is divorced from the core wants and needs of community members.

Are you interested in helping provide information for rural infrastructure needs?

Rebuild Rural | Posted on March 2, 2017

Recently, SARL was a signee with 200 rural support groups on a letter to President Trump regarding rebuilding the infrastructure of rural America.  In the wake of the Rural Infrastructure Coalition’s letter to President Trump, the organizer's led by Farm Credit, want to develop a Rural Infrastructure “Repository” (i.e. database) –– a ready listing of “rural infrastructure” projects and other research dedicated to the infrastructure needs of Rural America.   As the President’s speech to Congress highlighted, legislative efforts in this policy area will begin to take shape shortly and we believe it will be important for the President and Members of Congress to have a ready list of rural infrastructure projects, particularly, as it relates to their respective states and districts. 

They are asking you to submit your current prioritizations for infrastructure needs, including any associated research papers and they have created a dedicated email account to ease the submission process: Once they have collected enough data to formulate a draft “repository”/database document, they will re-circulate the list to make sure they have adequately and accurately captured all the desired projects of rural emphasis.

If submitting projects for hte database please include:1) A point of contact (name, phone & email), 2) The author, organizations and year of any related study/published data/issue area (i.e. broadband, water, sewer, power, other types of rural infrastructure, etc.). If your in doubt of what to submit, drop me a note and we can talk about it (