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Rural News

Mange in bears in Pennsylvania reaches epidemic rate, study launched

Lancaster Online | Posted on May 30, 2018

Over a lifetime, some Lancaster County residents may have seen a fox with mange. Hunters may have glimpsed an infected coyote. It’s a horrible sight with clumps of hair missing from the beautiful animals. Now, unfortunately, the scourge of mange has spread to bears, and the Pennsylvania Game Commission recently declared that the highly contagious disease has reached epidemic proportions in the state’s population. Though mange can and does kill bears, the Game Commission says there is no evidence that populations are declining because of it.Still, bears increasingly susceptible to mange in Pennsylvania suffer in the wild, and the Game Commission feels the time has come to know more. It has launched an extensive study along with Penn State.The capturing of 36 bears around the state has already begun. Each will be fitted with radio collars so they can be tracked for two years and studied by a group of biologists, immunologists and entomologists from Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences.



Teacher shortages are especially acute in rural areas. Here’s one solution in Colorado.

The Washington Post | Posted on May 30, 2018

Many schools across the country are struggling with a crippling teacher shortage. The number of students entering university-based teacher preparation programs has steadily declined and the number of teachers retiring or getting ready to retire is increasing; adding to this, current working conditions and public perceptions of the teaching profession have led to increased turnover rates — and according to some organizations, this growing shortage of teachers is at crisis level.This is especially true for rural communities, including in Colorado. Alternative licensure pathways, including residency models of entering the teaching profession, have been a lifeline for finding and keeping rural teachers in the state.The state’s 2016-17 Educator Preparation Report  submitted by the Colorado Department of Higher Education [CDHE] and the Colorado Department of Education [CDE] indicates the state has seen “record low enrollment numbers” in educator preparation programs in recent years. Last year, Colorado’s legislature passed a law to allow retired teachers to be rehired without affecting their pensions. This effort has supported small Colorado districts, such as the Montezuma-Cortez School District. However, it is far from a long-term solution.Colorado House Bill 17-1003, passed last year, required the Colorado Department of Higher Education and Colorado Department of Education to study the recruitment, preparation and retention of teachers, with attention to rural Colorado and specific ways to address the state’s shortage. The just completed  legislative session included three bills put forward by legislators to address Colorado’s teacher shortage, including a bipartisan bill on loan forgiveness that would compensate teachers for their service in rural areas upon completion of a preparation program. But the urgency to meet the specific needs of rural school districts in Colorado, which are disproportionately affected by the current teacher shortage, is lost within the long list of the state’s potential action items.

Scientists find major change in freshwater caused by agriculture and climate

Newsweek | Posted on May 30, 2018

Water, water everywhere—but not necessarily in the places it used to be. Even just in the past two decades, freshwater has been on the move in what scientists are now realizing represents "major hydrologic change." That's according to a new study published in the journal Nature. The study looks at freshwater between 2002 and 2016 and suggests that water distribution is becoming more extreme—places that used to have more water have even more water, and places that used to have less water have even less water.That's due in part to human activities like agriculture, but also to the consequences of climate change.The study was based on data produced by the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment, or GRACE, a pair of NASA satellites that orbited Earth and detected small changes in gravity caused by higher or lower amounts of water.

1000th Burmese python eliminated from the Everglades

WTXL | Posted on May 30, 2018

The Python Elimination Program, run by the South Florida Water Management District, recently celebrated a milestone: the 1,000th Burmese python has been captured. “We’ve got the best hunters this state has ever seen,” Mike Kirkland, the program’s project manager, said. “We also have a great team of district staff too and together we’ve formed this cohesive unit working together and that’s why this program has been such a success.”Experts say there are between 10,000 and 100,000 pythons in the Everglades. It is difficult to tell because the snakes are experts at hiding.

Wolves breed problems for Washington ranchers

Capital Press | Posted on May 30, 2018

Fewer cows have been breeding on the range since wolves migrated to northeast Washington, an economic loss little known outside the cattle industry, according to the owners of the region’s largest ranch. The Diamond M ranch estimates that the rate of “open cows” — females that didn’t become pregnant — has increased to about 20 percent from the historic rate of 5 percent.“If wolves were attacking people night and day, I don’t think you’d have too many people pregnant,” said Len McIrvin, the patriarch of the family-owned and -operated ranch.

Premature Birth Rates Drop in California After Coal and Oil Plants Shut Down

Inside Climate News | Posted on May 30, 2018

Shutting down power plants that burn fossil fuels can almost immediately reduce the risk of premature birth in pregnant women living nearby, according to research published Tuesday. Researchers scrutinized records of more than 57,000 births by mothers who lived close to eight coal- and oil-fired plants across California in the year before the facilities were shut down, and in the year after, when the air was cleaner.The study, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, found that the rate of premature births dropped from 7 to 5.1 percent after the plants were shuttered, between 2001 and 2011. The most significant declines came among African American and Asian women. Preterm birth can be associated with lifelong health complications.

Evolution wording removed from draft of Arizona school science standards

Arizona Central | Posted on May 30, 2018

The Arizona Department of Education hopes to make changes to science standards, which will affect K-12 districts and charter schools. The changes include removing the word "evolution" in some areas and describing it as a "theory" in others. Some educators and scientists are outraged by the change. According to the department, the standards are not curriculum or instructional practices. The standards focus on 14 core ideas regarding science and engineering that teachers use to create their curriculum.

Using radical playfulness to bring communities together

Daily Yonder | Posted on May 30, 2018

Ashley Hanson believes in the power of performing arts to bring communities together. After all, she has seen that happen up close. Her organization, PlaceBase Productions in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, uses “radical playfulness” to stage events ranging from bonfires and singalongs to tongue twisters and town-square theater productions. The group’s productions and scripts address local culture, history and community issues.In her experience, community leaders need not worry about whether folks will participate.“The fact I’m most proud of: we have 100% participation from mayors of each community we have worked with,” Hanson told participants of the 2018 National Rural Assembly in Durham, North Carolina, this week. “Let me tell you, it is something powerful to be in a kick-line musical number with your mayor.”The responses from communities are overwhelming and cathartic, she said.

Why States Worry That 'Association Health Plans' Will Be Magnets for Scam Artists

Pew Charitable Trust | Posted on May 30, 2018

Within weeks, the Trump administration will make it easier for small businesses to band together to buy health insurance for their workers. The U.S. Department of Labor is putting the final touches on new rules for the insurance collaborations known as "association health plans." The plans won’t have to include mental health care, emergency services or other benefits required under the Affordable Care Act, making them a cheap alternative to the policies on the health care exchanges.But many states — blue and red — are sounding alarm bells, arguing that by weakening state authority over the plans, the changes would enable unscrupulous operators to sell cheap policies with skimpy or nonexistent benefits.It is not a theoretical concern: Before passage of the ACA in 2010, association health plans flourished across the United States and millions of Americans were enrolled in them.

Why rural Americans are far less optimistic about their financial future

Market Watch | Posted on May 30, 2018

Across 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.