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Rural News

Research Examines Wildlife Tourism on PA Public Lands

Rural Pennsylvania | Posted on January 11, 2018

Pennsylvania residents and visitors sometimes use Pennsylvania State Game Lands for hiking, bird and wildlife watching, horseback riding, rock climbing, and mountain biking. While these secondary recreational uses are allowed, the main purposes of the State Game Lands (SGLs) are to manage habitat for wildlife and provide opportunities for lawful hunting and trapping.At times, the non-consumptive use of SGLs has been a point of contention since some view non-hunting users on game lands as privileged, or sometimes, unwelcome guests. To learn more about the extent to which the general public participates in non-consumptive, or wildlife tourism activities, on public land in Pennsylvania, Dr. Susan Ryan of California University of Pennsylvania conducted research by surveying hunters, non-hunters, and public policy stakeholders in 2016 and 2017.The research examined the characteristics of wildlife tourists and their non-consumptive use of wildlife assets on Pennsylvania public lands, specifically focusing on Pennsylvania SGLs, which are administered by the Pennsylvania Game Commission.The research also reviewed policy issues surrounding the access and use of Pennsylvania SGLs, and gathered input on public policies that govern these lands.For the research, wildlife tourists were broadly defined as those who engage in non-consumptive or non-lethal wildlife activities for leisure purposes.Data from the surveys were summarized to present a profile of current wildlife tourists and Pennsylvania’s available wildlife tourism product. It also summarized findings on policy issues related to permits and land use access for non-hunters and non-hunting activities.

FCC uses bogus data to show big increases in broadband access

Daily Yonder | Posted on January 11, 2018

Across the country, the Federal Communications Commission wants millions of rural Americans to think they have broadband at home and the workplace – when they don’t. The self-reported claims of service are very convenient for large telecommunications companies, which might face more competition otherwise. At the end of the year, the Federal Communications Commission released data that it knows to be inaccurate, which will damage the lives and livelihoods of millions of our fellow citizens who live and work in rural America. In its publication of eligible census blocks for the Connect America Fund (CAF) auction, the FCC excluded 432,302 rural homes and businesses in areas that previously had been eligible to receive public support for broadband service.The vast majority of these areas had been determined by the FCC and the telephone industry to be too costly for the telephone companies to serve with broadband – even with subsidies – so the FCC initially decided to auction financial support for these remote areas. And yet, in the closing days of 2017, the FCC removed 30% of all the eligible rural locations from the CAF auction by applying newly released data regarding the availability of broadband service.

How much are students improving in your school district?

Daily Yonder | Posted on January 11, 2018

A new study that examines educational progress of millions of U.S. pupils over a five-year span finds that there are few patterns for predicting how geography or socio-economic status affect student improvement.Rural school districts don’t seem to do much better or worse than urban districts in raising student test scores over time. And both poor districts and rich districts have good and bad results. (The only exception is the generally good results in Tennessee.)The massive study by Stanford University professor Sean Reardon looks at standardized test scores of students in the third grade and again, five years later, when that same year of students reaches the eighth grade. The difference in test scores from third to eighth grade shows how much the student performance in U.S. school districts improved over the five-year period.

2 more lawsuits filed against Big Ox, South Sioux City

Sioux City Journal | Posted on January 11, 2018

Two more homeowners have sued Big Ox Energy and South Sioux City over odors and gases from the renewable energy plant, bringing the total number of lawsuits filed to 14.Tyler and Saira Muff and Kathryn Hunt both filed suit Monday in Dakota County District Court. They claim, as have homeowners in the other lawsuits, that odors and gases from the Big Ox plant damaged their homes and "much of their personal property is useless and has been reduced to waste." They also say the odors and gases have caused health problems that began soon after the plant began operations in September 2016. The 14 lawsuits, all filed since Nov. 29, allege that Big Ox and the city failed to operate wastewater treatment facilities and sewer systems to handle waste from the plant and prevent the release of hydrogen sulfate and other toxic gases. Health problems suffered by homeowners and their families include respiratory illnesses, headaches, nausea, anxiety and emotional distress.

“Raw milk Moms” are targets of NJ enforcement action against food clubs

Food Safety News | Posted on January 11, 2018

“Raw milk Moms” in New Jersey were targeted last month with “cease and desist” orders from the state’s Public Health and Food Protection Program. The targeted individuals and the broader raw milk community are resisting the enforcement action. New Jersey gave at least eight families five days to stop selling and distributing raw milk in the state. Raw milk makes its way into New Jersey from Pennsylvania. “Food clubs” set up “drop sites” in private homes to distribute the product. Several of those “drop sites” did shut down after the enforcement actions began.New Jersey is one of seven states to prohibit the sale of raw milk in any form. Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Louisiana, Nevada, and Rhode Island are the others. But New Jersey’s shares its entire western border with Pennslyvania, where raw milk sales are wide open.The cross-border raw milk trafficking gained a boost from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2011 when the agency said transporting the product across state lines was permissible if it was for “personal consumption.”

Why Free College Tuition Is Spreading From Cities to States

Pew Charitable Trust | Posted on January 11, 2018

To churn out more workers with marketable skills, an increasing number of states are offering residents free tuition to community colleges and technical schools.The move also is a reaction to fast-rising tuition costs — increases that stem, in part, from states reducing their financial support of public colleges and universities. “Everybody’s got cheap dirt — but do you have skilled workers?” Winograd said. “That’s the question states face as they recruit new industry.”But the free tuition push hasn’t produced an economic bonanza for any of the pioneering cities—at least not yet — and some states have struggled to come up with the money to keep their end of the bargain.The free tuition trend began in 2005 in Kalamazoo, Michigan, which launched a privately funded effort to combat its economic decline. The movement has quickly spread: Today roughly 200 localities offer young residents free tuition to local community colleges and technical schools.

State lifts automatic death sentence for these mountain lions that prey on pets and livestock

The Sacramento Bee | Posted on January 11, 2018

Mountain lions living in genetically fragile populations in Southern California will no longer receive an automatic death sentence when they prey on pets and livestock. On Tuesday, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife said it was changing its policy for issuing permits to livestock owners in those areas who are seeking to kill mountain lions. Until now, the permits have been automatically issued if the cat has attacked domestic animals. From now on, the applicant must first try at least twice to shoo the cougar away with nonlethal means.Although the new policy applies only to the Santa Monica and Santa Ana mountain ranges, it represents a fundamental shift in how the state issues what are known as “depredation permits.” 

Report from Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity

USDA | Posted on January 11, 2018

The task force identified over 100 recommendations for the federal government to consider in order to help improve life in rural America. The recommendations centered around these five areas:Economic Development, Innovation and Technology, Workforce, Quality of Life and 5 Calls to Action: Achieving e-Connectivity for Rural America, Improving Quality of Life, Supporting a Rural Workforce,  Harnessing Technological Innovation and Developing the Rural Economy

A dying town

Chronicle of Higher Education | Posted on January 10, 2018

It’s a place, one of many in America, where disadvantages pile up. Researchers are uncovering links between education — or lack of it — and health, and they don’t like what they see. It’s not clear whether a college degree leads directly to better health, or, if so, how. But the findings are alarming: Educational disparities and economic malaise and lack of opportunity are making people like those in the Bootheel sick. And maybe even killing them.

Slower speeds, less access: the public agency response to rural broadband

Daily Yonder | Posted on January 10, 2018

Only 62 percent of rural Americans have broadband installed in their homes, according to the think tank New America, and those who do often pay exorbitant prices for sluggish speeds. There are similar statistics from low-income urban communities. In rural and urban communities, “Over 70% of small businesses, which include small service firms, retail shops, and healthcare clinics, have less than 4 Mbps upload speed,” according to data collected by Strategic Network Group.  The FCC will vote Friday, February 2, whether to lower broadband service standards so that mobile smartphone cellular service is treated as the same as a home landline connection. The FCC majority also wants to officially lower what counts as high-speed broadband from 25 megabits per second (Mbps) to 10 Mbps for downloads and 1 Mbps for uploads. Many states passed “carrier of last resort” (COLR) laws years ago to ensure rural communities got telephone services via wireline connections, which by the default included possible internet access. Deals struck with large telecom and cable companies said, in effect, “We’ll give you money and favorable treatment if you agree to provide service to customers even in sparsely populated areas.” Companies got access to big and lucrative markets in return for saying they would also serve harder-to-reach communities.  It was accountability for communities’ tax dollars.Since then, however, incumbents quietly lobbied state legislatures to pass bills to free them of these obligations, or at least let them switch copper landlines for cellular wireless. Rural areas are especially vulnerable when wiring wears out or infrastructure is destroyed in natural disasters such as hurricane Harvey in Texas. They are also vulnerable when the FCC says cellular service is equivalent to landline connections.