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Rural News

Florida lawmakers wrongly diverted money meant for conservation, judge rules

Orlando Sentinel | Posted on June 20, 2018

State lawmakers failed to comply with a voter-approved constitutional amendment to buy and preserve environmentally sensitive lands, a judge ruled. Leon Circuit Judge Charles Dodson sided with environmental groups in the lawsuit centered on whether lawmakers defied the 2014 Florida Water and Land Conservation Initiative by improperly diverting portions of the money to such expenses as staffing. Legislative leaders have repeatedly disputed such allegations as they continued to make such budget allocations. Attorney David Guest — representing the Florida Wildlife Federation, the St. Johns Riverkeeper, the Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida, the Sierra Club and Florida Wildlife Federation President Manley Fuller — called Dodson’s Friday bench ruling a “100 percent victory.” “The people of Florida voted with a firm, clear voice. And the court said today that counts,” Guest said after the hearing. “The Legislature has to comply with the law like everybody else.”


Nearly 41,000 homes in Louisiana could be at risk of chronic flooding by 2045

The Acadiana Advocate | Posted on June 20, 2018

By 2045, nearly 41,000 homes in Louisiana could be at risk of chronic disruptive flooding caused by sea level rise.   The report says nearly 99,000 people could be affected by floods that would happen 26 times a year or more. The value of the homes affected by the flooding is pegged at nearly $4.3 billion, contributing $36 million in property taxes. Louisiana faces an additional problem: the number of poor people who live in homes at risk of flooding. The report notes that in Houma and Bayou Cane, where chronic flooding could wipe out up to 25 percent of the property tax base, between 1 in 5 and 1 in 3 residents live in poverty. More than 10,000 homes out of nearly 36,000 in Terrebonne Parish could be affected. “Renters too might find themselves in a tight market or having to put up with decaying buildings and increased nuisance flooding,” Cleetus said. “Hits to the property tax base in low-income communities, which already experience significant under-investment in critical services and infrastructure, could prove especially challenging.”


As Rural Towns Lose Population, They Can Learn To 'Shrink Smart'

NPR | Posted on June 20, 2018

Population loss like Sheffield's is happening in small towns across the U.S. "The big picture for all rural communities that don't have a connection to a growing metro area is that they are going to get smaller over time," says Kimberly Zarecor, associate professor of architecture at Iowa State University. Zarecor argues that towns like Sheffield shouldn't spend money trying to lure new residents to shore up their population numbers. She says instead, they should focus on making life better for the residents they still have. In fact, she's devoting a lot of her energy to the cause she calls "The Shrink Smart Project." Peters says they're conducting surveys to figure out how some remote small towns are already making residents' life better, even as their populations drain away. He says there are some standouts — such as Sac City, Iowa, whose population is estimated at 2,105 and falling. The numbers are down by a third since a farm equipment manufacturer closed its factory there in the 1980s.


Michigan now has nation's toughest rules for lead in drinking water

Detroit Free Press | Posted on June 20, 2018

Michigan  began enforcing the nation's strictest rules for lead in drinking water, a plan that eventually will result in replacing all 500,000 lead service pipes statewide in the wake of the contamination of Flint's supply.The lead and copper rules will drop the "action level" for lead from 15 parts per billion, the federal limit, to 12 in 2025. Underground lead service lines connecting water mains to houses and other buildings will be replaced by 2040, unless a utility can show regulators it will take longer under a broader plan to repair and replace its water infrastructure. The rules also will prohibit the partial replacement of lead service pipes except for emergency repairs; require preliminary and final inventories of the lines and other components of a water supply by 2020 and 2025; and ensure samples are taken at the highest-risk sites and with methods designed to more accurately detect lead.


Many Recommend Teaching Mental Health in Schools. Now Two States Will Require It.

Pew Charitable Trust | Posted on June 20, 2018

Amid sharply rising rates of teen suicide and adolescent mental illness, two states have enacted laws that for the first time require public schools to include mental health education in their basic curriculum.Most states require health education in all public schools, and state laws have been enacted in many states to require health teachers to include lessons on tobacco, drugs and alcohol, cancer detection and safe sex.Two states are going further: New York’s new law adds mental health instruction to the list in kindergarten through 12th grade; Virginia requires it in ninth and 10th grades.Nationwide, cities and states have been adopting a variety of initiatives over the past decade to address the rising need for mental health care in schools.But until this year, mandated mental health education had not been part of the trend.


H7N9 could be next deadly pandemic

Newsweek | Posted on June 18, 2018

A deadly new strain of bird flu threatens to become a worldwide pandemic, health officials warn. Britain’s deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam says the strain, which has already killed one-third of infected patients in China, could be the feared Disease X, an unknown pathogen that could cause an international health crisis. The H7N9 avian flu virus has infected 1,600 people and killed more than 600 in China since October 2016. Most of the infected came in contact with contaminated poultry, the World Health Organization said. The virus didn’t infect humans until 2013, when it was first discovered in China. After sporadic outbreaks over five years, its spread has reached critical mass: The Centers for Disease Control said it has the “greatest potential to cause a pandemic” of all human viruses.


School’s Closed. Forever.

The New York Times | Posted on June 13, 2018

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.

 


Why rural Americans are far less optimistic about their financial future

Market Watch | Posted on June 13, 2018

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.


Report brings 17 recommendations for rural Communities

| Posted on June 13, 2018

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.


Study Finds Rural Communities Quickly Realize Benefits Outpacing Costs of Broadband

Government Technology | Posted on June 13, 2018

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.


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