Rural disasters often mobilize two self-described groups: “The red-light team” from the official ranks of fire, emergency medicine and law enforcement systems. And “the Carhartt and cowboy-hat army,” including agriculture producers and their children, friends, and relatives serving officially and unofficially as emergency responders. Both groups bring critical knowledge and skills. An inter-agency effort that includes land-grant university Extension offices is helping these groups work together to achieve better results.
Coordinating the strengths of emergency managers and agriculture producers is like stacking hay – you have to do it because there is a need. A USDA Extension Service program is helping emergency responders and agricultural producers work together. In 2002, land-grant university Extension programs introduced the Strengthening Community Agro-Security Preparedness (SCAP) curriculum in cooperation with USDA National Institute for Food and Agriculture, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The program has led to better communication, coordination and training. Emergency managers and ag producers working with SCAP facilitators have drafted or updated agriculture disaster and other plans in 311 of the nation’s counties.
The Bureau of Land Management is unveiling a new approach to planning how to manage its 245 million acres, one that invites diverse viewpoints much earlier in the multi-year process. Bringing people with different perspectives together is one of the goals of Planning 2.0, the BLM’s proposed new strategy for developing resource management plans, the big-picture blueprints that guide the agency’s on-the-ground decisions. It’s the first time in 33 years that the BLM has overhauled its planning procedures. The agency hopes to democratize planning — making it more collaborative, inclusive, transparent and reflective of landscape-wide priorities.
Since Wyoming first established its feedgrounds in 1912, thousands of elk have munched taxpayer-funded rations every winter. Conservationists have long warned that the crowding could spread brucellosis, which causes miscarriages. However, since state and federal agencies have long assumed that bison, not elk, transmit the disease to livestock, they’ve focused their attention on the bison, restricting their winter migration out of Yellowstone National Park and culling hundreds each year. Research by the U.S. Geological Survey and its partners found that elk — not bison — are the most likely source of brucellosis outbreaks in cattle around the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. DNA analysis revealed that strains found in feedground elk were much more widespread than the strain found in bison. “We found no direct links (of transmission) from bison to livestock,”
In many parts of the Northeast and Midwest, population growth is slowing at an unprecedented rate as people are getting older, women are having fewer children, and more people are moving out than in — and that signals big economic trouble ahead. The population of prime working-age adults, ages 25 to 54, will decline in 16 states, most of which are in the Northeast and Midwest, from 2010 to 2040, according to a Stateline analysis of projections released by the University of Virginia’s Demographics Research Group in the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service. Maine, Vermont and West Virginia will see their working-age populations drop more than 10 percent. Connecticut, Illinois, Michigan, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Wisconsin will see theirs fall more than 5 percent. State officials in Illinois, Maine and Pennsylvania say they’re already seeing holes in the workforce as baby boomers near retirement. To stem the trend, they are trying to ensure that young people are educated and trained for existing industries, and to help bolster the sectors that show promise of expanding.
As young people increasingly move to cities, what happens to the people and places they leave behind? Over the past two decades, as cities have become job centers that attract diverse young people, rural America has become older, whiter, and less populated. Between 2010 and 2014, rural areas lost an average of 33,000 people a year. Today, just 19 percent of Americans live in areas the Census department classifies as rural, down from 44 percent in 1930. But roughly one-quarter of seniors live in rural communities, and 21 of the 25 oldest counties in the United States are rural. Over the past two decades, as cities have become job centers that attract diverse young people, rural America has become older, whiter, and less populated. Population decline in rural America is especially concentrated in the West. There’s a lot of wide-open land there, but most people, and young people especially, live in the cities. Half the jobs in Oregon, for example, are now in three counties in and around Portland. Almost two-thirds of Utah’s jobs are along the Wasatch Front, which runs from Salt Lake City to Provo. Those who live there tend to like it, but they’re aging, and there aren’t enough jobs to keep younger people around. So kids and grandkids move to the cities, coming back on holidays, inheriting their parents’ homes and leaving them empty, wondering what will happen to the towns their parents say used to thrive. This is how rural America dies: not with a bang but a whimper.
the firefighters and first responders hailed as heroes for saving most of the city and safeguarding its people as they fled a monster wildfire in May parked their rigs and hung banners to welcome the oil-town’s gritty residents as they headed back home along Highway 63. As the first residents arrived, passing a huge Canadian flag hung between the ladders of two fire trucks parked on one bridge, the Fort Mac Evacuees saw for the first time the devastation. They saw destroyed areas covered with a white substance sprayed to keep toxic ash from blowing about. On arrival, they found re-entry information booklets in plastic bags hanging from doorknobs, 36-page instruction manuals for cleaning and disposal of belongings and property ruined by fire, smoke and ash.
Fort McMurray lies in a forested valley 270 miles northeast of Edmonton, beneath the upside-down Y formed by the confluence of the Athabasca and Clearwater rivers.
With their homes and small businesses lacking access to robust fiber Internet service, many American small business operators try to get by with mobile wireless service not intended to support businesses. Larry Korte is an example, trying to run his consulting business in Churchville, Virginia, on 4G cellular service. But since the service is essentially metered Internet, where users pay overage charges for exceeding bandwidth limits, Korte finds the service expensive and a poor value. “I go to the [cell phone provider] and say, ‘Well, we need 300 gigabytes a month. That would probably do it.’” Korte said. “They laugh at it, and tell me to go to the cable company.” Tennessee State Senator Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga) wants to get better Internet access to about 800 homes in his district. He notes that Charter, Comcast, and AT&T told him that “it’s not profitable” to serve homes in that district, which covers parts of Hamilton and Bradley counties in southeast Tennessee. Some premises in southern Bradley County are less than a mile from Chattanooga’s municipal fiber service, leaving them with dial-up service and a slow connection speed. That leaves nursery operator Joyce Coltrin, like many unserved Americans, reliant on her smartphone for Internet access. “It’s very hard to use an iPhone for business,” said Coltrin, who heads a group of 160 households who call themselves “citizens striving to be part of the 21st century.”
A foundation executive says some philanthropies may use questions of "capacity" as an excuse not to fund projects in rural America. But in the long run, he says, urban-based philanthropies need rural constituencies to make a difference at the national level. But that’s apparently not what has happened in the recent past. A U.S. Department of Agriculture study released last year showed that rural areas, while they were home to about 19 percent of the U.S. population, received only 6 to 7 percent of private foundation grants awarded from 2005 to 2010. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack called the disparity “tragic,” especially in light of earlier conversations the administration has had with foundation leaders about increasing philanthropy in rural areas.
Energy development was the biggest force transforming landscapes in Colorado and Wyoming in recent years, according to an interactive mapping project called the Disappearing West released earlier this week by the Center for American Progress (CAP), a liberal think tank based in Washington, D.C. Some 362 square miles of Colorado and 491 square miles of Wyoming were altered by energy development between 2001 and 2011, increasing the total land area covered by energy development in those states by 33 percent and 38 percent.