Rural Stories Making Headlines (July 9, 2016)

Rural America In These Times

On June 29, the South Carolina Red Cross sent 20 volunteers to West Virginia to assist those affected by the floods.

The Inter­net is a big and crowd­ed place. Rur­al Amer­i­ca In These Times is not. With that in mind, wel­come to our first roundup of impor­tant sto­ries in rur­al jour­nal­ism, where we’ll share links to arti­cles of inter­est — every­thing from extreme weath­er events, to agri­cul­tur­al pol­i­cy, the econ­o­my, health­care, Native issues and more — as they become available. 

In the news

The recent flood­ing in West Vir­ginia has been called a once in a thou­sand year event” and brought issues of out­dat­ed infra­struc­ture, emer­gency response, the long-term affects of log­ging, min­ing and coal slur­ry man­age­ment to the fore­front of local media. In a com­pre­hen­sive arti­cle for The Charleston Gazette-Mail, Ken Ward Jr. reports on the his­to­ry of flood­ing in the state and reveals that changes urged by a decade-old West Vir­ginia Flood Pro­tec­tion Plan have yet to be imple­ment­ed. Read State Flood Pro­tec­tion Plan sit­ting on dusty shelf’ ” here.

Health­care

As RAITT read­ers are prob­a­bly aware, afford­abil­i­ty and access to health­care in rur­al Amer­i­ca has suf­fered a seri­ous decline in recent years. In many coun­ties, due to a range of con­tribut­ing fac­tors — includ­ing cost, a short­age of doc­tors, a sick­er-than-antic­i­pat­ed pop­u­la­tion, lack of coop­er­a­tives in the mar­ket­place, the clos­ing of hos­pi­tals and a spike in heroin/​opioid use — the sit­u­a­tion is down­right dan­ger­ous. In Rur­al Roads, a pub­li­ca­tion of the Nation­al Rur­al Health Asso­ci­a­tion, Dr. Chris­tine Han­cock focus­es square­ly on rur­al hos­pi­tal clo­sures, explain­ing that the fall­out is worse than many real­ize. Read Speak Your Piece: The True Cost of Rur­al Hos­pi­tal Clo­sures,” here.

Gov­ern­ing mag­a­zine, mean­while, went a step fur­ther and asks whether rur­al Amer­i­ca can sur­vive” increas­ing num­bers of fail­ing hos­pi­tals. Addi­tion­al­ly, the Kaiser Com­mis­sion on Med­ic­aid and the Unin­sured and the Urban Insti­tute con­duct­ed case stud­ies of three 2015 hos­pi­tal clo­sures and found that many fac­tors con­tributed to the clo­sures — the clo­sures reduced access to care, and new care mod­els may be bet­ter able to address the needs of rur­al com­mu­ni­ties. Read A Look at Rur­al Hos­pi­tal Clo­sures and Impli­ca­tions for Access to Care: Three Case Stud­ies” here.

Broad­band

Broad­band access remains a con­tro­ver­sial issue in rur­al pol­i­tics as res­i­dents often cite the need for more devel­op­ment project fund­ing than gov­ern­ments are will­ing to pro­vide. Fund­ing is a con­tentious issue in many states, includ­ing in Geor­gia, Maine, and Mass­a­chu­setts. In Wis­con­sin, WPR reports that rur­al com­mu­ni­ties in the state can now apply for cer­ti­fi­ca­tions that make it eas­i­er for util­i­ties to expand access, but crit­ics of Gov. Scott Walker’s ini­tia­tive claim this pol­i­cy does not go far enough to off­set the costs of broad­band expan­sion. Read Broad­band Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion Looks to Help Com­mu­ni­ties Attract New Invest­ment”, here.

Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty pro­tes­tors out­side the closed press con­fer­ence at Ver­non Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Coop­er­a­tive in Ver­non Coun­ty, Wis­con­sin. (Pho­to: Hope Kir­wan / WPR)

On the environment

A new report from Envi­ron­ment Amer­i­ca inves­ti­gates the impact of the five biggest cor­po­rate agri­cul­ture busi­ness­es on the nation’s water­ways and sug­gests pol­i­cy solu­tions. In their analy­sis of the investigation’s find­ings, The Chris­t­ian Sci­ence Mon­i­tor reports:

The report details three main mea­sures of envi­ron­men­tal impact: manure pro­duc­tion, chem­i­cal runoff from crop pro­duc­tion, and the direct dump­ing of tox­ic dis­charges” from slaugh­ter­hous­es and pro­cess­ing plants. The main thrust of its find­ings is that farm­ing itself is not inher­ent­ly tox­ic, but the indus­tri­al­iza­tion of the process, par­tic­u­lar­ly the con­cen­tra­tion of food pro­duc­tion in fac­to­ry farms,” has cre­at­ed a sys­tem in con­flict with the nat­ur­al environment. 

Read the full sto­ry (includ­ing the star­tling envi­ron­men­tal impact of chick­en-giant Tyson) here.

In oth­er news, The Her­ald-Tri­bune of Batesville, Ind., pub­lish­es a sto­ry on oppo­si­tion to wind farms in rur­al Indi­ana based on fears of noise, adverse health effects and wor­ries that home val­ues will plummet.

Trib­al sovereignty

On June 22, mem­bers of the Bat­tle Moun­tain Band of Te-Moak West­ern Shoshone vis­it­ed the Tosaw­i­hi Quar­ries in Elko, Neva­da to sur­vey dam­age being done near and around the sacred site. In a piece for Indi­an Coun­try Today Media Net­work, Stephanie Woodard (a fre­quent RAITT con­trib­u­tor) writes:

The trail, which has been declared eli­gi­ble for the Nation­al Reg­is­ter of His­toric Places, is a crit­i­cal fea­ture of a north­ern Neva­da cul­tur­al land­scape that the West­ern Shoshone and oth­er Plains tribes have used for at least 10,000 years.

How­ev­er, con­struc­tion of a min­ing-relat­ed pow­er line along the doc­tor­ing trail is in the process of oblit­er­at­ing it. Start­ing about two weeks pri­or to the June 22 vis­it, a road has been bull­dozed over the spir­i­tu­al path­way, and a long trench has been gouged across the face of a near­by hillside. 

Accord­ing to Woodard, The Bureau of Land Man­age­ment (BLM), which admin­is­ters the land the Tosaw­i­hi Quar­ries and the trail its on, allowed this phase of con­struc­tion to pro­ceed, despite ongo­ing lit­i­ga­tion over the project.”

Read Down and Dirty: 11 Pho­tos Show Destruc­tion Accel­er­at­ing at Sacred Site” here.

Accord­ing to coun­cil mem­ber and for­mer chair­man Joe Hol­ley, trib­al mem­bers were with­out words at the hor­rid destruc­tion,” he said. Hol­ley said the injuries to the site and its fea­tures seemed exces­sive, even wan­ton. (Cap­tion / Pho­to: ICTMN / Cour­tesy Te-Moak Band of West­ern Shoshone)

That’s all for now, but if you stum­ble on sto­ries that should be high­light­ed in the next Rur­al Amer­i­ca roundup, please send links to john@​inthesetimes.​com. Giv­en the hor­rif­ic events across the nation in recent days, any arti­cles that express even a shred of opti­mism will be giv­en top priority. 

This blog’s mis­sion is to pro­vide the pub­lic ser­vice of help­ing make the issues that rur­al Amer­i­ca is grap­pling with part of nation­al discourse.
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