Roundup: Hunting for Oil in Alabama

Looking for tar-sands in Alabama • "Rural proofing" Ireland's public works • California pushes to refund Secure Rural Schools • Transitioning soldiers to rural areas • Mad Cow Disease found in Canadian beef • Farmers can't grow dates • Repopulating moose in Minnesota • Small town first in state to get super fast Internet

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Al Jazeera America reports on rumors of tar-sands oil development in northern Alabama. One company has drilled 2,700 test holes in the region looking for accessible tar-sands, a local paper reports. Some state officials say oil development in the region – which holds the third largest reserve of tar sands in North America – could provide an economic boost. But some residents worry that oil development could cost them a way of life.

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U.S. cattle prices are rising, due to news that Mad Cow Disease has been discovered in Canada (the first time since 2011). Advocates for county-of-origin labeling (COOL) say the U.S. market would have reacted much differently if the law didn't monitor Canadian imports to the U.S.

Iowa cattle producer Eric F. Nelson writes in a post from Mike Callicrate's news blog:

Without COOL, [U.S.] markets likely would have been upside down, values of cattle and beef inventory would have been left for foreign countries around the world to determine or worse maybe they would have no longer wanted our beef.

As it’s turned out, the law did what was intended: preserve the integrity of United States raised cattle and beef and keep it the premium product that it is on the world market and continue to provide consumers with the world’s best and safest beef.

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Ireland’s rural affairs minister says the nation needs to do more to “rural proof” Ireland’s post office, health services, police and schools and other essential services.  Ann Phelan said in a strategic memo that the government needs to do more to protect these services from closure and to reinvigorate rural economies.

A Labor Party senator from Galway agreed with the rural minister’s plan. "We need to do more for rural Ireland, said Senator Lorraine Higgins. “There is a two-tier recovery happening and it's almost like rural Ireland is another country compared to Dublin.”

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California counties are organizing to push for refunding of Secure Rural Schools, a federal program that supports education services in areas that depend on the timber industry.

“[Secure Rural Schools] is a critical funding source for California’s forested counties,” said Lee Adams, a Sierra County supervisor who also chairs the Rural County Representatives of California. “Failure to either extend the program or make needed policy changes for the management of our forests is resulting in many school districts cutting vital education programs, and leaving counties with the inability to maintain a healthy county road system.”

Type “secure rural schools” in the search form to see more of the Yonder’s coverage of the issue (or click here).

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The Department of Veterans Affairs has created a pilot program to help veterans transition from active duty to civilian life in a rural area. The Shreveport Times reports on one Louisiana organization chosen to help.

The VA has more than 8 million active patients and approximately 3 million are rural residents who tend to be poorer, older and sicker than those in other health care systems. Spatial distance is a significant factor for many rural veterans when seeking health care. However, recent research suggests the stigma in rural areas related to health and mental health are as much a concern as distance. Close attention will be focused on how mental health stigma in the military may have an impact on rural veterans seeking help.

The goals of this partnership between the Volunteers of America and the VA are:

  • To connect veterans and their families in rural areas to physicians, physician extenders and allied health professionals in northwestern Louisiana, northeastern Texas and southwestern Arkansas, to establish ongoing relationships that will enhance their health care.
  • To link veterans to programs appropriate to their needs that they may be unaware of or not using.
  • To use telemedicine and mobile medical clinics to treat patients with chronic conditions in an attempt to avoid costly and unnecessary admission to long-term institutional care.

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The Hattiesburg American reports on a dating drought in farm communities nationwide. Long, unpredictable work hours and the small dating pool are given as reasons to the problem.

Agriculture producers such as [Tim] Tillman, by their nature, go beyond the traditional 9-to-5 job in a cubicle. For a corn, soybean or other row crop farmer in the middle of a prosperous fall harvest, or a livestock owner having to feed their animals or milk their cows every day, abandoning their job to go out for a late night on the town with a date means abandoning their livelihood and sometimes their only source of income.

"It's hard, when you're dating and getting pretty serious, you want to see that person as much as you can, but that just doesn't happen unless you go ride with someone in a tractor," said Nicole Yoder, 21, who married her husband, Andrew, in June after dating for two years. "It's having to work around that schedule. This is our way of life."

The Internet has been a boon to people living in rural America, with its abundance of online niche dating sites — some devoted to farmers including farmersdatingsite.com and cowboycowgirl.com.

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In Minnesota, a collaborative effort is underway to preserve and increase the moose population. Since the 1980s moose population dropped from around 4,000 to as low as 100. The Moose Advisory Committee has been working with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources on this problem for a while, but they’ve recently welcomed local tribes into the fold.

Mike Schrage, the wildlife biologist for the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, along with biologists from the University of Minnesota Natural Resources Research Institute, the 1854 Treaty Authority and the Grand Portage Band of Ojibwe, led the newly formed collaborative through a process designed to identify moose habitat improvement projects and the locations where they should be implemented. Schrage noted that, “Due to the importance of moose, both culturally and for subsistence, tribal natural resource staff had a unique knowledge of where good moose numbers and good moose habitat coincided.”

All of this planning and vetting of priorities ultimately led to a funding request to Minnesota’s Lessard Sams Outdoor Heritage Council. The Council reviews and recommends conservation projects to the Minnesota legislature to be funded by the Minnesota Outdoor Heritage Fund, which pools and distributes revenues generated from a constitutionally imposed sales tax increase.

The outcome was remarkable with over $3 million in public funding awarded by the Council to enhance moose habitat while also improving the adaptability of Minnesota’s north woods to climate change.

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In a piece of good rural broadband news, the small town of Geraldine, Alabama, became the first place in the state to receive gigabit Internet.

The introduction of such a high-speed Internet in a rural area is historic, said Keith B. Adams, assistant administrator for telecommunications programs for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

"It shows rural Americans can have the same opportunities as those in urban areas," said Adams, one of a long list of dignitaries at the ceremony.

 

 

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