Battle over the grouse • Groups suing EPA for more emissions regulations • Internet "slow lane" could hurt rural America • Race and the Ozarks • Fox TV show features rural backdrop • Fight for your asparagus rights
The fight to protect the sage grouse is heating up in some Western states. Environmentalists would like to see tens of millions of acres of grouse country made off-limits to developers, ranchers and energy companies.
“The sage grouse is an umbrella species, so it’s sort of the canary in the coal mine,” said Randi Spivak, the public-lands program director at the Center for Biological Diversity.
A 2013 economic impact study found that up to 31,000 jobs and $262 million in annual local revenue could be lost if the conservation measures are enforced in the strictest way.
A coalition of 64 environmental and community groups are suing the Environmental Protection Agency to “clamp down on toxic air emissions from oil and gas operations,” the Center for Public Integrity reports:
The 112-page petition, filed by the public-interest law firm Earthjustice, asks the EPA to use its authority under the Clean Air Act to develop “robust emission standards” limiting the amounts of benzene, formaldehyde and other harmful chemicals that can be released by wells and associated equipment.
“Some of the documented health effects of the many types of [hazardous air pollutants] emitted during oil and gas production include increased risks of cancer, respiratory diseases, and birth defects, among others,” the petition says.
Omaha businessman Pete Ricketts won the Republican nomination for governor of Nebraska in this month’s primary, relying on a boost from voters in the populous Omaha area to put him ahead in the six-way primary.
Ricketts’ reliance on metropolitan voters may create an opening for Democratic nominee Chuck Hassebrook among rural voters, Hassebrook’s campaign staff said.
Meg Mandy, Hassebrook's communications director, said Ricketts' soft showing in some rural areas reminds her of the 2006 Senate race, when Ricketts lost large swaths of central Nebraska in his blowout loss to Democrat Ben Nelson.
“The reality is (Ricketts) doesn't know rural Nebraska, and he'll never know it as well as Chuck,” she said. “It's Chuck's home turf.”
Ricketts’ staff said the analysis won’t hold up. “I don't think a Democrat candidate can look at a six-way Republican primary and somehow think they're going to do better with those voters,” Jessica Moenning, Ricketts' campaign spokeswoman, told the Omaha World-Herald.
Frank Morris at NPR looks below the surface at attitudes on race in the Ozarks. Some white-supremacist groups have emerged or moved into the region. But there’s also a growing movement in towns like Eureka Springs, Arkansas, to set a new course.
One of the most infamous anti-Semites in American history, Gerald L.K. Smith, retired to Eureka Springs, Ark., 50 years ago, erected a gigantic seven-story statue of Jesus and established an outdoor theatrical extravaganza depicting Christ's last days.
Now, the great Passion Play is scrubbed of its original anti-Semitic message. And the big Jesus gazes over a town Smith would probably hate. Longtime resident Michael Walsh says you just can't miss the gay culture here.
"There are rainbow flags outside of a lot of the gay-owned shops. A lot of us are movers and shakers in town," Walsh says.
The town boasts three gay pride weekends annually and a vibrant tourist economy. It's about the same size as Marionville and just about as white, but Walsh says in Eureka Springs, old ways and new culture coexist.
"That statue and the great Passion Play [don't] by any means represent the town. It's just part of the great mosaic in this little town — so it has its place in this community, as do rainbow flags," Walsh says.
A second story looks at Harrison, Arkansas, where community leaders held a human-rights ceremony to “bury” racism and hatred. Harrison is also home to the homophobic and anti-Semitic group Kingdom Identity Ministries. (The group is run by a California transplant, by the way.) And there’s still Klan activity in the area.
From a distance, it’s easy to see towns like Harrison as monolithic. But reporter Morris finds leaders, including the mayor, who are working to create a different kind of environment for residents. The race relations board has erected an anti-hate billboard, for example.
The fight over racism in Harrison is certainly more visible than it is in most places, but human rights advocate Leonard Zeskind, who researches hate groups, says it's hardly unique.
"The United States of America is brimming with racial conflict," he says. "There are plenty of all-white neighborhoods in the suburbs of Northern cities."
A new rural-themed drama is coming soon to your television. Fox’s Wayward Pines looks to be Twin Peaks-meets-The Truman Show-meets-The-Stepford Wives-meets-Misery. The cast, with Matt Dillon starring, is stellar for a television production. Now, we'll wait to see how small-screen series handles small-town life.
The show is a project of M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense), who is famous for huge plot twists, so I wouldn’t be surprised if we learn, in the final scene, that the story has actually taken place in Central Park. I’m kidding, but seriously, that is a very real danger.
— Shawn Poynter
A blurb on Jim Romenesko’s blog reminds us of our rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of asparagus on public land.