Thursday Roundup: The Eco-Economy

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Peddling a New Solution – When thinking of the economic forces that drive the country, the mountain biking industry probably doesn’t come to mind. However, researcher Jeff McNamee and other rural Oregonians think biking’s the business their area needs. The timber industry is unable to support many of Oregon’s small towns these days, leaving many searching for the next big thing. McNamee recently conducted a study on the economic impact of three major mountain biking events that took place in the towns of Bend and Oakridge. All together, the events led to $2.6 million in direct tourism spending, $3.7 million in sales and 52 local jobs. This comes only weeks after Travel Oregon issued a report showing a $400 million annual economic impact from bike-related travel.

Bikeoregon.org says that this research couldn’t come at a better time, and hopes policy makers will soon take attention to this trend.

Row Your BoatA new tourist attraction could be coming to Letcher County, Kentucky. Officials in the county are currently mulling over a plan that would open a water trail throughout the county, giving canoeists a new river to explore.  This would make the 5th trail for nature lovers in Letcher to enjoy, as trails for all-terrain vehicles, hikers, bikers and horseback riders have already been approved.

Terrence Ray, who recently organized a canoe run for Letcher County’s Watershed Organization, Headwaters Inc. to survey the area, recognizes there are challenges ahead, particularly the trash in the water. “That’s probably the biggest obstacle at this point; a lot of the stuff there is probably 20 years old and has been in there a long time.”

Jerry Collins, who participated in the canoe run, still admires the rivers natural beauty. “It’s the best it has ever looked.”

Agricultural Competition – USDA recently took measures to widen the pool of participants eligible for rural grants, leaving many farmers in small town America flustered. Critics of the decisions, like the director of the Rio Culebra Agricultural Cooperative Bernadette Lucero, say there is a clear shift within rural development as grant money moves away from small producers and toward more regional enterprises. Her co-op, which was given grants over a six year span worth a combined $800,000, recently lost the money they usually receive to larger groups such as the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union.

Defenders of USDAs decision say it was made in favor of the greater good. “I can see where some of the small co-ops could’ve been outcompeted,” said Dan Hobbs, a cooperative specialist with the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union. “I’m sure there are some sore feelings out there about that. But I believe it was probably a responsible move on the USDA’s part to widen that pool.”

Water for Rural Kenya – Fresh water is now readily available in parts of rural Kenya where residents once walked miles to reach it. World Vision, an international nongovernmental organization, helped community groups to install pumps that use solar power. These pumps take water tapped in boreholes and transport it to the inhabitants of Kakamega County. The pumps are located in schools so that children receive the water first, but more than 6,600 people are already benefiting from a single borehole at the Lukova primary school alone.

“Installation of these solar panels is a blessing for our community. That is why we must take full advantage of it,” said Julius Mbuya, of the water users association, whose organization also plans to install lighting in the community’s schools powered by excess energy generated by the panels.

Need for a Little More Speed – A piece of legislation in Illinois that could have been inspired by the newest installment of the Fast and the Furious franchise has reached the governor’s desk. The bill, which proposes that the speed limit on rural interstate highways be raised from 65 to 70 mph, passed easily in both the house and senate. Still, not everyone is a fan of the bill, as the Illinois state police and Department of Transportation Secretary Ann Schneider have both opposed the legislation.

Advocates of the bill highlight similar examples in Colorado and California where fatalities and injury crashes fell when the speed limit was increased to 70 mph. State Rep. Jerry Costello, House proposal sponsor for the bill, also says the current rules are out of date. “[Modern cars] are designed to go faster.” 

 

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