Thursday Roundup: A ‘Rural Spring’?

A “rural spring” • Oil’s impact on North Dakota • W.V. development fund


Michael Knapstein is one of the images selected for last year’s Wisconsin Office of Rural Health rural photo contest. The office is sponsoring another contest this year, but its focus is rural healthcare. Categories are rural healthcare providers, healthcare facilities and emergency medical services. First place photographer wins $100. More information.

A “Rural Spring.” Supervisors from Siskiyou County on the far northern edge of California have voted 4-1 to secede from the Golden State and make their own state called “Jefferson.”

The supervisors say they are tired of the state Legislature, located 250 miles away in Sacramento, and its focus on big cities over rural areas.

Leaders hope nearby counties will join their unlikely effort to create a separate state, which would require approval from state and federal lawmakers.

“We need to build consensus and keep the momentum going,” said Supervisor Brandon Criss in the San Francisco Chronicle. “It could be the ‘Rural Spring.’ “

The Siskiyou Daily reports that the September 4 meeting of the supervisors was packed with citizens who supported the secession declaration:

The declaration cites a lack of representation for rural and frontier counties, aggressive regulation and reinterpretation of long-established laws, that California is unmanageable in its present state and 45 historical efforts to divide the state by 1998 among its reasons for the split. It then states the board of supervisors’ request to have the “California State Legislature approve the withdrawal from the state of California.”

Oil-Boom’s Impact on Wildlife in North Dakota. North Dakota conservationists are trying to get a grip on the impact the state’s oil boom may have on the region’s wildlife.

There are nearly 9,000 oil wells in the state’s Bakken oil patch. Oil companies say the number will increase to 40,000 or more within a few years.

“There are oils rigs everywhere right now. I can’t imagine what 40,000 would look like,” said Dave Zentner of Duluth, Minnesota, and part of the Izaak Walton League. “The scale of what’s going on out there is breathtaking. From an engineering standpoint, from strictly an energy standpoint, it’s amazing what they have been able to do so quickly. … But no one really knows what this is doing to wildlife, to the landscape.”

John Myers of the Duluth News Tribune reports:

The North Dakota Chapter of the Wildlife Society, composed largely of wildlife biologists and other professionals, has warned of a landscape level change in North Dakota if proper precautions aren’t taken to preserve habitat, reduce intrusions from construction, prevent oil from spilling and keeping oil out of waterways.

The group has conducted several tours of the Bakken and found oil spills, fish kills, polluted and flooded well sites and impacts on wildlife that have often gone unresolved. In 2011 it issued a report on what should be done to mitigate the impacts of the oil boon.

“An industrial landscape dominated by oil wells, tank farms, pipelines, natural gas flares and fumes and a scarred landscape are not conducive to outdoor recreation and tourism,” the report noted. “The oil and gas industry is big business in North Dakota and contributes to the state’s economy and the energy needs of the entire country. But the oil and gas industry is also negatively affecting the other two major components of the state’s economy: agriculture and tourism, as well as our natural resource heritage.”

Some of the impacts are obvious. The western reaches of the state’s Killdeer Wildlife Management Area held 63 elk in a 2010 survey. After road-building and oil-drilling began, the 2011 survey showed the elk were gone.

W.V Leader Proposes Development Fund. The president of the West Virginia Senate says the state needs to set up a “future fund” that would set aside some tax revenue from the state’s natural gas boom to invest in education, infrastructure and economic development. Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, made his comments at the opening of a forum on economic diversification.

The forum was sponsored by the Union of Concerned Scientists and the West Virginia Center of Budget and Policy.

Ken Ward Jr. reports in the Charleston Gazette:

In each of the last two years, Kessler introduced legislation to divert a portion of the increased tax revenues to a fund set aside to help economic diversification efforts. But Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has not voiced any serious support for the proposal, many industry officials have remained wary of it, and lawmakers haven’t gone along with the idea.

Kessler said he’s hoping to get more support this year, after taking a delegation of West Virginia lawmakers to North Dakota to study that state’s version of a future fund.

“That’s not conservative,” Kessler said of setting aside money for future diversification needs. “That’s not liberal. That’s just financial sense.”