Lee's Ferry, the dividing line between the Upper and Lower Colorado River basins. (Photo: Lissa Heineman)
By John Fleck
It is telling that when Los Angeles Times reporter Bettina Boxall went looking for a way to explain the implications of this year’s bountiful Colorado River Basin snowpack, she ended up at one of Lake Powell’s boat ramps:
The sudden rush of water into the lake has meant seven-day workweeks for the National Park Service and concessionaire crews that manage the boating facilities. Again and again they have reeled in floating docks and marina utility lines that were extended as the reservoir shrank. Dive teams were called in to move anchors.
At the Hite marina on the lake's northern end, where boating facilities had been stranded on the dry lake bed for years, workers used a backhoe and trucks to free them from layers of muck and silt as the water rose.
This is not a criticism of Boxall, one of the best reporters on the Western water beat. Such is water management on the Colorado River that, in the wake of the worst drought in a century of record-keeping, from 2000 to 2010, everyone in the seven western U.S. states and Mexico that depends on the Colorado River continued to get their full allotment. As the lakes receded, journalists (myself among them) turned to the recreational boating business in our search for a visible manifestation of drought. Marina operators engaged in the ritual they call “chasing water”, moving their floating docks farther and farther out into the lakes as the reservoirs shrank. Reporters followed along.
Last modified Wed, 7 Sep, 2011 at 14:51
Data visualization of U.S. weekly newspapers in 2010, in white. View interactive map »
Bill Lane Center creative director and Rural West Initiative contributor Geoff McGhee will be talking about our recent report on community journalism on KUER Public Radio's live program RadioWest on Monday morning, August 8, at 10am Pacific Time. Geoff will be talking his report on the relatively good health of small-town and rural newspapers – compared to the crisis that big-market papers are enduring – and the Center's data visualization showing the growth of newspapers across the United States since 1690.
Appearing with Geoff will be the broadcast journalist and educator Judy Muller, a contributing editor at the Rural West Initiative, and author of the well-received book Emus Loose in Egnar, Big Stories from Small Towns. McGhee and Muller will talk about the state of small-town and rural newspapers and take listener questions about community journalism in the West.
The program will be broadcast live on Monday, August 8, at 10am Pacific Time (11am Mountain Time) on KUER FM 90.1 in Salt Lake City and the SiriusXM Public Radio channel on satellite radio. Callers can join the conversation by calling (801) 585-WEST or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. The archived broadcast will be available for playback on KUER's website and as a podcast on iTunes.
Last modified Fri, 5 Aug, 2011 at 12:21
Map of hospitals designated "Critical Access Hospitals" that are eligible for Medicare financing to shore up health care access in underserved communities. (Source: the Flex Monitoring Team, a consortium of university health care research centers) Click to enlarge.
By Robin Pam
It’s not every day that the American Hospital Association calls out researchers for doing a “disservice” to a group of hospitals. Yet that’s just what the president, Rich Umbdenstock, said in response to a recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association about the quality of care at Critical Access Hospitals, almost all of which are small, rural hospitals that serve as a first point of access to emergency care for the 20 percent of Americans who live in rural areas.
He’s not the only one. The article has been generating heated responses among rural health experts from all corners in the weeks since its publication.
Last modified Mon, 1 Aug, 2011 at 11:28
We live in a global West. Even the most remote rural areas of the American West are plugged into the global economy. This has long been true. And it is even more so today. The connections between the local and the global run from the simple and straightforward to the complicated. In the current issue of High Country News, reporter Jonathan Thompson traces some of the connections that constitute this “Global West” through production and trade of natural resources, particularly energy and minerals.
While Thompson reported on this story for High Country News in Douglas, Wyoming, and other parts of the West, researchers here at the Bill Lane Center's Rural West Initiative closely examined trends in direct foreign investment and the effect of global demand on the energy sector, which is booming in the West. Robert Jackman, a Stanford graduate student in public policy, wrote a sidebar for Thompson's story exploring three future scenarios for global energy demand and its impact on the West. Graduate students in computer science working here at the Bill Lane Center created an interactive online map of current foreign investment in energy and mining operations in the West to accompany the reports.
Jackman’s article for High Country News was based on his in-depth report -- the first in our Rural West Initiative Working Paper series -- is available here:
Jackman provides a sobering assessment of foreign influence in this crucial sector of the economy of the American West. He found that foreign direct investment in fossil fuel production occurs at a much lower rate than foreign direct investment in the American economy in general. Most of that investment comes from companies based in Europe, Canada, and Australia — and not from Asia — continuing a historical pattern.
The biggest foreign influence on fossil fuel production comes from rising worldwide consumption of fossil fuels, and that is largely driven by growth in Asian economies. However, the main driver of demand for fossil fuels from the American West continues to overwhelmingly come from domestic consumption in the United States.
The American West is indeed a “carbon colony.” But it is our carbon colony.
Last modified Thu, 18 Aug, 2011 at 13:11
Areas with access to broadband Internet service, from the FCC's National Broadband Map
By John McChesney
We have had a tremendous, positive response to Geoff McGhee’s and Krissy Clark’s work on rural newspapers. On a related topic to rural media access, the Center for Media Justice and the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Initiative have just published a set of recommendations regarding rural broadband policy, drawn from a session at the National Rural Assembly in St Paul, MN on June 28th.
Some of their recommendations:
- Define broadband as community infrastructure
- Recognize broadband service as a public utility
- Reform the Universal Service Fund
- Support public ownership and community broadband networks
You can read the entire document at http://goo.gl/Boik9.
Last modified Thu, 21 Jul, 2011 at 12:54
The new $20 million aquatic center in Pinedale
By Claire Woodard
The influx of wealth from the gas boom has brought a lot of new infrastructure, investment, and business opportunities to Sublette County, Wyoming. But it has also inspired an unfamiliar and sometimes troubling response among residents: greed.
Last modified Thu, 14 Jul, 2011 at 14:22
Data visualization of U.S. weekly newspapers in 2010, in white. View interactive map »
By Geoff McGhee
In an era of precipitous decline for major metropolitan newspapers, rural journalism is surviving, even thriving, in the rural West and across the United States.
By Krissy Clark and Geoff McGhee
The history of newspapers in the rural West is one of crisis and triumph in alternation. Failure, and bouncing back from it, has been a tradition. And at a time when there is so much talk about the future of newspapers, this past is worth considering.
With American newspapers under stress from changing economics, technology and consumer behavior, it's easy to forget how ubiquitous and important they are in society. For this data visualization, we have taken the directory of US newspaper titles compiled by the Library of Congress' Chronicling America project – nearly 140,000 publications in all – and plotted them over time and space. This visualization is also viewable as a series of video animations.
Last modified Tue, 30 Oct, 2012 at 9:57
By John McChesney, Director of the Rural West Initiative
We have just published a fascinating historical essay about the relationship between the Progressive Era’s Conservation Movement and the Country Life Movement. In the first decade of the twentieth century, President Theodore Roosevelt created two commissions, one on National Conservation and one on Country Life. Roosevelt saw the two as a continuum of natural resource conservation. “…the conservation and rural life policies are really two sides of the same policy; and down at bottom this policy rests upon the fundamental law that neither man nor nation can prosper unless, in dealing with the present, he steadily take thought for the future.”
The President and the Country Life reformers felt that American agriculture was unscientific, inefficient and destructive. Author Travis Koch traces the connection between both movements and shows how the Country Life Movement, in its attempts to reform agricultural practices, ran aground on the shoals of private property. It’s worth noting that there are echoes of this struggle in contemporary times when environmental groups argue that the Farm Bill is, or should be, all about natural resource conservation.
Last modified Tue, 5 Jul, 2011 at 7:06
Photograph by John Fleck
With this post we welcome John Fleck, a reporter with 20 years of experience with the Albuquerque Journal covering science and environmental issues. In the past decade, he has made aridity, climate change, drought and the resulting water policy questions a central topic of his newspaper work. As Albuquerque and Santa Fe, northern New Mexico's two largest metro areas, have shifted in recent years to using water imported from the Colorado River Basin, his journalism has emphasized the relationship between New Mexico's water and broader regional waterscience, politics and policy questions. He is the author of "A Tree Rings' Tale," a book for young people about climate, science, water and the West, and is working on "Moving Water", a book about Colorado River water policy in the 21st century.
– John McChesney, Rural West Program Director
By John Fleck
The Law of the River – the stack of compacts, statutes, court decisions and operating rules governing the division of the Colorado River’s precious water – once had a sacred aura. “It was tantamount to having been written on tablets,” in the worlds of Las Vegas water manager Pat Mulroy.
No more. If we learned anything at the University of Colorado’s Navigating the Future of the Colorado River Basin conference June 8 - 10, it was that:
Last modified Mon, 27 Jun, 2011 at 9:02
President Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack tour a Missouri farm, in April 2010.
(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
By Robin Pam
Teddy Roosevelt’s Country Life Commission released its report on the state of rural America in 1909, highlighting “deficiencies” in rural life that led to people leaving the country for the city. One hundred and two years later, the Obama administration announced the formation of a new White House Rural Council, on June 9.
When Roosevelt announced his Commission, it was ridiculed as a transparent bid for votes, and rural papers across the country poked fun at the president as “Teddy the Meddler.” There was also some mockery of President Obama’s council as well: http://goo.gl/y47mA. But not everyone was in a mocking mood.
The National Rural Health Association applauded the announcement, saying in a blog post that it was “pleased the White House is focused on improving the lives of the 62 million Americans who call rural home.” When the Country Life Commission conducted its survey, more than 40 percent of Americans lived in rural areas.
Last modified Thu, 23 Jun, 2011 at 15:04