Rural

Melodie Edwards

It's dumping rain the day Patrick Lawson gives me a tour around Wind River Internet's warehouse. Through an open garage door, you can see giant yellow spools of fiber optics lines. He points out a pile of orange plastic signs.

HEBER CITY — Tucked below the jagged, snowy Wasatch range 20 miles south of Park City, the Heber Valley looks like a miniature Switzerland. Dairy cows graze in bright green pastures and a small farm sells artisan cheeses and milk. 

Melodie Edwards

Gary and Celeste Havener live forty miles outside of Laramie in southeast Wyoming. They spend a lot of their time growing vegetables and riding horses across the prairie.

Kamila Kudelska

If you've never been to a Shopko, it's similar to a small Walmart. You can get groceries, apparel and lawn products all in one place. They're usually found in small towns.

Back in March, Shopko announced it will be closing all its locations, and it's a big deal for small towns. This is a big deal but towns throughout the Big Horn Basin are being proactive about the news.

Tony Webster via https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Four communities in the Big Horn Basin joined forces to find solutions when they learned Shopko would be leaving their towns. The retail store's bankruptcy will affect 13 communities in Wyoming.

The backlog in U.S. immigration courts is now over 850,000 cases long. People can wait years for their hearings. And that can be a long time to pay for a lawyer and to make appearances in court. Both of these things can be much harder for immigrants living in rural and mountainous parts of the West.

On a stretch of empty highway in remote southwest Wyoming, Bryce Habel is driving his delivery route. A spring snowstorm is dumping ice pellets over the sagebrush desert.

PBS Newshour Student Reporting Labs

The Cody High School Broadcast Journalism program has produced a news piece on how a six-student school in Wyoming is surviving. The report was a collaboration with PBS Newshour Student Reporting Labs. The collaboration has professional journalists help to guide students in their reporting and producing.

According to the Census Bureau, Western towns with fewer than 5000 people have grown on average in recent years. Meanwhile, populations in similar sized towns in the Northeast and Midwest have gotten smaller.

The American Hospital Association has released a new report on the state of rural hospitals across the country. There’s good and bad news about how the Mountain West stacks up.

First, the bad news. When it comes to the number of mental health professionals, our region looks like a black hole.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security

The Department of Homeland Security wants more lay people trained to control life-threatening blood loss. They're spreading the word through a national awareness campaign and a course called Stop the Bleed.

Caroline Ballard

The population in Tie Siding, Wyoming is technically zero - it's basically just a post office that serves homes and ranches in this part of southeast Wyoming. Even though the population is tiny, there is not one but two popular mystery writers living there. And they're married to each other.

Federal lawmakers are pushing to bankroll the Secure Rural Schools Act before Congress gavels out for the year. That money can be a lifeline for districts across our region that are surrounded by untaxable public land.

Idaho and Utah voters will decide whether to expand Medicaid at the ballot this November. Those voters might want to look at a report out this week that assessed how the expansion of the federal health care program played out. 

Melodie Edwards

A Tour Of Rawlins

Longtime Rawlins city councilor and former mayor DeBari Martinez gives me a tour around town in his truck. He points out all the Latino-owned businesses we pass: a flower shop, a photographer's studio, a steakhouse.

Today’s jobs report that puts unemployment at a low of 3.9%  is not necessarily good news for companies competing for potential workers, especially in rural areas, where it’s already challenging to attract labor. Businesses and governments are coming up with creative solutions.

Cooper McKim/Wyoming Public Radio

Winds were gusting over 45 miles per hour on an overcast day at the Dunmire Ranch in southeastern Wyoming. Black cows grazed in the distance with wind turbines lined up on the horizon. At the center of ranch, young colts milled around the corral. Gator, a 14-year-old blind and deaf dog, barked, guarding the home of rancher Les Dunmire. 

 

Inside the house, Dunmire put on his dirt-caked cowboy hat and boots, as he told me how he’s owned this ranch for just over 30 years and that this lifestyle goes back generations.

 

Cally Carswell

  

In the 1930s, rural electric cooperatives brought electricity to the country’s most far-flung communities, transforming rural economies. In Western Colorado, one of these co-ops is again trying to spur economic development, partly by generating more of their electricity locally from renewable resources, like water in irrigation ditches and the sun.

Emily Guerin

  

Steve Fischer finished law school in Ohio in 2010 — one of the worst years to graduate in recent memory. Less than 70 percent of law school grads who passed the bar in Ohio that year landed a job as an attorney. He finally called an old friend and asked if he was hiring.

He was — in fact he was desperate for help. Soon, Fischer, “was making better money than most of my law school classmates.”

Several remote communities in the state will be able to receive better internet service in the near future.  Visionary Communications has announced a plan to expand its fiber optic line to connect the towns of Chugwater, Guernsey, Pinedale and Torrington to the rest of the state. 

Wyoming Department of Health

The Wyoming Department of Health is trying to improve healthcare in rural communities by providing grant money for rural health centers.

The agency’s Keri Wagner says the money can be used to open new clinics, or to allow existing facilities to expand.

“Priority will be given to … applicants for new clinics in areas where access does not already exist,” Wagner said.

She added that while many areas in Wyoming don’t have access to good healthcare, money is not the only problem; it’s also hard to find doctors who are willing to live in rural areas.

A new study from the group Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development says that rural communities depend on adjacent land for their economic health.  That can either be land for energy development or the outdoors.  The report finds that ten percent of the jobs in Cody are connected to spending on fishing, hunting and wildlife.  But impact from nearby energy development land can also help the local economy.  But Trout Unlimited’ s Brad Powell says there should be a balance between the two.