Weekend News Briefs from CVBT
October 6, 2017
Rural entrepreneurship is declining
• Pace of rural business startups stalls
• State to sue Trump over birth control
• And more….
Rural America has historically had a higher rate of entrepreneurship than urban and suburban areas. But the rural lead is shrinking, according to a new report by the Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy.
“In 1988, more than 1 in 4 self-employed workers lived in a rural area, but, by 2016, that had fallen to less than 1 in 6,” says the report’s author, Daniel Wilmoth.
The decline is being driven by two factors: a shift of the working-age population away from rural areas and a decrease in the rate of rural self-employment.
New businesses are important sources of new jobs and new products, but entrepreneurship has been declining in the United States. The patterns that emerge in this report suggest that changes in rural areas may be contributing to the decline. Policies facilitating the economic development of rural areas could be an effective tool for reversing the decline, it says.
A win-win for spotted owls and forest management
For 25 years, many forests in the West have been managed to protect habitat for endangered and threatened spotted owls. A central tenet of that management has been to promote and retain more than 70 percent of the forest canopy cover. However, dense levels of canopy cover leave forests prone to wildfires and can lead to large tree mortality during droughts.
Now, scientists at the University of California, Davis, have discovered the cover in tall trees is the key habitat requirement for spotted owl — not total canopy cover. The research indicates that spotted owls largely avoid cover created by stands of shorter trees.
“This could fundamentally resolve the management problem because it would allow for reducing small tree density, through fire and thinning,” says lead author Malcolm North, a research forest ecologist with UC Davis’ John Muir Institute of the Environment and the USDA Pacific Southwest Research Station.
“We’ve been losing the large trees, particularly in these extreme wildfire and high drought-mortality events. This is a way to protect more large tree habitat, which is what the owls want, in a way that makes the forest more resilient to these increasing stressors that are becoming more intense with climate change,” he says.
Another California lawsuit against Trump
California is taking the Trump Administration to court yet again. This time the state is challenging Mr. Trump’s order Friday that reverses requirements that most companies must pay for birth control as preventive care for women.
Under the Trump reversal, companies can say they are dropping the coverage on religious or moral grounds.
“We’re prepared to act, including in court, and we’ll do it swiftly,” says California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who says the Trump action is an unconstitutional assault on women’s rights.
County supervisors say state audit raises more concerns about financial viability of governor’s tunnels
This week’s state auditor report on Gov. Edmund Gerald Brown Jr.’s vaunted Delta water tunnels should be an alarm for water agencies that are considering a vote to support the controversial project, the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors says.
The report found that the Department of Water Resources among other shortcomings did not demonstrate any financial viability of the tunnels project, nor did it conduct an economic analysis.
The cost of the twin tunnels has been estimated at between $17 billion and $67 billion. If built, two massive tunnels would be used to suck water out of the Sacramento River before it could flow into the California Delta and ship it to the State Water Project and, perhaps, the federal Central Valley Project. Customers of those two irrigation systems would ultimately pay for the water.
“How many instances of dishonesty, negligence and dirty politics need to occur before more water agencies admit that ‘WaterFix’ [the marketing name for the project] should no longer be pursued? The federal government uncovered misuse of $50 million in U.S tax dollars to fund the tunnels; news outlets exposed the state’s last minute scheme to require water agencies that don’t benefit to pay for the tunnels; and now an independent state audit confirms the skyrocketing costs and questionable actions taken by the state to plan ‘WaterFix,’” says San Joaquin County Supervisor Kathy Miller.
“Transparency and integrity issues aside, the audit’s concern about the financial viability of the project and its conclusion that after spending nearly $300 million, the state is ill-prepared to proceed with the design and construction phase of ‘WaterFix’ should greatly concern all Californians,” she says.