Fredric Cozad, 86, is retiring in Bennett County, S.D., and there will not be a lawyer within 120 miles of the county seat.

[imgcontainer] [img:Rural_lawyer.jpg] [source]Matthew Staver for The New York Times[/source] Fredric Cozad, 86, is retiring in Bennett County, S.D., and there will not be a lawyer within 120 miles of the county seat. [/imgcontainer]

Rural Lawyer Program – A new plan to attract lawyers to rural areas is being undertaken in South Dakota. House Bill 1096will fund a pilot program giving 16 lawyers a little more than $13,000 a year for five years to practice in a rural location that is currently underserved. The program began July 1 and operates on a first come, first served basis until the slots are filled.

“It’s not that we need more lawyers. It’s that we need more in the right geographical areas,” said Bob Morris, a Belle Fourche lawyer who also serves as a co-chairman on the task force.

A piece published today in the Rapid City Journal takes a closer look at the program.

Salvation through Survey?A survey conducted in rural New Hampshire will decide the fate of the post office that serves the towns of Union and Middleton. Using a mail survey, local residents can choose between changing the hours or conducting a discontinuance survey of the Union office. If more than 60 percent of respondents choose the survey, residents have a further option to switch to roadside delivery or relocate their post office boxes to a nearby post office. The surveys must be turned in by July 10th.

As the US postal service undergoes nationwide cutbacks, the fates of many rural post offices are similarly uncertain.  Union residents like Adele Gavin just hope they can keep theirs open. “In a rural area, you really need these post offices.”

Farmers Wait for Immigration Bill’s Fate -The immigration bill, another piece of legislation with big implications for the agriculture industry, is soon to be taken up by the House. Agricultural leaders want an immigration bill that includes more lenient and less complex rules for hiring farm workers, and the recent bill that cleared the Senate appears to be in line with those ideas.

Michigan farmer Pat McGuire was one of the farmers that made their way to Capitol Hill to make their case for the bill’s passage, and he says unless different legislation is in place, he will never be able to hire enough workers to pick the fruit in his fields. “We’re running out of time,” he said.

Oil Pipeline vs. Rail Transport – The head of a Canadian environmental group fears that proponents of the Keystone XL oil pipeline will use a train explosion in Canada to push the Obama administration to approve the controversial pipeline.

At least five people are dead and 40 are missing after runaway railroad tank cars filled with oil derailed and exploded in Lac-Mégantic, a small Quebec town early Saturday morning. The fire engulfed 30 buildings in the tourist town with a population of 6,000.

The disaster underscores the debate over whether it is safer to transport oil, including heavy tar-sands oil that would flow through the Keystone XL, via pipelines or rail.

Edward Whittingham, the executive director of the Pembina Institute, an environmental group based in Calgary, Alberta, said there’s no conclusive evidence to say which method is safer. Pipeline accidents are harder to detect and are apt to spill more oil, he said. Railroad accidents are more frequent but release less oil.

Rural Telcos Form New Company – Five rural telecommunications companies have formed a new entity to buy up other rural and independent communications providers.

USConnect describes itself as “an industry-rooted effort committed to sustaining the financial and operational viability of rural and independent communications providers.”

The majority investors in USConnect are Golden West Telecommunications of Wall, South Dakota; Horry Telephone Cooperative of Conway, South Carolina; Telephone Cooperative of Kingstree, South Carolina; Brazoria Telephone Company of Brazoria, Texas; and Dickey Rural Networks of Ellendale, North Dakota.

The company’s first acquisition was Livingston Telephone Company of Livingston, Texas.

Open-Pit Mine. Opponents of a proposed open-pit iron-ore mine in northern Wisconsin point to a county ordinance as evidence that local opposition to the mine is growing. In June the Ashland County board created regulations that require mining companies to obtain special use permits and put $100,000 in a county fund to address problems such as noise, dust and damage to public roads. The ordinance is a change in attitude for the county board, which was ardently in favor of the propose mine last year.

Nearby Iron County is considering a similar ordinance, reports Mary Annette Pember in Indian Country Today.

Proponents say the mine will bring jobs to the Penokee Hills region of Wisconsin.

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