Click for larger map. Only the two lightest shades of counties have less than 7 residents per square mile, the cutoff point for grant qualification.

[imgcontainer] [img:censr_map.jpg] [source]U.S. Census Bureau[/source] Click for larger map. Only the two lightest shades of counties have less than 7 residents per square mile, the cutoff point for grant qualification. [/imgcontainer]

A little money will have to go a long way under new rules for helping veterans in sparsely populated areas get to medical care.

The rules from the federal Veterans Affairs would provide up to $50,000 to state agencies and veteran organizations to offer transportation to service members living in “highly rural” areas. In this case, highly rural means a population density of less than seven people per square mile.

How “sparse” is that? Well, east of the Mississippi River, that’s only a few counties, according to this U.S. Census map.  West of the Mississippi, more counties would qualify, but it would apply to a fraction of rural veterans.

The program could provide only one grant per year for each sparsely populated area. And the funds could not go to general transportation programs – only to veterans groups. That means the funds can’t be used to help transportation groups serve veterans more efficiently.

Oregon Rift over Cougar Hunting. The Oregonian reports that differences of opinion on hunting of cougars and bears cleave along urban and rural lines.

 A legislative committee is considering changes that would let voters in each county decide whether to allow hunters to use dogs to tree cougars and bears and to use bait to hunt bears.

Twenty years ago, voters statewide approved a ban on using dogs to hunt cougars. Urban voters supported the measure, while rural ones overwhelmingly opposed it, the newspaper says. The proposed change would give rural residents local control on the issue, supporters say. The Oregonian reports:

A clear complaint from many who spoke is that Oregon has different needs in its rural districts than its urban areas, and there’s an overriding sense that urban voters hold sway. They said [the changes in hunting laws], which allows voters in each county to decide cougar and bear hunting policy, is fairer than a statewide vote.

Frank Hupp, president of the Oregon Hunters Association of Columbia County, took issue with the “voters have spoken” argument.

“The voters who spoke were from the Willamette Valley,” he said. “If you have a ranch in eastern Oregon, you have completely different needs than you do in the Willamette Valley.”

Kentucky Coal Decline. Coal production in Appalachian Kentucky has dropped to its lowest level since 1965, shedding 4,000 coal jobs in 2012. The data comes from the Kentucky Department of Energy Development and Independence, as reported by the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development (MACED) of Berea, Kentucky,

Coal production in Central Appalachia has been in decline since the 1990s, but the rate of the drop is increasing. The federal Energy Information Administration estimates that thermal coal production in Central Appalachia will drop 70.8% from its 2011 level by 2020.

In a press release, MACED said the loss in coal production jobs is further evidence that Kentucky needs to invest more in alternative economic development.

Beef Promotion: No Problems — There is no problem with how the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association is spending money collected through the beef check-off, according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The USDA’s Office of Inspector General conducted the investigation. It came in response to allegations by dissident cattle groups that the NCBA and the Cattlemen’s Beef Promotion and Research Board were mis-using beef check-off money. The USDA collects $1 a head of cattle sold, and that money is to be used to promote the industry.

Last year a Kansas cattleman filed suit saying the NCBA had violated the terms of the beef check-off. Among other charges, Kansas cattle producer Mike Callicrate alleged that NCBA had used the money for lobbying. (The Daily Yonder has reported on the suit.)

The Inspector General, however, found that “assessed funds were collected, distributed and expended in accordance with legislation.” The inspector found that USDA oversight was not sufficiently stringent, but that the agency “found no evidence” that the beef check-off board was not following the law.

Injection and Earthquakes — The Goat’s Emily Guerin reports on the evidence that deep injection wells may cause earthquakes

The oil industry is using injection wells to get rid of chemically-laden wastewater. The stuff is pumped into the crevices that had held oil and gas. As pressure increases, the theory goes, nearby faults can move.

The oil industry disagrees. But Guerin tells us of a new report finding a connection between injection and shaky earth.

Buckwild Death. The reality television series “Buckwild” has suspended production after the carbon-monoxide poisoning death of Shain Gandee, one of the show’s stars.  The Kanawha County (West Virginia) Sheriff’s Department said preliminary autopsy results show Gandee, 21, his uncle David Gandee, 48, and Donald Robert Myers, 27, all died of carbon monoxide poisoning. Their bodies were found in the cab of Shain Gandee’s Ford Bronco, which was stuck in mud off a trail near Thaxton Hollow in Sissonville. The report said the deaths were apparently accidental.

MTV’s “Buckwild” follows the antics of a group of young adults from near Sissonville. The Charleston Gazette reports that the show is one of the “most polarizing subjects in West Virginia in recent months.” Janney Lockman wrote about the show for the Daily Yonder earlier this year.

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