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Preservation and Transformation: The Future of the Rural West

Eccles Family Rural West Conference, Troutdale, Oregon, March 4-6, 2015

Conference Panels

Crime and Justice

Fewer People Means Less Crime… Right?  The Unique Challenges of Policing the Rural West

Much of the national conversation on crime and policing centers on urban areas, but rural areas face unique crime control and policing challenges, including high rates of methamphetamine use and production, community norms against reporting particular types of crime, vast geographical landscapes, and access to inadequate financial and technological resources. This panel will discuss the challenges faced by law enforcement in the rural West, and will explore new investigative and social approaches to reducing crime in rural western communities.  Panelists include law professor and former Federal Public Defender Barbara Creel, political scientist Cameron DeHart, award-winning journalist Les Zaitz, and Josh Rowlett, Rural Crimes Investigator at the Tulare County District Attorney's Office.  The panel will be moderated by University of Oregon Law Professor Carrie Leonetti.

Land Use

Whose Land Is It, Anyway? Perspectives on Land Protection and Access in the 21st Century

This panel will explore the tensions between conservation and development in the rural Pacific Northwest, addressing the dynamic ways in which land management practices and policies affect our relationship with rural landscapes. The discussion promises to broaden our understanding of the rural by placing the region’s unique geography—from scenic coastlines to ancient forests—at the forefront of the conversation. Finally, this panel will discuss the broader implications of land use trends for the future of the rural American West.  Confirmed speakers include historian Todd Holmes, property rights litigator Brian Hodges of the Pacific Legal Foundation, Indian law and policy expert John Dougherty, and Skip Swenson, a policy director at Forterra.  It will be moderated by Jad DaleyClimate Conservation Director at The Trust for Public Land.

Economic Development

Just Barren Farms and Empty Houses? The Rural Western Economy, Past, Present, and Future

Depopulation, rural-urban income discrepancies, outmigration, unemployment, and the economic crisis of 2008 have presented serious challenges for people living and working in rural areas. This panel will explore the causes of poverty and unemployment, including interaction of public policy and community characteristics, the impact of globalization, and national trends in agricultural production. Perhaps even more importantly, panelists will discuss creative approaches to increasing the rural West’s economic vitality, including policy initiatives, legal changes, and community banks.  This panel will be moderated by Pulitzer-Prize winning historian David Kennedy.  Panel speakers are law professor Stephen R. Miller, Director of the Economic Development Clinic at the University of Idaho Law School, sociology professor Jennifer Sherman, author of Those Who Work, Those Who Don't, Elizabeth Zach, staff writer at the Rural Community Assistance Corporation, and Kristin Dahl, Director of Destination Development at the Oregon Tourism Commission.

Youth in the Rural West

Smart Phones and Hay Bales: Generation Z’s Future in the Rural West

More than a quarter of America’s population belongs to the post-millenial generation. Recent research depicts generation of kids who aspire to social entrepreneurship, eschew illicit substances, and surpass millenials in resourcefulness. But how accurate is this outlook for Gen-Z’ers who reside in rural areas? This panel will talk not only about challenges that disproportionately affect rural western youth, such as substance abuse and sub-par educational training, but specific populations of rural youth that face a disproportionate number of challenges, such as LGBTQ and special-needs youth.  Panel speakers include human development and family sciences professor Kate MacTavish, anthropologist Michele Statz, and attorney Lisa Cisneros, the LGBT Policy Director at California Rural Legal Assistance, and John White, who served as the first Deputy Assistant Secretary for Rural Outreach at the U.S. Department of Education from 2009 to 2013.


Conflicts and Intersections in Rural Western Cultures

This panel will discuss conflicts and intersections along two dimensions. First, what are some of the defining cultural conflicts within modern western rural culture? Economic interdependence versus a regional sense of place? Competition between rural and urban areas for natural resources? Second, how does western rural identity intersect with other identities such as race, gender, nationality, or sexual orientation? Do attributes like blackness or queerness somehow run “counter” to rural culture, and how these do rural westerners’ experiences differ from their urban counterparts’? Finally, what are the broader implications of these cultural conflicts and intersections for the future of the rural West?  Confirmed speakers include geographer Nicholas Bauch, historian Michael Eissenger, and professor Colin Johnson, author of Just Queer Folks: Gender and Sexuality in Rural America.  This panel will be moderated by Leisl Childers, history professor at the University of Northern Iowa.

Looking Ahead

A Western Wish List: Ideas, Rights, and Services that Could Transform the Region

What does the rural West need most, and how could we change the landscape? This panel will address some of the region’s most dire wants and needs, explaining the scope of the problems, how we got to this point and most importantly, what we can do about it. Topics will include education, access to civil justice, medical services, resources for the elderly, and more. It will address these problems from a variety of angles, including technological, legal, scientific, and cultural perspectives.  Confirmed speakers include Scott Cooper, a former Oregon judge and current Executive Director of NeighborImpact, Alan Romero, Director of the Rural Law Center at the University of Wyoming, and Susan Kingston, Education Specialist at the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute at the University of Washington.


Rural West Conference Volume

Bridging the Distance

Common Issues of the Rural West

Edited by David B. Danbom
Foreword by David M. Kennedy

Published in cooperation with the Bill Lane Center for the American West, Stanford University
The University of Utah Press has published Bridging the Distance, a book by the Rural West Initiative of the Bill Lane Center for the American West. Edited by the distinguished historian David B. Danbom and with a foreword by Center co-founding director David M. Kennedy, the book explores the Rural West across four dimensions: Community, Land, Economics – and defining the Rural West itself. The book is the result of work presented at the first Conference on the Rural West, which took place in Ogden, Utah, in October 2012.