Thursday, October 29, 2015

California and the rural way of life: Part II - Statewide ban on lead hunting ammunition

As I discussed in my previous post, many rural Californians (and rural people in general) distrust their own government and feel that they are not being represented by those in power (see here for Part I and links to other posts on this topic).  This is the second installment in a series of posts that focus on some of the complaints rural Californians have with the state government.  This post will focus on how the new statewide lead hunting ammunition ban in California is changing the rural California hunting culture.

In 2013, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill that banned the use of lead ammunition for hunting (see article here).  The law goes into effect this year, 2015, for state owned lands, and by 2019, the ban will be implemented statewide (see here).  California, unsurprising to many, was the first state to impose such a ban.  This new law was an extension of the pre-existing ban on lead ammunition for hunting in the territory of the endangered California Condor.  In addition to the ban on lead hunting ammunition in condor habitat, California also has had a ban on using lead ammunition for hunting waterfowl since 1991.  The statewide ban on lead ammunition was passed, according to Governor Brown and Assemblyman Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood), who proposed the legislation, because lead ammunition from hunters posed a threat to wildlife, the environment, and hunters' health (see article here).  I will discuss their reasoning below.  However, the Fish and Wildlife director is able to suspend the ban if the federal government outlaws non-lead ammunition due to its armor piercing capabilities, thus protecting citizens' ability to hunt in the state. 

The gripe that most people have with this ban is not grounded in a belief that an overabundance of lead in the environment can never be problematic.  Rather, for many, the issue is that people who are in opposition to this new legislation don't believe that there is a risk of overabundance of lead from hunters in the majority of the state's environment.  In places where there are issues with lead, hunters have no problem with changing the way they hunt.  For example, all of the hunters I know are perfectly fine with a ban on lead for waterfowl hunting.  Waterfowl hunting is generally stationary, as hunters usually hunt in a stand or blind for the day.  One group can potentially fire well over a hundred rounds a day into wetland areas (assuming a lot of missed shots, and plenty of birds).  In state wildlife areas, blinds can be filled three days a week for the entire season (15 weeks).  Over many years, a substantial amount of lead can build up in these areas and can cause serious environmental concerns.  Hunters want to continue to hunt waterfowl, and they understand that in order to have a sustainable population and a healthy environment, they must protect the birds' habitat.

In the case of the California Condor, most hunters are willing to sacrifice lead bullets in order to preserve this endangered species.  Since the 2009 reintroduction program, 23 condors have died due to lead poisoning (see here).  This is a considerable number considering the number of condors in California at the end of 2014 was just 128.  The total number of California Condors in the wild and in captivity is only 421 total (for a breakdown of populations, see here).  Groups such as the Ventana Wildlife Society educate hunters about problems arising from lead ammunition in condor territory and sometimes provide free non-lead ammunition to hunters making the switch from lead to copper.

This new law assumes three things: that a ban on lead hunting ammunition benefits the environment, human health, and wildlife.  I will discuss each assumption separately.  First, the state assumes that lead ammunition fired into the environment causes an overabundance of lead in the areas in which it is fired, which causes lead contamination.  This may be true in specific places that are used very frequently (like duck blinds), but most of these areas already have a ban on lead to prevent such problems.  When hunting larger game, the problem of over-accumulation does not exist as it does with waterfowl hunting.  The number of bullets fired during deer season is low when compared to duck hunting, and the area in which people hunt can cover hundreds of square miles.  In fact, many California big game hunters never fire a shot all season except for target practice, which under the new law is perfectly legal. 

The state asserts that lead fragments in wild game meat are a danger and health risk to humans that consume it.  Lead bullets can fragment when entering an animal.  Studies have shown that these lead fragments can be found in processed wild game meat (mostly ground deer meat).  However, there is no evidence that any person has ever gotten lead poisoning from eating wild game meat (see here).  Further, lead shot that is used to kill birds does not fragment.  The shot can easily be removed when cleaning the bird.  Even if one is missed, it is easily detectable when biting into the meat and can be spit out causing no harm to the person who found it (as long as they don't bite down too hard).

The state also assumes that this ban will benefit wildlife.  The argument is that when a hunter kills an animal, the gut pile left behind contains lead fragments (or an intact bullet).  When scavengers, such as coyotes, vultures, hawks, and eagles eat the gut pile, they ingest some of the lead.  This, in turn, can cause some animals to get lead poisoning (see articles here and here).  Additionally, in areas that are heavily hunted, birds such as doves, geese, and ducks can pick up lead shot when foraging, and this shot can wind up in the gizzard of the birds (the gizzard is the organ that grinds up the seeds/plants that the animals eat).  Birds will eat rocks to help with the grinding process and can easily mistake lead shot for rocks.  However, consumption of lead does not always end with lead poisoning or death. 

Many hunters do not trust non-lead ammunition to take down animals quickly and humanely.  There is a concern that copper bullets (for big game hunting) are not as accurate and do not have the knock-down power of lead.  This can be seen over and over on internet shooting forums.  I have also heard the same thing from hunters personally.  I know several people who say they have shot deer with copper bullets and said that the deer run for a long way before they die.  The concern is that lower accuracy and allowing the animal to run a long way before it dies will lead to lost animals.  If an animal is only wounded due to a bad shot or runs a long way, some hunters will not be able to find them.  Then the animal is killed for no reason, which bothers hunters and non-hunters alike.

The question thus becomes: what is more important, letting lead kill some birds and coyotes or letting some deer and other large game die for no reason?  Assuming that copper will lead to more "lost" deer, the question is not very easy to answer (see here for a copper bullet study).  If copper is really just as good as lead, then hunters will eventually come around.  However, there seems to be a lack of understanding among the hunting community about the reasons behind the ban.

Many hunters feel that this law was thrust upon them with no effort to consult with the hunting community.  They think the bans will do little to help an issue that is not really an issue.  In fact, the organization representing California game wardens was against this law, too.  They asserted that "there is insufficient data to justify such a drastic action across the entire state."  (see here).  That statement comes from the game wardens, whose job and duty is to protect our wild game and natural resources.

Many hunters feel that there is an ulterior motive for the ban.  California has some of the strictest gun laws in the country and when this law was passed, 11 other gun control measures were also signed into law (see here for breakdown of the laws).  Only seven gun control measures were vetoed by Governor Jerry Brown that year.  Many see this as a backdoor tactic to take their guns away, or at least restrict the ability to use them.  Whether or not you agree with that sentiment, significant issues arise regarding access to ammunition because of this law.

Traditionally, hunting has brought considerable revenue to rural communities, as well as a significant percentage of meat some families eat.  This new law affects the cost of ammunition, employment, rural revenue, and tax revenue (see here).  The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) released a report that found that ammunition prices will likely rise by 284 percent for centerfire rounds, 294 percent for rimfire rounds (like .22 caliber), and shotshells by 387 percent.  Ammunition is already expensive for some, and with the price increases, it will push some people away from hunting.  The NSSF estimated that the higher ammunition prices will drive 36 percent of hunters away from the sport or reduce their overall participation.  Thirteen percent of California hunters said that they would stop hunting due to the increased ammunition prices, 23 percent said they would hunt less due to the new law, and 10 percent said they were unsure if they would continue to hunt.

Additionally, non-lead ammunition is hard to find.  In fact, non-lead ammunition is not available.  I was drawn for a deer hunt on state land this year.  Due to the new law, I cannot use my rifle because non-lead ammunition is not made for it.  My options were to buy a new gun (which is expensive, especially for someone living off of law school loans), or to borrow one.  Luckily I know enough people that borrowing wasn't too difficult.  For many people, however, neither option will work.  They are then forced to stop hunting or break the law.

The NSSF report also found that the projected loss of 13 percent of hunters (51,676) would negatively impact the economy.  Many rural areas depend on hunting season for a significant portion of their yearly revenue (see here).  A decrease of this amount of hunters can have a huge impact on small rural towns.  The report found that 1,868 jobs would be lost statewide, approximately $69 million in salaries and wages, and $19.7 million in federal and state tax revenue. 

This issue is not as black and white as some would believe.  Although the new law can benefit certain wildlife species in specific areas by reducing the ingestion of lead, there are also adverse effects.  The law can negatively effect rural economies by hindering people's ability to participate in the American tradition of hunting as well as their ability to put food on the table.  Most hunters want to do what is best for the environment.  However, the state government did not appear to consider the minimal impacts lead hunting ammunition has in many parts of the state nor the negative peripheral effects the new law has on hunters and rural communities.  To most hunters and rural people, the government appears to only be concerned with what the urban environmentalists want, at the expense of the rural minority.

For more posts on hunting as part of the American heritage, see here, here, and here.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

California's methamphetamine problem

Methamphetamine is a drug known for occurring in rural America. It also, curiously, appears in rural parts of California. What is remarkable about California is that nearby states have significantly fewer labs than California.

In a 2011 article the claim is set forth that California's Central Valley is home to roughly 80% of the nation's meth labs and 97% of the nations superlabs.

These percentages are according to California Department of Justice’s “Clandestine Meth Labs” report. A “superlab” is a production facility that manufactures ten pounds or more of meth per batch, as compared to a typical one pound “stove top” batch; many superlabs have been found that produce fifty or more pounds per batch.
Factors that were included as being part of the surge in meth labs in California includes the relative remoteness of the Central Valley, the number of workers looking for work, the advantage of being within the national border (*thereby eliminating the need to smuggle drugs over the border), and the ability to acquire chemicals needed for drug manufacturing while pretending it's for agricultural needs. Drug cartels have been linked to the drug trade in the region as well, taking advantage of the 99 and 5 freeways that lead to major metropolitan areas.

Large tracts of farmland with isolated outbuildings are an ideal place to avoid detection, which is why the region is home to nearly all of the nation's "super labs," controlled by Mexican drug trafficking organizations, said John Donnelly, resident agent in charge of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration office in Fresno. (Source: USA Today)

Part of the reason given for the surge in meth labs includes the ongoing drug war in Mexico. The Wall Street Journal discusses how the ongoing drug war in Mexico has sent producers into a safer country where the authorities are caught unprepared to cope with a sudden influx of illegal substance manufacturing.

With the influx comes the usual economics of a market. Vice looked into the matter of the cartels and California's influx of meth. One agent told Vice that in 2008 meth was up to $10,000 per pound. As of January 2015, it was down to $3,500 a pound. One theory that was floated in the Vice article is that the cartels are producing the drug where overhead costs and ricks are lower. This dovetails with the factors mentioned above which included the lack of border crossing. The drugs can flow freely within the state without passing over a formal check point where a criminal enterprise might be discovered.

One issue with the labs is drug acquisition. The federal government has sought to limit the ability to buy the drugs needed to make meth. This has included a cap on how much one individual can buy at a pharmacy. However, as can be seen in this ABC7 article we see that the labs turned to "smurfing". Large groups of individuals go to pharmacies, buy the required over the counter drugs and then give the drugs to the lab. Pharmacies do not share information with one another so the pharmacies will take the buyer's name down and look at a picture identification, and the buyer is free to go to the next pharmacy, without the first pharmacy warning the second.

Unlike marijuana I would contest that methamphetamine is a very real danger to communities. USA Today discussed some of the effects methamphetamine can have on a person's mind and body. Effects can last 50 times longer than cocaine and include hallucinations, impaired cognitive functions, and deterioration of the brain. It can cause people to be more violent towards people around them, enhance depression, and lead to tragedies, which USA Today outlines in depth.

It is well established that rural areas tend to be ignored, given their lack of significant population, remoteness, and the myriad of issues that are present in metropolitan areas that are addressed before the legislature looks to rural areas. That said, the problems stemming from the Central Valley can flow to Sacramento, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. It would behoove the legislature to look into how to get good paying jobs back into the area, better medical care, and crack down thoroughly on the industry that feels safe setting up shop in the midst of the state.

Further discussion on drugs and the crime that accompanies the drug trade can be found here, here, and here.

An interesting contrast


This is just a quick notice from Hack (a lovely program that you all should listen to).

Toowoomba, a town of about 114,000 people 78 miles from Brisbane. And while not rural, it does serve as a regional gateway to the Queensland interior. The interesting part for me was the difference in government attitude, as expressed by street artist Ian Mccallum, "When I was growing up, people would move to Brisbane to paint - but the government just dominates people there. Out here, you can pretty much paint wherever you want."

Anyways, just a thought about the difference between truly urban centers and regional centers in Australia.

Rural California and herding



Until recently I had no idea that migrant sheep herders existed in California. Most people are aware that there are ranches, that there are cattle drives moving animals from grazing land to slaughterhouses, but I don't think anyone considered that a state known for its cities and strong economy would have migrating herds. Further, that those herds are slowly dying out, with a combination of drought, aging work force, and undercutting imports. Amazingly, significant numbers of these herds come from my own home county of Kern, and neighboring counties that are part of the Central Valley in California.

As this Vice article discusses, the work force was originally largely based on the backs of immigrants from the Basque region of Europe. Immigrants would, on the recommendation of friends and family, migrate to California and begin herding sheep in exceedingly crude conditions. Those immigrants are now aging and not being replaced with younger workers. It is likely that the U.S. government will have to resume a practice from the late 90's and issue herding visas so that employers can bring in foreign workers and exploit the desperation and hopes of outsiders for personal profit.

The U.S. has a visa system that allows employers to file for extra help when none can be found in the local community. UC Davis actually has a relevant article on the subject. The author notes that in the mid-1990s:
"Prevailing wages for H-2A shepherds were $600 to $700 monthly in the
mid-1990s. Shepherds are provided with a trailer, and either cooking
facilities or food. Sheep operators paying $700 monthly to shepherds have
total labor costs of about $880--the additional $180 is the amortized cost of
transportation, workers compensation and WRA costs."

The WRA is the Sacramento based Western Range Association, which maintains the job orders that need to be filled. When the article was written they were based in Sacramento, but since then it appears the association has left the state. All that exists online is a poorly done blog with a singular post in 2014. Of note in the post is bemoaning the issues of paying for

To complicate the matter, U.S. trade policies have harmed the rural areas. Already impoverished and having issues with fair wages, full time employment, and access to education, rural areas are being undercut by overseas markets. As an example, referencing the above Vice article: lamb from Australia and New Zealand makes up roughly half of the U.S.'s annual lamb consumption. It can be produced, packaged, and shipped to the U.S. for less than what it costs to produce and package in the U.S. by the farm workers.

Part of this cost may come from the equipment used. As noted in this NPR article on rural livelihoods, herders use trucks and trailers to herd animals from the ranches into the mountains, where grazing ranges allow for large groups of animals to forage. Obviously the cost of vehicle maintenance, fuel, and sticking the trailers will sap the limited wages of the workers.

In the late 1990's the monthly rate for herders was less than $1,000. Roughly one third of H-2A visas filed by employers seeking foreign employees who would work a job described as a, "man, dog, and a rifle."This is surprising given rural areas are notorious for high unemployment and minimal wages, that employers need to look abroad for labor.

In that search abroad employers went to the aforementioned Basque region in Spain for the initial group of shepherds. This article discusses the history of that search. At that point in time Spain was in an economic crisis and bringing immigrants over was relatively easy. As Spain's economy strengthened ranchers turned to South American nations and began bringing Peruvians in. Unfortunately for the herders life was worse in the U.S. than back in Peru. As one worker said, "Even in Peru we don't live like this." California workers made $1,200 per month as of 2002. Consider however that the job requires being with the herd 24/7, in the field, constantly working and in conditions described as 'squalid'.

Things that would help: better studies, more interviews with the shepherds, and trying to get more data out of the ranchers who have the advantage of relative anonymity. People never ask where their food comes from or how it was raised. Exposing the fact that the shepherds suffer greatly from the free trade deals and live in conditions worse than a third world country would be a good start.

There does not appear to be much discussion of herding visas in the blog at large, but some discussion on agribusiness abusing workers can be found here and here.


Tuesday, October 27, 2015

"Why the left isn't talking about rural American poverty"

That is the headline for a story that appeared last week on In These Times Rural America Blog.  Here's the lede:  
Within the popular American conscience—arguably a close reflection of the mainstream media—there are two favored focal points for discussing the problem of poverty. The first is within the urban, inner city context—often conflated with black poverty—which has held a critical role in American political and cultural discourse throughout most of the past century. The second is the poverty of the Global South: Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, South Asia, and the rest of the developing world. 
What seldom gets talked about—and when it is, often with irreverent humor and contempt—is the poverty of rural America, particularly rural white America: Appalachia, the Ozarks, the Mississippi Delta, the Dakotas, the Rio Grande Valley, the Cotton Belt.
I am quoted in the piece, including this: 
We tend to associate rural poverty with whiteness…When we think about rural poverty, most associations with rural poverty are with white populations and in fact, that is true to some extent but it’s actually far from being monochromatic.
* * *
For better or worse, when we talk about poverty, we focus on black poverty, and we focus on Hispanic poverty. We’ve collapsed our nation’s poverty problem into our nation’s racism problem, and it leads us to turn a blind eye to rural poverty.
Gurley also quotes me where she says that some dismiss white poverty under the implicit belief “that when whites live in poverty, it is their fault, or even their choice.”

Then, yesterday, this piece appeared on NonProfit Quarterly, "Some Reasons Behind Societal Neglect of Rural Poverty--and Rural America," by Rick Cohen.  Cohen contrasts our national neglect of rural poverty with the excitement often generated by urban issues.  He writes:  
Generally progressive political observers and analysts such as Bruce Katz of the Brookings Institution have long placed an emphasis on urban over rural.
* * *

[T]here is little question that the stories about revitalizing urban areas have captured the imagination of politicians and of philanthropists. The concept articulated in Katz’s WSJ article is not hugely different from Katz’s earlier expression of the concept of “MetroNations,” which looked at investments in the 100 largest metropolitan areas as the key drivers for investment for national economic progress and sustainability. 
N.B.  Katz has, in his advocacy for urban investment, occasionally been openly harsh and dismissive of rural America.  He was the co-author of a 2008 piece titled, "Village Idiocy:  Enough with Small-Town Triumphalism," in the New Republic.  

I especially like Cohen's closing thoughts because they take up the rural-urban philanthropy gap:
Gurley and her sources are probably correct that much of the liberal/left has written off rural poverty as a concern. To assert that philanthropy isn’t immune from that anti-rural bias isn’t to point out a moral shortcoming among foundation leaders. But foundations, unlike presidential candidates, can make choices that are not tied to the ballot box. They can think deeply about issues and support strategies meant to be fair and equitable for people in need, in both rural and urban areas, regardless of the attitudes rural Americans might carry into the voting booth. Reducing societal inequity cannot happen by writing off rural Americans.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Domestic violence in rural Australia

An Epidemic of Violence:

The Australian political landscape is obsessed with tackling domestic violence in all its contexts.  In February 2015, the Queensland state government commissioned Not Now, Not Ever: Putting an End to Domestic and Family Violence in Queensland.  The report was commissioned, in part, by a dramatic rise in the number in reported domestic violence incidents--from 58,000 in 2011-2012 to 66,000 in 2013-14, or more than180 incidents a day.  Across Australia, a women is killed by her partner on average, once a week.

After the report was issued, it a took a "horror week" for the Queensland government to fast-track the 140 reforms suggested by the report.  The week in question saw 2 women and a 6-year-old girl killed in separate incidents.  One of the instances involved a former partner ramming the woman's car off the road and beating her to death with a steel pipe.

Outside of Queensland, other Australian states have seen similar increases in violence.  In Victoria, familial violence increased from 735 per 100,000 incidents in 2010-11 to 1,195 per 100,000 incidents in 2013-14.  Of the 70,911 reported incidents, more than 75% involved a female victim.

Clearly, domestic violence is on the rise, and the Australian political climate is unwilling to tolerate it.  But, what are states doing, and more importantly, how does the rise, and the state response, impact domestic violence in Australia's vast rural spaces?

Federal and state responses

The opposition Labour Party wrote newly elected Prime Minister Martin Turnbull reiterating support for eradication of domestic violence in Australia.  The Labour Party wants to hold a national summit on the issue, an idea backed by the Queensland Premier, while the Liberal Party remains noncommittal on the usefulness of the summit.  Former PM Tony Abbot was open to the concept, but was ousted before any more was said on the matter.  Shortly after Turnbull's election, the government announced $100 million for domestic violence programs.

Outside of the federal response, Queensland is fast-tracking reforms (see above).  On October 13, New South Wales initiated a $60 million program to focus on domestic violence prevention and minimize reoffenders.  The funding includes a police team to keep tabs on high-risk perpetrators.

Finally, Western Australia is implementing a $3.1 million program to tackle domestic violence in Kimberley. Kimberley is a remote territory on the northwest coast of Western Australia, with a population of about 34,000.  Only 3 towns have a population over 2,000, and none of those exceed 13,000.  The program is focused on the the problem of domestic violence in Aboriginal communities: about 40% of Kimberley's population is Aboriginal.  And indigenous women are 3 times as likely as other women to be assaulted.  The program is supposed to be grounded in Aboriginal law & culture.  And don't worry, a full post dedicated to rural issues surrounding Aboriginal communities in Australia is coming Monday, November 2.

Domestic violence in rural Australia

Australia has a domestic violence problem-from Sydney to Kimberley--and the federal and state governments are addressing it in the only way large scale institutions know how: talking and throwing money.  But, how does that money trickle down into the rural areas?  And what unique challenges do domestic violence victims/survivors confront in rural Australia?

Of the $100 million dollars announced by the federal government, $15 million will establish 12 hubs or "hotspots" around Australia.  These are collections of lawyers, social workers, health professionals, and cultural liaisons to aid survivors.  Of those centers, 6 will be in regional/rural areas.  Well, thank goodness the federal government realizes that domestic violence is a serious issue in rural communities.

And a quick word on the terms regional, remote, and rural. Standard Australian statistical practice defines remoteness using road distance from services.  There are: major cities, inner regional, outer regional, remote, and very remote regions.  The map attached to the link will help give you an idea of how these regions are distributed throughout Australia.  As of 2009, 69% (15.1 million) of Australia families lived in major cites, 20% (4.3 million) in inner regional areas, 9% (2.1 million) in outer regional areas, 1.5% (324,000) in remote areas, and 0.8% (174,000) in very remote areas.

Unfortunately, Australia's national data does not help place domestic violence in a geographical context. The last federal government report I was able to find is over 15 years old.  And the rate for domestic violence against women in remote areas was 20.86/1000.  In rural centers or rural areas, it ranged between 6-9.95/1000. In urban areas, that number ranged between 4-5/1000.  In 2000, domestic violence occurred nearly twice as often in rural areas, and nearly 4 times as often in remote areas, as it did in urban areas.  As domestic violence rates have increased in the past 15 years, I shudder to think what those numbers look like now.  The report then analyzed the contributing factors to increased incidences in rural violence, with the insights being:

  • isolation 
  • firearms
  • inaccessible legal systems and responses
  • under resourced small police stations
  • fear
  • economic insecurity
  • lack of dedicated social services.
This reads like a list that I, and perhaps most readers, would intuitively associate with rural America.  So it seems that domestic violence, no matter what nation it occurs in, becomes exacerbated by the spatial and institutionalized (the inability of government to adequately provide services comparable to more densely populated areas coupled with residents' self-sufficient mindsets) isolation of the rural.

Despite the lack of government statistics and resources (and hopefully, that changes as both the federal government and state governments pour resources into rural and regional centers), several non-profits, like the National Rural Women's Coalition currently help rural domestic violence survivors, primarily through information distribution.  That organization is dedicated to helping bridge the isolation felt by rural women, and they have a handy fact sheet for domestic violence survivors.  It describes the physical obstacles: gates, bulls, dogs, more gates, and guns, faced by responders to domestic violence.  It describes community attitudes (small town gossip, conservatism), high demand for services, underfunding, spatial distance between communities, and access to information as primary issues.

I can only imagine what rural women go through when faced with domestic violence--the paltry resources available, coupled with the sheer distances involved in rural Australia, is shameful.  And, with the factors enumerated by the both the government and NRWC for the increased incidences of violence in rural communities, I am sure it is a scenario that plays out across rural areas around the world, including here in the United States.  What remains to be seen is how best to allocate resources to ameliorate the isolation and lack of access to services.

For more on domestic violence and sexual assault in the American rural context, read: this (it also helps keep you up on pop culture--I won't do that) and this (its not only indigenous Australians who experience a disproportionate amount of domestic violence).  For a fantastic paper on the subject, read Lisa Pruitt's "Place Matters: Domestic Violence and Rural Difference," available here.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

California and the rural way of life: Part I - Hunting

California has the greatest population of all the states in the US.  California has a population of almost 39 million people and has approximately 1.9 million rural residents.  Due to this fact, few people consider the effects of state government on the rural population and their way of life.  Many rural Californians feel that they do not have a voice in their own government and many distrust the politicians in Sacramento (for more posts on this topic, see here, here, here, here, here, here, and here).  This is the first of a series of blog posts highlighting some of the past and current issues that rural Californians have with the state government.  At the conclusion of this series, I will discuss possible solutions that might allow the rural population to receive more consideration from their elected representatives as it pertains to rural issues.

The first topic that I will discuss is hunting.  As I have discussed in a previous blog post, hunting has long been associated with American heritage and rurality and generates a lot of revenue in California (see here for blog post and other links on this subject).  In 2011, 467,000 people hunted in the state of California, and fishing and hunting expenditures accounted for $3.7 billion spent in California alone (for more stats, see here).  Much of this revenue is spent in "small, rural businesses."  In this post, I will discuss two laws that have limited the opportunities for hunters in California.  By limiting the species that can be hunted and the method of taking game, these laws could affect the amount of revenue generated from hunting, as well as the income of rural residents.

In 1972, the California Department of Fish and Game estimated that there might be as few as 600 mountain lions left in the state (see article here).  This low number was due, in part, to bounties that were paid for each cat killed prior to 1972.  In that year, Governor Ronald Reagan issued a five-year moratorium on all sport hunting of mountain lions.  This moratorium was extended for a total of 15 years.  In the years between 1987 and 1990, public support for a ban on mountain lion hunting grew with the help of the Mountain Lion Foundation.  In 1990, Proposition 117 banned the sport hunting of mountain lions and provided a $30 million per year habitat conservation fund for thirty years.  According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (formerly Department of Fish and Game) mountain lions are not presently threatened nor endangered in the state and the numbers of cats is relatively high (see here).

More recently, on Jan. 1, 2013, California passed Senate Bill 1221 making it the 16th state to ban the practice of hunting black bears with dogs (the law also banned using dogs to hunt bobcats).  The reasoning behind this new law was because of the perception that this practice is inhumane and cruel to the animals.  When hunting bears with dogs, the dogs pick up on a bear's scent and then start to track/chase the bear, which usually ends up climbing a tree.  The hunter then shoots the bear out of the tree.  California Senator, Ted Lieu, whose bill banned this practice, compared shooting a bear this way to shooting a bear in a zoo (see here).  However, there is more to the hunt that just walking up to a tree and shooting the bear.  In order to be successful, a hunter has to have trained his dogs to identify a bear's scent, and he/she has to be able to follow the dogs for miles and miles over terrain that is often rough and steep.  Bear hunting can be dangerous for the dogs as well if the bear decides fight instead of flee.  Although rare, dogs can be killed by the bears they chase. 

The population of black bears in California has grown by approximately 10,000 since the 1980s. California uses population estimates to set a quota of bears that can be taken each year.  In 2012, the year before the ban, hunters reached the annual quota of 1,700 bears two and a half weeks early.  At least 42% of all bears were taken with the assistance of dogs.  In 2013, the first year that banned the use of dogs for hunting, only 1,078 bears were taken.  Although, the number of bear tags that were sold was similar for 2012 and 2013, there was a 45.1% decrease in the bear harvest numbers between the two years. 

Although the initial moratorium on mountain lion hunting was to save the species existence in California (which I think was a great decision), the ban was more about people's uneasiness (and sometimes disgust) with the practice of killing mountain lions (see here for a story about what happened when a California Fish and Game Commissioner legally hunted a mountain lion in Idaho).  Banning bear hunting with dogs was attributable solely to the public outcry that claimed that this practice was inhumane and cruel (population of bears had been growing).  The proponents of such laws usually lack the firsthand knowledge and experience with these types of hunting techniques, and they fail to consider the effect on the people that either pursue this activity or do business with people that do.

In most states, predator and prey species are managed to ensure steady populations of both.  An overabundance of prey species can wreak havoc on the habitat as they search for food and can cause problems when they come in close contact with human populations (see NY Times article here).  If the habitat is overgrazed/foraged, the lack of food can cause the animals to starve or freeze to death in the winter.  An overabundance of predator species can devastate prey species (like deer), and just like prey species, many predators can starve or freeze to death in the winter because they are too weak and lack fat reserves.  Sometimes starving predators come into cities to search for food.  This can lead to scary or dangerous interactions with people.  The predators can also kill family pets for food.  By outright banning hunting mountain lions and limiting the ability to harvest bears for population management, the risk of overpopulation is higher.  If hunting a bear with dogs is inhumane, then allowing populations to go unchecked and allowing animals to die a slow death from starvation or freezing is undoubtedly inhumane. 

For centuries, people have been using dogs to hunt bears in the United States.  Throughout my life I have known several bear hunters who used dogs to hunt.  To them, bear season is (or was) the highlight of their year.  They would keep their dogs in good shape year round and think about opening day months in advance.  The focus of these bear hunters was to get to the bear as quickly as possible so they can make the decision whether or not to take the bear and to ensure the safety of their dogs.  If the bear is not the age or sex they are looking for, many will take their dogs away and let the bear escape.  By treeing a bear, the hunter can also get a better shot at it and ensure a clean, quick kill.  Very rarely, dogs are killed, and that is tragic.  However, denying the dogs the opportunity to do what is in their blood (humans bred them that way) seems cruel to me.  The dogs are worked into a frenzy of excitement when they realize that they are going hunting, and they seem to love to spend all day with their noses to the ground.  The dogs usually seem more excited than the hunter.  Now that using dogs is banned in California, these dogs do not have the opportunity to do what they are bred to do.  The owners can take them out of state to hunt, but that can be too expensive for many and also very time consuming.  

Hunters spend a lot of money on their dogs and equipment and travel through small rural communities as they make their way to their hunting camps.  By making it illegal both to hunt mountain lions (even as a way of population control) and to hunt bears with dogs, California has limited a source of revenue for these small towns as well as tax revenue for the state itself (for further discussion of the economics of hunting, see here).  Further, the money spent on tags and for tag drawings is used to fund wildlife management programs.  Although it is unknown if the number of bear tags will decrease in the future, it is clear that no additional revenue from mountain lion tags will supplement mountain lion research and management.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Adolescence, health, and rural California.

Some background:
In looking into what is a hidden problem in the state of California I relied heavily on the California Adolescent Health Collaborative. The Collaborative has a series of reports that tie together the issues many adolescent rural residents face in California. The reports draw on statistical data analysis that a variety of third parties assembled. Please note that I did not cover sexual health of adolescents, which is potentially an entire topic in and of itself.

California has the largest Latino community in the United States. In part because of the need for workers and in part because of its close border proximity. Roughly 53% of the rural California residents born outside of the U.S. are Latino. On average, there is one doctor for every 935 residents of a rural county. In contrast an urban county has 460 residents per doctor. Roughly 45% of the state's rural residents live in areas designated as, "primary care shortage," regions. Rural residents are more likely to list their health as poor, have a higher rate of asthma, and live in highly toxic and polluted areas, where funding does not exist to clean up the environmental waste.

In addition to the poor environmental and health options is the poverty. In the U.S. 47% of rural children born into poverty will be Latino. Roughly half of the mothers are undocumented workers, working in low paying jobs. Even if both parents are working fulltime they are likely to remain in poverty and be exposed to vermin, poisons, and assorted chemicals. Some children will be born within range of industrial strength pesticides.

Because of their rural location and possible immigration issues migrants have difficulty accessing even fundamental services. Rural residents in general have difficulty accessing basic services but undocumented immigrants are suffering far more.

The state of California should consider possible remedies, such as increasing incentives for doctors to go into rural areas, through tax incentives, research grants, or paying doctors a respectable wage to encourage medical professionals to enter the rural areas. In addition the state should strongly consider how to provide regions with the funding needed for environmental cleaning. This could include raising taxes on the industries that caused the pollution in the first place.

Adolescent health access:
In California there are 183 school health centers. 22 of those are in rural areas. In many areas there are small satellite clinics for health care emergencies, often within walking distance (refer to the previous link). However, rural residents often rely on cars for transport to proper healthcare facilities. Teenagers report discrimination, knowledge of health services but no way to access such services, and difficulties with their insurance being accepted. It's common for Imperial county residents to find transport and cross the border to Mexico, where healthcare is cheaper. Finally, there is a significant language barrier. Many facilities do not have interpreters or bilingual staff members. adolescent patients reported difficulty communicating what was wrong with their health that had driven them to a healthcare facility. This is particularly troublesome when an estimated one-third of Latino children in rural areas suffer from depression. Those suffering depression in rural areas are unlikely to seek help due to social and cultural pressures, the addition of a language barrier hardly helps.

Another concern with the lack of health access is asthma. In the Central Valley region roughly 72% of children ages 12-17 report asthma symptoms, with no proper medical care. In contrast, California children (including Central Valley residents and other polluted regions) has a rate of 56%. This is a symptom of the massive amounts of pollution that residents face.

Death and rural counties:
In the California rural adolescent residents face higher than average rates of homicide, suicide, vehicular death, assaults, and motor vehicle accidents, higher than in many other states. Due to poor road conditions, limited education on safe operation of a motor vehicle, and delays in receiving trauma care, motor vehicle injuries and deaths in some counties far surpass the national average (P. 2-3).

In terms of homicides, assault deaths are significantly higher among males in the 20-24 age bracket, in largely rural counties. Monterrey county leads the state in homicide deaths, with five other rural counties rounding out the top ten (Kern, Tulare, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, and Merced) (P. 3).

In general the 10-19 age bracket for California Latinos is depressing. 8.8 per 100,000 residents die per year. In contrast the California 10-19 overall average (including Latinos) is 6.6 per 100,000 (P. 4).

Possible actions:
The state needs to reconsider its financial priorities. Latinos account for over 40% of the state's population. A well known fact is that populations with high rates of health issues are a financial burden on the state as a whole. Further, the potential for crime waves increases with poverty, as young people look to improve their situation, with very little to lose and everything to gain. At present the state spends $49,000 dollars per prisoner in the state prisons. The state has spent 4 billion dollars on its death row inmates. Perhaps it's time to seriously consider how to differentiate between threats to society and alternative punishments, in order to shift funding to communities that desperately need resources. The state needs to ensure its populace has adequate healthcare, clean air, and is relatively free of environmental hazards. Resources needs to be reallocated to cover this or the long term effects have the potential to be disastrous.

Related links:
For more the following links are tangentially related. Please see here, here, here, and here.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Growing contradictions: Conflicting policies in agricultural Australia

Introduction

According to the Australian government, the Australian economy was "built on the sheep's back" and agriculture remains one of the pillars central to Australia's successful growth and development.   Despite this centrality, farmers often conflict with mining and environmental interests, in addition to facing traditional issues of regulation, drought, and volatile commodity prices.  This conflict has recently evolved into something akin to lawfare, before the government backtracked.  Lawfare can vary dramatically in its definition, but in this context, means the use of a legal system to subordinate a less powerful group--in this case, farmers and environmentalists. This definition is lawfare in the broadest sense, and amounts to coercion of marginalized groups through a domestic legal system.

Before I dig into the meat of the Australian rural, agricultural experience, let me provide a few numbers (linked in the heading below).  Furthermore, if you would like to compare the Australian experience with the American agricultural-mining intersection, read this.

Facts & Figures

All dollars are Australian in the following paragraph.

In 2013-14, farm production was valued at $51 billion, accounted for 2% of Australia's GDP, and 15% of merchandise exports.  In addition, farm production contributes significantly to the food, beverage, and tobacco processing facility (which accounts for another $25 billion).  More interesting is the sheer amount of land dedicated to agriculture: 53% of Australia's  land mass (406 million hectares) is devoted to some form of farming.  Agriculture engages 115,000 businesses as primary participants and engages 13,900 businesses  in a secondary fashion.  Nearly all of the agriculture businesses are 99% Australian owned, and 97% of farms are small businesses (defined as an annual turnover of less than $2 million per farm).

The government acknowledges that agriculture is significantly important in regional areas.  About 270,000 Australians are employed in the primary agriculture sector, and an additional 223,000 in agricultural manufacturing and processing (Australia's population is nearly 24 million).  However, over the past 50 years, agriculture's percent of employment has dropped significantly, from 8% in 1966-67 to 2% in 2013-14.

So what do these numbers suggest?  Agriculture seems to be a bit player in most people's lives, but a significant contributor to the overall economy.  It takes up vast swathes of the empty interior, away from urban centers, and employs a significant portion of the rural population.  That population has the same worries that all farmers have: drought, commodity prices, and regulation.

An aborted attempt at lawfare.

Mining, as discussed last week, is also big business in rural Australia.  And after several significant setbacks (the Carmichael coal mine), the (now defunct) Abbott government confirmed its intention to repeal section 487 of the Environmental Protection & Biodiversity Conservation Act.  This move is significantly controversial for two reasons: it was contrary to what Attorney General George Brandis had assured the public earlier and  to what MPs had been told; second, it excludes most farm organizations from mounting challenges to federal environmental approvals.

The changes require that anyone who wants to mount a legal challenge to a governmental environmental approval must be "directly and adversely affected" by the project.  The decision to repeal s. 487 stemmed from the denial of federal approval for the Carmichael coal mine, championed in court by urban environmental groups (labelled as environmental "vigilantists" and "vandals" by Attorney General Brandis).  Some groups have termed the decision to repeal s. 487 as "lawfare," because it advances the interests of industrial actors over those of smaller, less powerful environmental groups and farmers.

The changes to the law would require legal proceedings (and all of the time and money those proceedings entail) to determine if a group has standing, and at the end of the litigation, most of the groups would lack standing.  This is especially problematic, along with the timing of the attempts to repeal s. 487, given the pending approval another massive mine on the fertile Liverpool plains of New South Wales.  Unlike the urban environmental groups that challenged the Carmichael mine, farm groups were readying a challenge to the Liverpool mine to prevent the loss of prime agricultural lands. Is the Liberal Party trying to steamroll all environmental opposition, including another major rural industry, in favor of the massive export mining industry? Will  the environmentalists and farmers get together in Australia like they did over Keystone XL?

It remains to be seen if the changes will pass, but for the moment, it appears the effort has stalled.  Farm groups, including the National Farmers' Federation, voiced vigorous  opposition to the bill.  And as of late September, it seems to have disappeared from Senate consideration, though the attorney general has not ruled out a high-level review of the changes in the future. the Senate is due to issue its report on October 12.  As of September 27, it has received 135 submissions, almost overwhelmingly opposing the changes.

Drought: what nature taketh away, the government giveth. 

Water management and drought conditions are of serious concern to Australian agriculture.  Currently, nearly 70% of Queensland and parts of northern New South Wales are experiencing severe drought conditions.  To help alleviate the drought, the federal government promised a massive aid package to rural communities, including $250 million in concessional loans for water storage, infrastructure improvements, and similar projects.  This emergency measure was only a small part of $3 billion invested in drought and risk management for rural agricultural communities that includes:

  • Increasing crop insurance
  • Accelerated depreciation incentives for building fodder storage assets & water facilities
  • Making Farm Management Deposits more beneficial & attractive
  • Enhancing the Farm Household Alliance
  • Increasing access to rural financial counselors
  • Increasing community and mental health support
  • $250 million per year over 11 years for tax assistance 
  • $35 million to fund shovel ready jobs in drought affected communities.
It seems contradictory that the federal government would attempt to limit the ability of farmers to protect their interests in arable land by repealing s. 487, while simultaneously providing significant assistance to stabilized drought-affected agricultural communities. The government's seemingly contradictory actions are exacerbated the the assertion that agriculture is central to Australia's continued prosperity. And, on the other side of the debate, it is intriguing that the rural economy readily accepts government subsidies and loans despite being proudly self-sufficient.  Though, perhaps, the acceptance of government help is a damning indicator of the poor health of agriculture as a sustainable economic engine.  

Confusing policy and contradictory rhetoric

Australia has the same conflicting agricultural polices as other countries.  The federal government's emphasis on mining, and the aborted attempt to limit standing, demonstrate that the federal government looks at rural agriculture in a marginal way, at least compared to the mining behemoth.  This attitude is disturbing.  Mining companies in Australia are more likely to be towards the international conglomerates, especially compared to the  homegrown, small-business agriculture economy.

These contradictions are inherent throughout the rural experience, but nowhere does the rhetoric that agriculture is central to Australia's prosperity ring hollow than an incident in the state of Western Australia.  There, a potato farm is facing court and jail time for growing too many potatoes.  Western Australia  is the last remaining Australian state with a regulated potato market. The Potato Marketing Corporation of Western Australia therefore sets quotas to ensure stable commodity prices and aa healthy supply of potatoes.  However, Western Australia is home to a rebel grower Tony Galati, who ignored the quotas imposed by the PMC, gave away free potatoes, and opened his own chain of supermarkets called Spudshed.  Of course, the PMC could not stand such independent and disruptive thinking, so it sued Mr. Galati.  This, despite the healthy outlook for potatoes in Western Australia between potato chip manufacturers, a slightly larger-than-average state market (50% compared to the national 49% of households that purchase potatoes), and a projected 3% increase in potato purchases by poor, 18-24 year old students (no, I did not make that up, the PMC did research).

The point of this example is to say that farm policy, on both the federal and state levels, seems ridiculously conflicted.  On one hand, farmers are challenged with drought and given government assistance.  On the other, state governments punish agricultural innovation, and the federal government seeks to severely limit agricultural access to legal remedies in favor of the mining behemoth.  This conflict seems especially problematic in regions singularly dependent on a massive industry, agriculture (at least in the Australian context, with less massive agribusiness than the United States), seems to be more benign than mining.  And agriculture seems to promote the rural ideal of self-sufficiency, and can do so for the entirety of Australia.  Whereas mining interests are almost solely export focused.  If Australia really was built "on the sheep's back" and agriculture is still central to sustainable economic growth, I would think state and federal policies that encourage responsible agriculture over mining would be the norm.  But this is not presently the case.

Will the Turnbull government continue pursuing the lawfare tack taken by the Abbott government, and prop up the Australian agriculture sector with massive government aid? Or will there be a realignment around a circular, self-sufficient economy that celebrate rural values rather than exploitation?  We can hope that Australia will make the right choice: promote environmental ethics, rural cohesion, while deny industrial interests the opportunity for rural exploitation.  But, that possibility seems remote given the thrall that mining holds for the Australian economy.






Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Emerging medicinal marijuana economy in Illinois

The topic of legalizing marijuana for medicinal and recreational use has been a recurring theme in the media over the last few years.  It has also been a popular topic here on Legal Ruralism (you can read some earlier posts here, here, here, and here).  Currently 23 states and Washington, D.C. have legalized medicinal marijuana.  Of those, four states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for recreational use.  See here for additional info on state laws.  Even though the number of states that have legalized marijuana for medicinal and recreational use has continued to grow, it is still illegal in the majority of states and under federal law.  With the assistance of groups such as NORML and the Marijuana Policy Project, many citizens are pushing for marijuana reform at both the state and federal levels. 

Many proponents of legalizing marijuana for medicinal and/or recreational use focus on the revenues that can be earned from taxing the sale of marijuana.  Some point to the failure of the "War on Drugs," the persistence of cartels, and the destruction of our national forests by illegal growers as reasons to legalize the plant (see post here).  The theory is that legalizing marijuana will reduce the monetary incentive to grow illegally or to transport marijuana across our national borders.  Since all grows would be regulated and legal supplies would increase, the profits for black market marijuana would decrease, thus reducing the number of illegal grows.  Legalizing marijuana could also allow some of the money spent on fighting the marijuana trade to be focused on illegal grows on public land and on other drugs such as meth, heroin, and cocaine.  Others assert that marijuana is less dangerous than alcohol, and therefore, because alcohol is legal, marijuana should be legal.  Others spotlight the medicinal uses and health benefits of the drug.  However, one other reason should be acknowledged when considering legalizing marijuana - jobs.

A recent article by an Associated Press journalist described what is happening with the first legal cultivation center in Illinois.  Although a handful of cultivation centers in the state have now been approved to grow medicinal marijuana, Ataxia was the first to "run the ga[u]ntlet of state requirements" and grow its first crop.  Ataxia is based in Albion, a conservative town with a population of 1,975 in the southeast corner of the state (for more info on the town, see here).  People in the town seem hopeful that the cultivation center will bring revenue and jobs to their town.  At this point, however, only seven people are employed, not including managers, who work at the center.  The company does plan to expand once it acquires more medical marijuana patients.  Ataxia plans to hire 50 to 60 additional employees as they expand their business.

The article mentions a former high school agriculture teacher who currently works at the cultivation center.  She reportedly goes home every day smelling of what the author describes as "the fragrance of money and jobs."  While this may be true for the teacher, with such a small number of employees, it is hard to imagine Ataxia having a significant effect on the town as a whole.  However, if Ataxia is able to hire 50-60 new employees, that could go a long way to helping the town reduce its unemployment (Albion unemployment is 7.3%, state average is 7.1%) increasing revenue to other local businesses. 

Many rural towns across the country are much worse off than Albion and could really use a boost to their economies.  In fact, many rural towns are trying to find ways to bring jobs to their towns through industries such as mining (as seen in the movie Uranium Drive-In and here) and prisons (see here, here, and here).  Marijuana can be grown year-round, and unlike mining which is very location specific, can be grown anywhere there is access to electricity (as long as it is grown indoors).  Further, if done properly, growing marijuana poses less of a risk to the environment than mining.  It also needs less structure to operate compared to what prisons require.  If done properly, legalizing marijuana (at least for medicinal uses) could bring much needed jobs to these struggling rural areas without the hurdles and risks of bringing mining, nuclear waste, or prisons into the communities.

In Illinois, as well as other states, only companies with access to money and legal resources to navigate the various permitting processes can grow marijuana for medicinal use.  Because marijuana is still illegal under federal law and medicinal marijuana is still new to Illinois, the state's desire to ensure the growing and selling is done consistent with regulations is understandable.  If anything goes wrong, the state could be blamed for the way they regulate and manage the growers.  However, under this type of system, the majority of the profit goes to the select few companies who have the capital to overcome the barrier of entry in the medicinal marijuana industry.

There is a way to place more of the profits in the hands of rural communities (and rural individuals), however.  The state could allow individuals to grow marijuana and sell the plants directly to dispensaries or to form co-ops (see here for a post about loss of revenues to Mendocino Sheriff's Department after ban on marijuana collectives).  The inspection of the small grows could be done by licensed dispensaries or by government agents.  Larger companies would still have a leg up on the competition, but allowing individuals to grow plants in back yards or spare bedrooms would allow people to enhance their income or even become self-employed.  For a discussion about the economic benefits and challenges of growing legal marijuana in rural northern California, see here.

States that are legalizing medicinal and recreational marijuana are on the cutting edge of marijuana policy.  These states have the opportunity to experiment with how they manage the crops, growers, and customers.  Because marijuana can be grown anywhere, rural communities should seriously consider what marijuana could do for their local economies.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Glamping: ecotourism or fetishizing rural life?

In recent years people have become more interested in rural life, from the idealized blue skies, natural weather, and the air free of pollutants. This has led to a rise in rural gentrification as urban dwellers move into the rural wilderness, with the negative effects of forcing lower income residents out. This interest has also encouraged ecotourism and with it, glamorous camping, or "glamping."

Glamping is defined as the pairing of luxury travel and the intimacy of camping. Glampers will make travel arrangements and expect to have some idealized camping experience with all the creature comforts of home. In the link cited above a mother bemoans the notion of body heat warming a tent at night, while praising the intimacy of sitting around a campfire with her child. The ecotourism effort begins to sound more like a sideshow and less appreciation of the outdoors, while spreading waste and rubbish in the outdoors, bringing in the urbanization to the wilderness.

Glamping.com is one such place where one can arrange their very own glamping excursion. The site promises game drives in Africa, Mongolian yurts in Mongolia, or beachside lodgings in Australia. The traveller will of course be safely ensconced in luxury throughout their trip. 

Glamping is a reflection of the overarching trend of gentrifying rural areas and fetishizing the rural life. Glampers buy from REI, Columbia Sportswear, and other companies that proclaim themselves to be outdoor ready and fashionable. God forbid one walk a mountain trail without keeping in the best of duds. In one article it's pitched as ideal for Baby Boomers who are going soft and no longer want to put up with the pains that come with camping. 

In New York City some hotels have introduced outdoor suites. These suites bring out tents, marshmellows, and promises the wonders of camping, while snuggled in the safety of a five star hotel in the middle of New York City. This reflects the fetish that rurality has become, a fantasy that can be played out in the middle of the city. 

From a land use and ecotourist perspective glamping has the potential to help rural communities by supplying an influx of money. The issue is that this doesn't help train the rural community and there is very little indication that glamping is run by locals and not big city companies. In a study on Costa Rica and their ecotourism program we can see that ecotourism and the activity that comes with it generates more income for those engaged in the tourist industry. 

In the instance of Costa Rica researchers looked through the data that had been generated and found that ecotourism may generate jobs, access to better education, and possibly reduce economic disparities. Virtually everything in the Osa Peninsula is dependent on ecotourism. The direct and indirect economic activity generated by ecotourism is critical, for instance, for local shop owners, farmers, fishermen, and road workers. As one interviewee put it, “without tourism, no one would have money to spend in my store”. (P. 14)

So what then is the purpose of glamping? A Google search unveils hundreds of glamping opportunities across the world. Name a state or a country and there is an opportunity to glamp. Many websites promise tourists will discover the outdoors. There is profit to be made from the tourists which can benefit the ones who put together the glamping packages. But as mentioned above there is primarily an increase in service jobs, not a reduction in poverty or lack of education. The tourists come, see the sights, and leave. But the benefits, as seen with Costa Rica is that all participants, local and tourist, favor protecting ecological resources, preventing hunting and deforestation to protect biodiversity. 

In the end glamorous camping may highlight the good parts of rural areas, with its majestic views and unique experiences for middle class and wealthy tourists. It may reinforce tourists' believing in preserving national and state parks. But there is no indication that tourists become aware of the harsh realities that rural residents deal with on a day to day basis, such as crushing poverty, lack of clean water, sewage, or good roads. In that sense glamping may very well continue the tradition of rural gentrification, where impoverished residents are minimized.

Related blog articles on gentrifictation and ecotourism can be found here, here, here, here, here, here, and here