Productive Rural Areas

In much of this bioregion, rural areas are not sharing the prosperity of urban centers. Young people are moving away, and there is a decline in services like schools and healthcare.

Farm near Trout Lake, Washington.

Productive rural areas offer a wide range of economic opportunities while preserving the health of local ecosystems. They preserve their Sense of Place and cultural traditions even as they diversify their Local Economies. They maintain a sufficient range of services, including Health and Access to Knowledge, to provide for the Fundamental Needs of local people. Productive Rural Areas create viable opportunities for continuity from generation to generation, reducing the average age of farmers, ranchers, loggers, and fishermen.

The health of rural areas is related to that of nearby Compact Towns and Cities. Rural areas need strong and stable Rural-Urban Linkages for their Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries. Community-supported agriculture and community-based forestry provide higher, more reliable prices with long-term subscriptions and production arrangements.

People need some assurance that rising and uncertain land prices will not drive them off their land, or make it impossible to pass it on to their children. Ecological Land-Use tools of zoning, land trusts, conservation easements, and the purchase or transfer of development rights have all been effective in protecting the character, beauty, and economic viability of rural areas.

Rural areas can contribute to the Ecological Infrastructure of nearby towns and cities, as well as to regional systems of Connected Wildlands, by preserving riparian corridors, wetlands, and lands of special ecological and cultural significance. Rural areas may also serve as both destinations for Ecotourism and gateways to nearby wild areas. Such wild areas may offer important Subsistence Rights, supplementing the local diet and providing a Sense of Place. Rural areas may also be able to market Ecosystem Services. Along the Columbia River, farmers are now leasing land for wind farms, providing a significant income while keeping the land in agriculture.

Maintain the character and productivity of rural areas by protecting key areas from development and providing continuity of land ownership. Establish beneficial market linkages with nearby towns and cities. Keep ownership of land and resources broad-based and local.