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Dear Visitor: This site preserves the legacy publications of the Rural West Initiative from 2009-2014. 
For more recent information on our conference and publications, please go to

Conference on the Rural West

The Rural West: Toward a Regional Approach to Common Issues

Ogden Eccles Conference Center
Ogden, Utah
October 13-14, 2012

The Rural West Conference will provide scholars, journalists, representatives of NGOs, and state officials with a rare opportunity for collaborative discussion of key issues affecting the rural West today.

See Event DescriptionTravel Information, Schedule at-a-Glance, Detailed Agenda, Guidelines for Presenters, Registration and draft papers (login required)


Many parts of the rural West share several attributes: an abundance of fossil fuels, scarcity of water, vast tracts of land under federal control, sizeable migrant labor populations, distinctive patterns of drug and alcohol abuse, and limited access to credit, air and rail transportation, and health care.

But despite shared issues, scholars, journalists, and policymakers concerned with the rural West have had few opportunities to gather together, raise awareness, and seek solutions to the region's distinctive problems. Western governments have rarely succeeded in forging regional policies to address common rural issues.

Some examples: 

  • Hoping to be more attractive to energy companies, states levy dramatically different severance taxes for the extraction of fossil fuels
  • Rural community newspapers have proven successful with tightly-focused local stories, but often ignore their regional dimensions and implications
  • Stakeholders, including the Western Governors Association, refer to a new “era of cooperation” between the upper and lower basin states on the Colorado River, but have made little progress in rationalizing water transfers between rural farmers and cities
  • On the federal lands front, payments to rural counties from the Secure Rural Schools Act and Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) are in jeopardy as the budget tightens, threatening to escalate tensions between western states and the federal government
  • Airport and post-office closures threaten to further exacerbate rural isolation
  • Rural health care, already in short supply, is further jeopardized by new budget cuts

In October 2012, the Rural West Initiative of the Bill Lane Center for the American West will bring together in Ogden, Utah, approximately fifty scholars, journalists, representatives of NGOs, and state officials to discuss issues affecting the rural West.

The heart of the conference will be in-depth, problem-solving discussions of the following six key issues facing rural communities around the West: defining the rural West, economies, water, healthcare, the federal presence, and Native American issues. Following the conference, selected papers will be published in Rural Connections and in an edited book volume.

The conference is co-sponsored by The Bill Lane Center for the American West at Stanford University, and our partners, the Western Rural Development Center at Utah State University, the Charles Redd Center for Western Studies at Brigham Young University, and the American West Center at the University of Utah. 


The Rural West Conference will be October 13-14 at the Ogden Eccles Conference Center. A block of rooms is available at Hampton Inn & Suites Ogden at a rate of $94 plus tax. To reserve a room, call (801) 394-9400 by September 20.

The nearest major airport is Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC). Shuttle service to Ogden  is available with advance reservation. Contact Xpress Shuttle Transportation at (800) 397-0773 or Runabouts Shuttle at (801) 298-0300.

The Ogden region contains many attractions for visitors. Tourism information is available from the Convention & Visitors Bureaus in Ogden and in nearby Salt Lake City.


Given the small size of the conference and its collaborative format, presenters and attendees are requested to attend all sessions, to the extent possible.

Saturday, October 13

  • Registration, 7:45
  • Breakfast and Keynote, 8:00
  • Session 1: Defining the Rural West: Journalism, Transportation, and Data, 9:15 - 10:45
  • Coffee
  • Session 2: Economies, 11:00 - 12:30
  • Lunch
  • Session 3: Water, 1:45 - 3:15
  • Coffee
  • Session 4: Healthcare, 3:30 - 5:15
  • Reception, 5:15
  • Dinner, 6:00

Sunday, October 14

  • Continental Breakfast, 8:00
  • Session 5: Federal Lands, 8:30 – 10:00
  • Coffee
  • Session 6: Native Americans, 10:15 – 11:45
  • Lunch, 12:00
  • Adjourn, 2:00


Given the small size of the conference and its collaborative format, presenters and attendees are requested to attend all sessions, to the extent possible.

Saturday, October 13

  • Registration, 7:45

  • Breakfast and Welcome, 8:00
Keynote: "Regionalism and the Rural West"
Jon K. Lauck, Senior Advisor and Counsel to U.S. Senator John Thune

Response: Frank Edward Allen, President and Executive Director, Institutes for Journalism and Natural Resources
  • Session 1: Defining the Rural West: Journalism, Transportation, and Data, 9:15 - 10:45

"Too Close for Comfort: The Challenges Facing Rural Newspaper Editors in Covering Sensitive Stories"
Judy Muller, Associate Professor of Journalism, University of Southern California

"Roads, Wilderness, and the Rural Landscape"
Jedediah Rogers, Historical Research Associates

"Data and Communications Networks as a Measure of Distance"
Geoff McGhee, Creative Director for Media and Communications, The Bill Lane Center for the American West, Stanford University

Moderator: David M. Kennedy, Faculty Director, The Bill Lane Center for the American West
  • Coffee

  • Session 2: Economies, 11:00 - 12:30

"The New Natural Resource Economy: A Framework for Community Resilience?"
Michael Hibbard, Professor Emeritus, Department of Planning, Public Pollicy & Management, University of Oregon
Susan Lurie, Faculty Research Associate, Institute for Natural Resources, Oregon State University

"The Impact of Energy Development on Rural Economies"
Mark Haggerty and Julia Haggerty, Headwaters Economics

"On Water, Wolves, and Whiteness: The Rural Gentrification of the 'New' West"
J. Dwight Hines, Assistant Professor, Global Cultural Studies Program, Point Park University

Moderator: John McChesney, Director, Rural West Initiative, The Bill Lane Center for the American West
  • Lunch

  • Session 3: Water, 1:45 - 3:15

"Irrigation Communities, Political Cultures, and Competing Water Publics in the Age of Depletion"
Burke W. Griggs, Director, Interstate Waters, Kansas Department of Agriculture

"Contested Waters: Challenges and Solutions to Water Issues in the Rural Southwest"
April R. Summitt, Assistant Professor of History, Arizona State University, Polytechnic Campus

"Toward a Regional Approach to Addressing Climate Change and Water Availability in the Rural West: Insights from Arizona"
Julie Brugger, Assistant Staff Scientist, Institute for the Environment, University of Arizona
(Co-Author: Michael Crimmins, Associate Professor of Soil, Water and Environmental Science, University of Arizona)

Moderator: Andrew Fahlund, Executive Director, Water in the West, Stanford University
  • Coffee

  • Session 4: Healthcare, 3:30 - 5:15

"Rural Utah and Access to Healthcare"
Sri Koduri, Director, Health Professions Resources, State of Utah Medical Education Council
(Co-Authors: Jamie Nielsen and Clark Ruttinger, State of Utah Medical Education Council)

"The Indian Health System"
Mark Trahant, Independent Journalist

"Health Disparities among Latino Immigrants Living in the Rural West"
Marc Schenker, Professor and Director, Migration and Health Research Center, Center for Occupational and Environmental Health, Associate Vice Provost for Outreach and Engagement, University of California, Davis

Moderator: Don E. Albrecht, Director, Western Rural Development Center
  • Reception, 5:15

  • Dinner, 6:00

Speaker: Robert V. Abbey, Former Director, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Department of the Interior

Sunday, October 14

  • Breakfast, 8:00

  • Session 5: Federal Lands, 8:30 – 10:00
"The Significance of Wildland Fire in the American West"
Diane Smith, Independent Journalist and Scholar

"The Rhetoric of Individual Rights on Public Land: Understanding the Sagebrush Rebellion in the Rural Great Basin"
Leisl Carr Childers, Visiting Assistant Professor of History, Northern Arizona University

"Federal Lands, Public Lands, Indian Homelands: How Fire Can Restore & Regenerate the Sierra National Forest & the Cultural Resources that Maintain North Fork Mono Livelihoods"
Brian F. Codding, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, University of Utah
(Co-Authors: Hon. Ron W. Goode, Tribal Chair, North Fork Mono Tribe and Jared Dahl Aldern, Sponsored Associate Faculty, Humanities and Environmental Studies Programs, Prescott College and Visiting Scholar, The Bill Lane Center for the American West)
Moderator: Pat Shea, Attorney / Research Professor of Biology, University of Utah
  • Coffee
  • Session 6: Native Americans, 10:15 – 11:45
"Skull Valley Goshutes and the Politics of Place, Identity, and Sovereignty in Rural Utah"
David Rich Lewis, Professor of History, Utah State University

"Tribal Power: West’s Tribal Lands Have Vast Potential for Producing Renewable Energy"
Heather Scofield, Independent Journalist

"Methamphetamines and the Hoopa Indians"
Jacob Simas, New American Media
(Co-author: Allie Hostler, Two Rivers Tribune)

Moderator: Gregory E. Smoak, Associate Professor of History, University of Utah
  • Lunch, 12:00
Speaker: David B. Danbom, Independent Scholar
  • Adjourn, 2:00


Conference papers will be pre-circulated so that attendees can read them in advance. At the conference itself, presenters will have each five minutes to informally summarize the major points made in the paper. We will then open the floor for discussion.

Please pre-submit your paper and a one-page abstract as a Word or PDF file to bfrink at no later than September 12, 2012.  (If you choose to use PowerPoint for your five-minute conference-day summary, please send your PP file by September 12 as well.)

Because presenters come from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines, we will accept papers of varying styles and lengths. However, it may be useful for presenters to note that we plan two different publications as end-products of the conference:

  • The first is a special issue of the magazine Rural Connections. Articles in Rural Connections average about 1,500 words and are written in an accessible, jargon-free style, with few footnotes or complex tables
  • The second is an edited volume of articles with a university press. These will be a maximum of 10,000 words and will include standard scholarly apparatus

Inclusion in either publication is by invitation only and will require revision based on feedback received at the conference. Certain presenters may be invited to publish articles in both publications. Nonetheless, it may be useful to presenters to keep one or the other type of article in mind during the writing process.


For registration inquiries, email kathyz at with your name, affiliation, email, phone, and mailing address. Please notify us of any dietary restrictions, as well.

We look forward to seeing you in Ogden!