Rural reality check


Four years ago, economist Ray Rasker began touring towns in the Greater Yellowstone region with a slideshow. His message: New growth in local economies comes mostly from high tech and service industries, not resource extraction like mining or grazing. Rasker, with The Wilderness Society in Bozeman, Mont., says, "Most people told me, "Our town's different. You're just looking at the region as a whole." I realized it would be a lot more powerful if people started doing this themselves." Out of that realization came Measuring Change in Rural Communities, a workbook released this year by The Wilderness Society in conjunction with Montana State University. The book helps communities gather information on local demographics, economic trends, housing and wages by providing blank tables and summary questions. Rasker has presented the workbook to several environmental groups and citizens' forums. Robbie Garrett, a businessman in Dillon, Mont., who is using the workbook to help resolve land-use disputes, says Rasker's book is "something that allows you to see what you're doing." For more information, contact Ray Rasker, The Wilderness Society, 105 W. Main, Suite E, Bozeman, MT 59715 (406/587-7331).