Chapter 5: Resource dependence and rural development
It is conventional wisdom (indeed, it is nearly a truism) among rural development boosters that the extraction and processing of natural resources – timber resources, fisheries, energy and minerals – contributes to employment, prosperity and development for rural places. Logically, this occurs in several ways: most evident are the direct returns – royalties, employment – that occur during the period of extraction, processing and transport. Secondary benefits may endure beyond the period of extractive operations through the linkage to subsequent economic development forms (Freudenburg and Gramling 1998), whether processing and/or transport of the raw materials, or through linkages to additional forms of development (Bunker 1989). These development strategies are often characterized as the natural advantage enjoyed by many rural locations over urban areas; associated employment has contributed mightily to the mythos of rural life. When I ask my freshmen or sophomore-level class to estimate what percentage of all jobs in the rural United States are in fisheries, forestry, mining, energy and agriculture (combined), the guesses usually start at 30 percent and range upward from that. The reality, of course, is that these students – bright as they are – are off by an order of magnitude: less than 5 percent of employment in the rural United States is in these natural resource sectors.
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