USDA Forest Service

Pacific Northwest Research Station

Pacific Northwest Research Station
333 SW First Ave.
Portland, OR 97204

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The Impact of Economic Recovery Funding in Rural Communities

Sophia Polasky’s career took a new direction when economic recovery funding put her to work at the PNW Research Station helping to assess the socioeconomic impacts of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in selected rural communities across the country.

Roughly half of the economic recovery funding provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture targets conservation, forestry, and rural community development projects. It is important to assess how these investments are actually making a difference in rural areas. This study evaluated the social and economic impacts of economic recovery-funded projects, with a focus on identifying how forest restoration and rural community development goals can be linked to promote healthy rural communities.

In this project, Dr. Susan Charnley of the PNW Research Station’s Goods, Services, and Values Program, led a team of scientists to analyze quantitative and qualitative information on how economic recovery investments are affecting socioeconomic well-being in rural areas with high unemployment and poverty rates. Eight case study areas, from California, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Arizona, Michigan, North Carolina, and Alabama, were evaluated. Cooperators include scientists from other USDA-Forest Service research facilities, and from Fort Lewis College (CO), Auburn University (AL), University of Oregon, and Southern Oregon University.

Key findings of the study include:

• Many of the ARRA jobs created by the USDA Forest Service were seasonal or temporary in nature, but they provided significant, measurable economic and social benefits beyond just acting as an economic life raft for the unemployed
• The number of jobs created and retained by ARRA projects went beyond those directly paid for with ARRA funding and reported in recipient reports
• ARRA funds made it possible to accomplish work of a type and at a scale that would not otherwise have been possible

Sophia Polasky is one person who was put back to work on this project. Sophia had been unemployed for nearly a year following her service in the Peace Corps, when her interest in forestry led her to volunteer at the Pacific Northwest Research lab. Her skills matched perfectly with this project, so she was hired with economic recovery funds in November 2009 to help with data analysis and background research. “This job has been really beneficial,” said Polasky. “I’ve discovered I like doing research as a career, and now I am planning on getting a graduate degree in anthropology with a forestry focus.”


US Forest Service - Pacific Northwest Research Station
Last Modified: Tuesday,26July2016 at16:41:46CDT

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