Rural West

In 2009, the Bill Lane Center for the American West launched the Rural West Initative, which seeks to research and document contemporary life in the Rural West. Our work examines life in rural western areas through scholarship, public policy, and journalism.

The Rural West Initiative explores issues of the less populated areas of the North American West – places whose natural beauty and heritage are matched only by the challenges they face. These issues, such as access to economic opportunity, health care, education, and housing, often get less attention than they deserve. This is why the Bill Lane Center has made it a priority to study rural communities in the first place. How did we initially approach the difficulties faced by rural areas? First we listened, then we presented research on the problems, and now we are finding solutions. 

The Rural West Initiative is made possible by generous support from the Spencer F. and Cleone P. Eccles Foundation.

We knew that in order to solve some of the rural West’s biggest challenges, we needed to hear directly from those impacted.  Our listening campaign has taken us through eight Western states - Idaho, Utah, California, Oregon, Montana, New Mexico, Washington and Nevada - and in each rural town we visited, we convened community members, local experts and elected officials to better understand what we were up against. We also conducted several polls in the West to gain insight into public attitudes toward land management, economic development, health services, the role the federal government should play, and more.

From listening, we moved on to developing and presenting our research, and now, we are entering a phase of exploring solutions with with local experts and stakeholders to improve the quality of life in rural Western communities. Through research and conferences, we seek to join and energize a conversation between journalists and scholars, citizens, nongovernmental groups and policymakers, about a region that still holds powerful sway over our national imagination and our future.

Each year since 2012, the project has convened the Eccles Family Rural West Conference to share knowledge and ideas about the rural West. The most recent conference, held in Pocatello, Idaho, in April 2022, considered pressing climate and economic challenges in the rural west, including wildfire, water and ranching. 

Past Events

April
8
Date
Friday, April 8, 2022 - Saturday, April 9, 2022, All day
Location:
Pond Student Union Ballroom (Room 220)
Idaho State University
1065 Cesar Chavez Ave
Pocatello, ID 83209

The Rural West Conference is an annual, interdisciplinary gathering that brings together academics, practitioners and policymakers to share knowledge and ideas…

March
19
Date
Thursday, March 19, 2020, 1:30pm
Location:
Genoa Lakes Golf Club
1 Genoa Lakes Drive
Genoa, Nevada 89411

The Rural West Conference is an annual, interdisciplinary gathering that brings together academics, practitioners and policymakers to share knowledge and ideas about the rural West.

April
5
Date
Friday, April 5, 2019, 12:00pm - 9:00pm
Location:
Park City Peaks Hotel, Park City, Utah

The Rural West Conference is an annual interdisciplinary gathering workshop that brings together academics, practitioners, and policymakers to share knowledge and ideas about the rural West,…

March
23
Date
Friday, March 23, 2018, 9:00am - 7:00pm
Location:
Yakima, Washington

In a departure from previous gatherings, the 2018 Eccles Family Rural West Conference took the form of an academic workshop focused on collaborative governance.

March
23
Date
Thursday, March 23, 2017, 5:00pm - Saturday, March 25, 2017, 11:45am
Location:
Santa Fe, New Mexico

The Bill Lane Center for the American West at Stanford University is hosting the Spence and Cleone Eccles Family Rural West Conference from March 23-25, 2017 at the School for Advanced Research in…

March
17
Date
Thursday, March 17, 2016, 5:00pm - Saturday, March 19, 2016, 1:30pm
Location:
Missoula, Montana
March
4
Date
Wednesday, March 4, 2015 - Friday, March 6, 2015, All day
Location:
Troutdale, Oregon

The 2015 Rural West Conference was held in Troutdale, Oregon, a town situated at the gateway to the Columbia Gorge—like many of us, it has one foot in an urban area and one foot in a rural one.

April
4
Date
Friday, April 4, 2014 - Saturday, April 5, 2014, All day
Location:
Stanford, CA

For nearly two centuries, the rural-urban divide has served as one of the great dichotomies in both the conceptual and organizational structuring of the United States; and perhaps in no region…

October
13
Date
Saturday, October 13, 2012 - Sunday, October 14, 2012, All day
Location:
Ogden-Eccles Conference Center
Ogden, UT

The Initiative's first Conference on the Rural West took place over the weekend of Oct. 13-14 at the Ogden-Eccles Conference Center in Ogden, Utah.