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Rural West

Our Approach

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. 

Rural Health and Health Care Research

The Bill Lane Center for the American West is working to bring attention to a set of persistent problems impacting rural health and health care delivery across the Western U.S. Our initial efforts focus on three areas:

  1. Identifying and compiling best practices from across the region and globe
  2. Creating a forum for idea exchange among practitioners, academics and community members
  3. Hosting convenings to discuss these ideas and research

By examining clinical needs, health care delivery and the underpinning policies that support improved health and health care in the rural West, the Center is an eager collaborator with Stanford School of Medicine’s Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy & Asthma Research and the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. Working with Stanford undergraduate researchers, Bruce Cain and Iris Hui explored the following topics during summer 2019:

  • Air quality in the California Central Valley
  • Telemedicine across the American West
  • Environmental impacts of wildfire on health

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

Go to Project Site

Research Projects and Conferences

Rural West Events and Publications