Impact Reports

Broadband Deployment in the Columbia Gorge

2016

Awards

In Klickitat and Skamania Counties, local leaders and residents were told that bringing broadband and high-speed Internet to Klickitat and Skamania counties would cost millions. Communities identified increased broadband telecommunication (Internet) availability, affordability, and use as critical to address employment issues and provide new opportunities, as well as for allowing younger residents to remain in the region while accessing education and employment opportunities.

Poverty levels in Skamania and Klickitat Counties remain relatively high, at 12.6% in Skamania County and 14.6% in Klickitat County. Additionally, in Skamania County 26.3% of residents make less than $25,000 per year and in Klickitat the percentage is 23%. Both counties have seen a significant trend away from resource extraction industries to service economies. This incorporates significant lower-wage job growth as well as some supplemented higher-income technology-sector jobs. The potential for growth in the high-tech industry that is heavily reliant on strong broadband connections, and the need for additional workforce training and educational access to support moving lower-wage workers to higher paying jobs, both indicate that investment in a robust broadband network is essential to meet key community needs.

While participating in a 2007 survey,  Klickitat and Skamania County residents identified increased broadband telecommunication (Internet) availability, affordability, and use as critical to address employment and education needs in the region. Local leaders and residents learned that bringing broadband and high-speed Internet to rural communities in the Columbia Gorge region of Washington and Oregon would cost millions. Private telecommunications providers said that there wasn’t a business case for bringing broadband to most of the smaller communities in the area.

Glenwood (pop: 500), located in a scenic but remote area of Klickitat County, understood the challenge of securing high-speed Internet, but decided it was necessary. In November 2007, a telecommunications committee spearheaded by WSU Extension formed to assist Glenwood. Over the next few years, the committee expanded partnerships throughout Klickitat and Skamania Counties.

In 2010, SawNet, a local Internet Service Provider received $3.7 million in federal funds to construct a fiber-optic “middle-mile” network in the region, meaning essential infrastructure would be built. To capitalize on this and other telecommunications investments in the region, the committee expanded its efforts, forming the Kickitat-Skamania Local Technology Planning Team (KSLTPT). Led by the Mid-Columbia Economic Development District, WSU Extension, and Community Enrichment for Klickitat County, the KSLTPT secured approximately $170,000.

Between September 2012 and June 2014, KSLTPT led planning team and stakeholder meetings, completed surveys, mapped telecommunications services, developed a framework for addressing broadband gaps, established a mobile training lab, held workshops, created a WiFi hotspot inventory, and published news releases, reports, and a broadband resource website. » More …

Forest Youth Success

2014

Despite living in a county that is about 90% forested, many Skamania County youth have little connection with, or knowledge of, the surrounding forest.

Despite living in a county that is about 90% forested, many Skamania County youth have little connection with, or knowledge of, the surrounding forest. And, in a county where poverty and unemployment are high, youth have almost no employment opportunities and few chances to gain job experience. At the same time, local forest managers and communities need help completing projects to benefit the health of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.

Washington State University Extension 4-H, along with Stevenson-Carson School District, Skamania County, the Mt. Adams Institute, and the USDA Forest Service have partnered to create the Forest Youth Success (FYS) program for youth development and employment. Goals of the FYS program are:

  • Teach the fundamentals of forest ecology and forest health management through work in a real-world setting;
  • Develop and enhance life skills to increase employability;
  • Help participants develop a sense of responsibility for themselves, the forest, and their communities;
  • Provide participating youth with basic job skills in a paid-work setting that emphasizes environmental stewardship; and
  • Employ local adults as program crew leaders to further community engagement and emphasize positive youth–adult relationships, at a ratio of approximately 5 youth to 1 adult.

Since 2009, FYS received competitive awards from the USDA Forest Service Resource Advisory Committee of more than $670,000 and county contributions of $80,000 as a result of the Secure Rural Schools Title II funding. Each year, the program employs ten adults and 48 youth to complete forest health projects.

The WSU Extension 4-H FYS program was accepted as a National 4-H Program of Distinction, and the National Association of Extension 4-H Agents (NAE4-HA) awarded the program a Specialty Team Award in Excellence for Natural Resource and Environmental Stewardship in 2013.

Since 2002, the FYS program has been the largest summertime employer of youth in Skamania County. On average, $165,000 in direct work value is completed on the forest each year, with a total estimated value of more than a million dollars for the Gifford Pinchot National Forest since the program’s inception. In 2012, all 48 students who participated in FYS received elective high school credits for summer work through the credit recovery pilot project.

Using the 4-H life skills development tool, positive life-skill impacts are measured annually. In 2012, FYS participants indicated increases in all life skills and employability indicators that were measured. FYS participants also showed an increase in understanding forest management practices (79%) and awareness of the types of natural resource careers (71%).

From 2009 through 2011, 95% to 98% of student participants confirmed slight to significant changes in life skills, including:

  • Decision making;
  • Financial resource management;
  • Listening;
  • Effective communication;
  • Organization;
  • Problem-solving; and
  • Job responsibility.

In 2010, past participants from the previous five years were surveyed for lasting impacts. More than 65% responded that FYS helped them acquire another job. Ninety-five percent credit the program for forming their work ethic and increasing their basic job skills. More than 70% of past participants credit FYS for shaping their career interests. More than 50% chose their college major and shaped their degree because of FYS, and more than 90% found FYS effective for helping manage personal finances.

  • Since 2002, more than $1 million in work value provided in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.

In 2012:

  • $113,812 in work value.
  • 1 mile of new boundary marked and cleared.
  • 14 miles of trail work completed.
  • 1 mile of new trail built.
  • 14 acres of white pine pruning.
  • 2 acres of invasive species removal; 2 acres surveyed.
  • 19 miles of roadside brushing.
  • Habitat enhancement, with 8 western pond turtles released.
  • 4 acres of fuel treatment for prevention of forest fire.
  • 9,500 trout released.
  • 75 campsites maintained.
  • 360 cubic yards of oyster shells placed in fish filter beds.

“Working so closely with FYS has truly been a rewarding project as I am very passionate about this program, especially since it helped me gain responsibility and leadership as an adolescent.”

“FYS has allowed me to get the work experience I need to get a job in the real world. It has instilled in me the work ethic and morals of any good citizen and allowed me to grow as a person.”

“FYS has helped me become a leader, step out of my comfort zone, and learn so much about this beautiful place we live in, how to help maintain it and the amazing people that already love and appreciate it.”

For more information, contact Scott VanderWey, Director of Adventure Education | WSU Puyallup R & E
Center, 2606 W Pioneer, Puyallup WA 98371 | 253-445-4581 or vanderwey@wsu.edu.

For more information about the WSU Extension 4-H Youth Development Program, visit http://4h.wsu.edu/.