The Idaho Rural Partnership is among the state rural development councils still active more than 30 years after the program supporting the councils was funded in the 1990 Farm Bill.
Jerry Miller, interim coordinator of the partnership, said the Idaho organization is made up of board members representing state, local, tribal and private interests. He explained the partnership provides reviews to identify areas in which communities need help.
“That could be downtown revitalization, and that’s probably one of the more popular areas that are requested in a community review application,” Miller noted. “We in the past have helped communities figure out arts issues, public safety issues.”
Miller pointed out the reviews have also aided in areas such as infrastructure projects and recreational opportunities. The partnership is then able to provide recommendations and figure out how to pursue the recommendations. It also shares best practices on community assessments with their neighbors in Montana and Wyoming.
Miller emphasized while urban areas get most of the attention, it is vital to support rural communities. He added the communities provide crucial services, such as places to recreate and the farming needed to feed everyone.
“We wouldn’t have the timber, the lumber we need to build homes,” Miller stressed. “We wouldn’t have the minerals we need for our technology and for all the other products that we tend to take for granted.”
Idaho has one of the fastest growing populations in the country, according to the 2020 census. While much of the growth is centered in urban communities, all but one of the state’s counties grew faster than the national average between 2020 and 2021.