The Pound Initiative
Meeting challenges for achieving quality of life in the modern village
|To the People of Pound and Their Region|
Perhaps we will learn about each other. I hope so. I offer the following Initiative as a retired citizen of the Commonwealth, a former professor, and a person deeply committed to gaining improved management of the natural resources of the world. I thought I could do that through work with students over 40 years. Not satisfied with that performance, I have developed the concept of the Rural System and now believe that it is the only way to achieve significant improvement (or stability) in the rural lands and communities of the mid-Atlantic region (and many others areas of the US and the world). That seems like an inflated or preposterous claim, I know. I've tried for about 25 years, I still look, but I cannot find the alternative. I offer at no cost the document which is a recommendation or plan, suspecting that you or others will claim, "it is worth about that much." I start off on the wrong foot, for the basic claim of the proposal is that whatever we do must make money. If I were serious I would charge for this document. The taxpayers of Virginia and the US (and my neglected family) have already paid for it. I only want serious consideration, kindly critique, and, perhaps, implementation to the point of showing profit for the village and region.
I dearly want to learn of the things you know and I hope you share that enthusiasm for the things I know and see for the future. Now healthy but 72, I know my limits and even though I have been among "conservationists" most of my life, I have met few of them who are interested in conserving human knowledge. We can help conserve your knowledge. I am concerned that mine will be lost. I work to reduce that.
I respect different religions and tend to seek common grounds, often called the "spirituality of people." I am fully aware of the emotional experiences of the land - the beauty, awe, excitement - and I wish help in holding fast to that. I know that my students tend to lose these feelings as they become technically more knowledgeable. We must preserve the spiritual as we deal with technological and powerful ways to know things and not lose the magic of the lightning storm, the emergence of butterflies, and autumn leaf-fall.
We cannot know, even remember well the past, and that makes me cautious about claiming to know a little about the future. We see animals storing food or fat in the fall and assume that behavior is based on their knowledge about the future. Now we know the alternative which is that such behavior is just a low-cost behavior that need not be changed, a winning strategy that has been played over the eons and probably not a prediction of future conditions. We now know things for which we once had descriptions and stories. Now we must recast these and engage them in the future for it rushes at us much faster than in the past. One of my professors told me that the real reason to study geology, even forestry, was not to learn of rocks or trees but to gain an appropriate concept of time. It is very difficult to grasp the rates of modern change. We can dwell on the past and it does have lessons, but it may not be instructive for a very different future. I like to work with "forward/backward-looking" people and we know that we cannot know many things and must take risks.
If I say, "that is a poor trail to follow," and you find it is good but very bad when it rains, is my statement incorrect? I have been successful at using the past, reading thoughtful authors, and taking risks in taking new trails that may or may not be good depending. In the forest and rural areas, growing things are fairly slow moving, suggesting one speed for a system. The real racing-speed levels are around, over, and under your and other rural communities - in changing equipment, laws, taxes, markets, pollution, and the value of money. I cannot, and do not try to, predict detailed quick changes like those in the stock market. I've been to Europe, China, Senegal, Nigeria, and India. In the US we have not been here long enough to have their problems, but we seem to be able to create them faster and solve them more slowly. We can learn from these societies older than we are. The links between human health and quality of life are not well recognized as being linked closely to the way all lands and waters are managed. You'll find that I do not "just make up things" or say things for fun just because they might be true. I'm doing my best to be judged to be right from the future. I'm not pleased with what I see or feel that I have to say about the life needs today and how they can be met.
I like to think of things for us to work toward as being in a ballpark or within a factory fence. The topic can be cut or expanded based on where the fence posts are located. My fence posts, the context for our potential work together, are:
There's not much space inside the fence! We have to find a design or solution within it.
Judging a Solution
How will we know when we have a good solution? As we know anything - as judged by a set of criteria. These are, I believe, in no order of importance:
We have to find a solution, one that matches all or most of these criteria very well. The fence moves rapidly. We have a solution, Rural System. There are many ways to get started, many points for attack. I have suggestions, but I need help on this topic.
Not being negative, we know that any solution can be ruined by an evil person. A poor manager can destroy any great business concept. A bad-weather year can bankrupt a grower. We must work carefully with our key people. We need new group work. Technology can help us; the better we manage the system, the more tolerant we can be of mistakes, weak periods, or brief disasters.
We've not met and I am eager to do so. I've studied the region of your county, know nearby areas, and am bold enough (perhaps arrogant) to think I have "a solution." I am trying to display real interest, a willingness to learn and be corrected, and a genuine eagerness to be of help to you and the people of your region. I seek a partnership and I do not hide the payoff for me. I want this Rural System concept to begin somewhere. Soon, others will understand from your demonstration that it is good for rural counties worldwide, all threatened by vast changes of population pressures, globalization, urbanization, pollution, and rapidly shifting laws and markets.
I offer to you my past work and careful thought. My suggestion is simple: implement Rural System.
Robert H. Giles, Jr.
|A Letter to the Management Team|
After getting the Powell River Project work started years ago with C.B. Slemp and Penn Virginia Resources out of Duffield and working in Wise and Buchanan Counties for several years, I've continued to follow accounts in the Coalfield Progress of the successes and difficulties experienced within your county and adjacent ones.
I may be a slow learner because in the past I've sent letters to newspapers and made speeches about some ideas. Presenting them to students has worked poorly. This time, I'd like to present the concept to you, the team, and then if you find it has merit, I'll help work with it in any way that I can. I'm just trying to get improved rural resource use something to which I'm dedicated. That can happen through Rural System. I'm not seeking grants, contracts, fees or "to do research."
There are giant problems faced by people of the region and no collection of small, simplistic solutions will suppress them. A major new attack is needed. It needs to start somewhere and cannot be one requiring mass public education, universal acceptance, or political-block action. It cannot be small because "small-scale" is part of the problem. My vision for the success of the concept when it is up and running after starting in Pound is on the next pages. If implemented, I believe it is one way, probably a major one, to create a central motivator, gain employment, build a small replacement for a declining tax base, and use the public and private lands of the region in a system all to improve the quality of life of your citizens. These are difficult times and I have had real difficulty in arriving at a solution in which I have confidence. Rural System is it. I hope that you'll be interested, help build the concept and its achievements, and that you (and/or your colleagues) can work with and benefit from it.
|Rural System Vision|
Successful in one western Virginia region, the Rural System conglomerate may be franchised within other regions of the U.S., then internationally. The enterprise displays a paradigm of a free-enterprise-based regional economic development system centered on modern, sophisticated rural-land and natural-resource management. It uses e-marketing, managed private lands under contract, over 20 diverse enterprises, a trained labor force, central guidance, extensive data bases, past research results and computer-aided planning for a special 150-year horizon
The enterprise leads in year-around profitable private land management. It links buyers and users with producers of certified products and diverse resource opportunities resulting in sustained profits that are possible from well-managed rural land resources. Successes are achieved via smart work, synergistic designs, diverse enterprises and products, and computer optimization of a total system.
|Rural System Capsule|
Rural System is a proposed not-for-profit private conglomerate (educational, environmental, conservation, development). It is a diverse, synergistic corporation doing modern, sophisticated, computer-aided management of the lands and waters of areas, first in Western Virginia.
Concentrating on private land restoration, enhancement, and production for long-term sustained profits, it contracts with owners (often absentee) and manages their lands and waters. As part of such management, it provides related services and products from over 20 small, unified resource-related business units. Many of the activities of these units occur on the managed lands. A central unit provides incubator-like services and allows the corporation to harvest public research investments, to achieve economies of scale and add value to yields, and to stabilize employment. The efficient central unit assists all units, including several fee-based organizations, a products group, and an Internet unit.
The corporation uses the vast private rural resources of a region of Virginia and provides an entrepreneurial response to an array of current problem trends there. It capitalizes on computer mapping and uses of the Internet in the region. Success in improving the social, economic, and environmental health of the region may allow transfer, years later, of a similar system to other regions of the US and elsewhere.
|The Pound Initiative|
Rural System is a planned system for interested people of Pound in Wise County Virginia, USA, and its partners, worldwide, to engage in new forms of community building and in developing a modern enterprise that enhances the environment, provides employment opportunities, strives for an enhanced quality of life, and engages the challenges of today, making rich contributions to the county, region, Virginia, and the nation ... all the while preserving the local culture and its social and political structures.
Meeting are never long enough to handle large ideas or for addressing the enormous problems affecting hundreds of people and their future. The text is intended to help speed up the decision process ... including the decision to seek other alternatives. Several people have said that Rural System is difficult to "wrap your mind around it." I regret this and my inability to describe it more clearly. I ask for assistance and welcome questions, but it is large, more complicated than complex, and has taken many years to formulate. It can be simplified and you can help. One logger to which I described it over lunch said, "Oh, all you're doing is giving the forest landowner an annual income." He was right! There is more.
Rural System has 6 parts:
Rural System is proposed to the citizens of thePound so that they may consider forming a unique financial partnership with me and colleagues. It may be opened to others later as best forms are developed (cooperatives, etc.) The partnership would:
Once the general concept is seen, work can begin on the specifics. I compare it to building a skyscraper or a factory. The job is very large; there are many parts; only one picture of the final project; many experts are needed; sequences have to be right; there has to be an architect and supervisor; and checks must be made along the way. The result is really not the building but what it can do. This document is not really about a system but about what it can do.
It is reasonable to be skeptical for historical as well as current reasons. We cannot communicate well or get to the main ideas if you are wondering, "who is this guy?" as I talk or write about me, why I've doing this, or what's in it for him? I come from Lynchburg, graduated there, had abundant 4-H and scouting experience (eagle), attended Virginia Tech and got a degree in forestry, then one in wildlife biology, then I worked for the Virginia Game Commission on the National Forest near Covington and Buena Vista. I knew I did not know enough and so went to Ohio State and got a doctorate studying the ecology of a forested watershed. I taught classes in wildlife management at the University of Idaho for 5 years and then was invited to return to Virginia and have been at Tech for 35 years teaching wildlife, systems ecology, and man and environment. I've written 200 papers and 3 books. These are all listed .
I retired in 1998 but have since provided materials to a graduate distance-learning course at the Northern Virginia Graduate Center and continue to work on my web site at www.RuralSystem.com. I have a wife of 47 years, two daughters and 6 grandchildren. I'm 72 and very eager to share with you things I have learned about your region and natural resources, especially as they effect who we can become as humans.
I'm impatient. I know the difficulties of county government, having served as chairman of the Blacksburg Planning Commission. I've owned forested land near Salem. I developed the first statewide GIS (computer mapping) system, the first non-game plan, and the initial wildlife information system for the state. I've been a consultant; I've testified on power line impacts before the State Corporation Commission. I'm informally affiliated with the Appalachian Coalition for Just and Sustainable Communities. I say these things only to suggest my breadth of interest and "where I'm coming from." I also want to suggest my limitations and biases and where you need to seek other advice and resources.
|Forming a Partnership and What I Offer|
I am not from the government and I am not here to help you. I am here to form a partnership with you and we need to negotiate so that we see each other clearly and can decide whether to do that or something else. We have to be equal partners. In addition to the experience outlined above that you, my family, and taxpayers have already bought, here's what I have to offer (I do not know if it will be enough):
|What you Get|
As a result, you, the people of Pound, get
I presume that there is enlightened self-interest of citizens in the region and a general knowledge of the importance of a high quality environment. There may not be knowledge that a good stable environment, "all outdoors," is essential to health, but that can grow over time. It is important not to separate people, health, and the environment (except for teaching). Integrated thought and work are needed. Difficult to face are natural problems and disasters, but systems can be developed to help achieve a high quality of life. That includes preventing them and reducing their effects and duration. Health, like the environment, and dependent upon it, is fundamental to having a desired quality of human life. It is difficult to claim good health in a sick body or wellness within a place with a disease epidemic. The laws of physics and chemistry are clear that it is natural that energy is lost, things rust, become diseased, decompose, and change form. Biological forms seem to have ways to slow these processes. We can learn from them that, though difficult, it is possible to stabilize and even improve the ever-changing environment for people. It, as a total system, must be managed very, very carefully and that management itself has high continuing costs. That input to the system must also be stable. Given observed instability in funding, agency budgets, grants, markets, leadership, and even buildings and land use, it now seems that a modern, sophisticated, cost-effective enterprise is needed .almost essential
Now there is a new environment created by the Internet and all the experts that develop and maintain it and its related technology and functions. We have real human needs in Pound and the county. We have a new awareness of similar problems around the world as rural community and human problems increase. We have become aware that land is to be restored, managed, and improved (over past misuses). The emphasis need not be on trees or crops or even on houses and streets but on the town and its land and surroundings as a working platform, a place where creative things can be done to sustain high quality conditions for human populations. The "platform" can grow trees and livestock and crops but it can also house people, generate ideas, enhance resource values, and be valued as space.
What is optimum use remains a question but we have a way to attack it. What is the best combination now... but also for the future ... (for we must prepare for at least the length of life of a large tree and for at least two generations)? We have to get started, invest carefully, get computer power in our decision-making, achieve economies of scale, diversify, develop value-added strategies, reduce costs at least as much as gains, avoid the counterintuitive, build human teams, and benefit from synergism. Difficulty is not denial.
It now seems possible to create a new business conglomerate, probably a combined for-profit with a not-for-profit corporate structure. It is an enterprise of about 50 small groups or companies (out of 80 designed) working together as a system, all related to natural resource management in the rural environment, but for all citizens.
It is a private system with centralized leadership and services. It is unconstrained by old titles and rules limiting thought and work as it has been for years within the public sector. The objective is "profit" but sustained by careful attention to principles as basic as "to sustain the profit you must sustain the factory," synergism, computer optimization, eventual globalization, a long planning horizon, and compulsion to use millions of dollars already invested in research findings.
The proposed enterprise is like well-known conglomerates (e.g., Pepsico or Disney with their many companies under one roof). It may be useful to skim over some of the components of the forming enterprise in the following list. Few are unique or new, but are new in their combination in a single managed system. The following table shows all of the proposed enterprises. (All do not have to be developed but many must be developed simultaneously to overcome many problems causing past failures. Additions are likely and welcomed.) There are a few others listed elsewhere. The organization changes for each person, each group, as we struggle to see the whole thing. I now suggest six groupings ... but with planned essential links and overlaps (thus the frustrations in organizing the elements of the greater enterprise). Each of the items, in some form, has failed in the past; few are new ... but all will work well and profitably when developed and managed simultaneously as a system. The list is on the following pages. Details about each are available via links.
|Rural System Tracts|
A major component of the proposed conglomerate is that it brings certain private lands of the region under a specialized contract and uses them for profitable developments in the other interconnected units of the enterprise. These are called Rural SystemTracts. One or more tracts may be within or near the property of Pound. The Rural System team puts these tracts under intensive management, improves their longterm productivity, provides annual financial return to the owner, and provides employment for the region and profits to the company. Owners, employees, members, and citizens benefit.
|The Interactive Groups of the Enterprise|
An administrative group, System Central is an essential first step. Cooperative arrangements can be formed with existing enterprises and services offered such as those for the Internet and others. Not competition but support and gaining improved economies of scale is desired. These groups (listed in the following table) often cannot be profitable alone but can be when helped by common marketing, accounting, legal, and other services and arrangements.
Comments about a few of the Groups
The Proposed Components of Rural System
There are several small organizations proposed for System Central, each responsive to the many interests of people in the region. The memberships are all Internet supported. All are based on annual membership fees and most provide access to information, tours, special events, advertising, discounts, and news. Special "advertising and marketing" contacts will abound. Members will gain information and award-incentives for health, safety, fire prevention, exercise and activity, survival skills, first aid knowledge, hunting safety, and others. There are sales of publications, membership aids, photographs, emblems, T-shirts, etc. all contributing to the system and its improving management of the lands of the region. A unit called Q Works leads in comprehensive planning systems, emphasizing quantified criteria for quality of life, alternatives to zoning, and local accountability procedures.
Other notable groups include:
The forest category is well known and very important. By working toward forest certification through Smartwood by our cost effective planning strategy, we can add 5 to 10% to the value of wood on our properties. A trained "hotshot fire crew" with modern technology will create a notable Fire Force resource for the state and region. Stoneworms is a proposed trails building and maintenance group. Earshots address noise levels of all types (including wildlife law enforcement) within soundscapes and Viewscapes aids in managing outdoor esthetics.
There are many evident wild fauna related and nature-related, and hunting and fishing groups proposed. These advance modern wildlife management and create an area of international importance where techniques are demonstrated and teaching and research is ongoing. There are separate companies with key topics of hunting dogs, deer, raccoon, quail, turkey, grouse, coyote, bear and bobcat. There is demonstrated a full-scale modern upland fishery including watershed analyses and education. A unique opportunity exists to start Avi, a golf-course-like bird watching sport. The Owls Group offers special night-time bus tours for people out of nearby towns to learn of and experience owls in the wild. Coyote, a company with membership and tours for people interest in the wild dogs of the world, particularly the coyote, responds in new ways to the increasing population of these animals. It works with the Pest Force Group. Although the furbearer group may be excessively controversial in modern society, it is a major part of local history. There are others in this generalized wildlife and nature grouping such as:
Most of these in the above table are evident. The emphasis is on the open areas adjacent to forests as a total system. There is attention to pests and reducing costs, reducing erosion, increasing productivity, and achieving benefits from organic practices. Much looks like classical textbook descriptions of agricultural systems. We prefer to discuss agro-silvo-pastoral systems, then find that too limiting, for we want diverse, stable, meaningful, sustained production from the rural land platform. While crop or livestock preferences are honored, we do analyses to find optimum combinations of environment-enhancing units (e.g., Alpha Earth with earthworm systems) and potentials in new markets for certified and organic produce with special delivery to restaurants and population centers.
Sports and Recreation
These activities are often classed as "outdoor recreation" and are dispersed. Some are new and the tracts may become famous places because of them. They encourage teamwork, health, and low stress.
Products and Services The Products Group arranges for production and sale of products. The following is a suggested list of the types being considered.
|Interim Comment: Pulling Together the Groups and Their Services and Products|
Rural System offers a sound environmental connection to the mission of the citizens of Pound. It is private, concentrating on diverse activities of a diverse population, an increasingly urban population that turns to the outdoors for many activities. It links current interest in activity, weight loss and the environment to life saving and life-enhancing activities that function in improved land management. At its most simple, interested citizens working with Rural System shares in a percentage of all profits. It offers services, opportunities, and incentives and receives funds and reduced need for them (a prevention and reduced-cost ploy). It increases the value of private land in the region.
|Offers To and From ... Forming the Modern Partnership Web|
Rural System may offer to the local government a suggestion of alternative components to so-called "comprehensive plans," those relating to its objectives such as those found in the objectives now listed in a town planning supplement. The work ahead would be in assisting local counties and communities in achieving their stated and importance-weighted objectives. Preventing unwanted intrusions may be possible. Local computer maps can be useful in many types of decision making. We can supply maps of, for example:
These efforts, designed to reduce crises and to expedite appropriate development, are also designed to link county and regional citizens ever-more directly to the land and its past as well as probable future.
|The Chi Concept - Linking Health and Environment for Profits|
Rural System can try to develop and then offer widely The Chi Concept, Precise Insurance Premiums as Incentives for Environmental and Human Improvement. The Chi Concept is based on the current practices of providing different premiums for males and females, smokers and non-smokers, etc. With computer capability, human mortality (survival) rates can be precisely estimated. The Chi Concept is simply to work with one or more major insurance agency or groups and use computer capability to assign annually (or every two to three years) personalized rates. By encouraging a healthful environment, living in the right places (or making them "right"), and engaging in life-prolonging practices, then premiums can be adjusted. By being a member of and participating in activities of ranging (for example) premiums can be improved. Much of the literature providing the basis for doing this exists; a dynamically updated local data system could improve the models; a competitive edge by an innovator over other insurance groups can be gained by effective use of programming power. Rural System's role may be in advancing knowledge of the direct, measurable relations between environmental factors (as available from a geographic information system for the corporate region) and human health and mortality. Affiliations are seen with GPSence, The Owls Group, the 4 x 4 Group, and Belles and Whistles.
The information technology portion of Rural System is an electronic knowledge-base system that monitors people and resources, takes data, converts data to information, develops and provides access to models and concepts, provides optimization, and links citizens to their knowledge platform and to libraries, museums, and knowledge around the world.
We have assurances of GIS support from the Conservation Management Institute of Virginia Tech. This group does research on geographic information systems. In addition, Wise County has major GIS resources. We shall seek research partnerships with them and seek to become a producer of products relevant to land owners and others in the region. These uses include those for farmers, foresters, realtors, impact analyses, baseline studies for insurance programs and for regional initiatives. The Trevey system offers planning tools and a systems approach to planning, replacing the concept of the static plan with that of a dynamic planning system.
That project and staff might develop and deploy community network services such as:
The existing Information Technology needs that may be forthcoming, that seem essential, and that run throughout Rural System are:
|Now What's Ahead...?|
It now seems time to tag the fatal flaws, look for modifications in these, or move on to other suggestions and strategies. Estimates of the financial bottomline are impossible with so many alternative pathways and decision nodes. One estimate is that with full startup funds, an independent profitable (4-5%), dividend-paying enterprise can exist within 6 years. There are too many assumptions to make this estimate useful. I shall try to answer questions, clarify points and do more studies as needed. I hope that we can work together. People of like minds and interests have started successful enterprises together with fewer resources and thought than presented here and within the contents of Rural System and more limited business plan. I suspect it will emerge when more than seven leaders each assume leadership of a group, pledge work together, and share in resources in ways suggested. It can be good work for the right reasons.
I welcome ideas, comments, and advice.
The Elevator Speech
Hi. How' ya doin'? Wh'er you from?
What's goin' on there?
It's that new Rural System place. We have 50 rural-resource-related businesses all working together. The village and corporation manages land and water, much of absentee owners, and provides a variety of services, products, and new land value. We have new employment and a community tax base. We're a small village using computers and the Internet and have markets all over the world. We're getting big payoffs in modern forestry, agriculture, and in computer-based planning, decision making, and we're using our computer maps and satellite data and teaching about that stuff. Once "talking coal,"we're now talking worldwide influence on environmental and human needs.
That really sounds great! See ya. I get off at this floor.
See ya. Look us up at www.RuralSystem.com
September 10, 2005