Rural System's



Design Concepts for a Program for Your Rural Region for the Future

Rural System has a novel regional approach that needs to be taken now for improving land management, employment, and quality of life for citizens of your area for now and the future... all for the citizens and its visitors. It is copyrighted © to protect various advantages of authorship. You are encourage do to others to join in below our rock-bottom price. It was developed by Professor Bob Giles of the College of Natural Resources of Virginia Tech after his retirement. It is presented on the Internet for its cost-effective distribution to the many people likely now concerned and perhaps invited to be come more concerned about the quality of the total environment of your region.

Once a professor "preaching" the needs for improved land use, Bob now recognizes the failure of that and works to create a new enterprise that provides significant financial incentives for long-term care and management of the lands and waters of this region...and then beyond. The results of that effort will only be possible if the proposed enterprise, Rural System, helps develop jobs and progressive communities. The ideas here may seem self-serving, but he is 72 and still works on creating a company that works for the land and its people.

He is grateful to the Conservation Management Institute for supplying temporary start-up Internet server space.

What's "Ranging"

Like other words, Ranging may be verb, a noun, or an adjective.

Ranging means engaging in one or more of a diverse set of extended, dispersed outdoor or rural activities for health, recreation, study, appreciation, and adventure. It may also mean the enterprises that are related and that promote, support, and supply these activities and the areas and resources used. It includes (but is not limited to) hiking, tramping, camping, trekking, climbing, biking, trail riding, hunting, fishing, boating, touring, sightseeing, studying nature, and wildlife watching. It might include triathlon events and their observation and support.

It is also the condition of the lands and waters where modern, sophisticated rural resource management takes place.

It is also that total system of activities that manages the land for people for the long run... where superior ranging can take place.

As an adjective, it modifies actions and conditions that tend to stabilize and improve the lands and waters of a region for high quality diverse outdoor recreational and viewing activities.

So What?

There is nothing special about a word like ranging unless it can help make sense and provide positive structure to the confusing array of inconsistent writing and work in the expansive areas of outdoor recreation and ecotourism and related words and phrases and even of the changing uses of the word "conservation."

Rural System's ranging is a program to develop and promote a wide array of outdoor activities for a region. Together, they are called ranging. The "catch" is that for such a program to be very successful and payoff for the region, the region ... all of its environment ... must be beautiful, safe, and carefully managed for the longrun. It is not easy, but it has great payoffs in human health, reduced costs and risks, employment and high quality of life.

Whether ranging depends upon Rural System or Rural System depends upon ranging can be debated. It is better to imagine an interdependent union.

A cost-effective ranging program to be described implies putting a diverse, progressive ranging enterprise into a well managed environment ... forests, soils, water, wildlife, air, and more.

What's the Area?

We offer the program for any area of the mid eastern US. We'll expand later. As an example, the New River watershed includes one of Virginia's 14 major rivers. Its watershed starts in North Carolina. Its waters flow northward toward the Missouri, then southward into the Gulf of Mexico. It is the light blue area in western Virginia shown on the Department of Conservation and Recreation map.

With fuzzy borders, the Virginia area is shown to the right in yellow.) It's a region where people are within one day's drive from 50% of the U.S. population! The region is expanding for world-wide activity. The Internet and related E-commenrce automatically achieves part of that work.

What's "Rural System" ?

You may already know the answer. Briefly, it's a new enterprise that works in rural regions. It works with existing enterprises and private land owners, providing employment, improving economic conditions, improving land use, and improving conditions for the entire rural region, its watershed, and its people. It is described below and at

What's "Land" ?

Fundamental to the Rural System and the Program is that the area, all of it is a working platform. It may be evidently, today, a forest, but that can change tomorrow. It may be in tobacco today, another crop tomorrow. Mined and flat, tomorrow it may be the site of a booming economy. It may be where ideas and creative expression arise. Land can be covered by deep water of a pond, a camp site, a corn crop, or a shopping center. While certain other things may not be suitable for a tract of land, trees are rarely the only thing for which any tract in uniquely suitable. Trees are thus a decision. Trees have no intrinsic "right" to an acre. Land exists as a mapable unit. But that new unit is a volume -- with latitude, longitude, and elevation, and height above the land and depth beneath the surface. It is very much like a large square column that we try to master to achieve citizens' objectives now and for the future. With understanding the volume, other analyses can begin. After the analyses, then the decisions may begin. These three variables describing the volume are the only three variables that are "given." They constitute the space called land.

What's the Deal?

By means of this web-site unit you, with your colleagues and some work by our staff can develop ranging in your area. Not competing with existing enterprises, , Rural System is likely to increase the markets and profitability of existing recreation, sport, and outdoor-related enterprises.

There's been a lot of agency work on large and small public areas, federal and state funding, foundation support, and enormous amounts of volunteer effort and time spent. That work and thought underlies the program. There is surrounding business activity such as for clothing and equipment. Proponents of "outdoor recreation" and its economic impacts list supportive fields and count as their full contribution the production of income with sources ranging from matches to motors, beer to binoculars.

Changes in economics, agencies, and policies in the U.S., indeed the world, have suggested that alternative strategies may be worth discussing ... maybe necessary. Current conditions suggest reduced tax support for resource agencies, loss of experienced staff, increasing environmental problems for which there are no apparent solutions, and only long-term maintenance costs, new public awareness (but poorly informed) about dependence upon a healthful environment, and new demands for "cleaning up" after past misdeeds. There are increasing urban populations, most having little understanding of rural conditions, practices, relevant periods of growth or change, or limitations. Farming conditions and the employment there change daily, influenced by globalization, urbanization, changing family relations, and technology.

There must evolve efforts to resolve such conflicts and meet the human needs that have been expressed and the new ones emerging. A design is now available within Rural System called the ranging program and it needs to be explored. There are needs for sophisticated modern management of the lands and waters of the region ... that leads to employment, stable farms, and healthful communities.

Ranging is not just a bunch of activities but is a dynamic system that can be analyzed, designed, operated, and maintained for the long run ("sustained"). "For the good of the environment" or "for the good of the animals" are essential concepts, but foremost is " for the good of people." When a system is designed and operated for the good of people into perpetuity, then all of nature must be included and tended with great care to assure that the desired future conditions occur. A ranging program is the unification of outdoor recreational activity with superior modern land and natuyral resource management.

There is a complex, a diverse set of businesses associated with ranging and there are principles for that business that can be derived from nature, ecological concepts, and resource management system concepts. These have now been incorporated into a design for the suggested new rural-resource business, a conglomerate. That business is now called Rural System, Inc.

Tourism, ecotourism, (or adventure tourism) have been suggested as major ways that the region can be made more rich, jobs insured, and a future plotted. It is hard to turn from the hidden message in a newspaper account (2003) saying that tourism in Virginia is a $12.9 billion industry supporting more than 211,000 jobs for Virginians and providing more than a billion dollars in state and local tax revenues. We suggest caution, and have prepared notes on "Viable Tourism" There are mixed messages and caution flags in developing this singular line of investment. It can "work" but only with very careful planning and skillful implementation, concentrating on full costs . We strongly support limited careful efforts and enhancement of the activities now underway, but suggest time and effort be devoted to a diverse inclusive set of activities, most consistently profitable, such as a single interactive system.

Observers suggest that we are strongly biased against tourism but toward wildlife topics. Few people know how broad that subject matter is. Hunting and fishing have long been described as major outdoors sports and recreation. Most economic benefits ascribed for them relate to expenditures during travel. There are more ways to profits, more ways to move past the economic margins, new ways to gain synergism or team benefits. Cost effective strategies can be developed and the effects of decisions can be simulated before they are made. Optimum locations can be selected for things that are line-like (utility corridors), point-like (offices, factories, plantings) and area-like (effects of a tax or policy).

Although prone to wish to protect the region's natural resources, we are more prone to concentrate on managing those resources because some now need restoration, then enhancement. There are ways to make profits from the protected resources, and these are outlined. Of course we have to pay the costs required to assure safe, quality experiences for travelers, both for those people from our area as well as for visitors or guests.

Just Imagine...

The diverse enterprise (someone called it "a little business ecosystem") makes money by improving land and related resources and their use in the region. It operates many other rural-resource-related businesses. It along with many individuals and groups realizes that the region and its and the watersheds are only sustainable if they are managed. The key measures are hydrologic response and water quality.

The company advertises the region along with its activities (because it is "the founder") as it seeks to make profit from all activities or enterprises ... all working together.

None of the enterprises is more important than another is. All, by design, are related and supportive. They perform as a single carefully managed system.

Here's What you Get for $xxx,xxx in a Three-Year Program

  1. (at least that $ increase in the budgets of a "basket" of 10 select related businesses)
  2. National promotion
  3. State promotion
  4. 3 annual Ranging "fairs"
  5. Major activity on Rural System Tracts
  6. An Increasing Visual Quality score
  7. Reduced soil erosion
  8. Increased avian diversity
  9. 5 copies of a CD for school presentations
  10. 5 local TV appearances

Related activities

The types of enterprises (with a few examples) are:

System Central provides management, marketing, publications, employment services, insurance, facilities, computers, space, laboratory, communications, web site, and transportation. This single group provides cost effectiveness for all groups and stability for some activities that are seasonal and affected by storms, fires, etc. It directs the work that is designed to provide strong financial incentives for superior, long tern rural land management.

Service and Action Groups (Link here for the list of Groups. Others are briefly discussed below.)

What's new? Why "Ranging"?

The needs for Rural System and a systems approach for the region seem clear and, while the ideas herein are not new, the combined applications suggested are new. The newness includes:

Together, these applied within a single system, hold the promise of an entity, a totally new system, an entire region working together for its own good and for the future. New today, the innovations and discoveries, and applications that will arise from the exciting changing interplay of the proposed enterprises and activities will themselves produce the good news ... the news announcement of the week from that creative Ranging place.

The Program: A Concept for the Region

The ranging program is created by the people of a region and operated for them by Rural System, Inc. Advice and suggestions are sought to improve the concept and venture capital (or applying a membership strategy) is sought to make the concept real.

There are related parts of the proposed program (hereinafter called The Program):

  1. A major part of the region and all of its watershed, resources, people, and infrastructure - the Rural System Tracts
  2. The Q Works or System Central with its library, consulting, and research resources - and prior research results and data bases
  3. Other businesses interested in profitable relations
  4. A trained land force or working crew
  5. Many enterprises working together
  6. The multi-dimensional rural-resource-based enterprise called Rural System, Inc.

The objective of the Program is to benefit the people of the region for at least a 150-year planning horizon, shifting forward a year each year. To do that, the objective is to create and operate a for-profit enterprise that will set standards of excellence in resource management in the region, increase employment, stabilize communities, and increase benefits to landowners and citizens, then expand widely. A proportion of the profits will be devoted to key improvements on private lands.

Examples of integrative projects developed by the Program are:

More About the Region

Over 50 components of the Program provided through Rural System together result in a new, dynamic public-private partnership for the rural region.

The area, as many other rural areas, is beset with problems and needs in an ever-changing political environment. Pressures increase from an increasing new set of diverse users whose range of interests, values, knowledge, and outdoor experience is now very great. There has always been uncertainty about rural land management and what complete naturalness (a hands-off concept) may mean when contrasted to various levels of manipulation, control, intervention, even restoration, to achieve some previous state. The region is beset with these and other problems, for set-aside lands need management. Rural beauty is seen in some pastures and unless these are carefully grazed, pastures become eroded or revert to forest-sameness. This region is probably experiencing problems of the types and magnitudes likely to be experienced by other rural communities in the near future.

The region and its people need help now to stop the loss of farm families, assure a tax base for local children, provide quality conditions for tourists who are attracted (without incurring costs of infrastructure), and assure local people lasting advantages from investing in the region. The region may capitalize on demonstrating its successes with a modern high-technology solution to these pressing regional problems. Others elsewhere are in the same boat and can benefit from the lessons learned and practices employed.

A new spirit of need for less public and more private involvement in life has been expressed. Often expressed as reduced public agency employment and reduced funds for established agencies, the perceived spirit can have profound effects on the land and on its managers, especially as public land use increases while funds for protection and management decrease. There is no singular solution but the Program can provide major assistance. It seeks to create a new complex enterprise, a diverse, for-profit company working in the region, utilizing private lands of willing owners, using existing public lands, gaining support from the universities and closely-related colleges, encouraging students, using research results (literally a billion dollar reservoir to be exploited), and stabilizing employment for local citizens.

With the U.S. having an international reputation for scientific research, the citizens of the U.S. have turned against supporting research, reports the National Science Foundation. Drastic cuts and re-organizations have occurred. Many areas of research in the University have been cut and costs have increased. Rural System seeks new ways to continue to produce research results as it has done in the past, to maintain momentum. The environmental research areas have suffered greatly, often because of unclear linkages and agency assignments. It has been difficult to sustain longtern needed studies of slow-moving natural systems. The needs for ecological knowledge, for understanding biodiversity and its proper care, for reducing wildlife damage, for protecting rare species, for assuring enjoyment without losses to the wilds ... all are real.

Rural System exploits the past progress of faculty and students of Virginia Tech, Radford University, and nearby colleges. The union of three -- the region, the new company, and the universities and an Institute -- in a unique effort can bring new benefits to citizens at lowest-possible tax costs, and can move new research findings from publication to practice, making ranging a centerpiece of a rural area -- probably with a large number of visitors -- to many people of Earth. Anticipating reduced travel (for energetic as well as political reasons), the Program does not propose to build a tourism base with limited unique sites. It includes these, but builds on a diverse product and service base, all related to the rural region and its essential watershed.

It recognizes the needs for housing for guests (tourists and visitors of all typies). See participant in past Virginia conference on this topic (2006-2007), Richard R. Perdue, Professor and Head of the Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management in the Pamplin School of Business, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. He is a an elected fellow and currently serves as President of the International Academy for the Study of Tourism. He is also a member of the Travel and Tourism Research Association and the Association of International Experts in the Scientific Study of Tourism. He currently serves as Editor of the Journal of Travel Research, which is a premier tourism scholarly journal. He also serves on the editorial boards for Tourism Analysis, the Journal of Travel and Tourism Marketing; Tourism Economics, China Tourism Research, and Tourism Management. He has served on the Board of Directors of the Colorado Travel and Tourism Authority, on the tourism research review board for the National Coastal Resources Institute, on the U.S. Travel and Tourism Administration task force on accountability research and on the Colorado Tourism Board Research Committee. He has conducted tourism research and marketing projects for state tourism offices in Colorado, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Nebraska, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Marine Fisheries Service, the U.S. Forest Service, the National Park Service and for numerous local and regional tourism development authorities.

More About The Program

The following sections outline the parts of the the Program.

Ecosystem Work

A species list is as important to this region as a waterfall, a cave, a scene. The species are a local as well as a national resource. People come to benefit from a resource. The list is a statement of potential human benefits that may be derived from an area. We can expand the lists, make them seasonal, trail specific, or road-segment specific. Users need to be able to relate to a stream, a mountain, a slope (only a few will relate to the whole). Competition to achieve sightings of species on lists similar to bird watcher life lists can be encouraged. Sales of the lists and payment for tours (with guides) and trips to see more can pay for expanded programs.

The GIS is a new, special way to make ecosystem knowledge relevant to local citizens as well as visitors. The public will seek out maps of potential habitat where they can get warbler x for their Ranging 'Round the River life list. Their accomplishments will be recorded for the Internet and members (and perhaps competitors for having seen all birds (etc.) in the region.

The ecosystem to be mastered is the 10 x 10 meter pixel, the map unit of the Landsat. These are called Alpha Units. The Park can lead the way past watershed management, past ecosystem management, past landscape ecology into a multi-level comprehension of the eco-volume, an entity that is pixel size but 8 km above and 8 km below the
Soil erosion classes in a Virginia county are one type of mapped information that can be produced from a geographic information system. Darkest colored cells (alpha units) have highest soil losses. Computed numerical estimates are available for each map cell.
surface. Map layers of conventional GIS are expanded to include 1000 species maps, geologic strata, nearness-to zones, distance from water (as a terrestrial animal requirement but not directly observable within each pixel or map cell). The new ecosystem is the multi-dimensional, temporal, hypervolume of the region and its relevant surround. EPA computer mapping systems will be used as well as that of the Conservation Management Institute and the Geography Department of Radford University and Virginia Tech.

Start-up, structure, dynamics, and relations are the four classic ecosystem categories. Descriptions of structure will continue. Dynamics are centered on succession and biomass per unit area per unit time (classic ecosystem production estimates). Production must be related to the biomass units, (the tree, fish, snail, grass, mouse, shrew, etc.) so that when the demand units for objectives in each taxonomic unit, deficits or excesses can be assessed. Status, condition at a time, can be thereby assessed (even though no action to change the status may be feasible or known). Human value is attached to each structural element in setting objectives.

Most first-phase models will address:

  1. modern succession or transitions
  2. biological richness and abundance
  3. human-caused change in geologic structure and dynamics
  4. soil, topography, and geologic dynamics including mapping of appropriate soil uses
  5. climatic dynamics

Congress now has many bills before it addressing risk assessment. We propose to address risk in the ecosystem models in terms of probability of occurrence in a pixel and probability of achieving the level of demand established in objectives. Results may be expressed as a pseudo expected value, well known in economic models. "Occurrence" becomes probable occurrence or [1.0-the risk of failure]. Expected value will be described in detail as part of the objectives subsystem and where most actively used, in The Trevey.

Ecosystem work is critically important, but it achieves new meaning and relevance when it is seen as a major component of the objectives-achieving total system objectives, not some extra scientific work that may or may not be done -- depending on annual budgets. Elucidation of ecological principles is done to improve the functional model. Publication, even in new electronic formats, is secondary. Increased detail of modeling is laid aside if increased gains in regional performance scores cannot be foreseen. Statistical confidence levels are relaxed to alpha of 0.3 or less. Sample sizes are reduced and operational results are thereby hastened. Ability to model expert decisions well (as well as the ecosystem itself) becomes the new criterion, with pressure for rapid continual improvements.

Emphasis will be on non-migrant species for these are the primary species depending on the region for breeding and wintering. Assuming responsibility for species predominantly in the control of others is unreasonable. The staff's support of migrants may be used in justifications, but where migrants are among the objectives, the region's score may decline for reasons totally unrelated to local, even superior, action. Citizens need to encourage national and international agency work for the migrant species of birds, mammals, fish, and insects (the Monarch butterfly).


A Potential Research Program: Wilderness Wildlife
  1. The Role of Wildlife in the Wilderness Experience
  2. Faunal and Floral Baselines in Wilderness "Baseline Areas"
  3. Strata for Effective Wilderness Wildlife Sampling
  4. The Role of Wilderness in Research on Global-Warming Effects on Fauna
  5. The Role of Dynamic Classification in Wilderness Spatial Analyses
  6. Comprehensive Wilderness Descriptive Systems
  7. Limits of Acceptable Change and Related Concepts in Wildlife
  8. The Role of the Wilderness Land Use Class in Regional Biodiversity Analyses
  9. The Wilderness Furbearer Resource
  10. Big Game Harvests in USFS Wilderness and Related Lands
  11. The Wilderness Wildlife of India, Senegal and the US:a Comparative Analysis
  12. Intra- and Extra-Wilderness Faunal System Comparisons
  13. Faunal Uniqueness of Wildernesses
An example of the union of the four major parts of the Program -- (1) the region and its people, (2) the Rural System enterprise, (3) Partners, and (4) the universities and colleges -- is the proposed ecotourism project. Riedl and Vogelsong (Greenville, NC) said in a 2002 Northeastern Recreational Research Symposium, in general, that

increases in travel and tourism are leading to the destruction and degradation of our most pristine natural resources. Privatization, if utilized properly, can prevent these tourists from generating mayhem. Privatization will ensure the quality of a travel experience as well as maintain the beauty of a destination. Traditionally, tourism has focused on publicly managed national attractions such as National Parks and Forests. Public agencies are not able to meet the demand of recreational tourists under a mass-tourism framework.

A new concept of a Program for the region has been developed. It integrates (1) knowledge-base creation and research, 2) local enterprises and employment, (3) comprehensive computer-based decision aids, (4) ecosystem and economic modeling, and (5) new uses of the Internet for staff, landowners, citizens, students, and the visiting public. It starts in the headwaters and extends throughout The New.

Rural System will market the rich resources of the region, manage lands for residents and absentee owners, create related sales and services of equipment, clothing, food, lodging, and supplies; offer guided tours and unique experiences; develop new organizations with lasting memberships; and attract gifts, bequests, and contract research projects. The tours will provide opportunities for students for work experience and education, funds for tuition, and graduate research opportunities. Because of an unusual planned-research program, visitors may become participants in substantive profoundly helpful, research programs with demonstrated applications and usefulness.


A great rural and natural resource, exists in North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia. It is generally the water and lands of The New River. It can be protected and its use and benefits increased for a wide variety of local citizens, and thousands of visitors --- even in the face of stable or declining state and federal budgets. The proposed Program uses principles learned from general systems theory and 30 years of wildland research, systems development, ecosystem structure itself, computer mapping, and creative information system building. It exploits ideas of modern diverse corporation conglomerates that have parallels in ecosystems.

The concepts here need constructive critique to match well with local conditions. The next step will be for citizens of and friends of the region who see the financial, humane, and ecological worth of the the Programto aid in identifying and organizing the venture capital that, by first estimates, will pay off well in 7 years.

Recreation receipts brought in more money than grazing this year (2004) for the first time in the history of the Bureau of Land Management.

For fiscal year 2004, the BLM collected $13.5 million in recreation receipts compared to $10 million for grazing. What's more, the agency estimates that 93 percent of its contacts with the pubic are now related to recreation.

I am eager to discuss parts or all of this design document, in essence a proposal, and I am available for private discussions or presentations to groups. I have limited financial resources but am willing to share ideas and information and time to achieve my only objective ... modern, sophisticated, cost-effective management of the lands and waters of the world for its people ... for at least the next 150 years.

I'm developing related concepts for a USDA proposal and a related proposal to the Kellogg Foundation.


  1. New River Community Partners
  2. American Heritage Rivers - EPA
  3. RiverKeeper - the Hudson
  4. Blue Ridge Business Development Center
  5. Grayson County home page
  6. North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center, Inc.
  7. Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation
National Institutes for Water Resources on line data
  • Conservation Management Institute
  • Virginia Department of Environmental Quality water quality standards
  • New River West Virginia Parkway Project- (Virginia Tech, (2003) Prof. Skabelund)
  • See research and the Virginia Realtor' Marketing Region 15- the New River Valley
    Robert H. Giles, Jr., Ph. D., Professor Emeritus,
    College of Natural Resources, Virginia Tech,
    Blacksburg, Virginia, USA,
    504 Rose Avenue, Blacksburg, Virginia, USA 24060
    Phone 540-552-8672 or e-mail

    Perhaps you will share ideas with me about some of the topic(s) above .


    Rural System
    Robert H. Giles, Jr.
    July 3, 2005