Dwindling Small Towns Fight Back

Census data shows that Lacrosse, WA (pop. 315) and other small, rural towns are getting smaller. Some blame the Conservation Reserve Program. But Lacrosse and many others aren't going quietly - they're fighting to hang on.
March 17, 2011, 12pm PDT | Tim Halbur
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"We're not dead yet," Mayor Larry "Butch" Burgess says of tiny Lacrosse, WA in this article by John Stucke.

Judging by the numbers, that seems to be where Lacrosse and many other small, rural towns are headed. The latest Census figures show Lacrosse's population dropped from 415 to 315, and businesses have been gradually closing. While cities and larger towns around the state are growing in numbers and vibrancy, Washington's small towns seem to be emptying out.

Many place the blame on the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), which pays farmers not to till their land. Although it has many conservation benefits, the program means that farmers also won't be purchasing supplies from local stores or hiring employees, all of which can further speed small towns' decline.

In Lacrosse, though, Burgess is hopeful that community efforts to attract businesses and services and keep the school open will be enough to stem the demographic tide and keep the town alive.

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Published on Sunday, March 6, 2011 in The Spokesman-Review
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