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Howard's Rural Learning Center wins national award

HOWARD -- The Miner County Development Corporation and the Rural Learning Center in Howard were awarded a 2011 National Smart Growth Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday.

The award goes to five communities across the country that use innovative policies and strategies to strengthen their economies, provide housing and transportation options and protect the environment.

Members of the RLC were recognized at a ceremony Thursday in Washington, D.C.

"Smart growth is a crucial strategy for tackling the environmental and economic challenges we face in the 21st century, and the communities we're recognizing this year are leading the way with their successes," said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson.

The Rural Learning Center is responsible for building and operating the Maroney Commons in Howard.

The Maroney Commons was built using environmentally friendly techniques and features solar panels, a wind turbine, geothermal heating and cooling, porous outdoor pavement, a rainwater capture and storage system, and native landscaping.

The facility received the highest possible rating from the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, which measures the environmental sustainability of buildings.

U.S. Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., congratulated the RLC, calling the award a major accomplishment.

"The Howard community is using innovative ideas to spur the local economy while utilizing improved environmental practices, and the Rural Learning Center is a great example for other rural areas in our state," he said in a news release.

The release said Johnson is responsible for securing hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal earmarks to support the RLC, including one for $450,000 in 2003.