Methodology for Designation of Frontier and Remote Areas, 25599-25603 [2014-10193]

Download as PDF 25599 Federal Register / Vol. 79, No. 86 / Monday, May 5, 2014 / Notices TOTAL ESTIMATED ANNUALIZED BURDEN—HOURS Number of respondents Form name Number of responses per respondent Total responses Average burden per response (in hours) Total burden hours Patient Screening ................................................................. Patient Survey ...................................................................... 6,996 6,600 1 1 6,996 6,600 .17 1.25 1,189 8,250 Total National Study ..................................................... 6,996 1 13,596 1.42 9,439 Dated: April 25, 2014. Jackie Painter, Deputy Director, Division of Policy and Information Coordination. [FR Doc. 2014–10191 Filed 5–2–14; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4165–15–P DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES Health Resources and Services Administration Methodology for Designation of Frontier and Remote Areas Health Resources and Services Administration, HHS. ACTION: Final response. AGENCY: The Office of Rural Health Policy (ORHP) in the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) published a 60-day public notice in the Federal Register on November 5, 2012 (Federal Register volume 77, number 214, 66471–66476) describing a methodology for designating U.S. frontier areas. The Frontier and Remote Area (FAR) Codes methodology was developed in a collaborative project between ORHP and the Economic Research Service (ERS) in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). This notice responds to the comments received during this 60-day public notice. ADDRESSES: Further information on the Frontier and Remote Area (FAR) Codes is available at https://www.ers.usda.gov/ data-products/frontier-and-remote-areacodes.aspx. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Questions can be directed to Steven Hirsch via phone at (301) 443–7322; email to shirsch@hrsa.gov; or mailed to Office of Rural Health Policy, Health Resources and Services Administration, 5600 Fishers Lane, Parklawn Building, 17–W–55 Rockville, Maryland 20857; or fax to (301) 443–2803. emcdonald on DSK67QTVN1PROD with NOTICES SUMMARY: Background This project was intended to create a definition of frontier based on easily explained concepts of remoteness and VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:56 May 02, 2014 Jkt 232001 population sparseness. The goal was to create a statistical delineation that will be useful in a wide variety of research and policy contexts and adjustable to the circumstances in which it is applied. FAR areas are defined in relation to the time it takes to travel by car to the edges of nearby Urban Areas. Four levels are necessary because rural areas experience degrees of remoteness at higher or lower population levels that affect access to different types of goods and services. The four FAR Levels are defined as follows (travel times are calculated oneway by the fastest paved road route): (1) Frontier Level 1 areas are 60 minutes or greater from Census Bureau defined Urban Areas of 50,000 or more population; (2) Frontier Level 2 areas are 60 minutes or greater from Urban Areas of 50,000 or more people and 45 minutes or greater from Urban Areas of 25,000– 49,999; (3) Frontier Level 3 areas are 60 minutes or greater from Urban Areas of 50,000 or more people; 45 minutes or greater from Urban Areas of 25,000– 49,999; and 30 minutes or greater from Urban Areas of 10,000–24,999; and (4) Frontier Level 4 areas are 60 minutes or greater from Urban Areas of 50,000 or more people; 45 minutes or greater from Urban Areas of 25,000– 49,999; 30 minutes or greater from Urban Areas of 10,000–24,999; and 15 minutes or greater from Urban Areas of 2,500–9,999. Comments on the FAR Codes and HRSA Response The ORHP received twenty-six responses to the request for comments. Many of the comments received dealt with similar concerns over either the details of the proposed methodology or the potential use of the FAR codes in directing resources. Several commenters noted that the data used to assign FAR codes were from the 2000 Census rather than the more recent 2010 Census. When ORHP and USDA began the process of developing the methodology in 2008, only Census 2000 data were available. As stated in the initial Federal Register PO 00000 Frm 00039 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 notice, the FAR codes will be updated for all 50 states using Census 2010 data. There were also commenters who believed that decennial updates to FAR codes would be too infrequent to be current. ORHP will examine the possibility of using American Community Survey data to update FAR codes in the future. In particular, HRSA sought public comments on: 1. The use of a population threshold of 50,000 as the central place from which to measure in defining FAR areas; 2. The use of 60 minutes travel time from the central place; 3. Whether the 50 percent population threshold for assigning frontier status to a ZIP code/census tract is the appropriate level for the four standard provided levels; 4. Other ways of representing urban and rural areas; 5. Alternatives to using grid cells for measuring remoteness; 6. Applicability of the FAR methodology to island populations; and 7. Need for a Census tract and county version of the FAR. Comment: On the use of a population threshold of 50,000 as the central place from which to measure, there was no consensus of views expressed and many commenters did not address the issue. Comments received correctly pointed out that there are some states (such as Alaska, Wyoming, or New Mexico) which have few urban areas with populations of over 50,000. One commenter noted that, ‘‘Population size is not necessarily a reliable measure of the goods and services that will be available or other important factors.’’ Another commenter also believed that there are great differences between urban areas of only 50,000 people and urban areas with hundreds of thousands or millions of inhabitants. There were also comments received that concurred with the use of the population threshold of 50,000 as appropriate for the purpose. Response: No comment received suggested a threshold other than 50,000. The population threshold of 50,000 also forms the core for both the Urbanized E:\FR\FM\05MYN1.SGM 05MYN1 emcdonald on DSK67QTVN1PROD with NOTICES 25600 Federal Register / Vol. 79, No. 86 / Monday, May 5, 2014 / Notices Areas of the Census Bureau and Metropolitan Areas as defined by the Office of Management and Budget. ORHP believes urban areas of 50,000 or more have a sufficient population base to support necessary services, including advanced medical services, and that there is no need to change the threshold. Comment: ORHP received comments not only on the use of the 60-minute travel time, but also on what was the correct point from which to measure travel time. Many comments were received from the State of Alaska all of which made the point that being a 60minute drive from an urban area is considerably different than having to travel 60 or more minutes by air or boat to reach an urban area, both of which are more subject to being limited by weather conditions. Commenters also noted that travel time might not be directly related to distance. Traveling 60 minutes by air means that the originating location is much further from the central area than a 60-minute trip by automobile. Even the distance traveled by car in 60 minutes can be significantly different depending on roads and speed. One commenter noted, ‘‘Physical distance is important too. If I can typically travel 70 miles in one hour vs. 40 miles in one hour, even though the travel time models make this ‘‘equivalent,’’ there may be different consequences in terms of availability of local resources, costs in accessing and utilizing services, providing services, etc.’’ Problems with the increase or diminution of travel time due to weather conditions were also mentioned more than once. One commenter wrote, ‘‘While the 60 minute framework is a useful benchmark, there would be areas affected seasonally where the distance alone would not accurately reflect the driving time. Winter snow in passes is one example, and high density seasonal traffic in vacation or tourist areas is another. If it is possible to incorporate these seasonal shifts into the determination, this would more accurately reflect the barriers faced by our citizens.’’ Response: ORHP recognizes that commenters are correct that the 60minute travel time represents different distances depending on circumstances, such as available roads or highways, and depending on the mode of transportation used, such as cars, boats, or aircraft. The 60-minute travel time is a minimum by default. The commenters were also correct to note that travel times can be much greater than 60 minutes. At the same time, for those who live in areas accessible only by water or air, VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:56 May 02, 2014 Jkt 232001 travel time is assumed to be at least 60 minutes even though it may actually be less. This is done in an effort to recognize the barriers created by lack of ground transport and the frequent limitations on availability of transport by water or air. Therefore, we believe that the current model addresses concerns stated in regards to remote areas with limited road infrastructure or that are reliant on non-road transport. Comments that weather can affect the distance that can be traveled in 60 minutes, or even prevent travel, were also correct. However, there is no data source we know of that will allow the FAR codes to be adjusted for weather conditions. While we recognize the various problems with the assumptions inherent in the use of a 60-minute minimum travel time, ORHP believes that the 60minute travel time represents an appropriate minimum. Programmatic users of the FAR codes could choose to incorporate weather and seasonal variations in access in their criteria if such information is available. Comment: Several commenters also believed that 60 minutes travel did not represent a great barrier to access to the urban area and that there should be another level of designation for extremely remote Frontier Areas. Response: ORHP agrees with the comments received that there can be significantly greater travel time than 60 minutes and that communities would then face greater barriers to services than those at 60-minutes travel time from an Urbanized Area. ORHP will examine the possibility of designating another, more remote level that will be 2 or more hours travel time from the nearest Urbanized Area in future versions of the FAR Codes. This will require additional data analysis and testing before another level could be added to the Codes. Comment: Comments on the use of travel to the nearest edge of the urban area raised concerns about the kinds of services that are available at the edge of urban areas, the possible size of the urban area itself, and whether the centroid of the area would not be a better point from which to measure from. Over a third of commenters felt that measuring to the center of the urban area had advantages over measuring to the edge. Response: While in many cases the commenters’ observations on services available at the edge of urban areas are accurate, the principal reason for using the edge rather than the center of an urban area is that the edge is the same for all urban areas; it represents the point where population density falls PO 00000 Frm 00040 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 below 500 people per square mile. While the edge is a consistent point to measure from, the center is not. The center may be one mile from an edge or it may be many miles from the edge in the case of large population areas. Neither is it self-evident what the ‘‘center’’ is. Large urban areas may contain several agglomerations of population, none of which may be considered the geographic or population ‘‘center.’’ Measuring travel from a centroid would increase the areas qualifying as frontier and remote, even though those areas could be located close to the edge of the urban area. In addition, many urban areas have resources readily available in suburbs and using the centroid would discount access to those resources. ORHP does not believe that using the centroid would lead to greater accuracy designating Frontier and Remote areas and will continue to use travel time from the edge of the urban area. Comment: The 50 percent population threshold for the ZIP code or Census Tract versions of the FAR codes received few comments. One comment suggested use of a gradated level to indicate the percentage of the population that is FAR instead of simply designating a ZIP or tract once the percentage reaches 50 percent. One commenter noted, ‘‘Aggregation works well when population is evenly dispersed in a candidate area, but can lead to inaccuracy if the population of an area is concentrated in a single location.’’ Commenters from Alaska pointed out that Census tracts there can be extremely large, which may lead to a problem. There were commenters who concurred with the use of the 50 percent threshold. ‘‘We recognize there are scenarios in which a ZIP code may be designated as urban based on a commuting population being concentrated in a small percentage of the land area of a very large ZIP code (most like to occur in Western states). Those anomalies can be resolved by adjusting the percentage of the population downward, which is possible given the public availability of the data.’’ Response: No other threshold was suggested by commenters that could replace the 50 percent threshold for designation of Frontier ZIPs or Census Tracts. ORHP believes that the 50 percent threshold is a reasonable criterion for designating ZIP areas or Census Tracts as FAR regions. When the data analysis with Census 2010 is completed, users will have access to variables that show, for each ZIP code, E:\FR\FM\05MYN1.SGM 05MYN1 emcdonald on DSK67QTVN1PROD with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 79, No. 86 / Monday, May 5, 2014 / Notices the percentage of the population that is designated frontier, and therefore can set their own thresholds if the need arises to use some level other than 50 percent. Comment: Other ways of representing urban and rural areas were suggested by a few commenters. One commenter wrote, ‘‘States have identified a number of distinct areas and communities, currently categorized as frontier under other designations discussed in Section 2.2, which do not appear in the dataset resulting from the FAR methodology. The designation of these areas and communities as non-frontier is problematic if they are to be given consideration for federal programs depending on the FAR methodology.’’ Another commenter mentioned several methods used in other countries. Response: While ORHP recognizes that states can and should set standards for their own programmatic use, for the purpose of setting a national standard, allowing use across the entire United States, it is important to use consistent measures. ORHP believes that the Census Bureau’s designation of Urbanized Areas is a uniform national standard and cannot be replaced by standards that would change from state to state. While the information on other countries’ use of other methods is informative, the Census Bureau’s standards work best for a national standard. Comment: Several comments were received on use of the one kilometer grid cells that are used to overlay the whole country. One commenter noted, ‘‘The use of one by one kilometer grid cells has the potential to be a very powerful tool, especially if local organizations are provided with a means to access and manipulate that data . . . However, even such fine-grained data cannot capture every variation impacting the remoteness of an area. Local input can complement the use of the FAR methodology to determine remoteness.’’ A State Department of Health commented ‘‘The methodology provides more precision by using . . . a 1 x 1 kilometer grid level.’’ However, other commenters were concerned with use of the grid system. ‘‘The first component of the method we take issue with is the assignment of the 1 square kilometer cells . . . Population assignments across these cells could vary greatly across even thinly settled areas, unless there was a fixed way to determine the assigned placement of these cells from east to west, and from north to south. It was unclear how grid assignment was determined.’’ VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:56 May 02, 2014 Jkt 232001 Response: The FAR Codes did use a fixed method to determine the assigned placement of the cells. The initial web data product based on 2000 Census data did not provide detailed, grid-level maps of each state, a situation that will change with future updates. In the revision of the FAR methodology, the use of a 1 x 1 kilometer grid will be replaced with a 1⁄2 x 1⁄2 kilometer grid, which will increase accuracy, and further functionality will be added to the Web site allowing users to drill down and examine small areas. ORHP believes that this level of analysis obviates the need to overlay other sources of data, while still allowing users to include other data appropriate to their use of the FAR codes. Comment: Many comments were received on the applicability of the FAR methodology to island populations, with several stating that without more detailed information on which islands were classified under which codes it was impossible to evaluate their effect. One commenter from Hawaii noted, ‘‘With the information provided, it is fairly easy to determine if our small, populated islands would qualify, but it is more difficult to evaluate the impact of this methodology on remote areas on the islands of Maui and Hawaii.’’ Response: ORHP believes travel time on any island would be treated the same way as travel time on the mainland and would produce similar results. Islands with small populations would be classified as remote, while islands with large populations could have areas that are classified as FAR depending on their distance from the population center. Comment: A comment received from a clinic located on an island in the State of Maine pointed out that their ZIP code was not classified as FAR even though they are located on an island. Response: This may be due to a mismatch between ZIP code areas and the FAR grid analysis. In cases where an error is either discovered or suspected, ORHP will examine the issue and make corrections where data have not been listed correctly. Comment: Multiple commenters noted, ‘‘The proposed FAR methodology references the need for designation of island and coastal locations without road access, but makes only a limited specification of how these situations should be handled—the addition of 60 minutes travel time to these locations. While this will lead to the designation of many island or coastal locations in their own ZCTAs [ZIP Code Tabulation Areas], it is not entirely clear how this will impact island/coastal communities combined into larger ZCTAs. There are multiple island/coastal locations where PO 00000 Frm 00041 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 25601 actual travel time on scheduled ferries is less than 60 minutes. A more robust approach is needed for dealing with the variety of different island/coastal locations in the nation.’’ While there were several examples involving islands given in the Federal Register notice, there were also concerns on whether bush communities in Alaska, although not technically islands, were just as isolated as though they were surrounded by water. At the same time, islands that are part of a major Metropolitan Area could qualify as FAR Level 4 even though they might have far easier access to services available in large population areas than would a community in the Alaskan frontier. Response: ORHP believes that those who commented on island populations and residents of isolated areas, such as the Alaskan bush, have legitimate concerns. The update of the FAR codes based on 2010 Census data should clarify the status of island populations. ORHP notes that the 60-minute travel time is a minimum and is not intended to be exact. Travel times on land, as well as by air or water, could be far greater than 60 minutes. In the case of islands or areas where only air or water transport is available, the default to 60 minutes is not meant to accurately reflect travel under all conditions. Travel time will frequently exceed 60 minutes or may be less, but the use of the default is meant to reflect the difficulty in assuring access to areas where air or water travel is required. As mentioned above, ORHP will examine the possibility of designating another, more remote level that will be 2 or more hours travel time from the nearest Urbanized Area, which would allow a more accurate designation of the Alaskan populations mentioned by commenters. There will be an analysis of 2010 Census data to determine whether it is feasible to designate islands as FAR Level 4, when the actual travel time is less than 60 minutes travel time from a large population center. Comment: Multiple comments were received from Alaska which pointed out that the Bethel Urban area comprises a large land area and includes multiple communities. Response: The commenters are understandably concerned about the distances between population centers in Alaska. ORHP will examine the issue when data from Alaska are added to the FAR codes through use of the Census 2010 data, to determine whether the use of the grid layer will allow an accurate representation of the Frontier status of the communities that make up the Bethel Census area. E:\FR\FM\05MYN1.SGM 05MYN1 emcdonald on DSK67QTVN1PROD with NOTICES 25602 Federal Register / Vol. 79, No. 86 / Monday, May 5, 2014 / Notices Comment: The final question ORHP presented involved issuing Census Tract or county versions of the FAR codes. One group wrote, ‘‘The Panel recognizes value in having data available in geographic metrics other than ZIP code, particularly for integration across data sources. However, given current ability to measure areas using RUCA codes or Urban Influence Codes, making the data available for designating FARs by those areas is not a priority for completing the process of FAR designation. The value of the new classification system is its ability to be more refined in identifying FARs, which is best accomplished with analysis based on ZIP codes.’’ Another group supported census tract and county versions of FAR to aid in comparative analysis. Several organizations wrote, ‘‘If the methodology is going to begin at the 1 x 1 kilometer grid level and is intended to be used flexibly by policymakers, then, of course, it should be organized so that aggregation at a variety of geographic and political levels should be possible. We suggest that the grid data should be organized in a data base in which it can be aggregated at a variety of levels, including, each town, county, Indian reservation (or other land designation), school district, county, census block, census tract, etc. But, most importantly, each aggregation should be accompanied by clear definition of how it was developed.’’ Response: As future refinements or revisions are made to the methodology, details will be made public at the FAR Codes Web site: www.ers.usda.gov/dataproducts/frontier-and-remote-areacodes.aspx. ORHP will examine making different levels of aggregation based on geographic units available at the Web site. Comment: A large number of commenters were not satisfied with the use of ZIP code areas. Especially in rural areas, ZIP codes can cover large areas of land including a large population center, which may conceal the isolation of areas far from the populated place. Response: ORHP agrees with commenters that when attempting to compare populations with geographic boundaries that do not match, inaccurate classifications are inevitable. Future web access to FAR data not based on ZIP code areas but using the grid cells will allow greater specificity in analysis, which ORHP believes will deal with the commenters concerns. Comment: Eight organizations involved in Tribal health care commented that the FAR codes were developed without Tribal input. Response: While ORHP did sponsor five regional stakeholder meetings VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:56 May 02, 2014 Jkt 232001 across the United States which were all announced in the Federal Register in order to allow public input, ORHP has also sought input through the comment process and welcomes further input in future revisions of the FAR codes from tribal organizations and others. Comment: Several commenters believed that it was difficult to impossible to assess FAR codes without any indication of how they will be applied to analysis or used programmatically. Response: As was mentioned in the original Federal Register notice, ORHP has not used FAR codes to determine programmatic eligibility nor has any other agency indicated any intention to use them to direct resources. The codes are available and can be used with additional sources of data, including demographic data, depending on the purpose. However, neither ORHP nor USDA can anticipate how the codes may be used in the future. In the event FAR codes are put to programmatic use, comments could be directed to the relevant organizations that chose their use. Comment: Several commenters requested a comparison showing whether areas that are classified as ‘‘frontier’’ using other methodologies are also classified as frontier using FAR codes and whether areas are classified as FAR even though they are not ‘‘frontier’’ under other methodologies. Response: ORHP understands the concerns expressed by the commenters. While such an analysis is possible, it would not be very instructive since FAR is not simply an attempt to designate the same areas as frontier using a different methodology. ORHP believes that the FAR codes are a new, data-driven methodology and they are offered for use or for analysis. Other methods may be better suited for particular applications and the FAR codes are not intended to supplant or replace other definitions. Comment: Several comments were received such as this one saying that ‘‘The FAR levels are based on distance only and do not include a density consideration.’’ Response: Population density is a key part of this methodology. Density is captured much more accurately on the 1x1 km level rather than being measured based on entire counties of vastly different areas. Use of counties as a unit is problematic because of the lack of uniformity. Use of counties would allow too much low-density area to be classified as non-Frontier due to the counties overall population density concealing the reality of remote, lowdensity areas. PO 00000 Frm 00042 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 Urbanized Areas have population density of over 500 per square mile. Distance from Urbanized Areas determines density to a very significant extent. The larger the population of the Urbanized Area, the greater the distance that must be travelled to get to a low threshold population density. On average, rural densities drop to ten people per square mile at the following travel times: 50 minutes for Urbanized Areas of 2,500 to 10,000 people; 70 minutes for Urbanized Areas of 10,000 to 25,000; 95 minutes for Urbanized Areas of 25,000 to 50,000; and 150 minutes for Urbanized Areas above 50,000. The FAR codes measurement from the edge of Urbanized Areas, where population density falls below 500 people per square mile, assures that density is a primary consideration. Comment: Several comments also requested that an appeals process be added to the FAR methodology. As one commenter noted, ‘‘Participants at every meeting raised the critical importance of providing a process to allow local entities (state, tribes, etc.) to provide additional information specific to local conditions and to request designation.’’ Another comment received stated, ‘‘It is recommended that the issuing agencies establish a mechanism for submission and review of state, tribal and local requests for designation of frontier areas consistent with established language for HPSA and MUA/P language.’’ Response: While ORHP realizes that no designation, either for rural areas or for Frontier areas, can be perfect, ORHP currently uses a data-driven definition of rurality to determine program eligibility. ORHP also sought a statistically based, nationally consistent definition of frontier territory; one that is adjustable within a reasonable range, and applicable in different research and policy contexts. In both cases, delineations of rural or frontier areas, opening a process to allow individuals or organizations to appeal to change a specific area’s designation based on criteria other than the defined data could cause more problems than it would fix. The advantage of having set criteria would be lost as more individual exceptions were added. Neither OMB, the Census Bureau, nor the USDA have appeals processes regarding their designations. If changes need to be made, the criteria are changed which results in a uniform, national standard that is clearly understandable even though there are always grey areas that can be considered misclassified. The FAR codes can be used programmatically, but ORHP and USDA E:\FR\FM\05MYN1.SGM 05MYN1 Federal Register / Vol. 79, No. 86 / Monday, May 5, 2014 / Notices Conclusion There are many different definitions of what constitutes both rural and frontier areas. The FAR codes are not offered as a replacement for other definitions but as one alternative that may be useful in research or for programmatic use. ORHP considers many of the comments received to be useful in future revisions of the FAR codes and appreciates the interest and passion of the commenters who are concerned with the population of the United States who reside in remote and isolated areas. Further comments and suggestions on the FAR codes are welcome. Dated: April 25, 2014. Mary K. Wakefield, Administrator. [FR Doc. 2014–10193 Filed 5–2–14; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4165–15–P DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES National Institutes of Health emcdonald on DSK67QTVN1PROD with NOTICES FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: BILLING CODE 4140–01–P [FR Doc. 2014–10152 Filed 5–2–14; 8:45 am] National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; Notice of Closed Meeting Pursuant to section 10(d) of the Federal Advisory Committee Act, as amended (5 U.S.C. App.), notice is hereby given of a meeting of the Division of Intramural Research Board of Scientific Counselors, NIAID. The meeting will be closed to the public as indicated below in accordance with the provisions set forth in section 552b(c)(6), Title 5 U.S.C., as amended for the review, discussion, and evaluation of individual intramural programs and projects conducted by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, including consideration of personnel qualifications and performance, and the competence of individual investigators, the disclosure of which would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy. Name of Committee: Division of Intramural Research Board of Scientific Counselors, NIAID. Date: June 9–11, 2014. Time: June 9, 2014, 8:00 a.m. to 6:35 p.m. 17:56 May 02, 2014 Agenda: To review and evaluate personal qualifications and performance, and competence of individual investigators. Place: National Institutes of Health, Rocky Mountain Laboratories, Hamilton, MT 59840. Time: June 10, 2014, 7:30 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. Agenda: To review and evaluate personal qualifications and performance, and competence of individual investigators. Place: National Institutes of Health, Rocky Mountain Laboratories, Hamilton, MT 59840. Time: June 11, 2014, 7:30 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. Agenda: To review and evaluate personal qualifications and performance, and competence of individual investigators. Place: National Institutes of Health, Rocky Mountain Laboratories, Hamilton, MT 59840. Contact Person: Kathryn C. Zoon, Ph.D., Director, Division of Intramural Research, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, NIH, Building 31, Room 4A30, Bethesda, MD 20892, 301–496–3006, kzoon@ niaid.nih.gov. Any interested person may file written comments with the committee by forwarding the statement to the Contact Person listed on this notice. The statement should include the name, address, telephone number and when applicable, the business or professional affiliation of the interested person. (Catalogue of Federal Domestic Assistance Program Nos. 93.855, Allergy, Immunology, and Transplantation Research; 93.856, Microbiology and Infectious Diseases Research, National Institutes of Health, HHS) Dated: April 28, 2014. David Clary, Program Analyst, Office of Federal Advisory Committee Policy. believe that it is best to leave individual program decisions on how to use FAR codes and what additional criteria to use, if any, to programmatic staff. Therefore, neither ORHP nor USDA will undertake reviews except in cases where erroneous classifications may have been made. VerDate Mar<15>2010 Jkt 232001 25603 Valery Gordon, Ph.D., Acting Director, Clinical Research Program, Office of Science Policy, NIH; email: gordonv@ od.nih.gov; telephone: 301–496–9838. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The stakeholder teleconference meeting will enable the NIH to gather perspectives from interested parties on issues related to the clinical trial recruitment and retention that could be explored in the workshop. For the purposes of planning the workshop agenda, the NIH is particularly interested in the perspectives of public foundations and other organizations currently working in this area. The topics that are to be explored in the workshop include the following: Outside coordination with NIH-supported clinical trials and public foundations; models to identify and support trial participants; potential public-private partnerships; methods to increase participation, including underrepresented and uninsured populations; and potential measures to track and monitor participation in NIHsupported clinical trials. Dated: April 26, 2014. Lawrence A. Tabak, Principal Deputy Director, NIH. [FR Doc. 2014–10154 Filed 5–2–14; 8:45 am] DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES BILLING CODE 4140–01–P National Institutes of Health DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES Center for Scientific Review Announcement of Requirements and Registration for New Methods To Detect Bias in Peer Review National Institutes of Health Enrollment and Retention of Participants in NIH-Funded Clinical Trials—Notice of Meeting The National Institutes of Health (NIH) will hold a teleconference with interested stakeholders to gather perspectives on issues related to the enrollment and retention of research participants in NIH-funded clinical trials. The stakeholder input will inform the planning of an NIH workshop on this topic that will be scheduled this summer. SUMMARY: May 16, 2014, from 3:00 p.m.– 4:30 p.m., ET. ADDRESSES: The meeting will be held by teleconference. A teleconference agenda and logistical information will be posted in advance of the teleconference at the following Web site: https:// osp.od.nih.gov/. DATES: PO 00000 Frm 00043 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 Authority: 15 U.S.C. 3719. The Center for Scientific Review (CSR) is seeking ideas for the detection of bias in NIH Peer Review of grant applications in a challenge titled ‘‘New Methods to Detect Bias in Peer Review.’’ This notice provides information regarding requirements and registration for this challenge. DATES: Submission Period: May 5, 2014 through 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time, June 30, 2014. Judging Period: July 16, 2014 through August 29, 2014. Winners Announced: September 2, 2014. ADDRESSES: Details on the NIH/CSR Peer Review process can be found on the Reviewer Resources tab at www.csr.nih.gov. For questions about this challenge, email SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\05MYN1.SGM 05MYN1

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[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 86 (Monday, May 5, 2014)]
[Notices]
[Pages 25599-25603]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-10193]


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DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES

Health Resources and Services Administration


Methodology for Designation of Frontier and Remote Areas

AGENCY: Health Resources and Services Administration, HHS.

ACTION: Final response.

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SUMMARY: The Office of Rural Health Policy (ORHP) in the Health 
Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) published a 60-day public 
notice in the Federal Register on November 5, 2012 (Federal Register 
volume 77, number 214, 66471-66476) describing a methodology for 
designating U.S. frontier areas. The Frontier and Remote Area (FAR) 
Codes methodology was developed in a collaborative project between ORHP 
and the Economic Research Service (ERS) in the U.S. Department of 
Agriculture (USDA). This notice responds to the comments received 
during this 60-day public notice.

ADDRESSES: Further information on the Frontier and Remote Area (FAR) 
Codes is available at https://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/frontier-and-remote-area-codes.aspx.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Questions can be directed to Steven 
Hirsch via phone at (301) 443-7322; email to shirsch@hrsa.gov; or 
mailed to Office of Rural Health Policy, Health Resources and Services 
Administration, 5600 Fishers Lane, Parklawn Building, 17-W-55 
Rockville, Maryland 20857; or fax to (301) 443-2803.

Background

    This project was intended to create a definition of frontier based 
on easily explained concepts of remoteness and population sparseness. 
The goal was to create a statistical delineation that will be useful in 
a wide variety of research and policy contexts and adjustable to the 
circumstances in which it is applied. FAR areas are defined in relation 
to the time it takes to travel by car to the edges of nearby Urban 
Areas. Four levels are necessary because rural areas experience degrees 
of remoteness at higher or lower population levels that affect access 
to different types of goods and services.
    The four FAR Levels are defined as follows (travel times are 
calculated one-way by the fastest paved road route):
    (1) Frontier Level 1 areas are 60 minutes or greater from Census 
Bureau defined Urban Areas of 50,000 or more population;
    (2) Frontier Level 2 areas are 60 minutes or greater from Urban 
Areas of 50,000 or more people and 45 minutes or greater from Urban 
Areas of 25,000-49,999;
    (3) Frontier Level 3 areas are 60 minutes or greater from Urban 
Areas of 50,000 or more people; 45 minutes or greater from Urban Areas 
of 25,000-49,999; and 30 minutes or greater from Urban Areas of 10,000-
24,999; and
    (4) Frontier Level 4 areas are 60 minutes or greater from Urban 
Areas of 50,000 or more people; 45 minutes or greater from Urban Areas 
of 25,000-49,999; 30 minutes or greater from Urban Areas of 10,000-
24,999; and 15 minutes or greater from Urban Areas of 2,500-9,999.

Comments on the FAR Codes and HRSA Response

    The ORHP received twenty-six responses to the request for comments. 
Many of the comments received dealt with similar concerns over either 
the details of the proposed methodology or the potential use of the FAR 
codes in directing resources.
    Several commenters noted that the data used to assign FAR codes 
were from the 2000 Census rather than the more recent 2010 Census. When 
ORHP and USDA began the process of developing the methodology in 2008, 
only Census 2000 data were available. As stated in the initial Federal 
Register notice, the FAR codes will be updated for all 50 states using 
Census 2010 data. There were also commenters who believed that 
decennial updates to FAR codes would be too infrequent to be current. 
ORHP will examine the possibility of using American Community Survey 
data to update FAR codes in the future.
    In particular, HRSA sought public comments on:
    1. The use of a population threshold of 50,000 as the central place 
from which to measure in defining FAR areas;
    2. The use of 60 minutes travel time from the central place;
    3. Whether the 50 percent population threshold for assigning 
frontier status to a ZIP code/census tract is the appropriate level for 
the four standard provided levels;
    4. Other ways of representing urban and rural areas;
    5. Alternatives to using grid cells for measuring remoteness;
    6. Applicability of the FAR methodology to island populations; and
    7. Need for a Census tract and county version of the FAR.
    Comment: On the use of a population threshold of 50,000 as the 
central place from which to measure, there was no consensus of views 
expressed and many commenters did not address the issue. Comments 
received correctly pointed out that there are some states (such as 
Alaska, Wyoming, or New Mexico) which have few urban areas with 
populations of over 50,000.
    One commenter noted that, ``Population size is not necessarily a 
reliable measure of the goods and services that will be available or 
other important factors.'' Another commenter also believed that there 
are great differences between urban areas of only 50,000 people and 
urban areas with hundreds of thousands or millions of inhabitants. 
There were also comments received that concurred with the use of the 
population threshold of 50,000 as appropriate for the purpose.
    Response: No comment received suggested a threshold other than 
50,000. The population threshold of 50,000 also forms the core for both 
the Urbanized

[[Page 25600]]

Areas of the Census Bureau and Metropolitan Areas as defined by the 
Office of Management and Budget. ORHP believes urban areas of 50,000 or 
more have a sufficient population base to support necessary services, 
including advanced medical services, and that there is no need to 
change the threshold.
    Comment: ORHP received comments not only on the use of the 60-
minute travel time, but also on what was the correct point from which 
to measure travel time. Many comments were received from the State of 
Alaska all of which made the point that being a 60-minute drive from an 
urban area is considerably different than having to travel 60 or more 
minutes by air or boat to reach an urban area, both of which are more 
subject to being limited by weather conditions. Commenters also noted 
that travel time might not be directly related to distance. Traveling 
60 minutes by air means that the originating location is much further 
from the central area than a 60-minute trip by automobile. Even the 
distance traveled by car in 60 minutes can be significantly different 
depending on roads and speed. One commenter noted, ``Physical distance 
is important too. If I can typically travel 70 miles in one hour vs. 40 
miles in one hour, even though the travel time models make this 
``equivalent,'' there may be different consequences in terms of 
availability of local resources, costs in accessing and utilizing 
services, providing services, etc.''
    Problems with the increase or diminution of travel time due to 
weather conditions were also mentioned more than once. One commenter 
wrote, ``While the 60 minute framework is a useful benchmark, there 
would be areas affected seasonally where the distance alone would not 
accurately reflect the driving time. Winter snow in passes is one 
example, and high density seasonal traffic in vacation or tourist areas 
is another. If it is possible to incorporate these seasonal shifts into 
the determination, this would more accurately reflect the barriers 
faced by our citizens.''
    Response: ORHP recognizes that commenters are correct that the 60-
minute travel time represents different distances depending on 
circumstances, such as available roads or highways, and depending on 
the mode of transportation used, such as cars, boats, or aircraft. The 
60-minute travel time is a minimum by default. The commenters were also 
correct to note that travel times can be much greater than 60 minutes.
    At the same time, for those who live in areas accessible only by 
water or air, travel time is assumed to be at least 60 minutes even 
though it may actually be less. This is done in an effort to recognize 
the barriers created by lack of ground transport and the frequent 
limitations on availability of transport by water or air. Therefore, we 
believe that the current model addresses concerns stated in regards to 
remote areas with limited road infrastructure or that are reliant on 
non-road transport.
    Comments that weather can affect the distance that can be traveled 
in 60 minutes, or even prevent travel, were also correct. However, 
there is no data source we know of that will allow the FAR codes to be 
adjusted for weather conditions.
    While we recognize the various problems with the assumptions 
inherent in the use of a 60-minute minimum travel time, ORHP believes 
that the 60-minute travel time represents an appropriate minimum. 
Programmatic users of the FAR codes could choose to incorporate weather 
and seasonal variations in access in their criteria if such information 
is available.
    Comment: Several commenters also believed that 60 minutes travel 
did not represent a great barrier to access to the urban area and that 
there should be another level of designation for extremely remote 
Frontier Areas.
    Response: ORHP agrees with the comments received that there can be 
significantly greater travel time than 60 minutes and that communities 
would then face greater barriers to services than those at 60-minutes 
travel time from an Urbanized Area. ORHP will examine the possibility 
of designating another, more remote level that will be 2 or more hours 
travel time from the nearest Urbanized Area in future versions of the 
FAR Codes. This will require additional data analysis and testing 
before another level could be added to the Codes.
    Comment: Comments on the use of travel to the nearest edge of the 
urban area raised concerns about the kinds of services that are 
available at the edge of urban areas, the possible size of the urban 
area itself, and whether the centroid of the area would not be a better 
point from which to measure from. Over a third of commenters felt that 
measuring to the center of the urban area had advantages over measuring 
to the edge.
    Response: While in many cases the commenters' observations on 
services available at the edge of urban areas are accurate, the 
principal reason for using the edge rather than the center of an urban 
area is that the edge is the same for all urban areas; it represents 
the point where population density falls below 500 people per square 
mile. While the edge is a consistent point to measure from, the center 
is not. The center may be one mile from an edge or it may be many miles 
from the edge in the case of large population areas. Neither is it 
self-evident what the ``center'' is. Large urban areas may contain 
several agglomerations of population, none of which may be considered 
the geographic or population ``center.''
    Measuring travel from a centroid would increase the areas 
qualifying as frontier and remote, even though those areas could be 
located close to the edge of the urban area. In addition, many urban 
areas have resources readily available in suburbs and using the 
centroid would discount access to those resources. ORHP does not 
believe that using the centroid would lead to greater accuracy 
designating Frontier and Remote areas and will continue to use travel 
time from the edge of the urban area.
    Comment: The 50 percent population threshold for the ZIP code or 
Census Tract versions of the FAR codes received few comments. One 
comment suggested use of a gradated level to indicate the percentage of 
the population that is FAR instead of simply designating a ZIP or tract 
once the percentage reaches 50 percent. One commenter noted, 
``Aggregation works well when population is evenly dispersed in a 
candidate area, but can lead to inaccuracy if the population of an area 
is concentrated in a single location.'' Commenters from Alaska pointed 
out that Census tracts there can be extremely large, which may lead to 
a problem.
    There were commenters who concurred with the use of the 50 percent 
threshold. ``We recognize there are scenarios in which a ZIP code may 
be designated as urban based on a commuting population being 
concentrated in a small percentage of the land area of a very large ZIP 
code (most like to occur in Western states). Those anomalies can be 
resolved by adjusting the percentage of the population downward, which 
is possible given the public availability of the data.''
    Response: No other threshold was suggested by commenters that could 
replace the 50 percent threshold for designation of Frontier ZIPs or 
Census Tracts. ORHP believes that the 50 percent threshold is a 
reasonable criterion for designating ZIP areas or Census Tracts as FAR 
regions. When the data analysis with Census 2010 is completed, users 
will have access to variables that show, for each ZIP code,

[[Page 25601]]

the percentage of the population that is designated frontier, and 
therefore can set their own thresholds if the need arises to use some 
level other than 50 percent.
    Comment: Other ways of representing urban and rural areas were 
suggested by a few commenters. One commenter wrote, ``States have 
identified a number of distinct areas and communities, currently 
categorized as frontier under other designations discussed in Section 
2.2, which do not appear in the dataset resulting from the FAR 
methodology. The designation of these areas and communities as non-
frontier is problematic if they are to be given consideration for 
federal programs depending on the FAR methodology.'' Another commenter 
mentioned several methods used in other countries.
    Response: While ORHP recognizes that states can and should set 
standards for their own programmatic use, for the purpose of setting a 
national standard, allowing use across the entire United States, it is 
important to use consistent measures. ORHP believes that the Census 
Bureau's designation of Urbanized Areas is a uniform national standard 
and cannot be replaced by standards that would change from state to 
state. While the information on other countries' use of other methods 
is informative, the Census Bureau's standards work best for a national 
standard.
    Comment: Several comments were received on use of the one kilometer 
grid cells that are used to overlay the whole country. One commenter 
noted, ``The use of one by one kilometer grid cells has the potential 
to be a very powerful tool, especially if local organizations are 
provided with a means to access and manipulate that data . . . However, 
even such fine-grained data cannot capture every variation impacting 
the remoteness of an area. Local input can complement the use of the 
FAR methodology to determine remoteness.''
    A State Department of Health commented ``The methodology provides 
more precision by using . . . a 1 x 1 kilometer grid level.''
    However, other commenters were concerned with use of the grid 
system. ``The first component of the method we take issue with is the 
assignment of the 1 square kilometer cells . . . Population assignments 
across these cells could vary greatly across even thinly settled areas, 
unless there was a fixed way to determine the assigned placement of 
these cells from east to west, and from north to south. It was unclear 
how grid assignment was determined.''
    Response: The FAR Codes did use a fixed method to determine the 
assigned placement of the cells. The initial web data product based on 
2000 Census data did not provide detailed, grid-level maps of each 
state, a situation that will change with future updates. In the 
revision of the FAR methodology, the use of a 1 x 1 kilometer grid will 
be replaced with a \1/2\ x \1/2\ kilometer grid, which will increase 
accuracy, and further functionality will be added to the Web site 
allowing users to drill down and examine small areas. ORHP believes 
that this level of analysis obviates the need to overlay other sources 
of data, while still allowing users to include other data appropriate 
to their use of the FAR codes.
    Comment: Many comments were received on the applicability of the 
FAR methodology to island populations, with several stating that 
without more detailed information on which islands were classified 
under which codes it was impossible to evaluate their effect.
    One commenter from Hawaii noted, ``With the information provided, 
it is fairly easy to determine if our small, populated islands would 
qualify, but it is more difficult to evaluate the impact of this 
methodology on remote areas on the islands of Maui and Hawaii.''
    Response: ORHP believes travel time on any island would be treated 
the same way as travel time on the mainland and would produce similar 
results. Islands with small populations would be classified as remote, 
while islands with large populations could have areas that are 
classified as FAR depending on their distance from the population 
center.
    Comment: A comment received from a clinic located on an island in 
the State of Maine pointed out that their ZIP code was not classified 
as FAR even though they are located on an island.
    Response: This may be due to a mismatch between ZIP code areas and 
the FAR grid analysis. In cases where an error is either discovered or 
suspected, ORHP will examine the issue and make corrections where data 
have not been listed correctly.
    Comment: Multiple commenters noted, ``The proposed FAR methodology 
references the need for designation of island and coastal locations 
without road access, but makes only a limited specification of how 
these situations should be handled--the addition of 60 minutes travel 
time to these locations. While this will lead to the designation of 
many island or coastal locations in their own ZCTAs [ZIP Code 
Tabulation Areas], it is not entirely clear how this will impact 
island/coastal communities combined into larger ZCTAs. There are 
multiple island/coastal locations where actual travel time on scheduled 
ferries is less than 60 minutes. A more robust approach is needed for 
dealing with the variety of different island/coastal locations in the 
nation.''
    While there were several examples involving islands given in the 
Federal Register notice, there were also concerns on whether bush 
communities in Alaska, although not technically islands, were just as 
isolated as though they were surrounded by water. At the same time, 
islands that are part of a major Metropolitan Area could qualify as FAR 
Level 4 even though they might have far easier access to services 
available in large population areas than would a community in the 
Alaskan frontier.
    Response: ORHP believes that those who commented on island 
populations and residents of isolated areas, such as the Alaskan bush, 
have legitimate concerns. The update of the FAR codes based on 2010 
Census data should clarify the status of island populations.
    ORHP notes that the 60-minute travel time is a minimum and is not 
intended to be exact. Travel times on land, as well as by air or water, 
could be far greater than 60 minutes. In the case of islands or areas 
where only air or water transport is available, the default to 60 
minutes is not meant to accurately reflect travel under all conditions. 
Travel time will frequently exceed 60 minutes or may be less, but the 
use of the default is meant to reflect the difficulty in assuring 
access to areas where air or water travel is required. As mentioned 
above, ORHP will examine the possibility of designating another, more 
remote level that will be 2 or more hours travel time from the nearest 
Urbanized Area, which would allow a more accurate designation of the 
Alaskan populations mentioned by commenters. There will be an analysis 
of 2010 Census data to determine whether it is feasible to designate 
islands as FAR Level 4, when the actual travel time is less than 60 
minutes travel time from a large population center.
    Comment: Multiple comments were received from Alaska which pointed 
out that the Bethel Urban area comprises a large land area and includes 
multiple communities.
    Response: The commenters are understandably concerned about the 
distances between population centers in Alaska. ORHP will examine the 
issue when data from Alaska are added to the FAR codes through use of 
the Census 2010 data, to determine whether the use of the grid layer 
will allow an accurate representation of the Frontier status of the 
communities that make up the Bethel Census area.

[[Page 25602]]

    Comment: The final question ORHP presented involved issuing Census 
Tract or county versions of the FAR codes. One group wrote, ``The Panel 
recognizes value in having data available in geographic metrics other 
than ZIP code, particularly for integration across data sources. 
However, given current ability to measure areas using RUCA codes or 
Urban Influence Codes, making the data available for designating FARs 
by those areas is not a priority for completing the process of FAR 
designation. The value of the new classification system is its ability 
to be more refined in identifying FARs, which is best accomplished with 
analysis based on ZIP codes.''
    Another group supported census tract and county versions of FAR to 
aid in comparative analysis. Several organizations wrote, ``If the 
methodology is going to begin at the 1 x 1 kilometer grid level and is 
intended to be used flexibly by policymakers, then, of course, it 
should be organized so that aggregation at a variety of geographic and 
political levels should be possible. We suggest that the grid data 
should be organized in a data base in which it can be aggregated at a 
variety of levels, including, each town, county, Indian reservation (or 
other land designation), school district, county, census block, census 
tract, etc. But, most importantly, each aggregation should be 
accompanied by clear definition of how it was developed.''
    Response: As future refinements or revisions are made to the 
methodology, details will be made public at the FAR Codes Web site: 
www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/frontier-and-remote-area-codes.aspx. 
ORHP will examine making different levels of aggregation based on 
geographic units available at the Web site.
    Comment: A large number of commenters were not satisfied with the 
use of ZIP code areas. Especially in rural areas, ZIP codes can cover 
large areas of land including a large population center, which may 
conceal the isolation of areas far from the populated place.
    Response: ORHP agrees with commenters that when attempting to 
compare populations with geographic boundaries that do not match, 
inaccurate classifications are inevitable. Future web access to FAR 
data not based on ZIP code areas but using the grid cells will allow 
greater specificity in analysis, which ORHP believes will deal with the 
commenters concerns.
    Comment: Eight organizations involved in Tribal health care 
commented that the FAR codes were developed without Tribal input.
    Response: While ORHP did sponsor five regional stakeholder meetings 
across the United States which were all announced in the Federal 
Register in order to allow public input, ORHP has also sought input 
through the comment process and welcomes further input in future 
revisions of the FAR codes from tribal organizations and others.
    Comment: Several commenters believed that it was difficult to 
impossible to assess FAR codes without any indication of how they will 
be applied to analysis or used programmatically.
    Response: As was mentioned in the original Federal Register notice, 
ORHP has not used FAR codes to determine programmatic eligibility nor 
has any other agency indicated any intention to use them to direct 
resources. The codes are available and can be used with additional 
sources of data, including demographic data, depending on the purpose. 
However, neither ORHP nor USDA can anticipate how the codes may be used 
in the future. In the event FAR codes are put to programmatic use, 
comments could be directed to the relevant organizations that chose 
their use.
    Comment: Several commenters requested a comparison showing whether 
areas that are classified as ``frontier'' using other methodologies are 
also classified as frontier using FAR codes and whether areas are 
classified as FAR even though they are not ``frontier'' under other 
methodologies.
    Response: ORHP understands the concerns expressed by the 
commenters. While such an analysis is possible, it would not be very 
instructive since FAR is not simply an attempt to designate the same 
areas as frontier using a different methodology. ORHP believes that the 
FAR codes are a new, data-driven methodology and they are offered for 
use or for analysis. Other methods may be better suited for particular 
applications and the FAR codes are not intended to supplant or replace 
other definitions.
    Comment: Several comments were received such as this one saying 
that ``The FAR levels are based on distance only and do not include a 
density consideration.''
    Response: Population density is a key part of this methodology. 
Density is captured much more accurately on the 1x1 km level rather 
than being measured based on entire counties of vastly different areas. 
Use of counties as a unit is problematic because of the lack of 
uniformity. Use of counties would allow too much low-density area to be 
classified as non-Frontier due to the counties overall population 
density concealing the reality of remote, low-density areas.
    Urbanized Areas have population density of over 500 per square 
mile. Distance from Urbanized Areas determines density to a very 
significant extent. The larger the population of the Urbanized Area, 
the greater the distance that must be travelled to get to a low 
threshold population density. On average, rural densities drop to ten 
people per square mile at the following travel times: 50 minutes for 
Urbanized Areas of 2,500 to 10,000 people; 70 minutes for Urbanized 
Areas of 10,000 to 25,000; 95 minutes for Urbanized Areas of 25,000 to 
50,000; and 150 minutes for Urbanized Areas above 50,000.
    The FAR codes measurement from the edge of Urbanized Areas, where 
population density falls below 500 people per square mile, assures that 
density is a primary consideration.
    Comment: Several comments also requested that an appeals process be 
added to the FAR methodology. As one commenter noted, ``Participants at 
every meeting raised the critical importance of providing a process to 
allow local entities (state, tribes, etc.) to provide additional 
information specific to local conditions and to request designation.'' 
Another comment received stated, ``It is recommended that the issuing 
agencies establish a mechanism for submission and review of state, 
tribal and local requests for designation of frontier areas consistent 
with established language for HPSA and MUA/P language.''
    Response: While ORHP realizes that no designation, either for rural 
areas or for Frontier areas, can be perfect, ORHP currently uses a 
data-driven definition of rurality to determine program eligibility. 
ORHP also sought a statistically based, nationally consistent 
definition of frontier territory; one that is adjustable within a 
reasonable range, and applicable in different research and policy 
contexts. In both cases, delineations of rural or frontier areas, 
opening a process to allow individuals or organizations to appeal to 
change a specific area's designation based on criteria other than the 
defined data could cause more problems than it would fix. The advantage 
of having set criteria would be lost as more individual exceptions were 
added. Neither OMB, the Census Bureau, nor the USDA have appeals 
processes regarding their designations. If changes need to be made, the 
criteria are changed which results in a uniform, national standard that 
is clearly understandable even though there are always grey areas that 
can be considered misclassified.
    The FAR codes can be used programmatically, but ORHP and USDA

[[Page 25603]]

believe that it is best to leave individual program decisions on how to 
use FAR codes and what additional criteria to use, if any, to 
programmatic staff. Therefore, neither ORHP nor USDA will undertake 
reviews except in cases where erroneous classifications may have been 
made.

Conclusion

    There are many different definitions of what constitutes both rural 
and frontier areas. The FAR codes are not offered as a replacement for 
other definitions but as one alternative that may be useful in research 
or for programmatic use.
    ORHP considers many of the comments received to be useful in future 
revisions of the FAR codes and appreciates the interest and passion of 
the commenters who are concerned with the population of the United 
States who reside in remote and isolated areas. Further comments and 
suggestions on the FAR codes are welcome.

    Dated: April 25, 2014.
Mary K. Wakefield,
Administrator.
[FR Doc. 2014-10193 Filed 5-2-14; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4165-15-P