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By contributor
updated 8/1/2011 6:32:34 PM ET 2011-08-01T22:32:34

Welcome to Yellow Pine, Idaho. Population: 32. Miles to nearest (big) town: 60. Cell phone service: None. Post Office: One, in the bottom floor of the postmaster's home.

Yellow Pine's post office is on the list of 3,653 that the U.S. Postal Service will review for closure. Although many have complained about the potential disappearance of certain post offices in urban areas, the loss would arguably have a much greater impact on rural communities like Yellow Pine.

These 10 cities could lose a lot of post offices

"It would be a hardship for our little town to keep running without a post office," said Darlene Rosenbaum, 70, in a telephone interview.

"Hopefully they don't close it. I'm not sure what all these people would do," added Rosenbaum, who runs the Yellow Pine Lodge.

The drive to the nearest post office outside of Yellow Pine takes about three hours in the summer, and five to six hours in the winter, Rosenbaum said.

That level of isolation means a near-pristine rural environment. The area has a rugged beauty — it's surrounded by national forests — which is what attracted Rosenbaum to Yellow Pine 27 years ago when she and her husband sold their ranch in Nevada after their three girls moved away.

They bought the lodge thinking they would fix it up and put it back on the market, but they loved the natural environment of Yellow Pine so much, they decided to stay, she said.  

The town is also high in the Idaho mountains, which means it gets plenty of snow. It snows so much during the winter that it only receives their mail three days a week. Rosenbaum, who doesn't use the Internet for anything, relies heavily on the mail for hotel reservations and monthly bills.

"I use mail for my business almost every day," Rosenbaum said. "Personally, it's our whole life."

The town was founded in the early 1900s as a mining town and today is best known for its Yellow Pine Harmonica Festival that attracts about 3,000 music lovers every August.

But the post office has lost about 20 percent of its postage revenue in the past three years, said Robert Vunder, the USPS district manager of marketing for Utah and Idaho. He said its revenue for 2010 was a mere $5,000.

"If you look at $5,000 revenue in a year, and we're open 303 days, you can see that's a losing proposition," Vunder said.

Because the US Postal Service has been losing billions of dollars in the last few years, they decided to review existing retail post offices that have "low activity," which means low foot traffic, average sales of less than $50 per day and less than two hours of work per week. Most are located within five miles of another post office, but some, like Yellow Pine's postal office, are all the town has to depend on.

Here's the list of offices up for review.

If the USPS were to close Yellow Pine’s post office, the quasi-governmental agency would try and figure out a way to relocate the mailboxes somewhere else in town so that people would still be able to send and receive mail, he said. However, those who depend on Yellow Pine's mailboxes would need to buy stamps online and have them mail-delivered or go out of town to buy stamps and send packages, unless USPS could find a store that would operate as a Village Post Office.

The USPS introduced the Village Post Office as a potential replacement for postal retail offices. They would be operated by local businesses such as pharmacies or grocery stores.

Rosenbaum said she sends packages out several times a year when she's mailing things to her children and seven grandchildren, and when hotel guests leave personal items at the hotel, which happens "quite often," she said. Since her only other option would be a UPS store that is 30 miles away in McCall, Idaho, she'd be forced to make the trek there or to Cascade, the town with the nearest post office.

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Steve Holloway, who owns Yellow Pine General Store and Silver Dollar Grill, said a lot of times if UPS drops off a package for someone, people know they can come to the restaurant and pick it up. He also said in the summertime they're open more than the post office is anyway.

"There’s workable solutions," he said. "But to have it dropped on us is kinda spooky ... we have more questions than answers."

Vunder said the USPS aims to have all those questions answered in the next 130-some days. The decision to review the more than 3,000 post offices for closure was a top down approach from Washington that was strictly number-based, he said. He'll be making a trip out to Yellow Pine soon to better understand their needs and how a potential closure would affect them.

"Tuesday was just day one," he said.

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Photos: Post offices on the USPS' list of possible closures

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  1. The Postal Service, which has been losing billions of dollars as more people communicate online, said last week that it is considering closing 3,653 of its post office locations and working with local businesses to fill the void. Here's a look at some on the list including this one in Philadelphia that is in Ben Franklin's former home and predates the American colonies. (Alex Brandon / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Philadelphia, Pa.

    The post office in in the Old City neighborhood is the only one in the country that doesn't fly a U.S. flag. That's because there wasn't one in 1775, when Benjamin Franklin founded it, before it later evolved into today's Postal Service. (Alex Brandon / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Yountville, Calif.

    Clerk Jean Bergen helps Randall Pettit as he drops off some mail at the post office at the Veterans Home of California. Postal Service spokeswoman Sue Brennan would not say whether the goal is to close all 3,700 locations, or whether there is a smaller target number of closures. (J.l. Sousa / Zuma Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Waverly, Wash.

    Waverly City Council member Evelyn Heinevetter holds a sign in supporting the town's post office. Nearly half of the 100 residents of Waverly turned out Monday night to protest plans to close the post office in the south Spokane County town. Council member Kim Billington says the post office is the only building in town that is staffed every day. (Dan Pelle / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Caratunk, Maine

    Appalachian Trail hikers use rural post offices along the route as refilling stations. They mail provisions to the offices and pick them up along their journey. Jon Appel, left, Greg Brown, and David Hyman, all of Pleasantville, N.Y., and Madelyn Hoagland-Hanson, of Philadelphia, prepare lunch outside the office in Caratunk, Maine (Robert F. Bukaty / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Caratunk, Maine

    Postmistress Marie Beane takes a call while boxes containing hikers' supplies, sent care of general delivery, await pickup at the post office. (Robert F. Bukaty / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Appalachian Trail thru-hiker David Hyman, left, and Greg Brown, both of Pleasantville, N.Y., sort through a "hiker's box" outside the post office in Caratunk, Maine. Hikers who receive packages containing more than they want to carry often leave behind food and gear that other hikers may want. (Robert F. Bukaty / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. San Francisco, Calif.

    Clerk Shun Wong waits for customers at the U.S. Postal Service Bayview Station. The Bayview Station is one of five in San Francisco that is being reviewed for closure. The Postal Service is calling the targeted outlets “low activity,” defined by low foot traffic, average sales of less than $50 per day. Most are located within five miles of another post office location. (Justin Sullivan / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. New Brunswick, N.J.

    The Handy Street Post Office is one of fifty retail outlets in New Jersey facing closure as the Postal Service looks to cut costs. The Postal Service, which primarily makes money by selling postage, has been badly hurt as people have shifted communications to e-mail and the Internet, and as competitors such as FedEx and UPS have increased their reach. (Mel Evans / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Fidelity, Ill.

    Elvin Buchanan's grandson, Hayden Gohen, 3, helps him check his post office box at the Fidelity Post Office. Fidelity is among at least 10 post offices in southwestern Illinois that are on a list to be studied for possible closure. Many people send their mail to the Fidelity Post Office to be stamped there as a romantic gesture, particularly near Valentine's Day. (John Badman / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Brooksville, Fla.

    ''They don't need to close this place,'' says Ronald Krna, 73, of Brooksville, as he picked up his mail from the post office box he's had since the building opened in Brooksville. Both the downtown Brooksville post office and the smaller one out in Istachatta are on the list. (Maurice Rivenbark / Zuma Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Mountain City, Nev.

    Residents, a contract mail carrier, and one of the town dogs, Rocky, stand in front of the Mountain City post office. If the U.S. Postal Service closes counter service in Mountain City as planned, the town may lose more than a friendly face behind a counter. Locals see it as losing part of the town's identity. (Ross Anderson / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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