A rural municipality, often abbreviated RM, is a form of municipality in the Canadian provinces of Manitoba and Saskatchewan, perhaps best comparable to counties or townships in the western United States. Unlike most counties in the United States or Canada, rural municipalities specifically exclude designated official cities, towns, villages, and First Nations Indian reserves from their territory. They are essentially the rural portion of what would normally be a county. In this way, they could perhaps best be compared to certain counties in the state of Virginia that have independent cities excluded from their territory, although, in Virginia there is usually only one independent city per county, whereas there can be many officially excluded communities in the geographical territory of rural municipalities.
The Municipal Ordinance of 1883 was enacted by the North-West Territories to provide services to a rural area and provide some means of municipal governing. Saskatchewan and Alberta became provinces in 1905. North West Territorial Government issues Statute Labour Ordinance (1897) and sets of Fire Districts, Statute Labour and Fire (SLF) Districts or Statute Labour Districts. Community residents could pay taxes or supply a couple days per quarter section labour constructing roads, bridges, fireguards instead of paying taxes. The prairie fire in the 19th century were devastating affairs. Fire districts were later called Local Improvement Districts which themselves were reformed into Rural Municipalities.
In Saskatchewan, Local Improvement Districts (1898), typically called LID, were the precursors of Rural Municipalities. December 13, 1909 saw the beginning of the discontinuance of Local improvement districts in favour of smaller rural municipal areas. Typically, an RM consists of about nine townships, each 6 miles by six miles in area. Settled areas of denser populations could form urban municipalities with as village, town or city governance. Above the tree line in northern Saskatchewan the large Northern Local Improvement District was replaced by the Department of Northern Saskatchewan in 1972 and was not subdivided into smaller Rural Municipalities. Old Post, Saskatchewan is the largest Rural Municipality and it was formed from the last Local Improvement District.
Alberta had numerical Improvement Districts which became Municipal Districts.
See also 
- List of rural municipalities in Manitoba
- List of rural municipalities in Saskatchewan
- Municipal government in Canada
- Saskatchewan Archives- Family History Research
- Canadian Rural Information Service - Municipal associations directory
- Rural Municipal Boundary Map
- Saskatchewan Gen Web - One Room School Project - Evolution
- SARM History
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