Rural residential development in the Greater Yellowstone : rates, drivers, and alternative future scenarios : rates, drivers, and alternative future scenarios
Hernandez, Patricia Cristina
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Rates of immigration and rural land use change in the American West have far exceeded the national average, and have been exceptionally rapid in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Because the Greater Yellowstone is ecologically unique, is still largely undeveloped, and is characterized by unrestrictive land use policies, it is a particularly relevant place to study past and potential future growth in rural residential development. The scientific approach used to investigate trends in rural residential development involved the both the testing of specific hypotheses regarding historical development patters, as well as exploratory statistical analyses. Growth in rural residential development was quantified according to data collected from County Tax Assessors offices. Generalized linear models were used to examine recent drivers of growth. The results of these analyses were used to parameterize a spatially explicit simulation of future rural residential development. Our study reveals that immigration and rural development within the Greater Yellowstone has been strongly influenced by a number of socio-economic and bio-physical factors including agricultural suitability, transportation and services, natural amenities, and encroaching development. We also quantified the extent to which towns of various typologies influenced residential development in adjacent rural areas. The Rural Development Simulator was based on historical rates and patterns of growth, and was used to forecast alternative scenarios of rural housing for the year 2020. The forecasted increase in rural housing ranged from 27% in a low growth scenario, to 82% in a status quo scenario, and 234% in a boom scenario. Existing land use policies were shown to have a limited impact on the forecasted distribution of homes. An alternative growth management scenario was designed in which strategic configurations of zoning districts and conservation easements were shown to protect ecologically valuable areas without limiting future regional growth. Although the possibility exists for substantial social and ecological change in rural landscapes of the Greater Yellowstone, our findings highlight the potential for local policy decisions to effectively manage growth in rural residential development.