Aspects of Human Settlement
The rapid population growth of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem
(GYE) affects not only the plant and animal species of the area,
but also creates upheaval in the region’s traditional social
systems. Rising land
values cause property taxes to increase, and long-time residents
can be priced out if they cannot afford to pay them. To make matters worse, these increasing housing
costs come at a time when low-paying service sector jobs are
replacing traditional, high paying jobs in natural resource
extraction industries like timber and mining (Jobes 1991).
The rising cost of living has forced some long-time residents
to move to distant, less expensive areas, and face a long (and
sometimes dangerous) commute over mountain roads to their jobs
in town (Riebsame et al 1996).
New residents are attracted to the GYE by natural amenities
and recreation opportunities (Jobes 1995).
Their attitudes towards conservation often differ from
those of long-term residents; Rudzitis and Johansen (1989) found
that 65% of newcomers to Jackson, Wyoming, wanted more wilderness
protection, as opposed to only 35% of long-term residents.
The newcomers also considered landscape attributes to
be more important than job opportunities.
For many affluent new residents, their house in the GYE
is a second home or a retirement home, and local aesthetics
are more important than economics.
Many new residents of the GYE are temporary migrants. Only
one in five permanent residents of Bozeman, Montana has lived
there longer than ten years (Jobes 1988) and in Jackson, Wyoming,
the population is even less settled (Jobes 1991). This factor,
along with the class divisions between long-term residents and
newcomers, leads to a loss of a sense of community (Riebsame
et al 1996). Transient
residents are often disinterested in community institutions
like schools, churches, and local government (Jobes 1991).
National Park Service employees are also transferred
frequently, and are often resented by locals for their subsidized
housing and comparatively high wages (Jobes 1991).
Attitudes toward authority also differ between long-term and
new residents. New residents tend to be from urban areas (Riebsame
et al 1996), and are used to dealing with rules and regulations. Rural residents, on the other hand, tend to
place high value on privacy and freedom, and are wary of anyone
who tries to tell them what to do.
This resentment of the government and its policies has
made it very difficult to put in place regional plans that could
limit further urban development. Many long-term rural residents feel that it
is their right to do whatever they want with the land they own,
regardless of the consequences.
Some do not see any problem with urban development on
the private lands of the GYE because so much of the ecosystem
is owned by governmental agencies, and thus protected. For a
more complete treatment of this viewpoint, please visit the
website of Montanans for Property Rights, a grassroots
“citizens rights” and anti–regulation organization. Another local organization with a strong suspicion
of regulation is the controversial
Church of the Universal and Triumphant (CUT),
whose lands border on the northwestern corner of Yellowstone