Wildland Development Concepts Wildland Development









Social 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 National Park.