Office of Undergraduate Research

Migration, Rural Gentrification and Policy Responses in Rocky Mountains Region

In the 1990s, the Rocky Mountain region has become a trendy place to live, prompting the fastest rate of growth in the nation. Such growth has occurred in part from the migration of population from urbanized centers to the scenic, rural, non-metropolitan counties of the Rockies. Examples of such migration, and of consequent growth and change, are prolific in western Montana. Using the case of Missoula, Montana, I examine the nature of such urban to rural migration, its motivations, and the attendant changes within the community. Using the concept of rural gentrification from the literature of British geography, I argue that Missoula is conspicuously undergoing rural gentrification. I note that newcomers are predominantly an equity-rich, educated, middle-class, white population whose migration is inspired by a culture of consumption reflected in lifestyle choices, whereby the rural countryside is commodified and consumed. Such migration also indicates a longing for an Arcadian utopia, a yearning for an imagined, idyllic, bucolic past and a rejection of the increasingly chaotic and stressful urban lifestyle. Because of their prestige and economic power these newcomers act as rural gentrifiers and impose considerable change in the cultural landscape of the community through their ideas and resources. Such changes are especially evident in land use, house and land prices, politics, economy, and other cultural landscapes. These profound changes create groups of insiders and outsiders in the community, and can provoke inter-class as well as intra-class conflicts between newcomers and long-term residents. Such changes have also led to creation of growth management policies and regulations in a state that is famous for its anti-regulatory stance.

Tasks and responsibilities:

1. Transcribing interview tapes into word documents (Transcription machine will be provided).

2. Conducting library research

3. Examining Census data