Influence of Urban Immigrants on Outdoor Recreation and Land Use in Teton Valley
Keywords:development, environment, household, land use, migration, wildland urban interface
AbstractReverse migration (urban to rural) to areas rich in outdoor recreation amenities has created a cultural phenomenon with serious implications for parks and recreation administration in the United States. The influx of ex-urban immigrants to rural areas creates unique challenges for parks and recreation managers. To understand and address these challenges managers need a detailed understanding of how exurban migrants change local socio-demographics and outdoor recreation demands. In this paper we use a case study in Teton Valley to address this need. Three hypotheses were tested related to the wildland urban interface: 1) ex-urban immigrants bring higher education levels, higher incomes, and more liberal political stances to their new communities; 2) ex-urban immigrants participate in more appreciative outdoor recreation activities (e.g., birding, hiking, camping) and fewer non-appreciative activities (e.g., hunting, fishing, all terrain vehicle [ATV] use) than natives and more rural immigrants; and 3) ex-urban immigrants threaten the ability to meet recreation demands by being more likely to build or buy their home in wildlands than natives or ex-rural immigrants. The survey results (n = 416, sampling error ± 4.8 percent), generally support these hypotheses. Ex-urban immigrants had significantly higher education levels than all other groups (H = 36.17, p < 0.001). Ex-urban and ex-town immigrants were nearly twice as likely to be Democrats (ex-urban = 36 percent, extown = 28 percent), and half as likely to be Republicans (ex-urban = 29 percent, ex-town = 29 percent), as natives and ex-rural immigrants (natives = 14 percent Democrat, 47 percent Republican; ex-rural = 14 percent Democrat, 43 percent Republican). Ex-urban migrants participated more in appreciative recreation (e.g., birding, hiking), and less in non-appreciative recreation (e.g., hunting, ATV use) than natives and immigrants with rural backgrounds. Ex-urban immigrants were almost twice as likely (37 percent) as other groups (ex-town immigrant = 21 percent, ex-rural immigrant = 21 percent, native = 18 percent) to build or buy a home in wildlands that controlled access to outdoor recreation areas (e.g., adjacent to public land or rivers). These results suggest parks and recreation managers face an ironic challenge: ex-urban migration to the wildland urban interface represents increased political will for publicly funded efforts to preserve open space and protect access to recreation areas, and the greatest threat to those objectives. Managers have several tools available to protect open space and access to recreation areas in these contexts including zoning changes, land trusts, and transferable development rights.
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