Submitted to: Rangelands
Publication Type: Trade Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: December 15, 2007
Publication Date: February 1, 2008
Citation: Havstad, K.M. 2008. Essays of a peripheral mind: Creative destruction. Rangelands. 30(1):29-32. Technical Abstract: Since the 1950s the population of the western US has grown by more than 46 million people, and is projected to grow by an additional 20 million or so by 2025. The increased stress on the region’s natural resources, especially water (for recent descriptions of this stress see: http://www.npr.org/programs/atc/features/2003/aug/water/ or http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/21/magazine/21water-t.html?_r=1&oref=slogin), and the resulting impacts on these landscapes and its species, are well recognized. Yet, the extent to which this population increase has driven a transition of these regional rangelands from providing the classic provisioning services of food and fiber from livestock grazing to a much more diverse non agricultural set of goods and services is often not so readily grasped. The extent of this transition is driven home by an array of available statistics that reflect these changes (for a more complete description of rural transformations in America see the 2006 Carsey Institute Report at: http://www.carseyinstitute.unh.edu/documents/Demographics_complete_file.pdf). For example only 25% of western US non metro counties (72 counties of 286) have a principal economic dependency on agriculture, a number that is strongly influenced by just one state – Montana. Increasingly, these non metro areas are destinations for both recreation and retirement (over 47% of these counties are either retirement or recreation destinations, or both). The western U.S. has shifted from a rural to a metro based population with rural economics dependent on non-agricultural enterprises. Sustainable use of the natural resources of the western U.S. will now need to reflect the goods and services demanded by a non-agricultural oriented population.