Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Science (MS)

Degree Name

Geography (Community and Environmental Planning Option)

Department or School/College

Department of Geography

Committee Chair

Christiane von Reichert

Commitee Members

Chris Brick, Sarah Halvorson, Tom Foor


census, Clark Fork watershed, New West, socio-economic demographics


University of Montana


Over the past several decades, noticeable socio-economic changes have occurred in the Rocky Mountain region of the United States, most notably with regard to rapid population growth and concurrent land development. Scholars find this to be characteristic of a transition from the Old West of resource production and extraction to a New West of landscape consumption. This thesis uses indicators of socio-economic changes associated with the New West such as rapid population growth caused by amenity migration to examine changes in the Clark Fork watershed between 2000 and 2010. Using census and economic data, several categories of demographic, economic, and social measures are taken into account including population, housing, employment, and income. Various indicators are considered within each of these categories, and the findings are regarded within the process of transformation in the New West. Data is presented at different scales, from the watershed and individual sub-basin scales, to counties, census tracts, and census blocks. The findings indicate that changes associated with the New West continued to occur in the decade between 2000 and 2010, but at a slower pace and in an increasingly spatially concentrated manner. It is assumed that the recent recession, beginning in 2008, played some role in the socio-economic changes seen by the end of the decade, but due to the nature of census data, it is difficult to determine to what extent. This analysis suggests that dynamics associated with the New West did occur in the watershed over the past decade, though often unevenly. Different sub-regions of the watershed appear to be at different stages of transitioning towards the New West, and some areas, both at the sub-basin and at finer scales, are farther along in this transition than others. The findings suggest that especially those areas that are more mature in their transition towards the New West saw increased spatial and social polarization during the past decade, most likely precipitated by the decline in prosperity attributed to the recession.



© Copyright 2012 Benjamin C. Brewer