Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Science (MS)

Degree Name


Other Degree Name/Area of Focus

Community and Environmental Planning

Department or School/College


Committee Chair

Dr. Christiane VonReichert

Committee Co-chair

Dr. Anna Klene

Commitee Members

Dr. Elizabeth Metcalf


Development, Spatial Analysis, Regional, Landscape


University of Montana


In recent years, the U.S. Northern Rocky Mountain Region has undergone a broad shift in landscape resulting in previously working agricultural, forestry, or other natural resource-based lands transitioning into residential and commercial development. Sprawl, exurban development, loss of crop and forest land have been identified as development concerns in the region. The region is unique because it is generally comprised of smaller metropolitan and micropolitan centers and highly dispersed rural towns making haphazard development issues a concern across the rural‑urban continuum. To identify and describe shifts in development patterns from 2001 to 2016, structural landscape metrics were used to measure the change in composition and configuration of development patterns in sub‑regions in the Northern Rocky Mountain Region. Changes in all development were measured to assess compositional and configurational shifts. Change in developed area, low density development, loss of crop/forest land, dispersion, shape, and isolation of development were used as metrics. A Sprawl index, based on five indicators framed around composition and configuration, identified haphazard sprawling development patterns. The changes in development were assessed and summarized to identify regional development trends. The region experienced widespread development from 2001 to 2016 with an increase in total new development of 287.2 km² or a 2.2% increase. Areas of development, not including roads, increased by 76.9 km² or 4.0%. Low Density Development increased by 111.3 km² or 1.7% from 2001 to 2016. Across the region, 64.7 km² were converted from crop/forest land into development, or 22.5% of all the new development. Regional trends showed development the region became slightly less dispersed, more irregularly shaped, and less isolated. Metropolitan and Micropolitan sub‑regions emerged as sprawl and development hot spots, but Small town and Rural sub‑regions also experienced widespread new development and urbanization. Extensive energy site development from 2001 to 2016 was apparent, primarily in Wyoming. The results present a structural analysis, description, and discussion of development patterns and their implications in the Northern Rocky Mountain region which can be applied in regional land-use management and planning.



© Copyright 2020 Morgan E. Anderson