Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Science (MS)

Degree Name


Department or School/College

Department of Geography

Committee Chair

Christiane von Reichert

Commitee Members

David Shively, Tom Seekins


amenities, economy, population, rural, vitality, community, social capital


University of Montana


There are many rural towns in the United States that are struggling economically. While many suffer population loss through out-migration, others continue to thrive. This project focuses on two rural communities: Fort Benton in central Montana and Watford City in western North Dakota. The research sets out to provide an understanding of how these towns prosper while maintaining their rural lifestyle. The purpose of this study is to explore and identify the efforts carried out by these rural communities to secure the power to live and grow; in other words to remain vital as a rural places. Both communities are geographically isolated areas with modest levels of amenities, but with noted population losses in the early 2000s. The literature recognizes that there are many factors that have an impact on the social and economic dynamics of rural places, suggesting that some rural areas seem to be more vital and vibrant than others. This project utilizes both quantitative data from the U.S. Bureau of the Census and Regional Economic Information System databanks to shed light on demographics and local economies as well as qualitative data from interviews conducted with community leaders. The point is to identify the specific efforts designed to contribute to rural vitality that are undertaken in both communities. The research renders that rural community vitality depends on a comprehensive investigation of the dimensions of economy, population, amenities, and social capital. In addition, it is noted that if communities want to be vital, they will be, and if they do not, they will not. What is learned from the two rural towns could then be considered by other communities and offer examples on how to preserve and promote rural livelihood.



© Copyright 2011 Joseph Micheal Husar