Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name


Department or School/College

Department of Geography

Committee Chair

David Shively

Commitee Members

Jeffery D. Greene, Sarah J. Halvorson


landscape, montana, perception, renewable energy, small hydroelectricity


University of Montana


Newman, Chad, M.A. December 2007 Geography Small-Hydroelectricity and Landscape Change in the Bitterroot Mountains: Public Perceptions and Attitudes Chairperson: Dr. David D. Shively The development and use of renewable energy resources within America has made significant progress over the last two decades. Many state governments have adopted legislation requiring the development of their local renewable resources for generating electricity. In 2005, Montana’s State Legislature passed Senate Bill 415, The Montana Renewable Power Production and Rural Economic Development Act. This piece of legislation mandates the development and use of renewable energy resources by energy producers and requires that fifteen percent of the electrical energy consumed within Montana be produced by renewable energy resources by January 01, 2015. Though this action has been praised by the numerous advocates of renewable energy, many physical and environmental impacts associated with the development of renewable forms of energy have been largely overlooked. This thesis evaluates the public’s attitudes and perceptions surrounding this development; specifically, it attempts to measure how the inevitable aesthetic and physical impacts associated with the development of small-hydroelectric facilities are perceived by local residents. Western Montana’s Ravalli County was chosen as the geographic location for this study as its world renowned trout fishing and breathtaking views will likely be compromised through developing the small streams originating in the Bitterroot Mountains. A survey of Ravalli County residents was conducted to assess public perceptions and attitudes of using these resources. Socio-demographic characteristics, use of local streams, and knowledge of renewable energy resources are evaluated as possible measures for explaining the attitudes and perceptions of local residents. These data, though presenting mixed results, provide some insight into the values of local residents and how these perceptions and attitudes can potentially influence the development of renewable energy resources and help shape the policy that is ultimately responsible for advocating the use of local resources for generating electricity.



© Copyright 2007 Chad E. Newman