Board Feet to Board heads: Natural Amenity-led Development in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area
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Many rural communities in the American West are in transition from natural resource extraction based economies to new forms of development. Those located in natural amenity rich areas are experiencing an influx of visitors and newcomers that drive increases in the demand for residential, retail, and service sector development. Despite the potency of natural amenity led development, planning theory concerned with employing amenity migration on behalf of community development is in its infancy. The Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Act is an important response to this type of development and serves as a case study of the evolving approach of the Federal Government in guiding the rural restructuring of the West. Through a combination of interviews and policy review this project explores the question: Has the National Scenic Act contributed to a new natural resource based economy, in which environmental protection has become the driver for nearby rural communities? The findings of this research suggest that the National Scenic Act has been implemented quite differently by Washington and Oregon; and these differences have contributed to significantly varying outcomes on opposite sides of the Columbia River. In particular, these findings imply that limiting economic growth to strictly defined urban areas can serve to protect agricultural economies, but may have substantial impacts on housing affordability. Overall, natural amenity led development is impacting all aspects of rural life and must be carefully planned if it is to result in a sustainable form of development for rural communities.