Land Use and Land Cover Change in the Crown of the Continent Ecosystem, Montana, USA from 1992-2011

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Virginia Tech

In recent decades land use and land cover change (LULCC) has occurred throughout the Intermountain West. The Crown of the Continent Ecosystem (CCE) extends along the Rocky Mountains adjacent to the Canada-U.S. International border. In the U.S. portion of the CCE, located in northwestern Montana, development has increased since the 1990s, largely because of urban to rural migration. The CCE has become an amenity-based destination, which in turn is likely to threaten its terrestrial and aquatic ecological diversity (Quinn and Broberg 2007). Specifically, development pressures on private lands surrounding federally protected lands, are intensifying and thus threatening core habitat of native species and connectivity of forested areas. By characterizing the spatial and temporal patterns of LULCC, we can better understand landscape-scale changes influenced by human-environment interactions.

Using National Land Cover Database (NLCD) products, I identified areas that have experienced land cover change for three time periods: 1992-2001, 2001-2006, and 2006-2011. Additionally, I used case studies to further investigate LULCC in the study area. The findings suggest that the highest rates of development in proximity to Glacier National Park were dependent on existing urban land cover, meaning existing roadway infrastructure and established urban areas saw the greatest urban development. Additionally, communities adjacent to Glacier National Park were hotspots for urban development. Based on the results, areas in proximity to federally protected lands are likely to experience continued urban intensification over the next few decades.

Land use, land cover change, rural development, Glacier National Park, Crown of the Continent Ecosystem