Blog for Rural America

The Center for Rural Affairs, a private, non-profit organization, is working to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities. Permission to reprint items from this web log is hereby granted, on the condition that clear credit is given to the original source of the material. If the blog provides information for a story, please let us know by sending an email to

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Can Natural Assets Drive Rural Community Growth?

Can Natural Assets Drive a Portion of Rural Community Growth?

Amenity-driven growth offers a new means to bring economic returns to rural communities, especially in farm and ranch states with private land

by Michael Holton, Center for Rural Affairs,

In August 2006, ECONorthwest of Eugene, Oregon, studied Nebraska’s natural assets. They looked specifically at land amenities and analyzed the potential economic contribution of amenity-driven growth. This type of growth contrasts with converted-amenity growth like crop production, electricity, or other commodities that are changed and altered for economic purposes.

The report detailed four major mechanisms that challenge our thinking, particularly in economic terms. They included topics such as improving the quality of life, encouraging feedback to the farm sector, expanding recreation and other commercial uses of natural resources, and protecting environmental values.

The perception in Nebraska – probably shared in other farm states – is that our natural resource base has been degraded. People don’t see the quality of life values that are still present.

About 97 percent of Nebraska is privately owned. Most news tends to focus on the devastating effects of herbicides, chemicals, and other environmental hazards that converting crops into dollars has had on our natural amenities. It is no wonder that citizens view the influence of land and other resources negatively.

What should rural citizens do to derive more quality of life in amenity-driven decisions? The first key is to work through a fundamental transition in attitude and behavior towards our natural resources.

It is not easy to shift away from businesses that have made profits from degradation of the land, air, and water. Commercial farming, banks, grocery stores, and others whose fortunes have been linked to the industrial farming model will resist efforts for amenity-driven growth.

The second and more important key is to change the conversation in our communities. People are not satisfied watching their small communities dry up and are looking for alternatives. New options for deriving income from natural assets can prove more lucrative than past practices.

Fishing, bird-watching, boating, eco-tourism, agritourism, and hunting opportunities can help our economy flourish in the future.

Agree? Disagree? Post a comment here or contact John Crabtree,

Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action.


  • At 6:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Michael...well said. I agree with you and believe at a minimum a dialogue has begun in SW NE, given our topography and alternative opportunities available, e.g. hunting and fishing. We have to also face the many challenges of resolving the Republican River compact issues. - Rural McCook

  • At 11:06 PM, Blogger Michael L. Holton said…

    I am glad to see this blog receive some feedback because it is important in the total scheme of things. There are times I am jealous of all the amenities down by McCook (in spite of the Republican water issues). Keep up the good work in community development and make sure that the amenities get lots of attention.

  • At 12:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    in Monona county Iowa we have a wonderful natural amenity in the Loess hills, there has been a lot done with the hills, but there could be a lot more - and I think the desire for people to spend time in beautiful places will continue to grow in the future
    whiting, iowa


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