Natural Amenities and Rural Development: Understanding Spatial and Distributional Attributes



ABSTRACT  Contemporary resource management practice and rural development planning increasingly emphasize the integration of resource extractive industries with non-market-based recreational and amenity values. There is a growing empirical literature which suggests that natural amenities impact regional economies through aggregate measures of economic performance such as population, income, and/or employment growth, and housing development. We maintain that assessing the developmental aspects of amenity-led regional change requires a more thorough focus on alternative measures of economic performance such as income distribution and spatial organization. In the applied research presented here we investigate relationships between amenities and regional economic development indicators. Results suggest mixed and generally insignificant amenity-based associations which highlight the need for appropriate regional economic modeling techniques that account for often dramatic spatial autocorrelation of natural amenity attributes. We conclude that with respect to amenity driven economic growth and development “place in space” matters.