• amenity migration;
  • counterurbanization;
  • population growth;
  • Sierra Nevada

ABSTRACT. Since 1960 California's Sierra Nevada counties have ranked among the regions with the strongest relative population growth in the state. Reassessment of peripheral areas has been the main force driving population and settlement growth in the central Sierra Nevada of California and Nevada, termed “amenity migration” or “counterurbanization.” This study analyzes the impacts of amenity migrants—“urban refugees”—on socioeconomic conditions in high-mountain regions. We define these regions as the “High Sierra,” comprising zones at elevations more than 1,800 meters above sea level. People who migrate to the High Sierra tend to be white and well educated, with considerable household earnings. Unlike the population in the foothills, these migrants are not senior citizens. Their demand for periodic or permanent residences has caused housing prices to increase enormously. As a result, a majority of homes are now priced well beyond the reach of local salaries, which may lead to potential conflict between locals and newcomers. The massive settlement expansion in high-mountain areas requires a new approach to land-use planning, one that takes functional regions into account. Therefore, it is expedient to reassess existing jurisdictional boundaries.