NRE 530 Project: Project Description

The impetus of this project is not, and never has been, research-driven. Instead, NRE 530 is a chance for me to develop skills in geographic and spatial analysis software and mathematical geography theory that I can later apply to a serious research project. Additionally, it is a chance to develop my skills in internet communication--skills that are fundamental for any person to learn in this information age.

The world is full of information. You need only take a walk through your local library and look at all the books on the shelf waiting to be read. Or go to a supermarket and stop to look around for a minute--you'll see the shelves, the refrigerator cases, even the carts are screaming information at you hoping you'll listen. Well, in today's world I believe that researchers are not removed from these conditions. The Ivory Tower insulates us from many of the Reel World's [sic.] demands, but we cannot be monolithic in our methods. Our product simply won't move without understanding certain conditions. One of which is that information must be instantaneously transportable to be relevant and useful to policy makers, other researchers, and the public. Books used to be the best form of communication for the knowledge product. Today, however, it is through the electronic medium we must speak. So I am jealously guarding my chance to learn how to present such information rapidly and attractively in the hopes that it will find a receiver.

However, it just so happens that I am very interested in public lands. Population trends largely dictate the salience of public lands issues--either they are esoteric philosophical debates, or the federal government owns the land where little Kimmy wants to play baseball and, therefore, she can't because the city cannot build there. Public lands issues will grow in frequency as greater population pressure in the western states creates immediate friction between public lands and abutting private property owners. States like Nevada and Utah, both experiencing tremendously rapid population growth, only have immediate control over less than 33% of the land within their borders.

As one who wants to work on public lands issues in the West, I am using this project as a vehicle to further my understanding of the validity of Westerner's claims. I intend to breakdown the demographic currents which underpin Westerner's claims while presenting and analyzing this dynamic system through electronic media.

Thus, to tease apart these trends I created a Friction Potential Index that ranks the states and counties according to a Friction Potential Score. FPI is an aggregate of three criteria applied to a macro (state) level and a micro (county) level. The criteria look at population growth, density of population, and proportion of youth in the population as indicators of future land disputes, or "friction." States and counties are ranked according to their performance on each of the indicators, then the ranks for indicators summed. Finally, the sum of the indicator ranks, or Friction Potential Score (FPS), is ranked against all other states and counties (respectively). The final rankings comprise the FPI.

In analyzing a dynamic system, one should look for patterns amid the chaos. I am looking at a macro (state) and micro (county) level to see if the trends experience on the large-scale appear in the small-scale, as well. This index will illustrate the population trends experienced by states and counties according to three criteria that are good predictors of land disputes: population growth, density of population, and proportion of youth. The states and counties will then be ranked in an aggregate index, represented by the FPS.

Population growth is indicative of the strain on state and local government, as well as natural, resources. Density of population is indicative of the development patterns in place in the various locations. Proportion of youth represents the immediate demand for more development within a sub-generational time horizon (say, 10 years).

Read in order.

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