Wednesday, January 27, 2010

One Million More Local Residents

Baltimore-Washington area population growth 1792-2100

Today's Washington Post notes that Washington, D.C. is now among eight metropolitan areas with immigrant populations of 1 million or more. The full litany of cities includes New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago, San Francisco, Houston, Washington and Dallas.

There are limits to all good things, and that is true for population growth, wherever it comes from.

Today, the single greatest threat to hunting in the United States is population growth and its attendant sprawl.

As large farms are cut up and atomized into suburbia and exurbia (the rural "farmettes" beyond the suburbs), more and more Americans are having to drive farther and farther to gain free hunting permissions.

The is not a new topic for me. I have written a little about the demographic growth in the greater Washington-Baltimore area in the past, noting that fox hunting in America started in this area, but that the land is quickly being gut-shot by too rapid population growth. Forest has fallen to farm, and farm has fallen to freeway until at last it has become hard to dig very far from the roar of a road.

The graph below shows where we have been -- and where we are growing due to a combination of unrestrained immigration and one of the highest fertility rates in the industrialized world.

Post-1970 immigration now accounts for about 98 percent of all U.S. population growth.

This a repost from the blog circa August 2006.


Retrieverman said...

If you go to my part of the world, it's the exact opposite.

A population drop is projected. The cities of West Virginia are likely to gain population, but the really rural areas are not likely to grow.

What was once farm and field is now forest. And we have lots of forest.

And the wild animals are abundant. Access to good hunting grounds is easily procured, and if you're on your own land, you can hunt without a license.

So what Washington, D.C., needs is West Virginia's economy.

Of course, now there is a big push for broadband access, so people can live in West Virginia and telecommute.

If that really takes off, then there will be a land rush. The property taxes are low.

There is already kind of a push to turn West Virginia into the Mid-Atlantic Vermont.

But right now, the over population isn't that much of a problem.

PBurns said...

Yes. West Virginia and much of the Northeast (New England) has seen aforestation (forest growth on old fields) due to farm abandonment on marginal land. This started with Colonel Birdseye and refrigerated train cars, but has only increased in velocity as the "road to riches" has clearly led out of Appalachia with the mechanization of coal mines and timber concerns.

To give some history and numbers ..... For the American South, between 1982 and 1997, developed land in the South increased by 45 percent, representing 12 million acres of forest lost to development.

In Georgia, where the population has increased 230 percent since 1952, developed land increased by 67 percent from 1982 to 1997.

But ....

It should be noted that the South has more forest coverage today than it did 100 years ago, and that there is not a linear relationship between forest
loss and population growth in the U.S. The real trend has more to do with patterns of settlement and the interventions (or non interventions) of government.

Rapid population growth between 1890 and 1940 did not decrease forest cover, for example, as urbanization trends were far more rapid than population growth.

During this 50-year period many rural areas actually lost population, and most of our Eastern Forests actually grew back from denuded mountains (due to passgae of the Weeks
Act of 1911).

From 1950 to 1985 or so, we saw the growth of suburbs which deeply
fragmented close-in forests and led to a lot of habitat loss for some species (warblers for example) while increasing habitat for other species (white tail deer, red fox).

In the last 15 years we have seen the growth of the far suburbs (exurbia or penturbia are terms that have been coined to describe this trend) which have
increased forest fragmentation even more as people "tele-commute" to work from their mountain-top vacation homes and as more and more businesses move
outside of the core cities.

As urban people have moved farther out of the city (thanks to the
subsidization of roads and rail lines and the increased "wiring" of the countryside), they have dramatically increased their land footprint leading to even more forest fragmentation.

Will West Virginia's rural population loss turn around? That depends in part on Internet connections, rural health care infrastructure (needed to attract back-to-nature retirees), and the price of transportation per mile (if it hits 25 cents a mile, we will see more and more people pull out of exurbia for towns and cities).