Allen Kenitzer September 19, 2000 Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. (Phone: ) Annette Trinity-Stevens Montana State University, Bozeman, Mont. (Phone: ) Release No. 00-116/Notice to Editors/News Directors NATIONAL CONFERENCE TO DISCUSS CHANGING RURAL LANDSCAPES A NASA sponsored conference to discuss urban sprawl in America will be held at Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone National Park, Wyo., on Sept. 22-24. "The size and character of the populations of rural areas are changing rapidly, as are their livelihoods," said Andrew Hansen, associate professor of ecology at Montana State University-Bozeman. "These socioeconomic trends are dramatically altering patterns of land use and land cover, with important consequences for ecosystems and human communities. To understand the causes and consequences of these changes, a multidisciplinary approach is needed to involve social scientists, ecologists, geospatial technology specialists and land managers." "Changing Landscapes of Rural America" will be open to the public and should be of special interest to county commissioners, land managers, private developers, realtors and other people concerned about changes in land use, Hansen added. Wild fires, the rates of loss of agriculture land to urban sprawl, the rural population rebound in the upper Midwest, the ecological basis of the "New West" economy and new tools for measuring and understanding these changes are among the topics to be discussed. "No matter where people live in the country, they see urban sprawl," said Hansen. "They see more cars on the highways. They see changes in land use that can only be described as 'stunning.' But most people don't know how much the rural landscape is changing. They may not realize that, for only the second time in 100 years, more people are moving into rural areas than away from them. They haven't had the opportunity to discuss the consequences. Speakers will include the top land use experts in the nation, such as Garik Gutman of NASA's Land Cover Land Use Change Program. Many of the research projects to be discussed are funded by NASA's Earth Science Enterprise, and presentations will be illustrated with the latest satellite photos and other imagery provided by NASA technology. NASA, MSU, the Montana EPSCoR Program and Gallatin Writers, Inc., are funding the conference. "The whole package is going to be eye-opening," Hansen said. "People are going to say, 'I had no idea.'" The public portion of the conference will begin Saturday, Sept. 23, with a talk on "Land Use, Ecology and Society: The Current Frontier" by Daniel Brown of the University of Michigan. Brown is coordinating the conference with Hansen. The rest of the morning and the first part of the afternoon will focus on land use trends, rates and concepts. The latter part of the afternoon will be devoted to case studies showing ecological and socioeconomic causes and consequences of land use changes. Gutman will speak at 8 p.m. on the NASA Land Cover Land Use Change Program. Popular Montana humorist Greg Keeler will provide the entertainment. Sunday's sessions will look at decision support and management. One talk from 2 to 2:30 p.m. will be given by a Yellowstone National Park official discussing "Managing Nature Reserves in the Context of Surrounding Private Lands." The formal meetings will end at 5 p.m. One purpose of the conference is to synthesize the findings of scientists who have been working on rural land use topics, Hansen said. He hopes the conference will lead to future collaborations for the researchers and greater understanding for those attending the conference. "These talks will put meat on the bones of what people are already saying and feeling," he commented. "These talks will show the world is a different place than 20 years ago, but nobody has had a finger on the pulse of these changes -- up until now." The Land Cover Land Use Change Program is part of NASA's Earth Science Enterprise; a long-term research program designed to study the Earth's land, oceans, air, ice and life as a total system. For more information, send an e-mail to Hansen at email@example.com or check the web at: http://www.homepage.montana.edu/~hansen/hansen/lab/documents/conferenc e.htm -end- ------------------ It's all very large.