During 2010-12, the number of nonmetro counties losing population reached a historic high of 1,261. Population growth slowed considerably in the Mountain West for the first time in decades. While urban population size, metro proximity, attractive scenery, and recreation potential have historically contributed to nonmetro population growth, their influence has weakened (at least for the time being). But not all nonmetro areas experienced decline. Spurred by an energy boom, large sections of the northern Great Plains turned around decades of population loss, and at least some amenity-rich areas continue to grow, albeit at a more modest rate.
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