Landscape and climate have shaped the geography of rural growth and decline over the past 40 years. The rural outdoors has become a major asset for rural communities. The rural outdoors can be enhanced through the construction of recreation facilities, but undeveloped rural landscapes have appeal on their own, both for recreation and as attractive places to live.

ERS researchers developed a natural amenities scale based on the premise that people are drawn to areas with varied topography; lakes, ponds, or oceanfront; warm, sunny winters; and temperate, low-humidity summers.

Information about the scale can be found in the defining ERS report and data product:

Research related to rural amenities includes the:

  • Correlation between amenities and growth,
  • Influence of amenities on housing values,
  • Importance of forest landscape preferences,
  • Role of amenity-based recreation in rural development, and
  • Creative class attraction and rural growth consequences.

ERS has also pursued research on the possible amenity value of farmland and agriculturally based activities, exploring such issues as:

  • Agritourism,
  • Farmland protection in developing areas, and
  • Potential interaction between farmland conservation practices and rural amenities.