According to Collapse, why is it that the decline of the traditional farming and timber industries in the Bitterroot Valley in recent years has actually been accompanied by a dramatic increase in the value of land and housing, rather than a reduction of value, to the point where it is difficult for the local population to find affordable housing?
The answer to this is put very nicely by Diamond in the following quote (I cannot provide a page number because I only have this on Kindle):
What accounts for the enormous jump in land prices? Basically, it’s because the Bitterroot’s gorgeous environment attracts wealthy newcomers.
These wealthy newcomers can pay much more for the land than farmers and loggers could make using that land. Therefore, the old uses die off and the land comes to be too expensive for traditional users.
In the old days, people worked very hard in the Bitterroot Valley to make a basic living. Diamond discusses how farming is very hard and rather dangerous work. He also discusses how it is not the sort of work that leads to a person becoming very wealthy. This means that farmers cannot really afford to pay huge amounts of money for their land.
In modern times, people have started to be able to come and live in the Bitterroot Valley without farming. These are the “wealthy newcomers” that Diamond mentions. These people are rich and can pay huge amounts of money to enjoy the beautiful environment of the Bitterroot Valley. They can afford to pay much more than the farmers can because they do not have to actually make a living off the land.
This is why housing and land prices have gone up. The environment is so beautiful that it attracts plenty of people who are already rich and who do not need to make a living through farming or logging, which do not pay well enough to drive up the price of land and housing.