20,000 Bodies


Before we finish up the holiday weekend, I want to post some thoughts about population changes in Plumas County, California.

The chart above shows how our population has changed in comparison with our cousin counties over the past few decades. From a peak of 20,957 people in 2005, we've lost 2,351 people, and that loss will continue unless we can entice more people to move to Plumas County, because we have fewer people being born in Plumas County than are aging and dying. Here are two charts that show just how much we are part of the rural graying America trend.

So not only do we need to regain those 2,351 people, we need to convince even more people to come to Plumas if we want to maintain a steady population level, about 0.7 percent more every year to offset the loss of our seniors.

For me, as a newcomer to the Sierra Nevada (I've lived here off and on since 2004), it's really helpful to think about our population in the context of the history of our region. I found a terrific report that was completed in 1996 for Congress, called the Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project, funded by the US Geological Service and the US Forest Service. You can find the full report at this link.

The Gold Rush brought a large influx of non-hispanic whites to California. Population in the Sierra Nevada peaked in the 1850s and declined to lows in most areas by the 1920s or 1930s. The 1970s saw a new population increase in most Sierra Nevada counties, connected mainly with a rise of exurbs of Sacramento expanding into the foothills. The population as of 2005 was nearly four times greater than during the four years of the Gold Rush peak from 1849 to 1852. Will the population of the Sierra Nevada ever reach 2 million people? Take another look at the first chart I posted above. I think it depends on how you really define the Sierra Nevada. Plumas County is projected to have the highest loss of population by 2040 due to its location far from the I-80 and 50 corridors and distance from major cities. While California as a whole will continue to grow at robust levels, the rural mountain areas are not projected to share that economic and population wealth, which means that our rural population will become an even tinier percentage of California's overall population.

In my next blog post, I'll look at work in Plumas County and our cousin counties.

Edit: February 22, 2016. I was asked about some of the details relating to births, deaths, and migration in Plumas County, so I looked quickly at the available data. The California Department of Public Health maintains birth and death statistics by county, but these are not updated promptly as the data go through a fair amount of review before being published. So the latest information I could find was for 2010. Here is a table and chart that summarizes what I could quickly put my hands on for the period 2000-2010.

Plumas County Migration, Births, and Deaths 2000-2010

Plumas County Migration, Births, and Deaths 2000-2010