Frontier areas are sparsely populated rural areas which are isolated from population centers and services. Unfortunately, there is not a single universally-accepted definition of frontier. Definitions of frontier used for state and federal programs vary, depending on the purpose of the project being researched or funded.
While frontier is often defined as counties having a population density of six or fewer people per square mile, this simple definition does not take into account other important factors that may isolate a community. Therefore, preferred definitions are more complex and address isolation by considering distance in miles and travel time in minutes to services. Some of the issues that may be considered in classifying an area as frontier include:
- Population density
- Distance from a population center or specific service
- Travel time to reach a population center or service
- Functional association with other places
- Availability of paved roads
- Seasonal changes in access to services