By RYAN SHERIDAN
Daily Press writer
The land use survey conducted by the University of Wyoming and Colorado State University last year has been finalized.
The survey asked recipients in Moffat County to respond to how federal lands should be used in the county, and how private land should be developed.
"When we look at this information, it is a great educational tool," Moffat County Commissioner T. Wright Dickinson said. "We're given a great opportunity to see how our residents think on these issues, and what we need to learn more about the options that we see. This report gives us a statistically valid and unbiased look at the facts, figures and thoughts our residents answered with."
Of all surveys mailed, the county received 1,260 usable responses. Local landowners with over 100 acres returned 62 percent of the surveys, and some 40 percent of other county residents returned 52 percent of the surveys.
The study was overseen by Dr. Andy Seidl of the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at CSU, and Dr. Donald McLeod and Dr. Roger Coupal, both of the Department of Agriculture and Applied Economics at UW.
"This is good information, and that's important to me because I don't care one way or another how the county moves ahead as long as the arguments are based on facts and that is what this survey gives you," McLeod said. "I have no political or financial stake in this county, so our results are completely unbiased. This study is an opportunity for the county to look at key topics and key avenues for land management and use.
"It's important to see where you are at, then look ahead at the forces of change that are accruing, and then create a plan."
Mailed with the survey was a report on what the county fiscal impacts are due to land fragmentation the development of agricultural land to rural subdivisions.
The survey covers many issues and possibilities for the future of the county, and where the county is headed.
Moffat county is growing at 1.4 percent per year, which means 4,100 people may be living in the area by 2025. Several other economic indicators are covered in the study, but the results are uniform: Moffat County will grow, and probably significantly, in the next 20 years.
Some of the numbers presented give a brief view of county opinion concerning federal land: How 73 percent of those polled want multiple use allowed on federal lands, and 60 percent want grazing allowed on federal land. Over 60 percent of those polled were against expanding Dinosaur National Monument or adding wilderness designations to federal lands.
For private lands, 60 percent of respondents would prefer to generate income by wildlife habitat development along with the present use of their lands, while 50 percent of respondents would not consider residential development of their lands to raise revenue in addition to their present land use.
The fiscal impact study addressed county government costs. The report stated that every dollar of county revenue generated by rural residential development costs the county $1.91 in additional services. With each new dollar of residentially-derived income, the county sees a net loss of $.91 in expenditures.
Conversely, agricultural land needs $.52 worth of county services for every dollar of revenue contributed to the county a net gain of $.48 towards county expenditures. From this, the study concludes that for every acre left in agricultural use, it is worth $1,358 to the county's taxpayers.
According to Coupal, this amount could well serve as the framework for a development fee, the preferred option by county residents to cover the overall cost of rural development.
The researchers will again review their findings and some of the suggestions collected at the presentation. A final version of the survey will be made available to the public in late spring, McLeod said.
Some of the survey results are directly related to the county's proposed Northwest Colorado Working Landscape Trust, according to Jeff Comstock, Moffat County Natural Resources Department director.
"The survey is very clear about not excluding land uses and when you start excluding uses, it raises the cost to the county," he said. "Restricted uses are lost county revenue. That's directly related to the trust proposal it shows the reasons to not exclude any use, but to have all uses, in a responsible manner, on public lands.
"There's also a big impact on the county for development. That 2:1 ratio as opposed to a .5:1 ratio clearly shows the impact and infrastructure drains of development.
"It helps justify keeping land in agriculture, through different measures."
The county will use the survey and study in its planning processes.
"I think we have good information to use as we move forward to implement our land use plans," Commissioner Les Hampton said. "It's information we need to know. It's data, information, important scientific data that is a valid record of the perceptions of the people of Moffat County.
"It is undisputable it was created by an outside, unbiased entity."
For more information about the survey and the results, contact Jeff Comstock or Ann Franklin at the Colorado State University Cooperative Extension office at 824-9180.