Study shows impact of land use, hunting changes

The local economy stands to lose $1.3 million if the grazing rights in Vermilion Basin are lost. The economic impact from losing grazing in Browns Park would be $642,000 and decreasing the amount of hunting licenses issued by 10 percent could cause a direct loss of $2.9 million.

Those are just some preliminary results from an economic study of Moffat County completed by Colorado State University.

The final report will be presented to the Moffat County Commission-ers at 1 p.m. Monday.

The report is an update of a 1994 economic baseline analysis that charts where money comes from and where it goes in Moffat County.

The study -- called an input/output model -- is expected to help public officials make informed decisions.

"We're just trying to give you little pieces of the puzzle and then you decide where to go with it," CSU economic department graduate student Phil Watson said. Watson discussed the study at an economic forum held in Craig Feb. 5.

"It breaks down the economy to see what you specialize in -- what you're importing and exporting," Watson said.

Other scenarios in the study include, the cost versus impact of development, the revenue and cost impact of underground versus surface mining and the impacts of tourism, not including hunting.

The analysis will:

  • Provide economic projections broken out by economic sector.
  • Trace the flow of goods, services, labor and money through the economy.
  • Link employment and wages in one economic sector to another.
  • Link land and other resource use to economic impact through employment and wages.
  • Provide an opportunity to view the likely impact of politics or events on the economic base.

"If something impacts the mining sector, what is that going to do to the tax revenue on the sale of coffee at the coffee shop?" CSU researcher Andy Seidel said.

The study, he said, doesn't make recommendations, doesn't make policy and doesn't distinguish desirable from undesirable economic activities.

It may project potential revenue from a casino, but it doesn't take into account the possible increase in law enforcement costs that could result from the construction of a casino, Seidel said.

"It doesn't make that value judgement, so it's objective, but you have to be careful," he said.

What the study will do, he said, is provide a better understanding of the economic base in Moffat County and facilitate understanding of proposed private and public policy decisions.

"We have to have that data," Moffat County Commissioner Marianna Raftopoulos said. "I think the value is having the data when we speak to groups. We'll have the numbers to say, 'if you do that, this is the impact it will have.'"

Moffat County Natural Resources Department Director Jeff Comstock said most federal land use decisions deal with recreation or agriculture and it's important for the land use department to understand the impacts of those decisions.

"When we concentrate and comment on plans from federal agencies, one of the things were lacking is some concrete data to base our decision on," Comstock said.

Christina M. Currie can be reached at 824-7031, Ext. 210 or by e-mail at ccurrie@craigdailypress.com.

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