Officials evaluate economic impacts of federal decisions

Knowing the monetary consequences of decisions, aids in future planning, county says

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What's the economic impact of opening up areas in Moffat County for oil and gas development or the value of tourists visiting the area to spot endangered species?

These are some of the questions residents asked of an economic study offered through Colorado State University.

At a County Commission workshop Monday, about 15 participants, including local government officials, citizens and business owners agreed to pursue five scenarios on how policy changes could potentially alter local economics.

The scenarios will measure the economic impact of:

  • Opening Vermilion Basin to oil and gas drilling and, conversely, the economic impact of creating wilderness there.
  • reducing the amount of elk hunting licenses sold, a decision that would come from the state Division of Wildlife.
  • listing sage grouse as an endangered species, which is currently under investigation by U.S. Fish & Wildlife.
  • the closing of Trapper Mine, which estimates to use up its resources by 2014.
  • introducing more broadband services to Moffat County.

Results of the economic surveys can offer a starting point for discussions to help communities determine ways they want to grow, said Audrey Danner of Yampa Valley Partners, a group that compiles some county statistical data.

"This could give us one more valid piece of information to help us critically think about issues that are on the horizon," she said.

CSU researcher Andy Seidel, who is in charge of the economic study, said the results don't provide recommendations or policy initiatives. Study results also don't distinguish desirable from undesirable economic activities, he said.

Moffat County Commissioner Darryl Steele said the results of questions posed for the Vermilion Basin could be passed along to members of the Northwest Colorado Stewardship. The stewardship group is made up of individuals representing various land use visions for Moffat County's public lands, including the controversial Vermilion Basin.

Stewardship members are in the infancy stage of producing a land management plan for areas like Vermilion Basin, which has been labeled with both wilderness characteristics and drilling potential.

Stewardship facilitator Jeremy Casterson said the multi-agency group may take the study's results into consideration, but may also question its thrust.

"It's a county survey and we'll probably take a look at it," he said. "I would like to see us put more weight on something the community is more involved in."

The economic study is an update of a similar survey completed in 1994 that shows how money flows in and out of Moffat County.

The study was purchased through a grant at no cost to the county, said Jeff Comstock, Natural Resource director for Moffat County.

Amy Hatten can be reached at 824-7031 or ahatten@craigdailypress.com.

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