Open access peer-reviewed chapter

# Developing Together? Understanding the Interaction between, Amenity-Based Tourism, Agriculture, and Extractive Industries in the Northern Rockies

Written By

Ryan M. Yonk

Submitted: March 5th, 2020 Reviewed: March 13th, 2020 Published: April 17th, 2020

DOI: 10.5772/intechopen.92111

From the Edited Volume

## Perspectives on Economic Development

Edited by Ryan Merlin Yonk and Vito Bobek

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## Abstract

The factors that lead to economic growth at the county level are not always easy to identify or explain, though surely both energy and amenity resources can influence county growth. However, there are many other factors that can also influence growth, such as amenities in surrounding counties, the specifics of oil and gas development, and land-use policies. In examining the factors that affect county economic growth, several key findings emerge: this study examines how counties balance energy extraction and development of amenities on their lands. It is important to note, however, that a county possesses only limited authority with respect to development issues; many dimensions of development lie outside of the county domain at the state or national levels.

### Keywords

• economic development
• rural development
• local government
• energy economics
• amenity economics

## 1. Introduction

Many areas of the United States that were previously largely rural have been and continue to be transformed by population growth and increases in the production of oil and natural gas. As a result of population increases cities have grown and expanded and are now abutting areas set aside for forests, national parks, and areas meant to “be held in public ownership because of their other resource values” [1, 2]. This expansion has contributed to growing levels of recreation on many public lands, which foster economic expansion based on those amenities. At the same time, advances in energy extraction, particularly hydraulic fracturing, has made it possible to extract oil and gas from many areas that were previously not economically or technologically feasible.

Throughout this chapter the terms “energy extraction,” “energy resources,” and “energy development” are used to refer to the exploration and/or production of oil and natural gas. The term “amenity development” was chosen to describe a variety of activities that contribute to the natural attractiveness and value of a given area, including wilderness or other designated lands, recreation opportunities in those areas, and agricultural activity. The use of the term “amenity” as a means to describe areas with the presence of natural features comes from the Natural Amenities Scale created by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which originally guided our decisions regarding what amenities to describe in this report [3]. The term “amenities” is commonly used to refer to the types of areas and activities discussed in this report, such as “clean beaches, hunting and fishing opportunities, forests to hike in, the view of green farmlands, and clean rivers for recreating in” [4].

It has become common to view energy development and amenity development as mutually exclusive, though this view is by no means dominant in the scholarly literature. This chapter explores the degree to which the two types of activities can coexist and make positive contributions to a county’s economic well-being. Three case studies that explore land use and economic outcomes across the spectrum of the energy/amenity plane are presented.

Counties were selected by region based largely on their blend of energy extraction and amenity development. The cases were chosen to illustrate the choices and trade-offs encountered when deciding whether to develop energy, amenities, or both.

### 1.1 Understanding divergent claims about the role of energy and amenities in economic development

There has always been debate about how best to develop energy and amenity resources within a county. Opponents of energy development often argue that the oil and gas industry cannot coexist with amenity-based industries. Further, some argue that amenity activities create better economic and employment opportunities than do extraction activities on public or protected lands.

This view that places amenities and energy extraction in conflict has been in part based on research that extrapolates from the positive correlations between amenity resources and economic growth. For example, using the USDA’s Natural Amenities Scale, Gebremariam et al. [5] finds a positive although not statistically significant relationship between employment growth rates and a county’s amenity rating and it and other similar literature has been used to suggest that that amenity development must occur without extractive industries. Further those extrapolations have suggested that “footloose” entrepreneurs are moving to areas with access to outdoor recreation and avoid those with extractive industries [6, 7, 8, 9, 10].

The evidence, however, is far from conclusive on the role amenities play in economic growth. One widely cited article found no evidence that federal wilderness designations within a county affected population-density or total employment-density growth in the Intermountain West during the 1980s [11, 12]. Further, counties with designated wilderness areas appear to be held back by relatively low-wage and seasonal service-sector jobs [13, 14] Perhaps because of this, counties with primarily amenity-based growth rarely develop into economically and socially vibrant communities [14].

Further, research by Yonk, Simmons, and Steed [15] finds “a significant negative relationship between the presence of [designated wilderness lands] in county total payroll, county tax receipts, and county average household income.”

Though some research promotes one type of development as preferable to another, a more nuanced reading of the literature suggests that counties that try to balance energy extraction activities and amenity development have healthier economies [10, 14, 16].

This chapter is part of a larger project identified five states/regions as having counties with varying levels of energy and amenity development: California, Colorado, Utah, the Northern Rockies, and the Northern Plains, during a period of high oil and gas production, namely the period through 2013. This chapter presents three cases from the Northern Rockies Region, but the full set of cases is available on request.

### 1.2 Data

The data used in this study came primarily from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). For each case study, data from 2001 through 2011 were compiled on a variety of economic indicators ranging from average annual pay to employment by industry sector. Data were also gathered from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA), and USDA. Other quantitative data, such as tax revenues raised from energy extraction industries, were collected by placing calls to county officials and accessing data on state and county websites.

Qualitative data was gathered from a variety of sources including local newspapers, environmental group publications, and county websites. Personal interviews of local residents were also used when possible to explore local reactions to development in each county over time and to illustrate how development had influenced the lives of residents.

## 2. The Northern Rockies

The states of Montana and Wyoming make up the Northern Rockies area. In these states, whose landscapes and economies are diverse and varied, this study examines Teton County and Sublette County in Wyoming, and Sheridan County in Montana. In the Northern Rockies, the oil and gas industry and the tax revenues it generates play an important role in some county economies. The following cases explore the relationship between amenity development and energy extraction.

### 2.1 Economic development in the Northern Rockies

Amenities play an important role in Teton County, which has no energy extraction activities. While there are considerable amenity resources in Sublette County, they play a small role in the economy relative to oil and gas. Sublette County is the quintessential boomtown and demonstrates the rapid growth that can result during the start of energy extraction activities. Small, rural communities like Sheridan County rely heavily on tax revenues from the oil and gas industry to cover the costs of its school systems and other services.

Sublette County is most focused on energy development, Sheridan County more balanced, and Teton County currently without active oil and gas development. In Wyoming, the oil and gas industry supported1 61,065 jobs and contributed $7 billion to the state economy in 2009. The average salary of oil and natural gas workers in Wyoming is$74,538, which is $33,200 higher than the state average of$41,258 [17].

Similar economic benefits are observed in Montana, where 40,276 jobs were supported2 by energy extraction in 2009, and $4 billion was contributed to the state economy. The average salary of oil and natural gas workers in Montana is$72,886, which is much higher than the state average of $33,244 [18]. Table 1 shows that in Sublette and Sheridan counties, average annual pay (reported in nominal dollars) in the upstream oil and gas sector is significantly higher than in the sectors of hospitality and recreation, and agriculture. Teton County does not have pay information in upstream oil and gas due to the lack of petroleum activity, but its hospitality and recreation workers earn slightly more than workers in this same sector in Sublette and Sheridan counties. ### Table 1. Employment and average annual pay. Table 2 shows employment by sector for the civilian employed population over age 16 in Sheridan, Teton, and Sublette counties. Employment in oil and gas is included in the agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, and mining sector. As the table shows, Sublette County has the highest percentage employed in this sector. Sheridan County’s employment is more mixed, while Teton County has the highest percentage (25.11%) employed in the arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodation, and food services sector. SheridanMontanaTetonSubletteWyoming Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, and mining (oil and gas is included in this sector)20.9%7.10%3.60%32.70%11.8% Construction8.80%8.50%13.30%10.10%8.7% Manufacturing1.50%4.80%1.40%1.70%5.00% Wholesale trade1.70%2.70%0.80%0.70%2.20% Retail trade11.90%12.30%8.60%8.70%11.20% Transportation, warehousing, utilities8.60%5.00%3.90%5.60%6.60% Information1.80%1.90%2.30%1%1.70% Finance, insurance, real estate6%5.69%7.66%2.30%4.42% Professional, scientific management, administrative3.88%8.14%10.97%6.20%6.55% Educational services, health care, and social assistance18.78%22.42%17.17%15.50%21.96% Arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodation, and food services5.59%10.57%25.11%6.50%9.25% Public administration5.53%4.71%3.17%4%4.26% Other services4.89%6.11%2.13%4.90%6.41% ### Table 2. Percent of the civilian population employed by sector. Small communities in the Northern Rockies often rely on the natural resources available in the county for developing their economic base. This dependence can lead to an uncertain economic climate and cyclical employment, regardless of the natural resources that are being developed. By diversifying their economies, communities in the Northern Rockies may improve economic outcomes and reduce the magnitude of cyclical fluctuations. Advertisement ## 3. Sublette County, Wyoming Sublette County residents are experiencing the benefits and challenges that come with developing energy and amenity resources in a -rural economy. Surrounded on three sides by wilderness and national forest lands, Sublette County has many amenity opportunities. The county also has concentrated pockets of oil and gas drilling. Both of these industries contribute to the economy, albeit in different ways. County Commissioner Joel Bousman describes the current economic climate of Sublette County as both “exciting and challenging” [19]. Sublette is a small ranching community southeast of Jackson Hole. It has only 6000 residents [20]. The county is part of rural Wyoming—there are no stoplights anywhere in the county—where suburban developments are separated by hundreds of miles. A petroleum boom in the county has driven economic growth. While some drawbacks have accompanied this growth, including a reliance on a non-resident workforce and rising costs of living, Sublette County demonstrates the important role that the oil and gas industry can play in providing tax revenue and boosting the economy. Oil and natural gas extraction occurs away from areas of the county where designated federal lands and wilderness amenities are located. Most extractive activities occur on lands administered by BLM and non-federal lands in the central and southern parts of the county. Parts of the Bridger Wilderness, Teton National Forest, Gros Ventre Wilderness, and Bridger National Forest are located within Sublette County, as well as some Bureau of Reclamation lands. ### 3.1 Energy development The Pinedale Anticline Project Area consists of about 197,000 acres in central Sublette County and is the third largest gas field in the United States [21, 22]. The BLM operates 80% of the anticline’s surface. The remaining 20% is divided between the State of Wyoming (5%) and private ownership (15%). Gas reserves in the field are estimated at 40 trillion cubic feet, and the area is one of the most productive fields in the United States [21]. Operators first drilled there in 1939 looking for oil, but abandoned the site when they found gas instead. Subsequent activity in the field was difficult because the tight sandstone formations made conventional drilling methods nearly impossible. However, thanks to improvements in technology and high prices for natural gas in the early 2000s, extraction in the Pinedale Anticline began to flourish. Today, Shell, Ultra Petroleum, and QEP Energy are primary leaseholders in the field. Shell alone has “drilled more than 400 natural gas wells, operating 21,000 acres and producing 350 million cubic feet of natural gas per day” [22]. The Jonah Field, near the Pinedale Anticline, has a similar geographical makeup and was rediscovered in the early 1990s. It is considered one of the most significant recent natural gas discoveries. Covering 21,000 acres, the field is estimated to contain approximately 10.5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, with 98% of the field managed by the BLM and the remaining portion split between state and private ownership [21]. Production in the Pinedale and Jonah fields began slowly as pipelines and infrastructure were needed to support significant production. However, once the infrastructure was in place, there was a jump from 150 wells in 1999 to 300 wells by July 2001 [21]. This, combined with advances in technology and new methods of extraction, such as hydraulic fracturing, created a boom in gas production from these previously unproductive fields. During the 2008 recession, natural gas prices fell, reducing drilling activities in a slowdown that has persisted since [21]. Oil production in the county grew steadily from 2000 until 2009, peaking just below 8 billion barrels in 2009. Production has dropped off since 2009 to 6.8 million barrels of oil in 2012 [23]. Gas production, has experienced growth similar to oil. Production grew from 2000 to 2010, peaking at 1.2 TCF. Production has since declined, falling to a little under 1.1 TCF in 2012 [23]. ### 3.2 Amenity development In addition to its oil and natural gas resources, Sublette County has numerous amenity opportunities. Over 80% of Sublette County’s lands are public [24] Sublette County includes parts of the Bridger National Forest, Bridger Wilderness, Gros Ventre Wilderness, and the Teton National Forest. The Wind River Mountains are also part of the county. The highest peak in Wyoming, Gannett Peak, along with 14 of the state’s highest peaks, provides ample opportunities for hiking and recreation [25]. Freemont Lake, Wyoming’s second largest natural lake and the seventh deepest in the United States, is located in the county, along with nearly 1300 other lakes, providing fishing and water recreation opportunities. Sublette County is home to more active glacial fields in the contiguous United States than any other county [20]. Big game from the Yellowstone ecosystem winters in the northern part of the county [26]. The natural environment of the county is ideal for backpacking, hiking, biking, four-wheeling, snowmobiling, golfing, hunting, skiing, and wildlife viewing. Built in 1897, the Gros Ventre Lodge is believed to have been the first full-time dude ranch in Wyoming. Ranching became an industry in Sublette County after 1877, once the railroad made the shipping of stock possible from Wyoming to Oregon [25]. Some of the rancher families that first settled Sublette are still ranching in the county today, five or six generations later [27]. Ranchers continue to walk their cattle along the Green River drift, in use since 1896, to move their herd from summer to winter grazing areas [27]. ### 3.3 Economic indicators Ranching remained the primary source of economic activity in Sublette County until recently, when the petroleum boom caused a shift in the economy. Today, the county describes its major industries as oil and gas, tourism, recreation, and government [28]. Oil and natural gas provide the largest share of the county’s revenue. Increasing demand for natural gas dramatically changed Sublette County’s economy. From 2000 to 2005, Sublette County’s permanent population grew by 20% and 500 new homes were built [29]. By 2007, 50% of those employed in the county worked in the natural gas industry. Of dollar spent in the county, 50 cents was directly tied to the natural gas industry [29]. This growth spiked the median household income to$70,147 in 2010, 30% higher than the state average. This also reduced the poverty level to less than half of the state average [30]. Today, energy extraction remains an important economic base for Sublette County.

Between 2001 and 2006, sales tax revenue in Sublette County increased by 271%, while use tax revenue increased by over 300% [31]. The mining industry, which includes oil and gas activity, accounted for 51% of the sales tax revenue and 45.6% of the use tax revenue [31]. In 2006, despite its low population, Sublette County ranked sixth in the state for tax revenue generation and fifth for total taxable sales transactions. Sublette County accounts for 6.5% of sales and use tax revenue in the state and 7.21% of total sales activity in the state [31].

### 5.4 Development strategies

Teton County has developed a vibrant community with well-known amenities that attract millions of tourists each year. The Teton County Commission believes, however, that the county would benefit by diversifying the tourism industry that has grown out of what was once a small ranch community [60]. In order to maintain their community’s roots and grow the economy, officials have developed a plan for growth that focuses on ecosystem stewardship, growth management, and quality of life [60]. Officials are using existing policy tools to protect wildlife habitats, natural skylines, and sustainability programs. Additionally, county officials work closely with towns to ensure that there is affordable housing and “year-round lifestyle-based tourism” that will create a more insulated economy [60]. Diversification of the economy would create jobs valuable to the local community [61]. Teton County demonstrates that county economic growth can occur in a way that is consistent with the community’s character and resources.

## 6. Developing together energy and amenities

The factors that lead to economic growth at the county level are not always easy to identify or explain, though surely both energy and amenity resources can influence county growth. However, there are many other factors that can also influence growth, such as amenities in surrounding counties, the specifics of oil and gas development, and land-use policies. In examining the factors that affect county economic growth, several key findings emerge:

This study examines how counties balance energy extraction and development of amenities on their lands. It is important to note, however, that a county possesses only limited authority with respect to development issues; many dimensions of development lie outside of the county domain at the state or national levels.

1. Finding One: Counties tend to develop both energy extraction and amenity resources when possible.

2. Finding Two: In cases in which a county focuses exclusively on either energy or amenity development, it is usually because of constraints beyond the control of that county (e.g., a lack of natural amenities or land-use policy that prohibits energy exploration) and not because the county considers exclusivity the best option.

3. Finding Three: Energy extraction can directly advance the development of amenities.

4. Finding Four: The energy and amenity sectors can both be cyclical, although they tend to follow different cycles.

5. Finding Five: Energy extraction operations offer higher-paying jobs, while hospitality and recreation operations employ greater numbers of people. A county’s economic well-being depends on having both high-paying jobs and a large number of jobs.

Across all our cases show consistent evidence that that energy and amenity development are not mutually exclusive. Further the evidence suggests the prominence of one industry over another is less a result of through planning and conscious choice but is more closely related to the geographic and resource endowment the county has. Further the cases we reviewed show that the development of one sector does not necessarily inherently limit growth in the other sector if a county has resource endowments in both areas.

Further because both energy and amenity resources provide value to a county, when counties have both resources they tend to develop both, and in a way that allows both sectors to grow. Further, energy development can directly promote the amenity sector by providing counties the funding necessary to develop and market available amenities. Together, these two sectors can comprise an integral part of a county’s economy. They provide an employment base with diverse pay and employment levels, and they expand local revenue streams, which help furnish needed local resources like infrastructure and improved government services.

## Acknowledgments

I would like to acknowledge the collaboration of Dr. Randy T Simmons on earlier reports that this chapter is drawn from and to Kayla Dawn Harris that lead a team of student research assistants that were invaluable in helping gather the data and information on which this chapter is based. Those students included Nicholas Hilton, Jordan Carl Hunt, and Justin Larsen.

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## Notes

• This support includes direct, indirect, and induced jobs.
• This support includes direct, indirect, and induced jobs.

Written By

Ryan M. Yonk

Submitted: March 5th, 2020 Reviewed: March 13th, 2020 Published: April 17th, 2020