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Alexander looks at economic impacts of impending endangered listing for sage grouse

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Casper – The energy sector provides the base of Casper’s economy, and the Casper Area Chamber of Commerce’s Monthly Luncheon looked at the economic impact that sage grouse could have on the state of Wyoming if they are placed on the Endangered Species List. 

During the Jan. 24 luncheon, titled, “Sage Grouse and Wyoming’s Future,” University of Wyoming Director of International Programs Anne Alexander noted that a listing decision could be huge for Wyoming. 

Greater sage grouse were determined to be warranted for listing under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, but their listing was precluded by other species. A listing decision will be made after Sept. 30, 2015.

Economy in Wyo

“We decided to look at oil and gas, agriculture and travel and tourism as the three major industries that we thought would be impacted by a sage grouse listing,” said Alexander, noting that those are the top three industries in Wyoming’s economy. “The total size of Wyoming’s economy is $38.4 billion as of a few years ago.”

Of that, roughly one-third of the economic impact comes from the energy industry. Agriculture provided $1 billion, and travel and tourism contributed $3.1 billion.

“These are the three industries that would be impacted the most from a listing decision,” Alexander mentioned. “That is not to say that others won’t be affected, but we tried to take those into account, as well.”

Listing impacts

“There are many things that would be impacted by an ESA listing,” Alexander continued. “The thing about a listing is that there are no exemptions. It is a species-wide, range-wide impact.”

Despite Wyoming’s progress toward positively affecting sage grouse, a decision to list the sage grouse would result in widespread restrictions. 

State control over wildlife also allows more flexible, responsive management, she mentioned, noting, “State management of these habitats allows our energy companies to responsibly develop their resources and our producers to maintain control over their private lands. Between the two of them, over $12 billion in economy activity is created.”

Economic estimates

In her analysis, Alexander noted that she looked specifically at core area impacts, and the analysis provided very conservative estimates of impacts. 

“Approximately five percent of the state is in the current core area,” she said. “If there was a listing decision, it would be a much greater area that is impacted. These are incredibly conservative estimates.”

In the oil and gas industry, Alexander noted that a direct loss of 1,600 jobs would occur. When considering all the indirect jobs lost, nearly 4,000 jobs are at stake.

“Direct income loss would be $135 million in just wage income,” she continued. “Total wage income, which includes indirect loss of jobs, across the state would be $255 million annually.”

Severance tax revenue, plus sales and use tax revenue losses, would equate to $35 million. 

“These are very conservative numbers,” she added. 

In agriculture, losses for the core area would equate to $2 million each year, with the related sectors contributing losses for a total of $9 million. 

Tourism and wildlife

“If we look at travel and tourism, the numbers are also significant,” Alexander commented. “Travel and tourism created about 9,500 jobs across all industries.” 

Those jobs provide $75 million in state and local taxes. 

“The thriving wildlife population is key to continued economic success and lower unemployment. Tourism provides a lot of steady, stable revenue,” she says. “The other thing to keep in mind is the impact to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. Their revenue and management would be impacted by fewer hunters, anglers and wildlife watchers, fewer permits sold and less money to manage all the wildlife species within their purview.”

Alexander emphasized that BLM also performed an analysis resulting in similar numbers. 

Monumental potential

“Putting management of sage grouse critical habitat out of state control would be incredibly impactful – and pretty disastrous – for the Wyoming economy,” Alexander added. “Wyoming has probably staved off a lot of early impacts with their current management strategy.”

Referencing the spotted owl and Washington’s timber industry, Alexander continued, “The timber industry accounted for one percent of jobs in Washington state. When the spotted owl was listed, it cost the economy $1 billion – and that was only one percent of the economy and employment. Imagine the impacts from a loss of one-third of the economy.”

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at

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