How Does Energy Development Affect the Fabric of Life in Rural Communities?
Energy and other forms of development can have large effects on ranching and farming communities. These communities have been characterized as small, isolated, stable, interdependent, and independent of outsiders. Energy development can devastate such communities because the informal institutions that hold them together (for example, community meetings) are disrupted and replaced by formal institutions. Many people may begin to feel like outsiders in their own communities as the population grows and changes rapidly, causing them to feel less satisfaction with their lives and move away. The lack of current research on how energy development affects ranching communities provides an opportunity for further study. This WLCI study evaluates perceptions about these and other issues facing ranchers overall to get a more complete picture of how ranchers perceive effects of energy development.
In collaboration with the Wyoming Department of Agriculture, USGS researchers developed a survey to assess rancher and farmer perceptions about energy development. We mailed 860 surveys to randomly selected agricultural operators in counties encompassed by the WLCI area (Lincoln, Sublette, Uinta, Sweetwater, and Carbon Counties) and the portion of Fremont County that lies within the WLCI boundary. The survey first queried respondents on the importance of the 28 Quality of Life components for where they live. We selected these Quality of Life components based on previous research. The components ranged across four general categories: community life, economics, environmental, and recreation. We received 205 completed surveys for a 24 percent return rate.