Abundant natural resources that include rangelands, timber, and cropland as well as mineral and energy resources characterize the landscape of Southwestern Wyoming. This region plays an important role in providing for increasing natural resource demands of the United States, particularly in the areas of wind-energy, natural gas, oil, coal, uranium, and trona. However, these activities can be important drivers of change on this landscape, affecting wildlife habitats, water quality, ranching and farming, and recreational opportunities that are vital to Southwest Wyoming’s ecology, economy, society, and culture. Policymakers and natural resource managers need basic information about where energy and minerals development has occurred and where it might occur in the future. Future effects of natural resource development in southwest Wyoming will depend on the resources developed and their locations. For this reason, it is critically important to identify areas of active resource development and extraction in the WLCI region as well as likely areas of future development. The perceived effects of mineral and energy resource extraction on the agricultural economy and local communities is also central to land use planning and evaluation efforts, so information on the location of agricultural activities and attitudes toward development must be identified as well. When this information is combined with data on critical wildlife habitat, then resource extraction can be planned for times and/or locations that minimize impacts on wildlife and plants.
The WCLI science team has compiled databases of baseline information on types and locations of past, present, and future natural resource development and agricultural use to provide information to guide future decisions for protecting wildlife populations, habitats, and ecosystem functions while allowing responsible energy and minerals development. USGS scientists are using these products along with data on land use and land cover to identify land-management strategies that maximize persistence of habitat for wildlife species of special concern under future potential land-uses and climatic conditions.
Tools and products resulting from these research activities include:
- databases and maps of the extent of mineral resources in the WLCI region, including iron, base and precious metals, trona, uranium, and phosphate
- an online inventory of energy resources data
- maps of energy development and infrastructure in the region
- a wind-energy map that identifies locations and descriptive information for existing wind turbines in the State of Wyoming
- spatial models that assess physical and wildlife impacts in response to oil and gas development scenarios
- maps of agricultural land use