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Wyoming Economic History


Farm of Wyoming
Farm of Wyoming

Since its early settlement in the mid-19th century, Wyoming has had an economy based on its natural resources. Cattle ranching and coal mining became major economic activities in the late 19th century. Farming grew in importance in the early 20th century, and the fossil fuel industry was diversified as new deposits of petroleum and natural gas were discovered. Today, mining is the most important sector of the state economy, followed by the government and financial services sectors. Of growing importance to many communities, and the state as a whole, is the tourism industry. Visitors are attracted during the summer and fall by the state’s extensive national parks and forests, while in the winter many come to the state’s world-renowned ski resorts. The manufacturing sector, however, remains relatively undeveloped. The federal government owns one-half of the land in Wyoming. About 80 percent of Wyoming’s mineral resources are located on this federal land, which is open to private producers who pay a royalty on the riches they extract.

The Wyoming state government receives about one-half of the federal royalties. Ranchers are also allowed to lease, and with special permission even fence, federal land to graze their herds.

Agriculture remains important to Wyoming’s economy. The average size of the state’s ranches and farms is among the largest in the nation. Livestock and animal products outrank crops in economic importance. The vegetation that grows naturally in the grasslands favors raising cattle, and the cattle industry provides more than two-thirds of Wyoming’s agricultural income. Sheep and lambs are raised for wool and food. Many of the crops raised in Wyoming are used to feed livestock. Hay is by far the leading crop.

Other feed crops include corn and various meadow grasses. Sugar beets, wheat, barley, dry beans, and potatoes are the leading cash crops.

Farms and ranches are located throughout the lowlands. The Great Plains region in eastern Wyoming is cattle-ranching and dryland wheat-farming country, with some irrigated cultivation of alfalfa hay, corn, and sugar beets. The Bighorn Basin has a similar economy, except that most of the cropland is irrigated. The sagebrush-dominated plains of southern and southwestern Wyoming are used mainly as winter range for livestock that sometimes are moved to higher pastures in summer. Dairying predominates in western Wyoming’s Star Valley. Adjacent to the mountains and national parks it is difficult to separate farming income from tourist income, because many working ranches cater to guests interested in hunting, fishing, horseback riding, wilderness exploration, and the rich diversity of plant and animal life in the region.

Forestry


Lumbering is not as important in Wyoming as it is in neighboring Montana and Idaho. Operations are small and scattered, although locally significant. The primary commercial trees are ponderosa pine, lodgepole pine, Engelmann spruce, and Douglas fir. Federal law mandates that the harvesting of wood in national forests be done in a way that does not cause declines in environmental quality or the abundance of rare plants and animals. "Wyoming" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.

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