From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 4, Number 18 - July 29, 2004
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Pinedale under the magnifying glass

by Cat Urbigkit

Sublette County's abundant wildlife and natural resources have put it in the national headlines on numerous occasions, but with the amount of oil and gas development now occurring, it's an almost everyday occurrence.

Now Pinedale is being studied for its need to balance development and environmental protection.

Rice University's Jones Graduate School of Management (based in Houston, Texas) is studying Pinedale and will make its results available to decision-makers in this area. Graduate students are in Pinedale conducting interviews and hosting a booth during the Green River Rendezvous Days, as well as soliciting views via a survey mailed to residents.

The survey explores the values people place on wildlife, the environment, energy and residential development, as well as the willingness to make trade-offs between energy development and environmental protection.

Rice University Professor Marc Epstein said in an interview that while the survey questions aren't perfect, what the survey tries to understand are the attitudes and willingness to pay for various resources. He said the goal isn't to take one side over the other, but to provide a way to measure how strongly people feel about some things.

The 21-question survey asks participants to measure how much of a threat different issues pose to the environment, including residential development, gas exploration and production, fencing used for ranching and infrastructure.

The participant is asked how much money he or she would be willing to pay for lower energy costs with no wildlife preservation, how much money the participant spends on hunting and outdoor activities, as well as how much of an increase in cost the participant would pay to ensure wildlife populations are preserved.

Two questions each begin with the statement, "Conservationist groups may pool money in order to purchase or lease land to help provide contiguous habitats and ensure free passage of animals though migration routes." The respondent is then asked to identify the highest amount they would agree to donate "each year for the next 10 years above what you currently donate to conservationists groups to counteract the effects" of either residential development or natural gas development.

Epstein said the research should be done by late fall and the resulting report will be made public.

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