May 15, 2021 Snapshot: New Census Figures Show Wyoming Risks Being Left Behind | Chroniclers
Here are some editorial advice from across the state:
New census figures show Wyoming at risk of being left behind
From May 2 Casper Star-Tribune
Across the western part of the mountain, populations are skyrocketing.
Census figures released Monday showed major growth for most states in the Rocky Mountain region. Over the past decade, Wyoming’s western neighbors, Idaho and Utah, have grown by 17.3 percent and 18.4 percent, respectively. In the south, Colorado’s population jumped 14.8%. Montana, neighboring northern Wyoming, has seen its population increase by nearly 10%. Meanwhile, in the east, South Dakota grew by 8.9% and Nebraska by 7.4%.
Wyoming’s population, by comparison, grew 2.3%, according to census figures. In fact, Wyoming has grown slower than any other state in the entire West.
On the surface, this may seem correct to many of us. We appreciate the benefits of living in the least populated state in the country. This means less traffic, easier journeys and fewer lines. This means more open spaces, empty views, and the peace and quiet that are often lacking in more densely populated areas.
But the new figures are also worrying. Because without growth, we risk stagnating. And we risk being left behind. We have known for years that many young Wyomingites are leaving the state for more opportunities elsewhere. They may love it here, but they find there are too few jobs or amenities to make Wyoming their home. A prosperous state, which people see as a place of opportunity, is a state in which they are more likely to settle.
Slow growth also suggests that people are interested in more than just low taxes and few regulations. Lawmakers often cite these factors to oppose changing the status quo. But if success were simply a matter of rejecting tax measures and relaxing the rules, Wyoming would be inundated with newcomers. Where are they?
Basically, two questions should be asked: do we want to grow? And do we want to go beyond our mining economic base? There is no wrong answer here. But there are consequences with either choice. And both come with risks.
Of course, the choice is not simply to choose to grow or stay stagnant. There are ways to achieve the former while still protecting the quiet life and open spaces that Wyomingites hold dear. But that will require accepting a change and being okay with the idea that we could do at least a few things differently without losing the Wyoming way of life.
The risk associated with change also has its benefits. There would be new amenities and more opportunities. But more importantly, steady growth would mean the development of a more stable economy. Energy and fossil fuels would continue to be part of that mix, but also a segment within a larger constellation of opportunities that attracts newcomers while retaining young people.
We should hold on to what makes Wyoming such an amazing place to live. But that does not prevent us from charting a course that directs our state towards greater success. A Wyoming with steady growth – and steady opportunities – is one that can prosper now and into the future.