Wyoming State Water Plan, Wyoming Water Development Office
Rafting on Snake River Lake Marie, Snowy Mountains Wyoming Wind River Range picture


SUBJECT: Task 4. Basin Water Demand Projections
Memo 1: Historic and Current Economic and Demographic Conditions
PREPARED BY:       BBC Research & Consulting
Edward Harvey and Marc Carey
DATE: October 11, 2002


This memorandum provides the starting point for development of Snake/Salt River Basin (Basin) water demand projections by describing:

Information summarized in the memorandum was gathered from publicly available secondary sources and from personal and telephone interviews conducted by BBC Research & Consulting (BBC) from April through July 2002. References are listed at the end of this memorandum. Subsequent memoranda related to water demand forecasting describe the three alternative planning scenarios and the overall economic and demographic projections for the Basin in year 2032 (Memo 2), and the water demand projections for year 2032 (Memo 3).

Demographic Overview

At present, nearly 26,000 people reside in just over 10,000 households within the Wyoming portions of the Snake and Salt River Basins. Roughly 44 percent of the population of the Basin lives within the boundaries of the City of Jackson or the Towns of Afton, Alpine and Thayne, the four principal population centers within the Basin. These municipalities also account for 45 percent of Basin households.

The City of Jackson comprises 52 percent of the total population and 34 percent of the total households within Teton County, while the three towns in northern Lincoln County constitute 39 percent of the total population and 30 percent of total households in Lincoln County. The remainder of the basin’s population lives within unincorporated areas of Lincoln, Sublette and Teton counties. A breakdown of the current population of the Basin is provided in Exhibit 1. Population and household estimates for Basin towns were developed for the year 2000 by the Wyoming Department of Administration and Information, Division of Economic Analysis. Population and household estimates in unincorporated portions of the Basin were estimated using Census 2000 totals for Census Designated Places and other Census Tracts within the Basin.

Exhibit 1. Estimated 2000 Population, Households and Related Political Jurisdictions in the Basin

Source: Wyoming Department of Administration and Information, Division of Economic Analysis. Profile of General Housing Characteristics by County and Place, 2000. Census Tracts from 2000 Census of Population and Housing, Census 2000, Bureau of the Census.

Historic Population Growth

Changes in census tract definitions from decade to decade and the imprecise relationship of census-defined geography to the watershed make it difficult, if not impossible, to precisely quantify historic population totals for the unincorporated portions of the Basin. However, population changes in the four principal communities that comprise a good portion of the Basin’s population can be readily tracked over time from the decennial censuses.

Since 1950, the combined population of Alpine, Afton and Jackson has increased at an average annual rate of about 3 percent. This long-term average, however, masks considerable fluctuation during this 50-year period. As shown in Exhibit 2, the population of the three communities remained almost constant during the 1950’s and 1960’s before growing rapidly in the 1970’s. While the 1980’s were characterized by slow but steady growth, population during the 1990’s increased dramatically, with the combined population of Alpine, Afton and Jackson increasing at an average annual rate of 6 percent over the past ten years. In general, the rates of population growth in these communities closely correspond to the rates of population growth for Lincoln and Teton Counties as a whole over the past five decades.

Exhibit 2. Population of Lincoln and Teton Counties and the Towns of Alpine, Afton and Jackson, 1950 to 2000

Source: Wyoming Department of Administration and Information, Economic Analysis Division.

From resident births exceeding resident deaths, termed “net natural population increase,” the combined population of Lincoln and Teton Counties has generally increased by between 150 and 450 residents per year since 1970 according to data from the Wyoming Department of Health. However, population changes in these counties have historically been driven primarily by migration to or from the area, presumably in response to changing economic opportunities. Exhibit 3 portrays total annual changes in population and annual net migration for the two-county area from 1970 through 2000. Total annual population changes for each county were calculated from annual population estimates reported in the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis, Regional Economic Information System (BEA-REIS). With the exception of the five-year period in the late 1980’s, the Lincoln-Teton county region has maintained relatively steady levels of growth, driven largely by in-migration to the region.

Exhibit 3. Components of Population Change, 1970 to 2000, Lincoln and Teton Counties

Note: Area between lines represents “net natural population increase,” or the annual difference between birth total and death total for Lincoln and Teton Counties.

Sources: Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis, Regional Economic Information Systems, 2000. Wyoming Department of Health.

Labor Force Participation and Unemployment

A high proportion of Basin residents between the ages of 18 and 65 are currently active in the labor force. County level figures based on labor force estimates published by the Wyoming Department of Employment and estimates of population between the ages of 18 and 65 from Census 2000 indicate that about 92 percent of Teton County residents and are either employed or actively seeking work, compared to the state average labor force participation rate of about 87 percent. The participation rate in Lincoln County is lower than the state average, at 79 percent.

The most recent average annual unemployment rates published by the Wyoming Department of Employment, for 2001, were 5.4 percent for Lincoln County, 2.2 percent for Teton County and 3.9 percent for the state of Wyoming as a whole. All totals represent relative low points, as the average annual unemployment rates during the 1990’s were 6.8 percent for Lincoln County, 2.3 percent for Teton County and 5.0 percent for the State of Wyoming.

Economic Overview

Based upon the extrapolation of 2000 data from BEA-REIS to the year 2002, the study team estimates that there are currently over 28,200 full and part-time jobs located in Lincoln and Teton Counties. The study team estimates that approximately 4,200 of these jobs are located within the Basin portion of Lincoln County and about 24,000 jobs are located in Teton County.

Historic Employment Growth

Exhibit 4 depicts historical employment growth for Lincoln and Teton counties (graphed against the left axis) and the State of Wyoming (graphed against the right axis) from 1970 through 2000. Over the past three decades, Teton County employment has grown at a rapid and increasing rate. Especially during the decade of the 1990’s, employment growth has outpaced the rate of growth for the State of Wyoming as a whole. This rapid growth reflects the continued development of the tourism industry in Teton County. In general, Lincoln County employment growth during the past three decades has been much slower than either Teton County or the State of Wyoming as a whole. An exception was the brief period of power plant construction during the mid-1980’s; growth in county employment fell back shortly thereafter to rates comparable to the pre-construction period.

Exhibit 4. Total Employment Growth: Lincoln and Teton Counties and the State of Wyoming, 1970-2000

Source: Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis, Regional Economic Information Systems, 2000.

Employment and Earnings by Sector

Exhibit 5, based upon BEA-REIS data for 2000, depicts the share of total employment in Lincoln County, Teton County and the State of Wyoming for each major industry division. County data were utilized to present this distribution since Basin specific totals were not available. As indicated in the exhibit, the three largest employment sectors in both Lincoln and Teton counties (as well as in the State of Wyoming) are services, retail trade and government.

Exhibit 5. Composition of 2000 Employment by Sector for Lincoln and Teton Counties, Wyoming, and the United States

Source: Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis, Regional Economic Information Systems, 2000.

Comparing shares of county employment and employee earnings to state averages can be useful in indicating the categories of economic activity that bring money into the local economy. Such categories comprise the economic base of the local economy. Since only the northern part of Lincoln County lies within the Snake/Salt River Basin, however, the sectoral distribution presented in Exhibit 5 above does not precisely reflect the Basin’s employment distribution. For example, almost all employment in the Mining and TCU sectors occurs in the southern half of Lincoln County, which is outside the Basin’s boundaries.

As shown in Exhibit 5, agricultural employment in Lincoln County is relatively large compared to both the State of Wyoming and to the national average. In contrast, agricultural employment is Teton County is much smaller than both these benchmarks. Both Lincoln and Teton Counties have relatively large construction sectors — likely related to the 1990’s housing boom — especially in Teton County. Further evidence of this is the relatively large share of jobs in the finance, insurance and real estate sector within Teton County, somewhat remarkable for a small county predominantly rural in nature and far from any major metropolitan areas. The service sector in Teton County is particularly dominant, reflecting the dominance of the tourism industry in the county. Roughly 40 percent of the jobs in Teton County are within the service sector, much higher than either the State of Wyoming or the national average. There are also a relatively large number of government sector jobs in Lincoln County and the State as a whole, reflecting in part, the large amount of federal lands that are administered in each area. Even though over 90 percent of Teton County is public land, the share of government sector jobs in Teton County is smaller, reflecting the more diverse nature of the County’s economy.

Exhibit 6, also based on BEA-REIS data for 2000, depicts the relative proportion that each major industry division contributes to total earnings in Lincoln County, Teton County, and the State of Wyoming. While the graphic does highlight distinct differences in the economies of Lincoln and Teton Counties, it is important to remember that county boundaries and Basin boundaries are not identical. Important sectors in Teton County include the Construction and Trade and Services sectors - each important components of a thriving tourist-based economy. In contrast, significant sectors for Lincoln County include the Mining sector and Government sector, more typical of a western rural county with a large share of federal lands. For purposes of characterizing the economy of the Snake/Salt River Basin, however, this is somewhat deceptive since almost all of the mining activity occurs in the portion of Lincoln County. Transportation and public utilities also accounts for a comparatively large share of Lincoln County earnings due to operations of the power plant near Kemmerer — which is also outside the Basin.

Exhibit 6. Composition of 2000 Earnings by Sector for Lincoln and Teton Counties, Wyoming, and the United States

Source: Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis, Regional Economic Information Systems, 2000.

Key Economic and Water Use Sectors

The remainder of this memorandum describes current conditions in two key sectors in the Basin. Agriculture, while no longer one of the largest sources of employment or income in the Basin, still accounts for the largest amount of water use. Tourism and visitor related activities are a large and increasingly important component of the local economic base.

Prospects for these sectors, and specific scenarios incorporating varying assumptions about each sector, provide the cornerstone to the economic, demographic and water demand projections for the Basin. These elements are discussed in the two subsequent technical memoranda for the Basin water demand projections.


In order to understand current agricultural activity in the Basin and the factors affecting local agriculture in the future, BBC interviewed relevant personnel from a variety of federal and state land management and agricultural agencies. BBC also interviewed representatives of several livestock operations currently operating within the Basin. BBC also gathered and analyzed current and historic livestock and hay production data for the Basin counties published by Wyoming Agricultural Statistics Service. In addition, BBC obtained information on current and historic stocking levels for livestock grazing allotments within the Basin from the United States Forest Service (USFS), the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the National Park Service (NPS). The following is an abbreviated summary of current agricultural conditions in the Basin.

Tourism and Visitor Related Activity

The tourist economy within the Basin is vibrant and growing, with over 2.5 million visitors per year (Collins). Peak tourist season is still the summer, but winter use is noticeably on the rise, and the shoulder seasons are getting shorter and shorter. In order to gain local insight into tourism and visitor related activity in the Basin, BBC interviewed representatives of the Teton County Planning Department, planners for Grand Teton National Park, Recreation Specialists for the Bridger-Teton National Forest, and a variety of recreation service providers in the area. BBC also collected extensive secondary data on recreational activities and associated visitor days from both the USFS and the NPS.

In addition, BBC developed estimates, by season of the current number of visitor nights in the area, average annual visitor expenditures and corresponding estimates of visitor related employment in the area. Secondary data sources, used in developing these estimates, included results from studies on the economic impact of the travel industry in Wyoming (Morey and Associates, 1999, 2000; Runyan and Associates, 2001), and an assessment of housing needs in Teton County (Prior and Associates, 2001).

The following is a brief summary of current tourism and visitor related activity in the Basin.

Exhibit 10. Number of Visitor Days, Visitor Expenditures and Jobs Supported by Tourism Snake/Salt River Basins, 2000/2001

Sources: Morey and Associates, 1999, 2000. Prior and Associates, 2001.


At present, there are approximately 26,000 residents living in the Wyoming portions of the Basin. The population of Basin counties grew rapidly during the 1970’s, slowed considerably during the 1980s and has resumed comparatively rapid growth during the 1990s. About 28,000 jobs are located within the Basin, many of which are part-time. Employment is highly seasonal, especially in Teton County. Most jobs in the Basin are held by residents in the northern Lincoln and Teton Counties, although some jobs in the Basin are filled by residents of nearby Teton county Idaho. The most important sector of the Basin's economic base is tourism and visitor related activity. Agriculture is not as large a factor in the local economy as it was in the past and continues to steadily decline, but remains an important sector from the standpoint of Basin water use.


Interview with Bill Collins, Teton County Planning Director, October 2001.

Interview with Levi Broyles, Vegetation Management Program Facilitator, Bridger-Teton National Forest, June 2002.

Interview with Walt Grows, Rangeland Management Specialist, Caribou-Targhee National Forest, June 2002.

Interview with Jody Kennington, Lincoln County Executive Director, Farm Service Agency, USDA, June 2002.

Interview with Doug Powell, Natural Resource Specialist, Pinedale Field Office, Bureau of Land Management, June 2002.

Interview with Michelle Easeley, Natural Resource Specialist, Kemmerer Field Office, Bureau of Land Management, June 2002.

Interview with Alan Gray, Forage Agronomist, Director of Powell Research and Extension Center, University of Wyoming, July 2002.

Interview with Gurn Brown, retired Agricultural Extension Specialist, Lincoln County, July 2002.

Interview with Bill Resor, Owner, Snake River Ranches, BAG Member, July 2002.

Interview with Jim Maher, Teton County Brand Inspector, July 2002.

Interview with Chad Madson, Owner, Yellowstone Horses, October 2002.

Interview with Alan Rosenbaum, Manager, Pinto Ranch, October 2002.

Interview with Jim Sullivan, General Manager, Snow King Ski Area, August 2002.

Interview with Larry Williamson, General Manager, Grand Targhee Ski Area, August 2002.

Interview with Jerry Blann, General Manager, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, August 2002.

Interview with Bob O’Neil, Director of Guest Activities, Grand Teton Lodge Company, August 2002.

Interview with John King, General Manager, Signal Mountain Lodge, August 2002.

Interview with John Turner, Owner, Triangle X Ranch, August 2002.

Interview with Dick Barker, Owner, Barker Ewing Float Trips, August 2002.

Interview with Susan Marsh, Recreation Staff Officer, Bridger-Teton National Forest, August 2002.

Interview with Wendy Koelfgen, Clerk, Chief Rangers Office, GTNP, August 2002.

Interview with Kim McMahill, Concession’s Specialist, Concessionaires Office, GTNP, August 2002.

Economic Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture Livestock Baseline Projections, February 2002. http://www.ers.usda.gov/briefing/baseline/.

Grand Teton National Park, Concessionaire’s Office, unpublished data, 2002.

National Agricultural Statistics Service, Published Online Estimates Database, http://www.nass.usda.gov:81/ipedb/ [new link 10/2009 HERE].

Sunrise Engineering, unpublished data, 2002.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Census of Agriculture, 1997. http://www.nass.usda.gov/census/ [new link 10/2009 HERE].

U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Census, 2000 Census of Population and Housing. http://factfinder.census.gov/servlet/BasicFactsServlet

U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis, Regional Economic Information System, 2001. http://www.bea.doc.gov/bea/regional/reis/ [new link 10/2009 HERE]

U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis, Employment by Industry for Lincoln and Teton Counties, 2000. Published online at http://eadiv.state.wy.us/i&e/i&e.asp.

Wyoming Agricultural Statistics, 2001, Wyoming Agricultural Statistics Service. http://www.nass.usda.gov/wy/ [new link 10/2009 HERE].

Wyoming Department of Administration and Information, Division of Economic Analysis, Profiles of General Housing Characteristics by County and Place, http://eadiv.state.wy.us/housing/HU_2000.htm.

Wyoming Department of Health, Vital Statistics, various years. http://wdhfs.state.wy.us/vital_records/99DATA/menu.pdf [new link 10/2009 HERE]

Personal Interviews/Written Communications, Completed in Year 2002

Barker, Dick, Barker Ewing Float Trips, August 2002.

Blann, Jerry, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.

Brown, Gurn, retired Agricultural Extension Specialist.

Broyles, Levi, Bridger-Teton National Forest.

Collins, Bill, Teton County Planning Department.

Dana, Frank, Starr Valley Cheese Factory.

Erickson, Ryan, Sunrise Engineering.

Gray, Alan, University of Wyoming.

Grows, Walt, Caribou Targhee National Forest.

Easeley, Michelle, Bureau of Land Management. Kennington, Jody, Lincoln County Farm Service Agency.

King, John, Signal Mountain Lodge.

Koelfgen, Wendy, Grand Teton National Park.

Maher, Jim, Teton County.

Madson, Chad, Yellowstone Horses.

Marsh, Susan, Bridger-Teton National Forest.

McMahill, Kim, Grand Teton National Park.

Norton, Bob, Nelson Engineering.

O’Neil, Bob, Grand Teton Lodge Company.

Powell, Doug, Bureau of Land Management.

Resor, Bill, Snake River Ranches.

Rosenbaum, Alan, Pinto Ranch.

Sullivan, Jim, Snow King Ski Area.

Turner, John, Triangle X Ranch.

Williamson, Larry, Grand Targhee Ski Area.

Published Data Sources

Bureau of Economic Analysis, Full and Part-Time Employment by Industry, Lincoln and Teton Counties, Wyoming. http://www.bea.doc.gov [new link 10/2009 HERE].

Grazing Use and Open Space Study, Grand Teton National Park and Teton County, Wyoming, Report to Congress (Review Draft), National Park Service, United States Department of Interior, February 2001.

Housing Needs Assessment, Teton County Wyoming, prepared for the Teton County Housing Authority, Prior and Associates, August 2001.

Land and Resource Management Plan, Bridger-Teton National Forest United States Forest Service.

Lincoln and Teton County IMPLAN coefficients.

Report on the Economic Impact of the Travel Industry in Wyoming, 1999, 2000, Morey and Associates/ Department of Economics, University of Wyoming.

Revised Forest Plan, Targhee National Forest, Intermountain Region R-4, United States Forest Service, April 1997.

The Economic Impact of Travel on Wyoming, 1997-2001 State Estimates, Dean Runyan Associates, December 2001.