DENVER–The Interior Department issued a report Monday taking credit for contributing $14.44 billion to Colorado’s economy in 2011, but at least one industry group wasn’t buying it.
The Western Energy Alliance fired back by making the point that “the government doesn’t actually generate the economic value.”
“[E]conomic impact is created by oil, natural gas, coal, and timber companies; ranchers; and other productive users creating value on public land administered by [the Interior Department],” said Kathleen Sgamma, vice-president of government and public affairs for the Denver-based group.
The annual report on the Interior Department’s economic contributions concluded that the agency contributed $385 billion to the national economy and supported more than two million jobs. About 35% of Colorado land is federally owned.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a statement that the benefits derived from “promoting tourism, outdoor recreation, energy development and other economic activities that fuel local economies in Colorado.”
He placed special emphasis on the contributions of the tourism industry, noting that President Obama “has launched a major initiative to work with states and communities across the country to promote domestic and international tourism–America’s #1 export–at places such as national parks and national wildlife refuges.”
Listing “tourism” and “outdoor recreation” before “energy development” came as something of a poke in the eye to the energy sector, given that the fossil-fuel industry was responsible for the vast majority of the economic output and employment cited in the report.
The industry has clashed repeatedly with the Obama administration over access to public lands and a tightening regulatory climate. Critics have accused the administration, along with the environmental movement, of attempting to cripple the natural-resources economy in the West in favor of an economy based on tourism.
Recreation and tourism supported 403,000 jobs and contributed $48.7 billion of the total, according to the report. Meanwhile, oil, gas, coal and hydropower and other minerals supported 1.5 million jobs and contributed $275 billion of the economic output.
Of that, the oil and natural gas industry was responsible for $238.5 billion and 1.3 million jobs, or 62% of the total economic value and 56% of the jobs, Sgamma said.
“This is not value generated by the government–it’s the result of private sector investment, technical innovation, and productive activity on public lands,” said Sgamma.
The former Democratic senator from Colorado, Salazar was back in the Centennial State Monday to visit the site of the Waldo Canyon fire in Colorado Springs, where he met with state and local officials for a briefing on the firefighting and recovery effort. The fire is listed as 98% contained.