GREEN RIVER -- Most Wyoming residents can easily point to the state's abundant natural resources, minerals and wildlife in the places they live and work.

But do they know which places they and their neighbors care about the most? And more importantly, why?

A new study being conducted by the Nature Conservancy's Wyoming chapter and the Ruckelshaus Institute of Environment and Natural Resources at the University of Wyoming aims to pinpoint those spots, in an effort to better help local governments make decisions about land use and resource development.

As part of the study, the two groups are seeking input from residents of Albany, Carbon and Sweetwater counties to create maps showing the places that are important to residents

for recreation, agriculture, development, water, wildlife, scenic and other values.

The "Wyoming Values" pilot project study began earlier this month and should be completed by the fall, said Amy Pocewicz, a Lander-based conservation scientist with the Nature Conservancy.

"These community maps are currently missing from the toolbox that land managers and local officials use to make decisions about the places where we work and play," she said.

The survey asks participants to mark on maps the important places in the counties; their development preferences in regard to such issues as wind, residential and oil and gas development; and their knowledge of the conditions in those areas.

"These three counties were chosen because of the energy development occurring in the region and because we needed to start small," Pocewicz said.

"While we have targeted residents of these counties to participate, because we expect they know these areas best, anyone can participate," Pocewicz said. "Obviously, people who live outside these three counties recreate and work there also."

Hotspots

She said the end product will be a set of maps that will be made available to local officials who make the decisions about natural resource development and land use.

"The places where most of the points are placed in the individual surveys ... are the places that will appear as hotspots in those maps," Pocewicz said.

Results will be compiled as summaries showing the collective values of the communities in these counties, said Pocewicz.

"In particular, the results will help identify possible ways to balance changes such as new development, with local traditions and values," she said.

The survey takes participants to an online, interactive map where they can mark and identify spots they believe are important for whatever reason.

Pocewicz said participants can also mark the places they think should be left undeveloped, or that would be suitable for development and provide economic opportunities for residents.

"We'll take all these identified points together and do some statistical analysis and spacial statistics to turn that into a surface image ... that will give us a collective picture," she said.

As part of the survey, she said 2,000 random residents in Albany, Carbon and Sweetwater counties also received an invitation by mail to participate, either online or by a paper survey.

"From those people, we have already gotten a lot of response ... and recreation has come up so far as being the biggest one they relate to," she said. "We're just really starting to ramp up now and get the word out to everybody else."

Participants will be able to log on to the survey site through the middle of June, she said.

Contact southwest Wyoming bureau reporter Jeff Gearino at (307) 875-5359 or gearino@tribcsp.com

On the web

For more information and to complete the survey, go to www.wyomingvalues.com. Participants will remain anonymous.

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