Area report offers tools

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— Personal income from farming and ranching has declined so drastically it represents a loss when you account for Routt County's total personal income.

But that isolated fact doesn't become truly meaningful until you link it with other trends in Northwest Colorado that put it in perspective, Audrey Danner said.

Danner is the executive director of Yampa Valley Partners, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the development of healthy communities in Northwest Colorado.

YVP is preparing to release its latest report on the "Community Indicators Project," a collection of statistics meant to track changes in the broader community comprising Routt and Moffat counties.

If a 50-page report full of statistics sounds dry, the new report scheduled for release the first week of November is anything but.

"It's a lot of data and we worked really hard to make sure it's readable," Danner said.

Each page in the report is prefaced by a short introduction that gives meaning to the statistics it reveals.

The report cites Bureau of Economic Analysis figures that show per capita income in Routt County attributable to farming and ranching has declined from about $4.4 million in 1990 (adjusted to 2000), until 2000, added up to a loss of $3 million.

Another way to state the same thing would be to say that non-farm income now accounts for 100.5 percent of all personal income here.

Moffat County still counts $444,000 in farm and ranch income annually but the trend is the same.

Agriculture accounted for almost 10 percent of personal income in Moffat County in 1970. Today, it adds up to just .2 percent.

The decline in personal income from agriculture could prove to be linked to other trends like the growth of jobs in the service sector of the local economy such as advanced education, public and private land ownership patterns and a decline in the average size of farms and ranches.

Making the links among different indicators in the four categories is the key to learning from the report, Danner said.

The report is divided into four primary categories identifying key indicators in social, economic, environmental and civic areas.

It is filled with interesting trends including the age at which women in Northwest Colorado become mothers, ACT scores for all of the school districts, and the percentage of local senior citizens who live at or below the federal poverty level.

Danner said she hopes local governments, agencies and nonprofit organizations will use the indicators as tools to make decisions about long range planning and how they will allocate their budgets in meeting the needs of the community.

She emphasized that Yampa Valley Partners does not attempt to reach conclusions from the indicators it tracks, nor does it suggest directions that public policy should take."

"It's critical to remember the report was developed through a public process," Danner said. "Leading up to the report we went to different organizations and asked, 'what are your key issues? What are you working on?'"

Yampa Valley Partners will present the report in a series of soon-to-be-announced public forums.

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