Craig Despite forecasts suggesting Northwest Colorado is in a growth spurt, a U.S. Census Bureau report released earlier this month shows little residential growth in Yampa Valley towns.
Studies from the El Pomar Foundation and Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado hypothesize energy industry activity will spur more movement to the area, possibly doubling the population in Moffat County within 20 years.
However, according to the census report, which estimated populations for every incorporated town in America, only one Yampa Valley municipality - Dinosaur - had an increase in population this decade.
Dinosaur grew by 17 residents from July 2000 to July 2007, totaling 335 residents in the current population estimate.
Other Yampa Valley towns, such as Craig, Hayden and Steamboat Springs, had slightly contracting populations and largely static growth throughout the past seven years.
Craig's population decreased by 10 residents since the beginning of the new century, from a total 9,171 in July 2000 to 9,161 in July 2007.
However, the population increased by 123 from 2006 to 2007.
Hayden's population decreased by 64 people, from 1,631 residents in 2000 to 1,567 residents in 2007. The town, however, gained 21 new residents from 2006 to 2007.
Steamboat Springs went down, as well, from 9,900 residents in 2000 to 9,516 residents in 2007, a loss of 384 residents.
Like Craig and Hayden, though, Steamboat had some growth in the immediate past. An estimated 145 new residents joined the town between July 2006 and July 2007, the largest growth of any Yampa Valley town in that time.
The population estimates do not include residents in unincorporated parts of the different counties, which could be seeing more residential growth.
The survey includes some of the migrant work force currently in the area, such as employees for energy and construction companies. Whether they were counted for Craig's population depends on several factors, such as whether they were domestic or international immigrants, where they file their tax records and their living situation.
Barbara Vandervate, Census Bureau statistician, said the agency takes a county's total population and then uses the number of housing units within an area as the basis for qualifying populations within cities and towns.
The Bureau also uses births, deaths and tax records to track population.
Craig Mayor Don Jones wouldn't have guessed populations across the region would be so stagnant, he said.
Before hearing the Census Bureau's estimates, he guessed Craig's population would have increased by about 3 or 4 percent, he said, equal to roughly 300 new residents.
Jones said he based his estimate on the growth forecasts published by El Pomar and AGNC.
Looking at Meeker, which is very near the oil and gas boom in Rio Blanco County, those estimates seem reliable.
Meeker's population has grown about 4 percent in seven years, from 2,238 residents in 2000 to 2,322 in 2007.
After some thought, Jones said the Bureau's findings in Craig make sense.
"When you look at what the (Moffat County School District) population has done, it hasn't grown, either," Jones said. "We have about as many kids in school now as we've ever had."
He added he expects the population to increase within the next few years, though, likely the 3 to 4 percent per year estimated by the growth forecasts published recently.
However, that would be enough for him, Jones said.
"I don't really want to see anymore than that," he said. "I think that'd be a nice and steady increase for the area."