Interior Department manages $12.2 billion of energy, mining activity in state

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Energy and mineral development accounted for $12.2 billion of the $14.4 billion in economic output in Colorado related to U.S. Department of Interior programs during the 2011 federal fiscal year.

The energy and mineral sector also accounted for 52,678 of the 74,203 jobs supported by Interior Department activities in the state, with recreation coming in second, at 13,365, a department report said.

Nationally, the department contributed $385 billion to the economy and supported more than 2 million jobs for the year, it said.

Energy development and mining on lands and offshore areas managed by Interior were responsible for about three-quarters of those jobs and $275 billion in economic activity. Recreation accounted for more than 400,000 Interior-related jobs and about $48.7 billion in economic impact.

Nationwide, Interior recreation sites attracted 435 million visitors in fiscal 2011.

Interior-related recreation was responsible for $1.27 billion in economic activity in Colorado.

In the state, oil and gas resources managed by Interior’s Bureau of Land Management accounted for $9.5 billion in total economic impact and 18,101 direct and 39,128 total jobs, the report estimates. Mining of BLM-managed coal was responsible for $1.3 billion economically along with 2,650 direct jobs and 5,719 total jobs.

The Western Energy Alliance said in a news release that credit for Interior-related economic impact actually should go to energy and other industries, not the agency.

“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 Kathleen Sgamma, the group’s vice president of government and public affairs.

The report cites Bureau of Labor Statistics data showing oil and gas production workers earned an average of $28.93 an hour in 2010, compared with $21.35 an hour for all job types.

“President Obama’s focus on expanding responsible domestic energy development is working alongside our 21st century conservation, travel and tourism agendas to reinvigorate local communities — particularly in rural America,” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a news release.

The report estimates that about 10,000 rural jobs were supported by the Interior in Colorado, where there were a total of more than 16 million visits to national parks and other Interior recreation sites. Citing a specific example of a benefit to a rural area, it said spending by visitors to Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve contributed nearly $10 million in economic impact and supported about 150 jobs.

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