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Life in Lusk: Sense of Community Big Plus For Wyoming’s Most Sparse County

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

While there may be some downsides to living in the most sparsely populated county in the second-most sparsely populated state in the nation, there is at least one major advantage, according to Lusk Mayor Doug Lytle.

“I think the huge advantage is the community,” he told Cowboy State Daily. “It brings the community together because you depend on each other more.”

Results of the 2020 census show that Wyoming continues to have the lowest population in the nation at 576,851 people, but it holds the second-place spot when it comes to having the lowest population density — 5.9 people per square mile over its 97,088-square mile area.

Alaska, covering more than five times Wyoming’s area, comes in with the lowest population density in the country at 1.3 people per square mile — 733,391 people spread over 571,022 square miles.

The U.S. average for population density is 93.7 people per square mile.

Niobrara County has the state’s lowest population density with 2,467 people spread across 2,626 square miles — 0.9 people per square mile.

The low population density means the county lacks some amenities such as major shopping outlets, Lytle said.

“You can’t run to Wal-Mart or Menard’s, they’re 100 miles away,” he said. “You don’t have the retail base, the tax base.”

But that means people are more likely to help their neighbors, he said.

“You depend on each other a little more and everybody’s involved, not just some people,” he said.

He pointed as an example to Lusk’s annual “Legend of Rawhide” celebration, a major event made possible by hundreds of volunteers from Lusk and neighboring communities who take part in the effort to raise funds for scholarships and other charitable causes.

“We get people from Harris (Nebraska), from Van Tassel, from Manville,” he said. “They do a lot for the community. It gives a reason for people to come together and I think that’s important for communities these days.”

Lytle said the county also lacks the crowded conditions and traffic found in more densely populated areas.

“You can ride bikes down the street without being so worried about traffic,” he said. “Your parks aren’t constantly full of people so you can go have a picnic with your family.”

Lusk does enjoy brisk business traffic during the Sturgis, South Dakota, motorcycle rally owing to its location on major highways leading to the event, he said.

Lytle said overall, the sense of community overcomes any disadvantages to living in the area.

“It does cause challenges, but we’ve been doing it for years,” he said. “I think you get a sense of community when you take part in that.”

Following Niobrara County in rankings for low population density are Sublette and Carbon counties, which have a density of 1.8 people per square mile. Laramie County has the highest population density at 37.4 people per square mile.

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Wyoming Population Growth Third Slowest Over Last Decade

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By Elyse Kelly, The Center Square

Wyoming had the third slowest population growth rate over the last decade, according to a recent report.

Wyoming’s population growth from 2010 to 2020 averaged 0.23%, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts. The Cowboy State tied with Ohio and Pennsylvania. 

In its analysis, Pew found the regions that experienced the most growth over the last 10 years were the West and South.

Josh Dorrell, CEO of the Wyoming Business Council, pointed out a factor that appeared to make a key difference in nearby states’ growth rates.

“If you look at the states that maybe are around us and who have focused and now have an economy that’s based more on that knowledge sector, those tend to grow – it looks like – at a rate about three times ours in a lot of cases,” he told The Center Square.

Following the yearly growth rates for Wyoming, Dorrell noted that growth correlates well to the state of the energy sector. He said Wyoming has been working for a while to diversify its economy and that continues to be a goal going forward.

“It’s pretty straightforward,” he said. “You look at that reliance of those industries and the fact that there’s not a lot of resilience in those communities right now, and that’s really the impetus for a lot of the things we’ve been working on.”

Dorrell said the state wants to grow a knowledge sector as well as service and a couple others alongside Wyoming’s already established key industries to build resilience so that residents don’t have to leave during bust cycles as they did in 2017-18 when the state saw negative growth. 

In 2020, Wyoming’s population grew faster than the national average, Dorrell pointed out, adding that he expects this to continue as perceptions of health and urban areas shift.

“I think you’re going to see more and more people who want to be able to be in a place that offers the open spaces that Wyoming has as well as a business climate that’s very friendly, and I think you’re going to see more people coming here, developing their businesses and creating that resilience,” he said.

Balancing population growth and the attractive quality of low population density is real, but Dorrell said Wyoming has a long way to go before that becomes a concern. Wyoming’s population is under a million at 576,851. None of its “big cities” are even on the radar, he said.

Dorrell hopes Wyomingites can embrace some change in order to stay “the same.”

“For Wyoming to remain the great place that it is, there is going to have to be some change that comes down the pike to our communities, and I think it’s just something that we want to welcome and do it in a smart way — (I don’t) necessarily think that it’s a bad thing,” Dorrell said.

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Census: Uinta County Has The Most Kids In Wyoming

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The percentage of children in Uinta Countyu’s population is the higehst in the state, according to data released recently by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The 2020 census data released last week showed 28.5% of Uinta County’s population is made up of people under the age of 18 — compared to the statewide total of 23.5%.

As a state, Wyoming came in 43rd in the nation out of all 50 states and Washington, D.C. for the percentage of its residents who are 18 and older, which was 76.5%, or 441,337 people. Utah came in last for having the lowest percentage of residents 18 or older, at 71%.

The percentage of adults making up populations of several neighboring states was very similar to the number seen in Wyoming. The census showed North Dakota’s percentage of adults was also at 76.5%, while South Dakota was at 75.5% Nebraska was 75.3% and Idaho was 74.8%.

The state with the highest percentage of its population over 18 was Vermont at 81.6%.

Only five counties in Wyoming had fewer than 75% of residents who were 18 and older: Lincoln, Uinta, Sweetwater, Big Horn and Campbell.

Albany County had the highest percentage of residents age 18 or older, at 83.2% or 30,852 residents.

In total, Wyoming saw a 3.1% increase (13,113 people) of residents 18 or older since the last census in 2010. It saw a 0.1% increase in those under age 18, or 112.

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2020 Census: Wyoming 5th Whitest State in Nation

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Although Wyoming’s population is almost 85% white, the state is not the whitest in the nation, according to the latest U.S. Census results.

Results from the 2020 census released this week show that Wyoming actually places fifth out of the 50 states and Washington, D.C., for having the highest percentage of white residents at 84.7%, or 488,374 of its 576,851 residents. In first place is Maine with a percentage of 90.8%.

However, Wyoming does have a higher percentage of people identifying themselves as white than any of its neighbors.

Montana is in sixth place with 84.5% of its residents identifying themselves as white, followed by North Dakota in eighth place at 82.9%, Idaho in tenth place at 82.1%, South Dakota in 11th at 80,7%, Utah in 13th at 78.7%, Nebraska in 14th at 78.4% and Colorado in 25th at 70.7%.

The largest percentage of Wyoming residents who said they were not white, 10.2%, 59,046, identified themselves as Hispanic or Latino, while those identifying as American Indian, 13,898, made up 2.4% of the state’s population.

The state’s Hispanic or Latino population increased by 17.5%, 8,815 people, between 2010 and 2020, according to the census data, while the American Indian population grew by 4.2%, 562 people.

During the same time, the state’s white population declined by 22,905, 4.5%.

Those identifying themselves as Black or Asian were 0.9% of the population.

Census results showed that in eight of the state’s counties, the population is more than 90% white. Crook County had the highest percentage at 94.6%.

The highest percentage of people who said they were not white was in Fremont County, home to the Wind River Indian Reservation, where 20.9% of the residents identified themselves as American Indians.

The highest percentage of Hispanic or Latino residents was found in Carbon County, 17.9%, followed by Sweetwater County at 15.5%.

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Majority Of Wyoming Counties Saw Population Decline Over Decade, State Grew Overall

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Despite the the fact a majority of Wyoming’s 23 counties lost residents over the last decade, the state’s population grew overall, even if by a small amount, according to the latest information provided by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Wyoming saw a 2.3% population increase between 2010 and 2020, recent data showed, which means the state gained 13,225 residents in the last 10 years.

By 2020, the state’s population was 576,851.

Fourteen of Wyoming’s 23 counties saw a population decline in the last decade, however. Sublette County saw the biggest decline, losing 1,519 residents over 10 years, or a 14.8% decline.

Other counties to lose population included Washakie with a 9.9% decline and Carbon with an 8.5% drop

Laramie County was the most populous county in the state, with 100,512 residents and saw an increase of 9.6%, or a gain of 8,774 residents. Teton County saw the same percentage increase, with a population total of 23,331, an increase of 2,037 over 2010.

Niobrara County had the state’s fewest residents, 2,467. The county lost 17 residents over the decade, a decrease of 0.7%.

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Sublette County Experiences Drop In Initial Census Count

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By Brady Oltmans, Pinedale Roundup

Sublette County’s estimated population fell by 4 percent, according to the latest numbers published along with the first 2020 Census results.

According to the initial findings released by the U.S. Census Bureau, Wyoming’s total residential population grew by 13,225 people, or just 2.3 percent of its population. 

By contrast, that was the seventh-slowest growth rate in the country over the Census’ analyzed time frame of April 1, 2010, to April 1, 2020.

It was noted throughout the state that the 2.3-percent rise was the smallest population growth rate for the state since the 1980s.

For Sublette specifically, estimations stated the county lost about 413 people in the same 10-year period.

Dr. Wenlin Liu, chief economist with the Wyoming Department of Administration and Information’s Economic Analysis Division, said the state’s two largest contributing factor for that growth rate were natural increase and derived net migration.

Liu shared information with the Roundup that showed the annual Census estimate in 2019 was about 1,900 more people than the actual Census count. Sublette experienced population declines from 2013 to 2017, attributing for the 4-percent drop between 2010 and 2019.

“The net-out migration for those years was obvious due to the downturn of the energy industry,” Liu told the Roundup. “You may be able to expect that the 2020 Census result for Sublette will be somewhat close to the estimate though it’s possibly they deviate quite a bit due to its small size.”

Wyoming experienced about 25,000 more births than deaths during that time but a tabulated 11,800 more residents left the state than migrated to it during that 10-year span.

Liu contributed the exodus of the state due to the downturn in the energy industry dating back to mid-June 2014. Wyoming lost a third of its mineral extraction industry payroll jobs in 2015 and 2016 alone.

Those energy-sector jobs were largely responsible for Sublette’s population drop. It’s estimated 1,008 people left Sublette between 2010 and 2019, more than offsetting the 599 more births than deaths in the county.

“Change in employment always tends to drive and lead the change in migration for Wyoming, and generally speaking, people tend to move to areas where economics are vibrant,” Liu said in a statement. “In addition, the economy nationwide, particularly in neighboring states such as Colorado, Utah and Idaho, showed strong expansions, which attracted many Wyoming energy workers and residents during the second half of the decade.”

Utah and Idaho experienced the two largest growth rates in the country, according to initial Census findings. Utah’s growth registered 18.4 percent while Idaho measured an estimated 17.3 percent. 

Colorado grew by a Census-estimated 14.5 percent. Census results have long-reaching impacts, including an immediate impact on congressional appointment totals for each state.

For example, Colorado’s growth put it above a threshold for another U.S. House of Representative member, along with Florida, Montana, North Carolina and Oregon. Texas was the only state that will receive two more votes in Congress and the Electoral College for the next decade based upon the findings released earlier this week. California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia all lost seats.

And each person’s responses and participation in the Census mattered, as explained by Kristin Koslap, senior technical expert on the congressional appointments.

She said earlier this week that New York would not have lost its seat if the state had 89 more residents. Instead, that seat went to Minnesota.

The Census findings were delayed for multiple reasons, including the COVID-19 pandemic and multiple lawsuits pertaining to the Census in the last year of the Trump administration. 

There are two ongoing lawsuits – one in Alabama, one in Ohio – relating to the Census that could further delay its demographic data, which the Census Bureau stated is scheduled to be released Aug. 16. 

New restricting data was due by the end of March but those lawsuits complicate the  timing. 

For example, the Alabama lawsuit is attempting to stop the bureau from keeping personal information in anonymized census data confidential, and a ruling in the state’s favor would delay findings by months. 

The new Electoral College map, with new votes and adjusted Congressional map, will go into effect beginning with the 2024 election.

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Census Report: Wyoming (Still) Least Populous State

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Although Wyoming’s population increased by 2.3% over the last decade, it continues to be the least-populated state in the U.S., according to the latest census data.

Data released Monday from last fall’s census showed Wyoming had a population of 576,851. This made it the least-populated state in the nation, with California being the most populous, with 39.5 million residents.

Wyoming’s population increased by 13,225 from 2010, the U.S. Census Bureau data showed.

While this may not seem like a major increase, Wyoming was ranked 44th in the nation for the percentage of growth in its population. The lowest growth rate was seen in Connecticut at 0.9%, while three states — Illinois, Mississippi and West Virginia — actually lost population.

Wyoming also has around 870 residents living overseas, which includes military and federal civilians.

The total U.S. population, not including Puerto Rico, for the 2020 census was 331.4 million.

Because representation in the U.S. House is based on a state’s population, some states saw a change in the number of their congressional seats as a result of the census. Colorado, Montana and three other states will each gain a seat and California, New York and five other states will lose one each. Wyoming will not see a change.

Earlier this year, the Census Bureau reported that Wyoming had one of the worst response rates for the survey, with only about 61.1% of Wyoming’s residents responded on their own to the bureau’s request for information. 

The remaining 38.8% of those counted were approached by Census Bureau workers during the count that extended through the mid-October last year.

The self-response rate puts Wyoming 13th from the bottom of a list of all the states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico had the lowest self-response rate at 35.8%, followed by Alaska at 54.7%.

Among the state’s counties, Laramie County residents did the best job of responding on their own to the Census Bureau’s requests, with 71.9% doing so, followed by Sheridan County at 68.3%.

Teton County had the lowest rate in the state at 39.5%, followed very closely by Sublette County at 39.6%.

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2020 Census: Wyoming One Of The Worst States In The Nation For Responding

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Although the results of last year’s census aren’t expected to be released until the end of April, there are a few things we do know about the state’s standing in the national count of Americans.

First, we’re only so-so at responding on our own to requests for information. 

And second, residents of the state’s northwestern corner seem more hesitant than most in the Cowboy State to answer questions from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Figures released by the Census Bureau show that 61.1% of Wyoming’s residents responded on their own to the bureau’s request for information. 

The remaining 38.8% of those counted were approached by Census Bureau workers during the count that extended through the mid-October last year.

The self-response rate puts Wyoming 13th from the bottom of a list of all the states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico had the lowest self-response rate at 35.8%, followed by Alaska at 54.7%.

Minnesota had the highest rate at 75.1%. Nationally, the self-response rate averaged 67%.

Among the state’s counties, Laramie County residents did the best job of responding on their own to the Census Bureau’s requests, with 71.9% doing so, followed by Sheridan County at 68.3%.

Teton County had the lowest rate in the state at 39.5%, followed very closely by Sublette County at 39.6%.

Census numbers are used to determine the distribution of federal funding to the states. As a result, Gov. Mark Gordon in March encouraged all Wyoming residents to respond to the census.

“If you care about safe roads, good schools, health care, public safety — it’s important that everyone in Wyoming be counted,” he said in April.

Work on the 2020 census began in January 2020 and efforts to collect data in-person, delayed several times by the coronavirus, ended in October.

The Census Bureau has announced the results should be released by April 30.

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Casper Turns To Mascot To Encourage Census Response

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By Tim Monroe, Cowboy State Daily

BEE Counted! That’s the message of Casper’s official Census 2020 mascot, “BUZZ.”

Buzz, a large bee, has appeared in parades, meetings and on television. In early April, Buzz even rode Casper’s transit system, The Bus, to acquaint riders with the importance of completing their Census 2020 forms.

Natrona County has seen a fairly good response to the U.S. Census Bureau’s requests for households to answer the bureau’s questions about their members. So far, 54.3% of the households have replied. 

It’s interesting to note that 46% replied digitally, through the internet connection. Those households received a letter asking them to complete the short census form and use the email connection. A long password was included.

Laramie County leads the state in responses at 62.3%, with 56.3% of those responses coming from the internet. Park County is next at 57.2%, with 43.7% responding via the internet. Sublette County trails all Wyoming counties with a response rate of 12.8%. Interestingly, at this point in the 2010 Census, 44.9% of Wyoming households had responded.

Households that have not replied to the requests will soon receive a post card asking them to complete the response. Normally, those households would receive a visit from a census worker, but due to the COVID-19 virus pandemic, personal contact is prohibited.

As of May 4 there were four Area Census Offices that resumed hiring for Non-response Followup field staff. Those four field offices are Billings, Montana, Bismarck, North Dakota, Cleveland County, Oklahoma, and Orem and Salt Lake City, Utah. 

Also, for places where the majority of households do not receive mail at their location, Census 2020 will soon resume dropping off packets at the front doors of homes. 

The Census deadline has been extended into October due to delays associated with COVID-19.

In the Denver Region, consisting of a dozen states, Nebraska leads with a nearly 64% response rate. Utah, Colorado and Kansas are all at more than 60% response. Wyoming is next to last with 47.5%, trailed only by New Mexico at 44.7%. 

People can still respond online at 2020Census.gov, completing the paper questionnaire and mailing it back or by calling a toll-free telephone number listed on the census website.

Many counties have formed Complete Count Committees, as have many States. 

In Natrona County, Liz Becher chairs a committee of a couple of dozen residents. They represent non-profits, media, health organizations, and the general public. 

Becher is Casper’s community development director. She is very aware of the need for a complete count of residents, since the city will receive about $1,600 per person over the next 10 years through various government programs. 

And the population totals qualify communities for various grants that help serve the community and don’t drain the general fund. 

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