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County Regulation of Mineral Development

Peter Keppler, Western Land Use Regulation and Mined Land Reclamation (1979)

This paper will discuss the powers and tools available to local governments attempting to control land use and socioeconomic impacts attendant to increased mineral and energy development in the Western states. Typically, such development occurs in sparsely-populated rural communities where ranching and farming have been the dominant economic activities. Increased mining activity, as well as power plant and similar construction, in such regions has resulted in economic booms in these areas. In some cases, the boom has caused social and economic problems that the communities were not prepared to deal with.

This paper will be limited in scope to local government powers and limitations, and will avoid discussing state and Federal programs. The paper will focus on two counties in Colorado and one in Wyoming, as examples of impacted communities, and will discuss some of the means these areas have utilized to mitigate or avoid adverse environmental and socioeconomic effects resulting from mining and energy development. These counties are Moffat and Garfield Counties in Colorado and Campbell County in Wyoming.

II. Power of Local Governments to Control Growth

Initially, it is important to recognize that counties and municipalities, as well as any regional governments existing within a state's borders, are political subdivisions of that state. Local government