Center for American Progress

RELEASE: Colorado’s North Fork Valley Is a Model for Rural Areas Seeking Diverse, Sustainable Economies
Press Release

RELEASE: Colorado’s North Fork Valley Is a Model for Rural Areas Seeking Diverse, Sustainable Economies

Washington, D.C. — Rural communities trying to boost economic growth should move away from the boom-and-bust cycle of fossil fuel extraction and embrace a transition to a more sustainable and diverse economy, according to new report from the Center for American Progress.

The report highlights Colorado’s North Fork Valley, a region that spent much of its history riding the ups and downs of coal mining and oil and gas exploration but is now shifting its focus to include tourism, agriculture, outdoor recreation, and clean energy.

Even as President Trump plows a path that directly benefits the coal, oil, and gas industries at the expense of other emerging economic sectors, the report shows the benefits of building an economy that avoids the risks of unstable energy markets and shifting policies for the energy sector.

“For rural communities, it’s critical to promote policies that offer access to healthy, protected lands and ensure that local voices are reflected in land management decisions,” said Jenny Rowland, senior policy analyst for public lands at CAP. “Communities like the North Fork have shown how small towns and rural counties can forge a prosperous and sustainable future rooted in their land, history, and way of life.”

The report highlights some of the progressive and pragmatic solutions that can be found in areas like the North Fork, with a focus on natural resources policy in three key areas: energy; land use planning; and agriculture.

The report then offers recommendations—some based on solutions being implemented in the North Fork—on how to encourage and spread these ideas to support rural communities across the nation. These include:

  • Ease reliance on the extractive energy industry while maintaining solar and wind energy financing and tax credits
  • Expand the capture and flaring of coal mine methane
  • Create a state office of outdoor tourism
  • Remove barriers to participating in land management planning processes
  • Conduct oil and gas leasing in accordance with good planning practices
  • Measure the economic impact of the agritourism economy
  • Create a rural loan forgiveness program
  • Provide farm bill grants for smaller-scale, organic farms and agricultural conservation

Read the report: “Rural Pragmatism: Lessons Learned from Colorado’s North Fork Valley” by Jenny Rowland.

For more information or to talk to an expert, please contact Sam Hananel at or 202-478-6327.