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State of Wyoming

ORIGIN OF STATE NAME: Derived from the Delaware Indian words maugh-wau-wa-ma, meaning "large plains."

NICKNAME: The Equality State; The Cowboy State.

CAPITAL: Cheyenne.

ENTERED UNION: 10 July 1890 (44th).

SONG: "Wyoming."

MOTTO: Equal Rights.

FLAG: A blue field with a white inner border and a red outer border (symbolizing, respectively, the sky, purity, and the Native Americans) surrounds a bison with the state seal branded on its side.

OFFICIAL SEAL: A female figure holding the banner "Equal Rights" stands on a pedestal between pillars topped by lamps symbolizing the light of knowledge. Two male figures flank the pillars, on which are draped banners that proclaim "Livestock," "Grain," "Mines," and "Oil." At the bottom is a shield with an eagle, star, and Roman numerals XLIV, flanked by the dates 1869 and 1890. The whole is surrounded by the words "Great Seal of the State of Wyoming."

BIRD: Western meadowlark.

FISH: Cutthroat trout.

FLOWER: Indian paintbrush.

TREE: Cottonwood.

GEM: Jade.

LEGAL HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day, 1 January; Birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. and Wyoming Equality Day, 3rd Monday in January; Presidents' Day, 3rd Monday in February; Memorial Day, last Monday in May; Independence Day, 4 July; Labor Day, 1st Monday in September; Veterans' Day, 11 November; Thanksgiving Day, 4th Thursday in November; Christmas Day, 25 December. Special observances are made on Arbor Day, last Monday in April; Native American Day, 2nd Friday in May; Juneteenth, 3rd Saturday in June; Birthday of Nellie Tayloe Ross, 29 November; Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, 7 December; Wyoming Day, 10 December.

TIME: 5 AM MST = noon GMT.


Located in the Rocky Mountain region of the northwestern United States, Wyoming ranks ninth in size among the 50 states.

The total area of Wyoming is 97,809 sq mi (253,325 sq km), of which land comprises 96,989 sq mi (251,201 sq km) and inland water 820 sq mi (2,124 sq km). Shaped like a rectangle, Wyoming has a maximum e-w extension of 365 mi (587 km); its extreme distance n-s is 265 mi (426 km).

Wyoming is bordered on the n by Montana; on the e by South Dakota and Nebraska; on the s by Colorado and Utah; and on the w by Utah, Idaho, and Montana. The boundary length of Wyoming totals 1,269 mi (2,042 km). The state's geographic center lies in Fremont County, 58 mi (93 km) ene of Lander.


The eastern third of Wyoming forms part of the Great Plains; the remainder belongs to the Rocky Mountains. Much of western Wyoming constitutes a special geomorphic province known as the Wyoming Basin. It represents a westward extension of the Great Plains into the Rocky Mountains, separating the Middle and Southern Rockies. Extending diagonally across the state from northwest to south is the Continental Divide, which separates the generally eastward-flowing drainage system of North America from the westward-flowing drainage of the Pacific states.

Wyoming's mean elevation is 6,700 ft (2,044 m), second only to Colorado's among the 50 states. Gannett Peak, in western Wyoming, at 13,804 ft (4,210 m), is the highest point in the state. With the notable exception of the Black Hills in the northeast, the eastern portion of Wyoming is generally much lower. The lowest point in the state3,099 ft (945 m)occurs in the northeast, on the Belle Fourche River.

Wyoming's largest lakeYellowstonelies in the heart of Yellowstone National Park. In Grand Teton National Park to the south are two smaller lakes, Jackson and Jenny. All but one of Wyoming's major rivers originate within its boundaries and flow into neighboring states. The Green River flows into Utah; the Yellowstone, Big Horn, and Powder rivers flow into Montana; the Snake River, into Idaho; the Belle Fourche and Cheyenne rivers, into South Dakota; and the Niobrara and Bear rivers, into Nebraska. The lone exception, the North Platte River, enters Wyoming from Colorado and eventually exits into Nebraska.


Wyoming is generally semiarid, with local desert conditions. Normal daily temperatures in Cheyenne range from 15°f (9°c) to 38°f (3°c) in January, and 54°f (12°c) to 83°f (28°c) in July. The record low temperature, 66°f (54°c), was set 9 February 1933 at Riverside; the record high, 114°f (46°c), 12 July 1900 at Basin. In Cheyenne, average annual precipitation is about 14.5 in (36 cm) a year, most of that falling between April and September; the snowfall in Cheyenne averages 51.2 in (130 cm) annually.


Wyoming has more than 2,000 species of ferns, conifers, and flowering plants. Prairie grasses dominate the eastern third of the state; desert shrubs, primarily sagebrush, cover the Great Basin in the west. Rocky Mountain forests consist largely of pine, spruce, and fir. In April 2006, three species were listed as threatened by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, including Colorado butterfly plant, Ute ladies' tresses, and desert yellowhead; no plant species were listed as endangered.

The mule deer is the most abundant game mammal; others include the white-tailed deer, pronghorn antelope, elk, and moose. The jackrabbit, antelope, and raccoon are plentiful. Wild turkey, bobwhite quail, and several grouse species are leading game birds; more than 50 species of non-game birds also inhabit Wyoming all year long. There are 78 species of fish, of which rainbow trout is the favorite game fish. In April 2006, nine Wyoming animal species (vertebrates and invertebrates) were listed as threatened or endangered, including the black-footed ferret, grizzly bear, razorback sucker, Kendall Warm Springs dace, and Wyoming toad.


The Environmental Quality Council, a seven-member board appointed by the governor, hears and decides all cases arising under the regulations of the Department of Environmental Quality, which was established in 1973 and reorganized in 1992. The department enforces measures to prevent pollution of Wyoming's surface water and groundwater, and it administers 21 air-monitoring sites to maintain air quality.

Wyoming typically spends the most money per capita on the environment and natural resources relative to all the states in the union. The state's principal environmental concerns are conservation of scarce water resources and preservation of air quality. Programs to dispose of hazardous waste and assure safe drinking water are administered by the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); in 200205, the federal program to fund infrastructure for safe drinking water allocated 1% of its budget to Wyoming.

Wetlands cover about 1.25 million acres (505,857 hectares) of Wyoming and are administered and protected by the Wyoming Wetlands Act.

In 2003, 19.3 million lb of toxic chemicals were released in the state. Also in 2003, Wyoming had 42 hazardous waste sites listed in the US Environment Protection Agency (EPA) database, two of which, F.E. Warren Air Force Base and Mystery Bridge (US Highway 20 in Evansville), were on the National Priorities List as of 2006. In 2005, the EPA spent over $38,000 through the Superfund program for the cleanup of hazardous waste sites in the state. The same year, federal EPA grants awarded to the state included $8 million for the drinking water state revolving fund and $5.2 million for the water pollution control revolving fund.


Wyoming ranked 51st in population among the United States and the District of Columbia with an estimated total of 509,294 in 2005, an increase of 3.1% since 2000. Between 1990 and 2000, Wyoming's population grew from 453,588 to 493,782, an increase of 8.9%. The population was projected to reach 528,005 by 2015 and 529,031 by 2025.

In 2004 the median age was 38.4. Persons under 18 years old accounted for 23.1% of the population while 12.1% was age 65 or older.

Wyoming has the second-lowest population density in the country (5.2 persons per sq mi/2 persons per sq km in 2004); only Alaska is more sparsely populated. However, during the 1970s Wyoming was the third-fastest-growing state; its population grew by 41%, from 332,416 at the 1970 census to 469,557 according to the 1980 census, largely from in-migration. The growth rate reversed during the 1980s, shrinking the population to 453,588 in 1990 (3.4%).

Leading cities, all with populations of less than 100,000, are Cheyenne, Casper, and Laramie. The Cheyenne metropolitan area had an estimated population of 85,296 in 2004; the Casper metropolitan area had an estimated population of 69,010.


There were some 11,133 American Indians residing in Wyoming in 2000, up from 9,000 at the 1990 census. In 2004, 2.4% of the state's total population was American Indian. The largest tribe is the Arapaho. Wind River (2000 population 23,250) is the state's only reservation; tribal lands covered 1,793,000 acres (726,000 hectares) in 1982.

The black population was 3,722 in 2000. In 2004, blacks made up 0.9% of the state's population. In 2000, the Asian population was 2,771; the largest group was the Chinese, who numbered 609. In 2004, 0.6% of the population was Asian and 0.1% Pacific Islander. That year, 6.7% of the population was of Hispanic or Latino origin. In 2004 as well, 1.2% of the population reported origin of two or more races. In 2002 about 95% of the population was white and mostly of European descent, the largest groups being German, English, and Irish.


Some place-namesOshoto, Shoshoni, Cheyenne, Uintareflect early contacts with regional Indians.

Some terms common in Wyoming, like comforter (tied quilt) and angleworm (earthworm), evidence the Northern dialect of early settlers from New York State and New England, but generally Wyoming English is North Midland with some South Midland mixture, especially along the Nebraska border. Geography has changed the meaning of hole, basin, meadow, and park to signify mountain openings.

In 2000, over 433,000 Wyomingites93.6% of the residents five years old or older (down slightly from 94.3% in 1990)spoke only English at home.

The following table gives selected statistics from the 2000 Census for language spoken at home by persons five years old and over. The category "Other Native North American languages" includes Apache, Cherokee, Choctaw, Dakota, Keres, Pima, and Yupik.

Population 5 years and over 462,809 100.0
  Speak only English 433,324 93.6
  Speak a language other than English 29,485 6.4
Speak a language other than English 29,485 6.4
  Spanish or Spanish Creole 18,606 4.0
  German 2,382 0.5
  Other Native North American languages 1,795 0.4
  French (incl. Patois, Cajun) 1,618 0.3
  Japanese 518 0.1
  Chinese. 512 0.1


The religiously active population in Wyoming is somewhat closely split between Protestants and Catholics. In 2004, the Roman Catholic Church had about 50,979 members. The next largest single denomination is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), with 56,665 members reported in 2006. Other leading denominations include the Southern Baptist Convention, with 17,101 members in 2000 (and 232 newly baptized members reported in 2002); the United Methodist Church. 11,431 members in 2000; the Lutheran ChurchMissouri Synod, 11,113; and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, 10,038. Wyoming also had an estimated 430 Jews and 263 Muslims in 2000. That year, there were 263,057 people (about 53% of the population) who were not counted as members of any religious organization.


Wyoming as of 2003 was served by four railroads. Two of the largest were the Burlington Northern Santa Fe and the Union Pacific, both Class I lines. Out of a total of 1,882 mi (3,030 km) of railroad track these two companies accounted for nearly all of it at 1,846 mi (2,972 km). This was due to the double and triple-tracking, of their respective mainlines, primarily to haul coal from the Powder River Basin. In 2003, coal was the top commodity carried by rail that originated and terminated within the state. As of 2006, there was no Amtrak service in or through the state.

As of 2004, there were 27,594 mi (44,426 km) of public highways and roads in the state. In that same year, there were some 651,000 registered motor vehicles and 380,180 licensed drivers in the state.

In 2005, Wyoming had a total of 113 public and private-use aviation-related facilities. This included 90 airports and 23 heliports. Jackson Hole Airport in Jackson was the state's main airport. In 2004, the airport had 212,247 passenger enplanements.


The first human inhabitants of what is now Wyoming probably arrived about 11,500 bc. The forebears of these early Americans had most likely come by way of the Bering Strait and then worked their way south. Sites of mammoth kills south of Rawlins and near Powell suggest that the area was well populated. Artifacts from the period beginning in 500 bc include, high in the Big Horn Mountains of northern Wyoming, the Medicine Wheel monument, a circle of stones some 75 ft (23 m) in diameter with 28 "spokes" that were apparently used to mark the seasons.

The first Europeans to visit Wyoming were French Canadian traders. The Vérendrye brothers, Francois and Louis-Joseph, probably reached the Big Horn Mountains in 1743; nothing came of their travels, however. The first effective discovery of Wyoming was made by an American fur trader, John Colter, earlier a member of the Lewis and Clark expedition. In 180607, Colter traversed much of the northwestern part of the state, probably crossing what is now Yellowstone Park, and came back to report on the natural wonders of the area. After Colter, trappers and fur traders crisscrossed Wyoming. By 1840, the major rivers and mountains were named, and the general topography of the region was well documented.

Between 1840 and 1867, thousands of Americans crossed Wyoming on the Oregon Trail, bound for Oregon or California. Migration began as a trickle, but with the discovery of gold in California in 1848, the trickle became a flood. In 1849 alone it is estimated that more than 22,000 "forty-niners" passed through the state via the Oregon Trail. Fort Laramie in the east and Fort Bridger in the west were the best-known supply points; between the two forts, immigrants encountered Independence Rock, Devil's Gate, Split Rock, and South Pass, all landmarks on the Oregon Trail. Although thousands of Americans crossed Wyoming during this period, very few stayed in this harsh region.

The event that brought population as well as territorial status to Wyoming was the coming of the Union Pacific Railroad. Railroad towns such as Cheyenne, Laramie, Rawlins, Rock Springs, and Evanston sprang up as the transcontinental railroad leapfrogged across the region in 1867 and 1868; in the latter year, Wyoming was organized as a territory. The first territorial legislature distinguished itself in 1869 by passing a women's suffrage act, the first state or territory to do so. Wyoming quickly acquired the nickname the Equality State.

After hostile Indians had been subdued by the late 1870s, Wyoming became a center for cattlemen and foreign investors who hoped to make a fortune from free grass and the high price of cattle. Thousands of Texas longhorn cattle were driven to the southeastern quarter of the territory. In time, blooded cattle, particularly Hereford, were introduced. As cattle "barons" dominated both the rangeland and state politics, the small rancher and cowboy found it difficult to go into the ranching business. However, overgrazing, low cattle prices, and the dry summer of 1886 and harsh winter of 1886/87 all proved disastrous to the speculators. The struggle between the large landowners and small ranchers culminated in the so-called Johnson County War of 189192, in which the large landowners were arrested by federal troops after attempting to take the law into their own hands.

Wyoming became a state in 1890, but growth remained slow. Attempts at farming proved unsuccessful in this high, arid region, and Wyoming to this day remains a sparsely settled ranching state. What growth has occurred has been primarily through the minerals industry, especially the development of coal, oil, and natural gas resources during the 1970s because of the national energy crisis. However, the world's oil glut in the early 1980s slowed the growth of the state's energy industries; in 1984, the growth of the state's nonfuel mineral industry slowed as well.

Wyoming's population, which had risen 41% during the minerals boom of the 1970s, declined, leaving the state ranking 50th in population in the 1990 census, having ceded 49th place to Alaska in the decade since 1980. In the 1990s, Wyoming's economy was spurred by a rise in oil prices and expanding coal production, as well as increased tourism. As of the 2000 census, the population stood at nearly 500,000, still ranking 50th in the nation.

In the summer of 1988, wild fires raged through Yellowstone National Park, damaging nearly one-third of the park's total area. Gray wolves, eradicated from the mountains of Wyoming and Idaho in the 1930s, were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho in 1995 and 1996 as part of the US Fish and Wildlife Service's wolf reintroduction program. The program was initiated to fulfill a goal of the Endangered Species Act, passed in 1973. It was subjected to legal challenge in 1997, but the wolf reintroduction program was ruled legal in 2000. In 2003, the US Fish and Wildlife Service reclassified the gray wolves in the northern Rockies from an "endangered" to a "threatened" species, due to the growing wolf populations in those areas. In 2005, Governor Dave Freudenthal, elected in 2002, signed a petition requesting the Fish and Wildlife Service to remove the gray wolf from the list of threatened and endangered species. The final decision on whether to delist the species must be made by the Fish and Wildlife Service no later than July 2006.

Unlike most of the nation, Wyoming in 2003 had a $169 million budget surplus, largely due to an increase in mineral revenues. Rising health care costs and the need to pay for new state buildings and schools caused Democratic Governor Freudenthal to call for increases in property taxes.


Wyoming's state constitution was approved by the voters in November 1889 and accepted by Congress in 1890. By January 2005 it had been amended 94 times. Constitutional amendments require a two-thirds vote of the legislature and ratification by the voters at the next general election.

The legislature consists of a 30-member Senate and a 60-member House of Representatives. Senators are elected to staggered four-year terms. The entire House of Representatives is elected every two years for a two-year term. Legislators must be US citizens, citizens and residents of Wyoming, qualified voters, and residents of their districts for at least one year prior to election. The minimum age for senators is 25 and for representatives 21. Regular sessions begin in January or February and are limited to 40 legislative days in odd-numbered years and 20 legislative days in even-numbered years. The legislature may call special sessions by a petition of a majority of the members of each house. In 2004 the legislative salary was $125 per diem during regular sessions, unchanged from 1999.

Heading the executive branch are the following elected officials: the governor, secretary of state, auditor, treasurer, comptroller, commissioner of finance, and superintendent of public instruction. Each serves a four-year term. The governor is limited to serving two consecutive terms. His successor is the secretary of the Senate, as there is no lieutenant governor. A governor must be at least 30 years old, a US citizen, a state citizen, and at least a five-resident of the state. As of December 2004, the governor's salary was $130,000.

A bill passed by the legislature becomes law if signed by the governor, if left unsigned by the governor for three days while the legislature is in session (or 15 days after it has adjourned), or if passed over the governor's veto by two-thirds of the elected members of each house.

Voters must be US citizens, at least 18 years old, and bona fide residents of Wyoming. Convicted felons and those adjudicated as mentally incompetent may not vote.


The Republicans traditionally dominate Wyoming politics at the federal and state level, although the state elected a Democratic governor, Dave Freudenthal, in 2002. There were 246,000 registered voters in 2004. Both of Wyoming's senators, Craig Thomas (reelected in 2000) and Mike Enzi (elected in 1996 to succeed Alan Simpson and reelected in 2002), are Republicans, as is Wyoming's US Representative, Barbara Cubin, reelected in 2004.

As of mid-2005, there were 23 Republicans and 7 Democrats in the state Senate and 46 Republicans and 14 Democrats in the

Wyoming Presidential Vote by Major Political Parties, 19482004
*Won US presidential election
**IND. candidate Ross Perot received 51,263 votes in 1992 and 25,928 votes in 1996.
1948 3 *Truman (D) 52,354 47,947
1952 3 *Eisenhower (R) 47,934 81,049
1956 3 *Eisenhower (R) 49,554 74,573
1960 3 Nixon (R) 63,331 77,451
1964 3 *Johnson (D) 80,718 61,998
1968 3 *Nixon (R) 45,173 70,927
1972 3 *Nixon (R) 44,358 100,464
1976 3 Ford (R) 62,239 92,717
1980 3 *Reagan (R) 49,427 110,700
1984 3 *Reagan (R) 53,370 133,241
1988 3 *Bush (R) 67,113 106,867
1992** 3 Bush (R) 68,160 79,347
1996** 3 Dole (R) 77,934 105,338
2000 3 *Bush, G. W. (R) 60,481 147,947
2004 3 *Bush, G. W. (R) 70,776 167,629

state House. Republican George W. Bush received 69% of the vote in the 2000 presidential election, while Democratic candidate Al Gore won 28%. Bush garnered the same percentage (69%) in his 2004 bid for a second term, defeating Democrat John Kerry, who won just 29% of the vote. In 1998, 30% of registered voters were Democratic, 59% Republican, and 11% unaffiliated or members of other parties. The state had three electoral votes in the 2004 presidential election.


In 2005, Wyoming was subdivided into 23 counties, 98 municipal governments, 48 public school districts, and 546 special districts and authorities.

Counties, which can be geographically vast and include a relatively small population, are run by commissioners. Each county has a clerk, treasurer, assessor, sheriff, attorney, coroner, district court clerk, and from one to five county judges or justices of the peace. Municipalities may decide their own form of government, including mayor-council and council-manager.

In 2005, local government accounted for about 32,026 full-time (or equivalent) employment positions.


To address the continuing threat of terrorism and to work with the federal Department of Homeland Security, homeland security in Wyoming operates under state statute; a homeland security director is designated as the state homeland security advisor.

The Board of Education has primary responsibility for educational services in Wyoming. Transportation services are provided by the Wyoming Department of Transportation; health and welfare matters fall under the jurisdiction of the Department of Health and the Department of Family Services. Among the many state agencies concerned with natural resources are the Department of Environmental Quality, Land Quality Advisory Board, Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, and Water Development Commission. The Department of Employment is responsible for labor services.


Wyoming's judicial branch consists of a supreme court with a chief justice and four other justices, district courts with a total of 222 judges, and county judges and justices of the peace. Supreme court justices are appointed by the governor but must stand for retention at the next general election. Once elected, they serve eight-year terms.

As of 31 December 2004, a total of 1,980 prisoners were held in Wyoming's state and federal prisons, an increase from 1,872 of 5.8% from the previous year. As of yearend 2004, a total of 210 inmates were female, up from 175 or 20% from the year before. Among sentenced prisoners (one year or more), Wyoming had an incarceration rate of 389 per 100,000 population in 2004.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Wyoming in 2004, had a violent crime rate (murder/nonnegligent manslaughter; forcible rape; robbery; aggravated assault) of 229.6 reported incidents per 100,000 population, or a total of 1,163 reported incidents. Crimes against property (burglary; larceny/theft; and motor vehicle theft) in that same year totaled 16,889 reported incidents or 3,334.3 reported incidents per 100,000 people. Wyoming has a death penalty, of which lethal injection is the sole method of execution. However, if that method is declared unconstitutional, the use of lethal gas has been authorized. From 1976 through 5 May 2006, the state has carried out only one execution, in January 1992. As of 1 January 2006, Wyoming had only two inmates on death row.

In 2003, Wyoming spent $13,404,443 on homeland security, an average of $24 per state resident.


In 2004, there were 5,125 active-duty military personnel and 524 civilian personnel stationed in Wyoming, nearly all of whom were at Wyoming's only US military installationthe Francis E. Warren Air Force Base at Cheyenne. The Air National Guard was stationed at Cheyenne Municipal Airport. Total defense contracts awarded in 2004 totaled more than $115 million, the lowest in the nation. Total defense payroll outlays for that same year were $302 million, second lowest only to Utah.

In 2003, there were 54,941 military veterans living in Wyoming. Of these, 6,344 were veterans of World War II; 5,477 of the Korean conflict; 18,625 of the Vietnam era; and 9,840 of the Gulf War. In 2004, the Veterans Administration expended more than $168 million in pensions, medical assistance, and other major veterans' benefits.

As of 31 October 2004, the Wyoming Highway Patrol employed 174 full-time sworn officers.


Many people have passed through Wyoming, but relatively few have come to stay. Not until the 1970s, a time of rapid economic development, did the picture change. Between 1970 and 1983, Wyoming gained a net total of 45,500 residents through migration. In the 1980s, the state's total population grew only by 1.1%, primarily offset by the net loss from migration of 52,000 persons. The urban population increased from 62.8% of the state's total in 1980 to 65% in 1990. Between 1990 and 1998, Wyoming had a net loss of less than 500 in domestic migration but a net gain of 2,000 in international migration. In 1998, the state admitted 159 foreign immigrants. Between 1990 and 1998, the state's overall population increased 6%. In the period 200005, net international migration was 2,264 and net internal migration was 1,771, for a net gain of 4,035 people.


Emblematic of Wyoming's concern for water resources is the fact that it belongs to seven compacts with neighboring states concerning the Bear, Belle Fourche, Colorado, Upper Colorado, Snake, Upper Niobrara, and Yellowstone rivers.

Wyoming has also joined the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact, the Western Interstate Energy Compact, the Western States Water Council, the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, and numerous other multistate bodies, including the Council of State Governments. Federal grants in fiscal year 2001 totaled over $1.2 billion. Mirroring a national trend, that figure declined significantly by 2005, to $675 million. Federal grants totaled an estimated $697 million in fiscal year 2006, and an estimated $713 million in fiscal year 2007.


The economic life of Wyoming is largely sustained by agriculture, chiefly feed grains and livestock, and mining, including petroleum and gas production. Mining and petroleum production mushroomed during the 1970s, leading to a powerful upsurge in population. In the early 1980s, unemployment remained low, per capita income was high, and the inflation rate declined. The absence of personal and corporate income taxes helped foster a favorable business climate during the 1990s. The state economy's annual growth rate accelerated coming into the 21st century, from 1.1% in 1998 to 3.6% in 1999 to 12.3% in 2000. Not heavily involved in the information technology (IT) boom of the 1990s, Wyoming was relatively unaffected by its bust in 2001, registering annual growth of 6.8% for the year. The main growth sectors have been various service categories, with output from general services up 37.9% from 1997 to 2001; from trade, up 29.1%; from the government sector, up 24.3%; and from financial services, up 23.6%.

In 2004, Wyoming's gross state product (GSP) was $23.979 billion, of which mining accounted for $5.997 billion or 25% of GSP, while real estate accounted for $2.101 billion (8.7% of GSP) and construction at $1.272 billion (5.3% of GSP). In that same year, there were an estimated 56,740 small businesses in Wyoming. Of the 20,071 businesses that had employees, an estimated total of 19,388 or 96.6% were small companies. An estimated 2,519 new businesses were established in the state in 2004, up 4.1% from the year before. Business terminations that same year came to 2,737, down 6.3% from 2003. There were 65 business bankruptcies in 2004, up 47.7% from the previous year. In 2005, the state's personal bankruptcy (Chapter 7 and Chapter 13) filing rate was 484 filings per 100,000 people, ranking Wyoming as the 30th highest in the nation.


In 2005 Wyoming had a gross state product (GSP) of $27 billion which accounted for 0.2% of the nation's gross domestic product and placed the state at number 49 in highest GSP among the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, in 2004 Wyoming had a per capita personal income (PCPI) of $34,279. This ranked 15th in the United States and was 104% of the national average of $33,050. The 19942004 average annual growth rate of PCPI was 5.3%. Wyoming had a total personal income (TPI) of $17,341,215,000, which ranked 51st in the United States and reflected an increase of 7.0% from 2003. The 19942004 average annual growth rate of TPI was 5.8%. Earnings of persons employed in Wyoming increased from $11,534,759,000 in 2003 to $12,448,030,000 in 2004, an increase of 7.9%. The 200304 national change was 6.3%.

The US Census Bureau reports that the three-year average median household income for 2002 to 2004 in 2004 dollars was $43,641 compared to a national average of $44,473. During the same period an estimated 9.6% of the population was below the poverty line as compared to 12.4% nationwide.


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in April 2006 the seasonally adjusted civilian labor force in Wyoming 292,000, with approximately 9,400 workers unemployed, yielding an unemployment rate of 3.2%, compared to the national average of 4.7% for the same period. Preliminary data for the same period placed nonfarm employment at 271,900. Since the beginning of the BLS data series in 1976, the highest unemployment rate recorded in Wyoming was 10.1% in May 1983. The historical low was 1.9% in February 1979. Preliminary nonfarm employment data by occupation for April 2006 showed that approximately 7.9% of the labor force was employed in construction; 19.7% in trade, transportation, and public utilities; 6% in professional and business services; 12% in leisure and hospitality services; and 24.2% in government. Data for manufacturing, financial activities, and education and health services were unavailable.

The BLS reported that in 2005, a total of 18,000 of Wyoming's 228,000 employed wage and salary workers were formal members of a union. This represented 7.9% of those so employed, down slightly from 8% in 2004, and below the national average of 12%. Overall in 2005, a total of 22,000 workers (9.5%) in Wyoming were covered by a union or employee association contract, which includes those workers who reported no union affiliation. Wyoming is one of 22 states with a right-to-work law.

As of 1 March 2006, Wyoming had a state-mandated minimum wage rate of $5.15 per hour. In 2004, women in the state accounted for 46.1% of the employed civilian labor force.


Agricultureespecially livestock and grainis one of Wyoming's most important industries. In 2004, Wyoming had about 9,200 farms and ranches covering almost 34.4 million acres (13.9 million hectares). The state's acreage of 3,743 acres (1,514 hectares) per farm ranked second in the United States after Arizona. The value of the lands and buildings of Wyoming's farms and ranches in 2004 was over $10.8 billion. Total farm marketings in 2005 amounted to $1.1 billion, ranking 38th among the 50 states. Of this, livestock and animal products accounted for $984 million; crops, $146 million.

Field crops in 2004 included barley, 6,900,000 bu; wheat, 3,750,000 bu; oats, 795,000 bu; sugar beets, 812,000 tons; dry beans, 541,000 cwt; and hay, 2,016,000 tons.


For most of Wyoming's territorial and state history, cattle ranchers have dominated the economy, even though the livestock industry is not large by national standards. In 2005, Wyoming had an estimated 1.35 million cattle and calves, valued at $1.38 billion. During 2004, there were 114,000 hogs and pigs, valued at $13.7 million. Wyoming farms and ranches produced 28.8 million lb (13.1 million kg) of sheep and lambs in 2003, and an estimated 3.64 million lb (1.7 million kg) of shorn wool in 2004 (second after Texas). In 2003, Wyoming farmers sold 28,000 lb (12,700 kg) of chicken and produced 54 million lb (24.5 million kg) of milk.


There is no important commercial fishing in Wyoming. Fishing is largely recreational, and fish hatcheries and fish-planting programs keep the streams well stocked. Wyoming's streams annually provide 1.3 million angler days and 3.4 million fish; lakes generate 1.6 million angler days and a harvest of 4.1 million fish. There are two national fish hatcheries in the state (Saratoga and Jackson) that stock native cutthroat trout into high mountain wilderness lakes to enhance the native stocks. In 2004, the state issued 247,583 sport fishing licenses.


Wyoming has 10,995,000 acres (4,450,000 hectares) of forested land, equal to 17.8% of the state's land area. Of this, 5,739,000 acres (2,323,000 hectares) are usable as commercial timberland. As of 2003, the state's four national forestsBighorn, Bridger-Teton, Medicine Bow, and Shoshonecovered a total of 9,238,000 acres (3,739,000 hectares). In 2004, lumber production totaled 165 million board feet. Ponderosa pine accounts for about 50% of the annual cut, and lodgepole pine most of the rest. The remainder consists of Douglas fir, larch, Engelmann spruce, and other species.


According to preliminary data from the US Geological Survey (USGS), the estimated value of nonfuel mineral production by Wyoming in 2003 was $1.01 billion, which was unchanged from estimated values for 2002. The USGS data ranked Wyoming as 13th among the 50 states by the total value of its nonfuel mineral production, accounting for over 2.5% of total US output.

According to preliminary data for 2003, soda ash was the state's top nonfuel mineral, followed by bentonite, Grade-A helium and portland cement, by value. Collectively, these four commodities accounted for almost 93% of all nonfuel mineral output, by value. By volume, Wyoming in 2003, was the nation's leading producer of soda ash and bentonite, and ranked second in the output of Grade-A helium. The state also ranked ninth in the production of gypsum.

Data for 2003 showed the production of bentonite as totaling 3.34 million metric tons, with a value of $145 million, construction sand and gravel output that year came to 7.5 million metric tons, with a value of $31.5 million. Crushed stone output in 2003 totaled 4 million metric tons and was valued at $19 million.

Major uses of Wyoming bentonite were as pet waste absorbent, in drilling mud, in the pelletizing of iron ore, in foundry sand, and as a waterproof sealant. Soda ash (sodium carbonate) is produced mostly from trona ore, of which Wyoming contains the largest known deposit of natural trona. Soda ash is used in the manufacturing of a number of products including glass, soap, detergents, and textiles, as well as in food products as sodium bicarbonate

Wyoming is also known to have deposits of gold and silver, diamonds, copper, and of metals belonging to the platinum group.


As of 2003, Wyoming had 35 electrical power service providers, of which 13 were publicly owned and 15 were cooperatives. Of the remainder, five were investor owned, one was federally operated and one was the owner of an independent generator that sold directly to customers. As of that same year there were 290,971 retail customers. Of that total, 177,304 received their power from investor-owned service providers. Cooperatives accounted for 83,933 customers, while publicly owned providers had 29,730 customers. There were three federal customers and one independent generator or "facility" customer.

Total net summer generating capability by the state's electrical generating plants in 2003 stood at 6.562 million kW, with total production that same year at 43.626 billion kWh. Of the total amount generated, 96.9% came from electric utilities, with the remainder coming from independent producers and combined heat and power service providers. The largest portion of all electric power generated, 42.341 billion kWh (97.1%), came from coalfired plants, with hydroelectric plants in second place at 593.555 million kWh (1.4%). Other renewable power sources, petroleum and natural gas fired plants accounted for the remaining output.

Wyoming is comparatively energy-rich, ranking first among the states in coal production and seventh in output of crude oil.

As of 2004, Wyoming had proven crude oil reserves of 628 million barrels, or 3% of all proven US reserves, while output that same year averaged 141,000 barrels per day. Including federal offshore domains, the state that year ranked sixth (fifth excluding federal offshore) in proven reserves and eighth (seventh excluding federal offshore) in production among the 31 producing states. In 2004 Wyoming had 9,468 producing oil wells and accounted for 3% of all US production. As of 2005, the state's five refineries had a combined crude oil distillation capacity of 152,000 barrels per day.

In 2004, Wyoming had 20,244 producing natural gas and gas condensate wells. In that same year, marketed gas production (all gas produced excluding gas used for repressuring, vented and flared, and nonhydrocarbon gases removed) totaled 1,592.203 billion cu ft (45.21 billion cu m). As of 31 December 2004, proven reserves of dry or consumer-grade natural gas totaled 22,632 billion cu ft (642.74 billion cu m).

Wyoming has the three largest producing coal mines in the United States and had total recoverable coal reserves estimated at 7.053 billion tons in 2004. In 1970, Wyoming's coal production accounted for only 1% of the US total. By 1998 the state's production had risen to 28% of national production. In 2004, Wyoming had 20 producing coal mines, all of which, except one, were surface operations. Coal production that year totaled 396,493,000 short tons, up from 376,270,000 short tons in 2003. Of the total produced in 2004, the state's lone underground mine accounted for 43,000 short tons. One short ton equals 2,000 lb (0.907 metric tons).


Although manufacturing has increased markedly in Wyoming over the last three decades, it remains insignificant by national standards.

According to the US Census Bureau's Annual Survey of Manufactures (ASM) for 2004, Wyoming's manufacturing sector was largely centered on only two product subsectors, chemicals and fabricated metal products. The shipment value of all products manufactured in the state that same year was $5.010 billion. Of that total, chemical manufacturing accounted for the largest share at $1.414 billion. It was followed by fabricated metal product manufacturing at $177.298 million.

In 2004, a total of 8,675 people in Wyoming were employed in the state's manufacturing sector, according to the ASM. Of that total, 6,472 were actual production workers. In terms of total employment, the chemical manufacturing industry accounted for the largest portion of all manufacturing employees with 1,531 (1,165 actual production workers). It was followed by fabricated metal product manufacturing, with 1,057 (780 actual production workers).

ASM data for 2004 showed that Wyoming's manufacturing sector paid $352.411 million in wages. Of that amount, the chemical manufacturing sector accounted for the largest share at $90.685 million and was followed by fabricated metal product manufacturing at $35.410 million.


According to the 2002 Census of Wholesale Trade, Wyoming's wholesale trade sector had sales that year totaling $3.3 billion from 789 establishments. Wholesalers of durable goods accounted for 475 establishments, followed by nondurable goods wholesalers at 286 and electronic markets, agents, and brokers accounting for 28 establishments. Sales by durable goods wholesalers in 2002 totaled $1.3 billion, while wholesalers of nondurable goods saw sales of $1.6 billion. Electronic markets, agents, and brokers in the wholesale trade industry had sales of $283.01 million.

In the 2002 Census of Retail Trade, Wyoming was listed as having 2,861 retail establishments with sales of $5.7 billion. The leading types of retail businesses by number of establishments were: miscellaneous store retailers (410); gasoline stations (401); motor vehicle and motor vehicle parts dealers (371); building material/garden equipment and supplies dealers (289); and food and beverage stores (278). In terms of sales, motor vehicle and motor vehicle parts dealers accounted for the largest share of retail sales at $1.5 billion, followed by gasoline stations at $1.04 billion; general merchandise stores at $887.7 million; and food and beverage stores at $775.3 million. A total of 28,796 people were employed by the retail sector in Wyoming that year.

Wyoming's exports of products to other countries were valued at $669.07 million in 2005, ranking 50th among all states.


The Attorney General's Consumer Protection Unit enforces the Wyoming Consumer Protection Act, which includes provisions regulating the promotional advertising of prizes and telephone solicitation, and creates a telemarketer "no-call" list. The unit also enforces statutes prohibiting price discrimination and other anticompetitive practices, as well as laws regarding pyramid schemes.

When dealing with consumer protection issues, the state's Attorney General's Office can initiate civil but not criminal proceedings. It can also: represent the state before state and federal regulatory agencies; administer consumer protection and education programs; and handle formal consumer complaints. However, the office has limited subpoena powers. In antitrust actions, the Attorney General's Office can act on behalf of those consumers who are incapable of acting on their own and initiate damage actions on behalf of the state in state courts. However, the office cannot initiate criminal proceedings or represent other governmental entities in recovering civil damages under state or federal law.

The office of the Consumer Protection Unit of the Office of the Attorney General is located in the state capitol, Cheyenne.


As of June 2005, Wyoming had 44 insured banks, savings and loans, and saving banks, in addition to 33 federally chartered credit unions (CUs). Excluding the CUs, the Cheyenne market area accounted for the largest portion of the state's financial institutions and deposits in 2004, with 14 institutions and $1.066 billion in deposits, followed by the Casper market area with seven institutions and $1.048 billion in deposits. As of June 2005, CUs accounted for 16.9% of all assets held by all financial institutions in the state, or some $1.186 billion. Banks, savings and loans, and savings banks collectively accounted for the remaining 83.1% or $5.830 billion in assets held.

The median net interest margin) (the difference between the lower rates offered to savers and the higher rates charged on loans) for the state's insured institutions stood at 4.21% as of fourth quarter 2005, down from 4.34% for all of 2004and 4.225 for all of 2003. The median percentage of past-due/nonaccrual loans to total loans stood at 1.42% as of fourth quarter 2005, down from 1.73% for all of 2004 and 2% for all of 2003.

Regulation of Wyoming's state-chartered banks and other state-chartered financial institutions is the responsibility of the Department of Audit's Division of Banking.


In 2004, there were 233,000 individual life insurance policies in force in Wyoming with a total value of $18.7 billion; total value for all categories of life insurance (individual, group, and credit) was $28.4 billion. The average coverage amount is $80,500 per policy holder. Death benefits paid that year totaled $82.2 million.

As of 2003, there were two property and casualty and no life and health insurance companies domiciled in the state. In 2004, direct premiums for property and casualty insurance totaled $763 million. That year, there were 2,159 flood insurance policies in force in the state, with a total value of $306 million.

In 2004, 53% of state residents held employment-based health insurance policies, 7% held individual policies, and 23% were covered under Medicare and Medicaid; 15% of residents were uninsured. In 2003, employee contributions for employment-based health coverage averaged at 16% for single coverage and 20% for family coverage. The state offers a 12-month health benefits expansion program for small-firm employees in connection with the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA, 1986), a health insurance program for those who lose employment-based coverage due to termination or reduction of work hours.

In 2003, there were 444,587 auto insurance policies in effect for private passenger cars. Required minimum coverage includes bodily injury liability of up to $25,000 per individual and $50,000 for all persons injured in an accident, as well as property damage liability of $20,000. In 2003, the average expenditure per vehicle for insurance coverage was $617.46.


Wyoming has no securities exchanges. In 2005, there were 110 personal financial advisers employed in the state and 170 securities, commodities, and financial services sales agents. In 2004, there were over 12 publicly traded companies within the state, with over five NASDAQ companies: Altair Intl., US Energy Corp., Crazy Woman Creek Bancorp, Double Eagle Petroleum Co., and Great Lakes Aviation Ltd.


Wyoming's biennial budget is prepared by the governor and submitted to the legislature at the beginning of each even-numbered calendar year. The fiscal year is 1 July through 30 June.

Fiscal year 2006 general funds were estimated at $1.25 billion for resources and $1.24 billion for expenditures. In fiscal year 2004, federal government grants to Wyoming were $1.6 billion.

In the fiscal year 2007 federal budget, Wyoming was slated to receive: $7.3 million in State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) funds to help the state provide health coverage to low-income, uninsured children who do not qualify for Medicaid. This funding is a 23% increase over fiscal year 2006; and $3.9 million for the HOME Investment Partnership Program to help Wyoming fund a wide range of activities that build, buy, or rehabilitate affordable housing for rent or homeownership, or provide direct rental assistance to low-income people. This funding is an 11% increase over fiscal year 2006.


In 2005, Wyoming collected $1,740 million in tax revenues or $3,418 per capita, which placed it third among the 50 states in per capita tax burden. The national average was $2,192 per capita.

WyomingState Government Finances
(Dollar amounts in thousands. Per capita amounts in dollars)
Abbreviations and symbols:zero or rounds to zero; (NA) not available; (X) not applicable.
source: U.S. Census Bureau, Governments Division, 2004 Survey of State Government Finances, January 2006.
Total Revenue 5,151,978 10,181.77
  General revenue 4,061,138 8,025.96
    Intergovernmental revenue 1,976,603 3,906.33
    Taxes 1,504,777 2,973.87
      General sales 462,842 914.71
      Selective sales 111,162 219.69
      License taxes 101,712 201.01
      Individual income tax - -
      Corporate income tax - -
      Other taxes 829,061 1,638.46
    Current charges 122,014 241.13
    Miscellaneous general revenue 457,744 904.63
  Utility revenue - -
  Liquor store revenue 56,361 111.39
  Insurance trust revenue 1,034,479 2,044.42
Total expenditure 3,596,174 7,107.06
  Intergovernmental expenditure 1,204,014 2,379.47
  Direct expenditure 2,392,160 4,727.59
    Current operation 1,588,024 3,138.39
    Capital outlay 354,831 701.25
    Insurance benefits and repayments 363,803 718.98
    Assistance and subsidies 37,373 73.86
    Interest on debt 48,129 95.12
Exhibit: Salaries and wages 486,718 961.89
Total expenditure 3,596,174 7,107.06
  General expenditure 3,185,501 6,295.46
    Intergovernmental expenditure 1,204,014 2,379.47
    Direct expenditure 1,981,487 3,915.98
  General expenditures, by function:
    Education 1,070,621 2,115.85
    Public welfare 497,376 982.96
    Hospitals 7,279 14.39
    Health 168,603 333.21
    Highways 415,425 821.00
    Police protection 30,598 60.47
    Correction 91,003 179.85
    Natural resources 178,887 353.53
    Parks and recreation 25,687 50.76
    Government administration 122,063 241.23
    Interest on general debt 48,129 95.12
    Other and unallocable 529,830 1,047.09
  Utility expenditure - -
  Liquor store expenditure 46,870 92.63
  Insurance trust expenditure 363,803 718.98
Debt at end of fiscal year 909,531 1,797.49
Cash and security holdings 11,569,706 22,865.03

Property taxes accounted for 10.4% of the total, sales taxes 30.0%, selective sales taxes 6.9%, and other taxes 52.7%.

As of 1 January 2006, Wyoming had no state income tax, a distinction it shared with Alaska, Washington, Nevada, Florida, Alaska, and South Dakota.

In 2004, state and local property taxes amounted to $683,963,000 or $1,352 per capita. The per capita amount ranks the state 10th highest nationally. Local governments collected $544,154,000 of the total and the state government $139,809,000.

Wyoming taxes retail sales at a rate of 4%. In addition to the state tax, local taxes on retail sales can reach as much as 2%, making for a potential total tax on retail sales of 6%. Food purchased for consumption off-premises is taxable, although an income tax credit is allowed to offset sales tax on food. The tax on cigarettes is 60 cents per pack, which ranks 31st among the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Wyoming taxes gasoline at 14 cents per gallon. This is in addition to the 18.4 cents per gallon federal tax on gasoline.

According to the Tax Foundation, for every federal tax dollar sent to Washington in 2004, Wyoming citizens received $1.11 in federal spending.


State policy in Wyoming has traditionally favored fiscal, social, and political conservatism. A pro-business and pro-family climate has generally prevailed. For example, Wyoming does not have a state personal income tax, a state business income tax, nor a business inventory tax. Not until 1969 was the minerals industry compelled to pay a severance tax on the wealth it was extracting from Wyoming soils. The state's leading industry is tourism, (the federal government owns over 50% of Wyoming's land), and Wyoming is first among US states in coal and iron production. The Wyoming Department of Commerce's Business Council encourages entre-preneurship, emphasizes community development, and supports retention and expansion of existing Wyoming businesses. Grant and loan programs also assist Wyoming communities and businesses. In 2006, the Wyoming Business Council maintained six regional offices around the state to provide personalized and localized technical assistance. These were part of a statewide network of partners, offering one-on-one business assistance.


The infant mortality rate in October 2005 was estimated at 5.8 per 1,000 live births. The birth rate in 2003 was 13.4 per 1,000 population. The abortion rate stood at 0.9 per 1,000 women in 2000. In 2003, about 86.4% of pregnant woman received prenatal care beginning in the first trimester. In 2004, approximately 83% of children received routine immunizations before the age of three.

The crude death rate in 2003 was 8.3 deaths per 1,000 population. As of 2002, the death rates for major causes of death (per 100,000 resident population) were: heart disease, 201.5; cancer, 172.2; cerebrovascular diseases, 48.7; chronic lower respiratory diseases, 65; and diabetes, 29.1. Wyoming had the highest suicide rate in the nation at 21.1 per 100,000 population. The mortality rate from HIV infection was not available that year. In 2004, the reported AIDS case rate was at about 3.6 per 100,000 population. In 2002, about 54.5% of the population was considered overweight or obese. As of 2004, about 21.6% of state residents were smokers.

In 2003, Wyoming had 23 community hospitals with about 1,800 beds. There were about 53,000 patient admissions that year and 900,000 outpatient visits. The average daily inpatient census was about 900 patients. The average cost per day for hospital care was $943. Also in 2003, there were about 39 certified nursing facil-ities in the state with 3,061 beds and an overall occupancy rate of about 80.9%. In 2004, it was estimated that about 68.1% of all state residents had received some type of dental care within the year. Wyoming had 191 physicians per 100,000 resident population in 2004 and 774 nurses per 100,000 in 2005. In 2004, there was a total of 266 dentists in the state.

About 15% of state residents were enrolled in Medicaid programs in 2003; 14% were enrolled in Medicare programs in 2004. Approximately 15% of the state population was uninsured in 2004. In 2003, state health care expenditures totaled $709,000.


In 2004, about 14,000 people received unemployment benefits, with the average weekly unemployment benefit at $238. In fiscal year 2005, the estimated average monthly participation in the food stamp program included about 25,482 persons (10,422 households); the average monthly benefit was about $88.22 per person. That year, the total of benefits paid through the state for the food stamp program was about $26.9 million.

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), the system of federal welfare assistance that officially replaced Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) in 1997, was reauthorized through the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005. TANF is funded through federal block grants that are divided among the states based on an equation involving the number of recipients in each state. Wyoming's TANF program is called POWER (Personal Opportunities With Employment Responsibility). In 2004, the state program had 1,000 recipients; state and federal expenditures on this TANF program totaled $17 million in fiscal year 2003.

In December 2004, Social Security benefits were paid to 82,510 Wyoming residents. This number included 54,890 retired workers, 7,340 widows and widowers, 9,370 disabled workers, 4,720 spouses, and 6,190 children. Social Security beneficiaries represented 15.8% of the total state population and 94.5% of the state's population age 65 and older. Retired workers received an average monthly payment of $955; widows and widowers, $926; disabled workers, $896; and spouses, $491. Payments for children of retired workers averaged $516 per month; children of deceased workers, $637; and children of disabled workers, $270. Federal Supplemental Security Income payments in December 2004 went to 5,645 Wyoming residents, averaging $368 a month. An additional $56,000 of state-administered supplemental payments were distributed to 2,769 residents.


In 2004, there were an estimated 232,637 housing units in Wyoming, ranking the state as having the smallest housing stock in the country. About 202,496 units were occupied; 69.9% were owner-occupied. About 65.4% of all units were single-family, detached homes; 14.4% were mobile homes. It was estimated that 11,242 units lacked telephone service, 1,229 lacked complete plumbing facilities, and 1,198 lacked complete kitchen facilities. Utility gas was the most common energy source for heating. The average household had 2.43 members.

In 2004, 3,300 new privately owned housing units were authorized for construction. The median home value was $119,654. The median monthly cost for mortgage owners was $954. Renters paid a median of $534 per month. In 2006, the state received over $3.2 million in community development block grants from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).


In 2004, 91.9% of Wyoming residents age 25 and older were high school graduates, well above the national average of 84%. Approximately 22.5% had obtained a bachelor's degree or higher; the national average was 22.5%.

The total enrollment for fall 2002 in Wyoming's public schools stood at 88,000. Of these, 60,000 attended schools from kindergarten through grade eight, and 28,000 attended high school. Approximately 86% of the students were white, 1.4% were black, 8.2% were Hispanic, 1% were Asian/Pacific Islander, and 3.5% were American Indian/Alaskan Native. Total enrollment was estimated at 85,000 by fall 2003 and expected to be 89,000 by fall 2014. Expenditures for public education in 2003/04 were estimated at $947.5 million. In fall 2003 there were 2,079 students enrolled in 35 privates schools. The resulting report, The Nation's Report Card, stated that in 2005, eighth graders in Wyoming scored 282 out of 500 in mathematics compared with the national average of 278.

As of fall 2002, there were 32,605 students enrolled in college or graduate school; minority students comprised 7.8% of total post-secondary enrollment. In 2005 Wyoming had nine degree-granting institutions. Wyoming has seven community colleges. The state controls and funds the University of Wyoming in Laramie, as well as the seven community colleges. There are no private colleges or universities, although the National Outdoor Leadership School, based in Lander, offers courses in mountaineering and ecology.


The Wyoming Arts Council helps fund local activities and organizations in the visual and performing arts, including painting, music, theater, and dance. In 2005, the Wyoming Arts Council and other Wyoming arts organizations received five grants totaling $655,200 from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). In 2005, the National Endowment for the Humanities contributed $503,322 for five state programs. Contributions to the arts also came from state and private sources.

The Grand Teton Music Festival (formerly the Jackson Hole Fine Arts Festival) has continued to present an annual program of symphonic and chamber music performed by some of the nation's top artists; in summer 2006, the festival celebrated its 45th season. The Cheyenne Civic Center serves as a venue for a variety of musical and theatrical groups, including the Cheyenne Symphony Orchestra. Cheyenne is also home to the Cheyenne Little Theater Players, a community theater group that marked a 75-year anniversary in 2005.

The University of Wyoming Art Museum houses a permanent collection that includes over 7,000 pieces. The diverse collection showcases European and American paintings, 19th century Japanese prints, and African and Native American artifacts, among other artwork.


In 2001, Wyoming was served by 23 public library systems, with a total of 74 libraries, of which 51 were branches. In the same year, the state's library systems had a combined 2,415,000 volumes of books and serial publications, and a total circulation of 3,757,000. The system also had 78,000 audio and 65,000 video items, 8,000 electronic format items (CD-ROMs, magnetic tapes, and disks), and four bookmobiles. The University of Wyoming, in Laramie, had 1,227,000 volumes and 12,960 periodical subscriptions in 2000. In fiscal year 2001, operating income for the state's public library system totaled $15,740,000 and included $14,427,000 in local funding and $73,000 in federal funds. Operating expenditures that year totaled $14,852,000, of which 70.4% was spent on staff and 10.6% on the collection.

There are at least 53 museums and historic sites, including the Wyoming State Museum in Cheyenne; the Buffalo Bill Historical Center (Cody), which exhibits paintings by Frederic Remington; and the anthropological, geological, and art museums of the University of Wyoming at Laramie.


In 2004, 94.6% of all Wyoming households had telephones. In addition, by June of that same year there were 277,658 mobile wireless telephone subscribers. In 2003, 65.4% of Wyoming households had a computer and 57.7% had Internet access. By June 2005, there were 55,884 high-speed lines in Wyoming, 49,585 residential and 6,299 for business.

In 2005, Wyoming had 28 major radio stations, 7 AM and 21 FM, plus 3 television stations. A total of 7,279 Internet domain names were registered in the state by 2000.


There were nine daily newspapers and five Sunday newspapers in Wyoming in 2005. The major daily and its 2005 circulation was the Casper Star-Tribune, 30,790 (33,289 on Sunday).


In 2006, there were over 825 nonprofit organizations registered within the state, of which about 590 were registered as charitable, educational, or religious organizations.

National organizations with headquarters within the state include the Dude Ranchers' Association, the National Park Academy of the Arts, and the Yellowstone Association. Local arts, history, and the environment are represented in part through the Arts Council (in Cheyenne) and the Wyoming Council for the Humanities. Outdoor sports and recreation organizations include the Wyoming Outfitters and Guides Association, Wyoming Ranch and Recreational Services, and the Wyoming Campgrounds Association.


In 2004, the state hosted 8 million overnight visitors and 17.9 million day trip travelers. The tourism and travel industry, the state's second-leading industry, supports over 37,823 full-time and part-time jobs. In 200203, Wyoming tourism increased by 6.5%, the highest increase in travel and tourism of any US state.

There are two national parks in WyomingYellowstone and Grand Tetonand 9 national forests. Devils Tower and Fossil Butte are national monuments, and Fort Laramie is a national historic site. Yellowstone National Park, covering 2,219,791 acres (898,349 hectares), mostly in the northwestern corner of the state, is the oldest (1 March 1872) and largest national park in the United States. The park features some 3,000 geysers and hot springs, including the celebrated Old Faithful. Just to the south of Yellowstone is Grand Teton National Park, 309,993 acres (125,454 hectares). Wyoming is home to major emigrant trails: Oregon, Mormon, California, and Pony Express. Devil's Tower National Monument, in the Black Hills National Forest, is a much-photographed landmark. The town of Cody was founded by Buffalo Bill Cody. The town of Kaycee was the home of the famous outlaws Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

Adjacent to Grand Teton is the National Elk Refuge, the feeding range of the continent's largest known herd of elk. Devils Tower, a rock formation in the northeast, looming 5,117 feet (1,560 meters) high, is the country's oldest national monument (24 September 1906).


There are no major professional sports teams in Wyoming, but there is a minor league baseball team in Casper. Participation sports in Wyoming are typically Western. Skills developed by ranch hands in herding cattle are featured at rodeos held throughout the state. Cheyenne Frontier Days is the largest of these rodeos. Skiing is also a major sport, with Jackson Hole being the largest, best-known resort.

In collegiate sports, the University of Wyoming competes in the Mountain West Conference. They won the Sun Bowl in 1956 and 1958, and they appeared in, but lost, the Holiday Bowl in 1987 and 1988.


The most important federal officeholder from Wyoming was Willis Van Devanter (b.Indiana, 18591941), who served on the US Supreme Court from 1910 to 1937. Many of Wyoming's better-known individuals are associated with the frontier: John Colter (b.Virginia, 1775?1813), a fur trader, was the first white man to explore northwestern Wyoming; and Jim Bridger (b.Virginia, 180481), perhaps the most famous fur trapper in the West, centered his activities in Wyoming. Late in life, William F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody (b.Iowa, 18461917) settled in the Big Horn Basin and established the town of Cody. A number of outlaws made their headquarters in Wyoming. The most famous were "Butch Cassidy" (George Leroy Parker, b.Utah, 18661908) and the "Sundance Kid" (Harry Longabaugh, birthplace in dispute, 1863?1908), who, as members of the Wild Bunch, could often be found there.

Two Wyoming women, Esther Morris (b. New York, 18141902) and Nellie Taylor Ross (b.Missouri, 18801979), are recognized as the first woman judge and the first woman governor, respectively, in the United States; Ross also was the first woman to serve as director of the US Mint. Few Wyoming politicians have received national recognition, but Francis E. Warren (b.Massachusetts, 18441929), the state's first governor, served 37 years in the US Senate and came to wield considerable influence and power.

Without question, Wyoming's most famous businessman was James Cash Penney (b.Missouri, 18751971). Penney established his first "Golden Rule" store in Kemmerer and eventually built a chain of department stores nationwide. The water-reclamation accomplishments of Elwood Mead (b.Indiana, 18581936) and the botanical work in the Rocky Mountains of Aven Nelson (b.Iowa, 18591952) were highly significant. Jackson Pollock (191256), born in Cody, was a leading painter in the abstract expressionist movement.


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Pitcher, Don. Wyoming Handbook: Including Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. 4th ed. Emeryville, Calif.: Moon, 2000.

Preston, Thomas. Rocky Mountains: Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico. 2nd ed. Vol. 3 of The Double Eagle Guide to 1,000 Great Western Recreation Destinations. Billings, Mont.: Discovery Publications, 2003.

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WYOMING. Called the last bastion of the "Old West," Wyoming retains some vestiges of its frontier past, and not just through the popular summer rodeos and as a backdrop for motion picture Westerns. Rainfall is scant, elevations are high, distances between populated places are long.

Admitted to the union as the forty-fourth state on 10 July 1890, Wyoming is the least populated of the United States, with fewer than 500,000 people occupying a land area of 97,818 square miles. Rectangular and without natural borders, Wyoming is bounded on the north by Montana, on the west by Idaho and Utah, on the south by Utah and Colorado, and on the east by Nebraska and South Dakota.

Early Wyoming

The earliest residents in Wyoming were prehistoric people dating from more than 11,000 years ago. Several Native American tribes occupied various parts of what is now Wyoming, including the Shoshone, Sioux, Cheyenne, Crow, Blackfeet, and Arapaho. The state has just one Indian reservation shared between the Shoshone and Northern Arapaho.

Wyoming always has been, as a popular saying goes, a "trail to somewhere else." The first Europeans in Wyoming were French Canadian fur trappers in the middle 1700s, interested in its fur resources but not planning to stay. By the 1820s, several hundred fur trappers sought furs and trade with native people. The fur trade rendezvous, conceived by William Ashley, was first held in Wyoming. Fur traders built what became Wyoming's first permanent settlement—Fort Laramie—in 1834. Sold to the U.S. Army in 1849, the fort became an important stopover for westward travelers and for the quartering of soldiers sent West to guard trails from Indians.

Wyoming remained a trail as a result of migration to Oregon and the later gold rush to California. Some 350,000 travelers used the Oregon-California-Mormon trail across the central part of Wyoming between 1841 and 1860. During the 1860s a series of skirmishes between native people and the army caused significant dislocations.

Despite its Old West image, Wyoming is a product of the transcontinental railroad. Prior to its construction in the late 1860s, there were few people in Wyoming beyond the military posts, stage stations, and ferry crossings. The railroad began construction across southern Wyoming in 1867. Railway depot towns were established, including Cheyenne, Laramie, Rawlins, Green River, and Evanston. Dozens of other "hell-on-wheels" towns did not survive.

At the time, the area was a part of Dakota Territory, governed from Yankton. Local residents wanted their own territory. The members of the Dakota legislature were anxious to cleave off the Wyoming part of their territory because it had little in common with the Eastern Dakotas, so they petitioned Congress to establish a separate territory. The name "Wyoming" is not indigenous, but was applied to the new territory by U.S. Representative James M. Ashley of Ohio, chairman of the House Committee on Territories, who suggested the name in honor of his boyhood home in the Wyoming Valley of Pennsylvania.

Women's Rights, Transportation, and Mineral Resources

Congress authorized the territory in 1868, but because of the pending impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson, territorial officials were not appointed until after Johnson's successor, Ulysses S. Grant, was inaugurated. John A. Campbell of Ohio was the first territorial governor and Edward M. Lee of Connecticut the first territorial secretary. Neither had visited Wyoming prior to their appointments. The two men, with the help of the South Pass City saloonkeeper and legislator William Bright, convinced the first territorial legislature to give women equal rights, including the right to vote. Wyoming was the first government to do so, thus gaining the state's nickname, "The Equality State." Governor Campbell signed the suffrage bill on 10 December 1869, the date designated since 1935 as "Wyoming Day."

When Wyoming gained statehood in 1890, the state constitution guaranteed equal rights for women, thus making Wyoming the first state with such a constitutional provision, thirty years before all American women obtained the franchise. The other unique constitutional article stipulated state ownership of all waters within the state and specified the prior appropriation doctrine as a means of allocating water to users.

In 1924 Wyoming again gained national attention when Nellie Tayloe Ross became the first woman elected governor of any state. Estelle Reel, elected Wyoming's state superintendent of public instruction in 1894, had been the first woman in America to win statewide office.

The railroad engineer General Grenville Dodge determined much of the rail route across Wyoming and established the site of Cheyenne as a major railroad division point 8 July 1867. When Campbell first came to the territory, he designated Cheyenne his territorial capital. An article in the state constitution required an election to determine the location of the permanent capital. Since an election in 1904 failed to decide the issue, Cheyenne has remained the capital, albeit technically the temporary one.

Once the tracks for the transcontinental railroad had been laid across Wyoming, coal mines opened to supply the locomotives with fuel. Many of the earliest mines were owned by the Union Pacific Railroad or its subsidiary company. Because of the vast land grants deeded to the railroad as alternate sections twenty miles in both directions from the tracks, the railroad became (and remains) the largest private landowner in Wyoming, with an initial holding estimated at approximately 4.1 million acres. Because of its landholdings and its historic control over coal mining, the railroad was a significant force in Wyoming politics well into the twentieth century.

In the early 1900s, Wyoming again became a "trail to somewhere else" with the establishment of the Lincoln Highway, the nation's first transcontinental auto route. In the early 1920s, transcontinental airmail was flown across the state and airfields were established along the route, roughly paralleling the original transcontinental railroad line. Although air transport firms like United Airlines were once headquartered in Wyoming, the state now is home to no major airline. The busiest airport is in Jackson Hole, a destination for skiers, tourists, and many part-time residents.

Mineral development, starting with coal in the 1860s, remains a significant part of Wyoming's economy. The state has led the nation in coal production every year since 1988, with most of the coal coming from surface strip mines in the Powder River Basin in northeastern Wyoming.

Oil has been important in Wyoming history. In the early 1900s, the Salt Creek oil field in north-central Wyoming was one of the nation's largest oil producers. Casper, known as the Oil Capital of the Rockies, once was home to the world's largest gasoline refinery, the Standard Oil refinery, which was established in 1922. The nearby Teapot Dome Naval Petroleum Reserve lent its name to a national scandal in the 1920s, although no Wyomingite was directly involved in it. New oil discoveries were made in the 1970s in the "overthrust belt" of southwestern Wyoming, but oil production in the late twentieth century was in steady decline.

Trona, used in the production of glass and soap, was discovered in Wyoming in the mid-twentieth century. Nearly the entire national supply comes from the Green River Basin in southwestern Wyoming. Uranium, first discovered in great quantities in the 1950s, was produced in abundance in central Wyoming until demand began declining in 1980.

A Boom and Bust Economy

Because of the state's strong reliance on natural resources, it has been subject to extreme booms and busts. The fur trade was Wyoming's first boom and bust, followed several decades later by a bust in cattle ranching. The demise of coal-powered locomotives closed the coal mines in the 1950s, but coal production overtook all earlier records by the 1970s when the state's abundant coal, lying relatively close to the surface in deep seams, became an important fuel for power generation. Although low in BTUs, the low sulfur content met standards of the Clean Air Act and gave Wyoming coal competitive advantages in the last quarter of the twentieth century. From 1985 to the late 1990s, Wyoming suffered another economic bust, recovering only with the resurgence of natural gas prices and increased interest in coal bed methane production.

Agriculture was important in the development of Wyoming, particularly cattle raising. In the 1870s and 1880s, cattle companies formed in Europe and the East ran thousands of cattle on the open ranges of Wyoming. Competition and poor weather, culminating in the blizzard of 1886–1887, put many large companies out of business. This led to the Johnson County War of 1892, a conflict in which big operators sent a private army into Johnson County in north-central Wyoming to root out smaller ranchers who defied the rules set by the Wyoming Stock Growers Association. Two men, Nate Champion and Nick Ray, were killed by the cattle companies' men, who escaped conviction and punishment.

Crop agriculture has been limited as a consequence of aridity as well as the high average elevation and relatively short growing season. Nonetheless, some of the nation's first reclamation projects were built in Wyoming, and the dams allowed crop agriculture to proceed. Sugar beets, dry beans, and alfalfa are now important crops. Initially created to provide irrigation water to farmers, the dams also generate electricity for urban residents and give opportunities for recreational sports on the reservoirs.

Despite these water projects, experts promoted dry farming in eastern Wyoming in the early 1900s. The crops paid off until after World War I, when prices declined and the state was hit by a prolonged drought. By 1924, the state was in economic depression. In that one year alone, twenty-five banks failed. Many residents left the state, abandoning homesteads and closing businesses. New Deal programs, implemented almost a decade later, helped the economy but it was World War II that pulled the state out of its economic woes. In 1935, the state legislature debated new forms of taxation, rejecting a state income tax (promoted at the time by a bipartisan group of farmers and ranchers) and implementing instead a state sales tax. Wyoming remains one of only a handful of states without a state income tax. Sales taxes are augmented by mineral severance taxes, allowing for real property tax rates to remain among the lowest in the nation.

Following the Arab oil embargo of 1973, the state's economy entered another boom cycle. Cities such as Gillette and Rock Springs attracted national attention for runaway growth and problems of "impact." One of the main problems was the inability of the cities to house the huge influx of new residents. Also, the heavy strains of new, unexpected residents put pressure on water and sewer systems, streets, and law enforcement. Schools also recorded huge enrollments. Were it not for financial assistance from the state during the period, many of the cities would not have been able to handle the crunch. Legislative passage of a severance tax on minerals in 1969 guaranteed a source of funds to help mitigate the problems, even though mineral companies resisted the tax. Much of the severance tax revenues have gone into a Permanent Mineral Trust Fund, which had an estimated value of almost $3 billion in 2001. During the boom years of the early 1980s, as much as 40 percent of the state's budget was financed from severance tax revenues and state services were sustained during the bust years from 1985 to 1999.

Tourism, popularized by railroads in the nineteenth century, is also an important industry. Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming's northwest corner was established as America's first national park in 1872. Nearby Grand Teton National Park features spectacular mountain scenery as well as world-class ski areas nearby. Devils Tower National Monument, established as the first national monument in the United States in 1906, is located in northeastern Wyoming. The highly regarded Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody and celebrations such as Cheyenne Frontier Days attract tourists with the mystique of the Old West.

Tourism, the Environment, Manufacturing, and Education

Almost half of the state's land area is controlled by the federal government. Most of the federal land is held by the Bureau of Land Management, although the U.S. Forest Service manages vast tracts. Wyomingites remain split on environmental questions. In the 1990s, owners of ranches near Yellowstone unsuccessfully contested a plan of the federal government to reintroduce wolves into the park. Environmental organizations such as the regional-based Powder River Basin Resource Council have a substantial voice in Wyoming. In 2001, environmental groups pointed out the potential long-term damage caused by water discharges from coal bed methane wells in the Powder River Basin of northeastern Wyoming.

Manufacturing has never been significant to the state's economy. Since territorial days, Wyoming politicians have sought economic diversification, but with negligible results. Neither are defense expenditures a significant factor in Wyoming's economy. The only defense installation is Warren Air Force Base, the headquarters for the MX missile system. Silos that once housed Atlas and Minuteman missiles still dot the landscape of the southeastern part of the state. An airbase was located near Casper during World War II and a relocation center to hold Japanese and Japanese Americans operated between Cody and Powell during the World War II years.

The University of Wyoming, founded in 1886, is the only four-year university in the state. Seven community colleges provide two years of higher education. School district consolidation and equalization of school funding have been major political issues at the turn of the twenty-first century. In a series of decisions during the 1990s, the Wyoming Supreme Court ruled that educational spending must be as nearly equitable as possible.

Most Wyomingites live in small towns. The largest city, Cheyenne, has a population of just over fifty thousand people. Vast distances commonly separate towns. There are twenty-three counties. The legislature is bicameral, with a thirty-member Senate and sixty-member House elected from single-member districts.

Minority Groups and Racism

The population, very diverse when the railroad and coal mines hired workers of many nationalities, has become less so. The largest minority ethnic group is Mexican Americans. More than eleven thousand Native Americans live in Wyoming, most on the Wind River Reservation. The African American population is small and mainly concentrated in southern Wyoming.

Since the days of the frontier army forays against native people, racism has been present in Wyoming. More than two dozen Chinese miners were killed in the socalled Rock Springs massacre of September 1885, although most historians consider it a labor incident with racism in an incidental role. In 1969, the state and the University of Wyoming were rocked by the so-called Black 14 incident, which occurred when the university football coach kicked fourteen African American players off the team after they sought to wear black armbands in a game. The state and university gained national notoriety once again with the murder of gay university student Matthew Shepard in October 1998.

State Politics and Prominent Wyomingites

Until the late twentieth century, Wyoming had a competitive two-party system with national leaders coming from both political parties. U.S. Senator Francis E. Warren, the leader of the Republican Party in the state during the first decades of statehood, represented the state in the U.S. Senate for a record thirty-seven years until his death in 1929. John B. Kendrick, a popular Democrat, served as governor and then as U.S. senator until his death in 1933. Joseph M. Carey, first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1890, served as a Republican in the Senate but was elected governor as a Democrat in 1910. Other prominent political figures have included U.S. senators Joseph C. O'Mahoney (D), Gale McGee (D), and Alan K. Simpson (R). Vice President Richard Cheney represented Wyoming in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1979 until his appointment as secretary of defense in 1989. Except for the Progressive (Bull Moose) party in 1912 and Ross Perot's campaign in 1992, third parties have not had significant influence in the state.

Prominent Wyomingites have included the showman William F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody, the sports announcer Curt Gowdy, the attorney and television personality Gerry Spence, Esther Hobart Morris (the first woman in America to serve as a judge), the efficiency expert W. Edwards Deming, the country singer Chris LeDoux, the rocket pioneer G. Edward Pendray, the water engineer Dr. Elwood Mead, and Interior Secretary James Watt. Other famous Wyomingites include the Olympic wrestler Rulon Gardner, Chief Washakie, Crazy Horse, the artist Jackson Pollock, the former cabinet officer James Baker, the World Bank president James Wolfensohn, author Annie Proulx, the retailer J. C. Penney (the first Penney store, in Kemmerer, Wyoming, opened in 1902), and the mountain climber Paul Petzoldt.


Annals of Wyoming: The Wyoming History Journal. Laramie: Wyoming State Historical Society, 1923–. Published quarterly.

Gould, Lewis Gould. Wyoming from Territory to Statehood. Worland, N.Y.: High Plains, 1989.

Hendrickson, Gordon, ed. Peopling the High Plains: Wyoming's European Heritage. Cheyenne: Wyoming State Archives and Historical Department, 1977.

Larson, T. A. History of Wyoming. 2d ed. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1978.

———. Wyoming's War Years. 1954. Reprint, Cheyenne: Wyoming Historical Foundation, 1994.

Roberts, Philip J., David L. Roberts, and Steven L. Roberts. Wyoming Almanac. 5th ed. Laramie, Wyo.: Skyline West Press, 2001.

Urbanek, Mae. Wyoming Place Names. Boulder, Colo.: Johnson, 1967.

Philip J.Roberts

See alsoCattle ; Coal Mining and Organized Labor ; Dry Farming ; Fur Trade and Trapping ; National Park System ; Oil Fields ; Reclamation ; Suffrage: Woman's Suffrage ; Teapot Dome Oil Scandal ; Territorial Governments ; Tourism ; Westward Migration ; Yellowstone National Park .

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Wyoming (state, United States)

Wyoming (wīō´mĬng), least populous state in the United States, one of the Rocky Mt. states of the West. It is bordered by South Dakota and Nebraska (E), Colorado and Utah (S), Idaho (W), and Montana (N).

Facts and Figures

Area, 97,914 sq mi (253,597 sq km). Pop. (2010) 563,626, a 14.1% increase since the 2000 census. Capital and largest city, Cheyenne. Statehood, July 10, 1890 (44th state). Highest pt., Gannett Peak, 13,804 ft (4,207 m); lowest pt., Belle Fourche River, 3,100 ft (946 m). Nickname, Equality State. Motto, Equal Rights. State bird, meadowlark. State flower, Indian paintbrush. State tree, cottonwood. Abbr., Wyo.; WY


Rectangular in shape, Wyoming is traversed by the Rocky Mts., which angle south across the state from the northwest. East of the mountains is the rolling country of the Great Plains, a mile-high region covered with grasses and sagebrush and interrupted by the upward thrust of mountain ranges. In the center of the state is a stretch of unbroken high plain, across which the wagon trains rolled westward over the Oregon Trail. In the extreme northeast the low, wooded Black Hills give way to eroded badlands extending west to the banks of the Powder River, which wanders through some of the most famous cattle country in the United States. West beyond the Powder is tallgrass country that was the hunting ground of the Crow until the migrating Sioux pushed the Crow westward into the mountains. The Sioux fell in turn before the relentless advance of settlers, and today farms and ranches occupy this fertile and beautiful plains area.

In SE Wyoming the higher tablelands are interrupted by the Laramie and Medicine Bow ranges. Across this region travelers to the Pacific coast made their way when wars with natives in the 1860s made the Oregon Trail hazardous. The railroad followed paths of these wagon trains when the Union Pacific laid its tracks along this more southerly course. In SW Wyoming is the natural gateway through the Rockies: the broad, grassy South Pass. Immediately north of the pass is the Wind River Range, reaching the highest elevation in the state at Gannett Peak. Still farther north rise the Gros Ventre and Absaroka ranges, and to the west, near the Idaho line, the glorious Tetons loom above a lake and valley country of renowned beauty.

From the mountain heights snows melt to feed a number of rivers. The Snake begins its long, winding journey into Idaho and on to the Columbia; the Yellowstone travels north and east into the Missouri; and the Green River flows south to join the Colorado. This wealth of surface water offsets the scant rainfall, and river water is impounded for irrigation, flood control, and in some cases hydroelectric power.

Wyoming has two spectacular national parks: Grand Teton, which embraces the most stunning portion of the Teton Range, and Yellowstone, which includes the entire northwest corner of the state and was the world's first national park. Yellowstone's geysers and hot springs are world famous, as is the breathtaking Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Wyoming is also prime hunting and fishing country. The nation's largest herds of elk and antelope are there; deer, moose, and bear are plentiful, and the rivers, lakes, and streams teem with fish. Also in the state are Devils Tower and Fossil Butte national monuments and two national recreational areas, Bighorn Canyon and Flaming Gorge (see National Parks and Monuments, table). Cheyenne is the capital and largest city; Casper and Laramie are the second and third largest cities.


Dry farming, producing hay, wheat, and barley, is supplemented by the more diversified yield (especially sugar beets and dry beans) of irrigated fields. Most of the inhabitants of the state derive their livelihood directly or indirectly from farming or ranching. The most valuable farm commodities, in terms of cash receipts, are cattle, hay, sugar beets, and wheat. Sparse grasses over much of the region necessitate a large grazing area for each animal, and the average ranch in Wyoming is larger than in any state except Arizona. Sheep graze in places unfit for cattle, and both sheep and cattle range by permit in the national forests. Cooperative grazing tracts are on the increase. Horses, a prized essential in the practice of ranching, are carefully raised and trained.

Mining is the largest sector of the state's economy, accounting for about one quarter of the gross state product. Oil wells were first drilled in the 1860s, and today petroleum remains one of the state's most important minerals. The production of petroleum and petroleum products is centered in Casper. Natural gas, however, now exceeds petroleum in economic significance, as does coal. Wyoming is a significant U.S. producer sodium carbonate and uranium as well, and considerable amounts of gold, iron, and various clays are also mined. Important manufactures include processed foods and clay, glass, and wood products.

Wyoming has almost 10 million acres of forested land. The state's natural beauty makes tourism and recreation a major source of revenue. In addition, the multitude of rodeos, annual roundups, and frontier celebrations and the presence of numerous dude ranches draw a large number of vacationers every year.

Government and Higher Education

Wyoming still operates under its first constitution, adopted in 1890. The executive branch is headed by a governor elected for a four-year term. Republican Jim Geringer won the governorship in 1994 and was reelected in 1998. He was succeeded by Dave Freudenthal, a Democrat, elected in 2002 and again four years later. Republican Matt Mead was elected governor in 2010 and 2014. Wyoming's legislature has a senate with 30 members and a house of representatives with 60 members. The state sends two senators and one representative to the U.S. Congress and has three electoral votes. The Univ. of Wyoming is at Laramie, and there are a number of community colleges.


European Claims

Portions of what is now Wyoming were at one time claimed by Spain, France, and England. The acquisition of the territory by the United States was completed through five major annexations—the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, the Treaty of 1819 with Spain, cession by the Republic of Texas in 1836 and partition from Texas after it was annexed in 1845, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (1848) after the Mexican War, and the international agreement (1846) with Great Britain concerning the Columbia River country (see Oregon).

The Fur Trade and Westward Migration

The early development of Wyoming was closely linked with the fur trade and the great westward migrations. French trappers and explorers may have reached the area in the middle to late 18th cent., but the first authentic accounts of the region were provided by John Colter, who, trapped in the Wyoming mountains for several years, returned to St. Louis in 1810 with fantastic accounts of the steaming geysers and great canyons of the Yellowstone. Colter returned west, and other fur traders made their way into Wyoming. The overland party on its way to found Astoria on the Columbia River went through Teton Pass in 1811. The following year Robert Stuart, returning from Astoria, crossed South Pass and followed much of the route that was to become the Oregon Trail.

Only the hardiest and most self-sufficient could survive the Native American attacks and the rugged isolation of the country. With the expeditions of William H. Ashley, the mountain men entered the country, and some of the most famous of those early explorers—Thomas Fitzpatrick, James Bridger, and Jedediah S. Smith—crossed and recrossed the land. Attracted by the fur trade, Capt. B. L. E. de Bonneville organized a sizable expedition, and his were the first wagons to go (1832) through South Pass. The first permanent trading post was Fort William (1834), famous under its later name, Fort Laramie. In 1843 Fort Bridger (now in a state park) was built. The area also aroused the interest of John C. Frémont, who made an expedition in 1842. By the 1840s the route west through Wyoming was in steady use by caravans headed toward Oregon, and the fur-trading posts became stations on the Oregon Trail.

As the fur trade declined, many former trappers and mountaineers settled along the trail, furnishing horses and other supplies to the migrants and purchasing debilitated stock to be put to pasture and sold the following year. Mormons trekking to Utah (Brigham Young led the first party in 1847) and Forty-Niners rushing to the gold fields of California joined the many thousands traversing the mountain passes of Wyoming. A number of Mormons settled for a time in W Wyoming. The death of Mormon pioneers in a blizzard (1856) and the thousands of graves along the Oregon Trail give an indication of the toll taken by disease, starvation, attacks by Native Americans, and winter snows. Despite the hardships, telegraph stations (1861) and stagecoach and freight lines were established, and in 1860–61 pony express riders crossed Wyoming on their route between St. Joseph, Missouri, and Sacramento, California.

Native American Hostilities and Increased Settlement

Native Americans hostile to encroachment in the early 1860s forced the rerouting of stagecoaches to the south, along the Overland Trail. Displaced from their former homes in the east and west, and waging internecine warfare for control of the rich buffalo ranges, the tribes feared further encroachment by the settlers on their hunting grounds, especially after the opening (1864) of the Bozeman Trail. Treaties were made and broken by both sides, and wars with the Sioux persisted, particularly in the Powder River valley.

Meanwhile, S Wyoming was relatively free of attacks, and a gold rush, stimulated by the discoveries at South Pass (1867), brought the first heavy influx of settlers to that region; the flow was increased by the uncovering of vast coal deposits in SW Wyoming. Probably the greatest stimulus to settlement was the completion (1868) of the Wyoming sector of the Union Pacific RR. Towns, including Cheyenne, sprang up beside the tracks, and trade thrived on the demands of the road crews and the new settlers.

Territorial Status and Economic Development

In 1868 the region became the Territory of Wyoming, with Cheyenne as its capital. Wyoming pioneered in political equality when, in 1869, the first territorial legislature granted the vote to women. The territory continued to advance economically as huge herds of cattle were driven up over the Texas or Long Trail. Native American resistance had been suppressed by the late 1870s. The Arapaho were placed on the Wind River Reservation with their former enemies, the Shoshone, and cattlemen safely moved their herds to grasslands throughout Wyoming.

After the complete opening of rangelands, cattle rustling became so common that the authorities could not control it, and juries grew fearful of returning just verdicts against criminals. The Wyoming Stock Growers Association was organized in 1873 to protect cattle owners, and members frequently formed vigilante groups to administer their own justice. The struggle reached its height in the Johnson county cattle war of 1892. Lawlessness was also exemplified by the Hole-in-the-Wall gang, which broadened its activities to include bank and train robberies as well as cattle theft.

Gradually, vast areas were fenced in and winter pastures were established. The influx of sheep in the late 1890s, however, brought new violence. Cattlemen made frantic efforts to exclude the sheep from close grazing on the precious grasslands. Homesteaders were also unwelcome, and many left when they realized that the country was unsuited for small acreage cultivation. Nonetheless, population increase was steady, advancing from about 9,000 in 1870 to over 90,000 in 1900. With expanding population came other kinds of development: eager frontiersmen rapidly (and somewhat chaotically) established schools, and in 1887 the Univ. of Wyoming was founded.

Statehood and Progressive Legislation

Statehood was achieved in 1890, and in keeping with its frontier ideals, Wyoming adopted a liberal state constitution that included the secret ballot. The Carey Act of 1894, providing for the reclamation and settlement of land, stimulated further agrarian development and, in addition, pointed out the need for conservation and efficient use of water. The establishment of national parks protected timberlands and extensive grazing areas, and water power was harnessed to furnish electricity for farms and industries.

In politics, the Progressive movement found numerous adherents in Wyoming; in 1915, after one of the most bitter fights in the state's history, Progressive forces triumphed over the railroad and related interests with the establishment of a state utilities commission. A worker's compensation law was passed in 1915, and also in that year the legislature authorized the Univ. of Wyoming to accept federal grants for agricultural experiments and demonstrations. Thus were begun the state's outstanding and widespread services for agrarian improvement. In 1924 Wyoming became the first state to elect a woman governor, Nellie Tayloe Ross.

The Energy Industry and Agriculture in the Twentieth Century

By the mid-1920s the state ranked fourth in the nation in the production of crude oil, but the valuable finds at Teapot Dome are probably remembered best as the symbol of corruption in the administration of President Warren Harding. Under the New Deal, Wyoming was well served by national soil conservation programs, which benefited dry farmers who had extended operations into semiarid regions and had suffered severely in the drought years beginning in the late 1920s. The cooperative movement in agriculture also gained ground in this period and has since grown.

One of the most important events in the state since World War II was the discovery of uranium. New oil finds also helped to offset economic losses resulting from a disastrous four-year-long drought in the 1950s. The decade from the early 1970s to the early 1980s was a boom period for Wyoming as high energy prices boosted the state's coal, oil, and natural gas industries. By the mid-1980s, however, energy prices were falling and the economy was hurt by its lack of diversity, but tourism and recreation subsequently developed as an important sector of the economy. Wyoming also has suffered from the injurious environmental effects of the energy industry, and pollution has become a serious problem in some mining towns. Although its population rose by almost 9% between 1990 and 2000, the state is still the least populous in the nation. With the increase in energy prices in the early 21st cent. Wyoming again found itself in an economic boom.


See T. A. Larson, History of Wyoming (1966, 2d rev. ed. 1979); The Historical Encyclopedia of Wyoming, pub. by the Wyoming Historical Institute (2 vol., 1970); L. M. Woods, The Wyoming Country Before Statehood (1971); L. and O. H. Bonney, Guide to the Wyoming Mountains and Wilderness (1977); R. H. Brown, Wyoming, A Geography (1980); T. Treadway, Wyoming (1982); P. Roberts and D. L. Roberts, Wyoming Almanac (1988).

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Wyoming State in nw USA, bounded n by Montana, e by South Dakota, s by Colorado, sw by Utah, and w by Idaho; the state capital is Cheyenne. Other major cities are Jasper and Laramie. Wyoming has the nation's smallest state population. Mountains and four million hectares (10 million acres) of forest dominate the landscape. The Rocky Mountains cross the state from nw to se. To the e of the Rockies lie the rolling grasslands of the Great Plains, and the centre of the state is also high plains country. The n of the state is primarily tall grass plain, where buffalo roamed and were hunted by the Crow and then the Sioux. Today, it is fertile farmland and cattle ranch country. Yellowstone National Park is the oldest and largest US National Park, occupying the entire nw corner of Wyoming. Many rivers flow down from the mountains, including the North Platte and the Snake. Following the Louisiana Purchase (1803), the USA had, by 1846, acquired the entire territory of Wyoming through treaties. Nineteenth-century development was linked to the fur trade and westward migration along the Oregon Trail. The 1860s marked the first dramatic arrival of new settlers: the Bozeman Trail opened in 1864, and the railway arrived in 1868. By the end of the 1870s, the government had placed the Native American population on reservations. The next 20 years were marked by a rise of vigilante groups to deal with cattle rustlers and outlaws, and in 1890 Wyoming became the 44th State of the Union. Tourism is a vital industry, with the state's natural beauty attracting more than seven million annual visitors. While cattle ranching, sheep and wheat farming remain important to the economy, Wyoming is primarily an oil-producing state. Oil was discovered in the 1860s, and in 1993 output totalled 87.7 million barrels. Other important mineral resources include coal and uranium. Area: 253,596sq km (97,913sq mi). Pop. (2000) 493,782.

Statehood :

July 10, 1890

Nickname :

The Equality State

State bird :


State flower :

Indian paintbrush

State tree :


State motto :

Equal rights

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Casper . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 585

Cheyenne . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 597

The State in Brief

Nickname: Equality State, Cowboy State

Motto: Equal rights

Flower: Indian paintbrush

Bird: Meadowlark

Area: 97,813 square miles (2000; U.S. rank: 10th)

Elevation: Ranges from 3,100 feet to 13,084 feet above sea level

Climate: Continental; semi arid and cool, with mild summers and severe winters; temperature varies with elevation

Admitted to Union: July 10, 1890

Capital: Cheyenne

Head Official: Governor Dave Freudenthal (D) (until 2007)


1980: 470,000

1990: 453,588

2000: 493,782

2004 estimate: 506,529

Percent change, 19902000: 8.9%

U.S. rank in 2004: 51st

Percent of residents born in state: 42.5% (2000)

Density: 5.1 people per square mile (2000)

2002 FBI Crime Index Total: 17,858

Racial and Ethnic Characteristics (2000)

White: 454,670

Black or African American: 3,722

American Indian and Alaska Native: 11,133

Asian: 2,771

Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander: 302

Hispanic or Latino (may be of any race): 31,669

Other: 12,301

Age Characteristics (2000)

Population under 5 years old: 30,940

Population 5 to 19 years old: 114,406

Percent of population 65 years and over: 11.7%

Median age: 36.2 years (2000)

Vital Statistics

Total number of births (2003): 6,615

Total number of deaths (2003): 4,173 (infant deaths, 46)

AIDS cases reported through 2003: 96


Major industries: Mining; finance, insurance, and real estate; government; construction

Unemployment rate: 2.9% (February 2005)

Per capita income: $32,235 (2003; U.S. rank: 16th)

Median household income: $41,501 (3-year average, 2001-2003)

Percentage of persons below poverty level: 11.4% (1999)

Income tax rate: None

Sales tax rate: 4.0%

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The state of Wyoming has been bypassed by the sweeping changes which affected a majority of the United States in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It is ranching country with little population and many open spaces. Wyoming has small cities and it has, in recent years, prospered from its abundant energy resources. But a large portion of the state remains much as it was when pioneer wagon trains crossed it in the mid-nineteenth century.

French Canadian traders were the first Europeans to enter Wyoming, but an American fur trader, John Colter, was the first to do any important exploration. After he reported on the natural wonders of the northwestern part of Wyoming, other traders and trappers crossed the territory. The old Oregon Trail crossed Wyoming, and between 1840 and 1867 thousands traversed the territory on their way to Oregon, California, or other points west. Some were travelling to the California, Idaho, and Colorado gold countries; others were escaping from the American Civil War (18601865) and its aftermath; still others simply hoped for good land on which to build new homes. They stopped at landmarks like Devil's Gate and Split Rock and at supply points like Fort Laramie, but few chose to stay in the arid land of Wyoming permanently. The economy of the area at that time was largely based on trading posts which served the travelling wagon trains, most establishments were run by mountain men. Other enterprises, such as blacksmith shops and ferries or toll bridges across rivers, also sprang up to serve the needs of the pioneers.

The Union Pacific Railroad eventually brought permanent settlers to Wyoming. It was the first time a railroad had been built before the creation of a new territory. Cheyenne, Laramie, Rawlins, Rock Springs, and other towns sprang up as the railroad made its way across the country in 1866 and 1867. Each experienced a boom and then a decline as the railroad workers moved from town to town. Wyoming officially became a territory in 1868, but growth was slow. In 1869 it had a population of barely nine thousand.

After the quelling of Indian uprisings in the late 1870s, Wyoming soon became cattle country. The cattlemen and some foreign investors hoped to get rich because the grass was free and the price of cattle was high. Texas longhorns were driven to the southeastern part of the territory, and later Hereford cattle were introduced. Although sheep were also raised on the ranches, Wyoming came to depend on cattle more than any other territory. The American myth of the cowboy was especially strong in Wyoming. According to T. A. Larson's bicentennial history of Wyoming, the image of a strong, lonely figure in open cattle country appealed to a nation in which the grips of growing industrialization and urbanization appeared as signs of "a complex civilization in which the individual felt he counted for very little."

Small ranchers and cowboys had difficulty competing with big "cattle barons," who not only bought up much of the land but also held the most important influence in local and state politics. Though profiting from the land, many cattlemen lived in towns and visited their ranches only occasionally. Unfortunately for the cattle speculators, in addition to overgrazing and low cattle prices, a drought in the summer of 1886 and a harsh winter that same year had disastrous results. Shortly after Wyoming became a state in 1890, the so-called Johnson County War of 18911892 pitted large against small landowners and culminated in the arrest of large landowners for practicing vigilante justice.

Life in Wyoming proceeded at a slow pace throughout the early decades of the twentieth century. Stockmen suffered greatly during the Great Depression (19291939) of the 1930s. A long period of drought destroyed hay and grass and many animals had to be destroyed. Cattlemen were forced to accept government subsidies in order to survive. During World War I (19141918) and World War II (19391945), however, despite some grumbling among cattlemen about beef rationing, cattle ranches prospered. In the decades following World War II, Wyoming's economy came to depend more and more on cattle, and very large ranches became the norm.

Wyoming's growth was minimal throughout most of its history because the land was mostly unsuitable for traditional farming. It is still sparsely populated state, ranking last in population in the 1990 census. The development of coal, oil, and natural gas resources brought some growth in the 1970s during the nationwide energy crisis; but this growth too slowed during the 1980s. The 1990s saw some improvement in the oil and coal industry; in the late 1990s Wyoming ranked first in the nation in coal production. In addition to energy production, the economy of Wyoming is based largely on feed grains and livestock, with the timber industry also an important sector. Tourism is becoming an important industry in the state, especially at the state's two national parks, Yellowstone and Grand Teton. In addition, urban dwellers are increasingly seeking seasonal or permanent havens in Wyoming's mountains and open spaces. With no personal or corporate income taxes, the state is favorable to business. It ranked 35th among the 50 states in per capita personal income in 1996.

See also: Cattle Industry, Cowboy, Cow Towns, Native American Policy


Athearn, Robert G. Union Pacific Country. New York: Rand McNally, 1971.

Larson, T. A. Wyoming: A Bicentennial History. New York: Norton, 1977.

. Wyoming: A History. New York: Norton, 1984.

Mead, Jean. Wyoming in Profile. Boulder, CO: Pruett, 1982.

Woods, L. Milton. The Wyoming Country Before Statehood. Worland, WY: Worland Press, 1971.

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Wyoming (city, United States)

Wyoming, city (1990 pop. 63,891), Kent co., W Mich., in the greater Grand Rapids metropolitan area, on the Grand River; settled 1832, inc. 1959. Mainly residential, the city has food processing and plants that manufacture metal products and transportation equipment.

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