Wyoming Boom and Bust Oral History Project

Energy has always been a chief concern in the United States. As one of the nation’s major natural resource producers, the state of Wyoming has been deeply affected by the twists and turns in the national energy market. The unfortunate result for a state that depends so heavily on its natural resources is a continuing theme of economic boom and bust. In western Wyoming’s Sublette County, the oil and gas industry has been a vital part of the local economy for a number of years and the area has felt its share of boom and bust. However, the magnitude of energy development beginning around 1995 brought about sweeping changes and challenging issues for the community. Likewise, the downturn that occurred there beginning in late 2008 has created its own set of challenges.

The American Heritage Center’s Alan K. Simpson Institute for Western Politics and Leadership at the University of Wyoming conducted an oral history program to explore the social, environmental, and economic impacts of Wyoming’s latest energy boom in Sublette County, and the more recent downturn. Interviewers performed audio oral history interviews with over forty persons involved in, and impacted by, the activities to develop and extract the state’s natural gas resources in Sublette County during the latest energy boom. Those interviews, along the transcripts and contextual documents and photographs, are accessible in this Web site.

A key purpose of the program is to provide raw perspectives for Wyoming residents and officials, humanities scholars, and scholars in other disciplines, to analyze the reaction and adjustment that occurs due to community impact created by environmental, sociological, and economic changes brought about by energy development. For example, an interview theme was the impact when a sudden influx of revenue is followed by a loss of revenue, a characteristic that marks the latest boom and bust cycle just as it has with other Wyoming boom and bust cycles. More specifically, this theme invited questions such as the effect on Sublette County schools when a sudden increase in student numbers occurred, the types of issues seen by counseling services during the boom/bust cycle, what measures the small local police department took to monitor a community growing by leaps and bounds, and other questions explored the subtext of life in a small Wyoming community faced with a giant leap into energy development, and a subsequent sharp decline in that development.