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.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.