State Sprawl

Lost Open Space in Colorado


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Colorado lost 1,206 square miles

of open space

Loss related to population
Loss related to consumption

1. "Population" refers to increase in population.

2. "Consumption" refers to increase in developed land consumption per capita (per person).

The cause of the loss of 1,206 square miles of open space between 1982-2017 was overwhelmingly a result of a single phenomenon:

  • 86% of rural land loss was related to POPULATION GROWTH: About 1,038 square miles of rural land were developed to handle the additional consumption caused by Colorado having 2.5 million more people in 2017 than in 1982.
  • 14% of rural land loss was related to GROWTH OF DEVELOPED LAND PER RESIDENT resulting from ALL OTHER FACTORS: About 168 square miles of sprawl between 1982 and 2017 were rural land lost because of dozens of factors that increased the average amount of developed land per person in the state. This developed land provides not only the residence for each person but also the share of shopping malls, streets, schools, government buildings, utility infrastructure, waste treatment facilities, parking lots, vacation homes, resorts, highways, and places of employment, worship, and entertainment. On average, while many Coloradoans were living more densely, this was not enough to offset the increased number of Coloradoans.
  • Loss of Open Space in Colorado (1982-2017)

    168 Square Miles Square Miles 1,038 Due to Population Growth Due to All Other Factors

    Sources of Colorado’s Population Growth

    During the 1982-2017 period, Members of Congress more than doubled the national population growth that is driven by immigration policies. Besides the direct effect in Colorado, immigration policies appear to have created acute population pressures in some metropolitan areas across the country which may be driving residents to flee. California is the No. 1 state source of Colorado’s population growth.

    Lost Open Space (square miles) from Population and Consumption growth


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