Colorado exceeded the national trend in development with nearly half the developed land occurring in the last 25 years. The national trend found that one-third of all the land ever developed in the lower 48 states has been developed in the last 25 years. The findings come from the National Resources Inventory (NRI), with the latest release of the data covering the period 2002-2007.
The NRI is a national land use survey of non-federal lands conducted by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), in cooperation with Iowa State University. It documents natural resource conditions and trends, such as changes in land cover/use. It is one of the most comprehensive natural resource databases in the nation. It is used by congress to determine programs and expenditures dealing with conservation and agriculture. For more complete background on the NRI, go to: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/technical/NRI/1997/docs/background.html
Colorado has converted 714,600 acres or the equivalent of 1,116.5 square miles to urban uses between 1982 and 2007. The majority of those acres came from rangeland (309,000 acres), with cropland losing a total of 194,500 acres. The forested areas were not immune from development with 131,200 acres being converted to urban classification.
Urban still only makes up roughly 2.16% of the total acreage of Colorado
In other trends, wind and water erosion declined between 1982 and 1997 in cultivated cropland as the most vulnerable land was taken out of production and put into the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). Between 1997 and 2007 you see an increase in erosion as many of the contracts for CRP expire and the acreage is again broken out and put into production. The initial CRP acreage shows high wind and water erosion as the vegetation was just being established, but then the marked reduction in erosion in CRP land shows the effectiveness of the CRP in combating erosion.
Irrigated cropland in Colorado has remained relatively constant even as the non-irrigated cropland has diminished in acres.