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When it comes to energy issues, Wyoming's delegates to the Democratic National Convention did not see eye to eye with many Democratic Party leaders or their party's platform. Correspondent Matt Laslo caught up with some of the delegates in Philadelphia and sent us this audio postcard.

Coal Dependent School Budgets In Crisis

2 hours ago
Ann Marie Awad / KUNC

  

This story originally aired on Inside Energy partner station KUNC. 

Colorado's coal country is experiencing the same slump that is gripping the heart of more traditional mining locales, like Wyoming or West Virginia.

"We see the trains and we hear the trains, and they used to be often. Daily," says Darci Mohr, the superintendent for South Routt County School District. "Now we hear one every five to six days."

Bob Beck

Bob Jensen has spent most of his time in Wyoming thinking about improving the economy. For ten years he led the Wyoming Business Council, the state’s economic development arm. Several months ago during a meeting of some Cheyenne entrepreneurs the idea of developing a coding school was pitched. And that discussion led to the development of Array, School of Technology and Design in downtown Cheyenne.

“It is a grassroots effort to try and effect workforce quickly for a growing tech industry in Wyoming,” said Jensen.

Melodie Edwards

Out under the cottonwoods in her backyard near Fort Washakie, Northern Arapaho member Pat Bergie shows off her new raised-bed garden.

“Those are the tomatoes, strawberries,” she says, pointing at the rows of small seedlings. “Over here, I’d done some cabbage inside. I brought them out and planted them and those are what’s gone.”

Gone because birds came and gobbled them up.

“The big ones, the magpies are the ones that went out,” she says, laughing. “They’re the hoggy ones.”

Wyoming Democratic Party

The Democratic National Convention wrapped up Thursday night with the official nomination of Hillary Clinton as the party’s presidential candidate.  

Wyoming is a reliably red state, voting republican in every presidential election since the 1960s, so the Democratic candidate is typically an afterthought to most voters. But Ken Chestek, a DNC delegate from Laramie, said he doesn’t think Donald Trump will get much support in Wyoming.

Wyoming State Parks and Cultural Resources

After 10 years, Milward Simpson is leaving his post as Director of the Wyoming Department of State Parks and Cultural Resources. Simpson was appointed to the position in July of 2006 by former Governor Dave Freudenthal.

During his time in office, Simpson established a new electronic records management system for the state archives, created programs to get families in the outdoors, and coordinated state and federal land management agencies.

Simpson said he is particularly proud of putting on statewide conferences for things like the arts, culture, and historic preservation.

University of Wyoming

  

Earlier this month, the University of Wyoming’s new president Laurie Nichols visited the Wind River Indian Reservation and sat down with business councils from both the Eastern Shoshone and the Northern Arapaho to talk about how to get the Native American student body to better reflect Wyoming’s population of Native Americans overall.

She told Wyoming Public Radio's Melodie Edwards, it’s an issue she’s tackled before in her time as South Dakota State University’s provost.

Liam Niemeyer

Due to Wyoming’s economic downturn, a number of state agencies have been required to cut their budgets to make up for a revenue shortfall that could reach $300 million. Among the cuts is $1 million that the Wyoming Department of Corrections uses for substance abuse treatment. 

At the same time, the Wyoming Department of Health is cutting funding for local substance abuse treatment. Some worry the cuts could harm those in and out of the prison system.

STEPHANIE JOYCE / WYOMING PUBLIC RADIO

On April 1, 2016, Frank Thompson lost his job as a mechanic at Peabody Energy’s North Antelope Rochelle mine. He was one of almost 500 coal miners laid off that day by Peabody and its competitor, Arch Coal. At the time, Thompson, who is a single dad, was most concerned about what being laid off would mean for his son.

"He’s seven years old, so he kind of sees it as some time to hang out," he told Inside Energy's Stephanie Joyce. "But I don’t think he really realizes that this could be us moving away from here."

Leigh Paterson

  

Wind turbines are pretty sleek-looking from a distance, but there’s a lot going on behind those spinning blades.

Bryan Boatright, a wind energy technology instructor at Laramie County Community College, took me up into a deconstructed nacelle. A nacelle is a big rectangular box that holds generation components like the generator and drive train. Each one looks like an RV.

Rick Edwards (AMNH)

Wyoming looked pretty different 50 million years ago. It was tropical, with lots of trees and wet, humid conditions. Scientists know this because of the many fossils found from this time period in the Green River Formation in Southwest Wyoming.

Western Wyoming Fire Prevention and Education Team

A campaign led by the Western Wyoming Fire Prevention and Education Team is working to remind residents and tourists of things they can do to prepare for wildfires. The team is a joint effort of the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Wyoming’s Forestry Division, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Aaron Schrank

A poll commissioned by the Casper Star-Tribune and Wyoming PBS says 52 percent of Wyoming’s Republican voters are undecided in the race for the state’s lone U.S. House seat. The seat is being vacated by Representative Cynthia Lummis, who has decided not to seek a fifth term.

The poll shows that Liz Cheney is supported by 21 percent of those contacted, while 9 percent support State Representative Tim Stubson and 4 percent support State Senator Leland Christensen. But with 52 percent of the voters undecided, Cheney’s lead is not as firm as it could be.

Carbon XPrize Website

Forty-seven teams have entered an international competition that seeks ways to turn carbon emissions into useful products.

The X-Prize competition challenges innovators to turn carbon dioxide into useful, valuable, products like carbon nanotubes and concrete.

“Innovators are often the one’s with the bright ideas. They don’t necessarily know how to go out there and raise millions of dollars to turn it into reality,” said Paul Bunje, the principal scientist in charge of the competition.

NBC News / via Twitchy

The recent use of the acronym BLM in national conversation has left some Westerners confused. 

At this week’s Democratic National Convention, the Wyoming delegation wore t-shirts supporting Black Lives Matter, or in shorthand, BLM. Nina McConigley is a writer who lives Laramie. She posted about the show of support on her Facebook page, writing "Wyoming delegation - all wearing BLM shirts! As a POC [Person of Color] in Wyo, this makes me so so happy." She says that elicited a lot of confused comments in response. 

whatfest.com

This Friday and Saturday, the little town of Riverside, Wyoming will see its population balloon from 50 to 1500. WHAT Fest has seen steady growth since moving to Riverside from Cody, five years ago.

This year’s music festival features more than 30 bands, mostly from around Wyoming. But there are also bands from Colorado and several national touring acts performing this weekend, including The Black Lillies and The Lonesome Heroes.

Wyoming Legislature Service

A Wyoming legislator is hoping to change some minds during this week’s Democratic National Convention.  

House Minority Leader Mary Throne said energy is important to Wyoming and she is concerned that the Democratic platform is anti-fossil fuels. Throne added that Democrats from non-energy producing states don’t seem to understand the role oil, natural gas, and coal play in the national economy. 

 

Rhodium Group

President Obama called for Democrats to offer aid to miners in coal country during his speech to the Democratic National Convention Wednesday. It was just one of several recent attempts by Democratic party leaders to reach out to voters in largely conservative coal states. 

Earlier in the day, Hillary Clinton’s energy policy advisor told the audience at an event hosted by the news organization Politico that Democrats cannot forget coal country.

U.S. FOREST SERVICE-BRIDGER-TETON NATIONAL FOREST FACEBOOK PAGE

The Cliff Creek Fire north of Bondurant in Sublette County has increased to 21,483 acres. Almost 700 firefighters are fighting the blaze on the ground, in the air, as well as with some controlled burning. Crews have been working to protect about 23 summer homes and the Granite Creek drainage area.

Flickr via Creative Commons

Despite the major layoffs in the coal industry this year, the unemployment rate in Wyoming rose slightly in June, up by .1% to 5.7% since May. Although that rise isn’t significant, it is a serious increase from last June when it was only 4.2%.

A report from the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services says almost every county in Wyoming has seen increases in unemployment since last summer. Senior Economist David Ballard says the largest of these increases were seen in the more energy dependent counties. Natrona, Converse, and Campbell County all increased by over 3%.

Stephanie Joyce / Wyoming Public Media

Alpha Natural Resources emerged from bankruptcy Tuesday as a much smaller company. 

As part of the bankruptcy deal, Alpha sold its core assets, including its mines in Wyoming, to a new company, Contura. Alpha will continue to operate a handful of mines in Appalachia, while Contura will take over the company's more lucrative mining operations in the Powder River Basin and elsewhere.

Contura is majority-owned by a group of Alpha’s former senior lenders. Employees of Alpha in Wyoming are now employed by Contura, which is being headed up by Alpha’s former CEO.

Peabody Energy / Wikimedia Commons

Peabody Energy has reached a deal with regulators in several states over its outstanding cleanup obligations. 

Peabody declared bankruptcy in April with more than $1 billion in self-bonded reclamation obligations at its mines in Wyoming, Indiana, New Mexico and Illinois. Self-bonding means the company has promised that it will meet its future clean-up obligations, but has not put up any financial guarantees to secure that promise. Peabody has more than $700 million in self-bonded reclamation in Wyoming alone. 

National Wildlife Coordinating Group

Two hundred and fifty additional homes are being evacuated because of the spreading Lava Mountain Fire in Fremont County.

The Western Montana Fire Incident Management Team issued new evacuation orders Monday for residents and campers in the Union Pass, Porcupine, Hat Butte and Warm Springs areas. Firefighters have been preparing homes and structures in the area in the event the blaze did spread.

“(Firefighters) have really gone through a lot of effort and done everything possible to prepare for this potential,” said spokeswoman Hailey Graf.

University of Wyoming

  

The University of Wyoming’s new president, Laurie Nichols, recently met with tribal leaders to talk about recruiting more Native American students to the school. In her previous position as provost at South Dakota State University, Nichols says welcoming Native students was a big priority, and she’d like to do the same at UW.

She says both the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone business councils explained that their tribal populations are growing, and that means a lot more young people will be reaching college age in the coming years.

Will and Jim Pattiz / More Than Just Parks

The National Park Service is celebrating its centennial this year, and already 2016 is on track to break records for the number of visitors at national parks in Wyoming. But if you can’t make it to a national park this summer, there’s a new way to see one right from your computer or smartphone.

More Than Just Parks is a project by brothers Will and Jim Pattiz, who have set out to document every national park with its own short film. Each video is a few minutes long and features time lapse photography of landscapes and wildlife.

William Henry Jackson/Bradly J. Boner

As the National Park Service celebrates 100 years, a photographer says Yellowstone National Park is succeeding at preserving its wild landscape.

Bradly Boner spent three summers in Yellowstone re-photographing more than a hundred photos taken in 1871. The original shots are from a survey expedition to what would become Yellowstone National Park. And Boner says nearly a century and a half later, the landscape remains remarkably intact.

U.S. Forest Service

A national Native American conservation group says grizzly bears shouldn’t be removed from the Endangered Species List, but instead should expand the bear’s range onto tribal lands.

Ben Nuvamsa is a former Hopi councilman and a spokesman for Guardians of Our Ancestor’s Legacy or GOAL. He said the grizzly plays an intricate role in the belief systems of many tribes.

Atlanta Blues Rock Band Dr. Izzy On Morning Music

Jul 22, 2016
Dr. Izzy Band

Dr. Izzy Band recorded live on 7/22/16 during Wyoming Public Radio's Morning Music show.  

National Interagency Fire Center

Teton County health officials are warning people living in communities near wildfires about lower air quality.

Wildfire smoke has particles in it from burning material that when inhaled can be harmful on the body, especially during exercise. These particles can irritate an individual’s eyes, lungs and throat.

“You know, it’s not a good time when it’s really smoky out to go run to the top of the mountain,” Rachael Wheeler of Teton County Public Health said. “You don’t really want to aggravate your body when the air isn’t clean.”

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