Alanna Elder

Part-Time Reporter

Alanna Elder is studying Agroecology and Environment and Natural Resources. She has lived in Wyoming since you could rent VHS from the grocery store. She counts among her heroes her grandmother, who probably introduced her to WPR, and a bunch of women named Terry and Joan. Like many Laramie-ites before her, she is happiest in the mountains.

Earlier this month, Wyoming Governor Matt Mead signed a bill that requires doctors to offer ultrasounds to patients seeking abortions, but that law may only apply to one provider in the state.

Dr. Brent Blue of Jackson said he is Wyoming’s only doctor who publicly admits to providing abortions. But he has heard of other doctors in the region who have provided their regular patients with abortions that used medications to end a pregnancy, instead of surgical procedures.

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In Wyoming’s coal-rich Powder River Basin, the city of Sheridan is exploring how renewable sources of energy might fit into its future. The local government applied for a $44,000 research grant that the Wyoming Business Council approved earlier this month.

Now their proposal will go before the governor’s State Land and Investment Board for final approval. The town’s leaders have been looking into wind, solar, and hydropower development since the 1990s, and a recent economic study found that a lack of renewable development in Sheridan could be a deal-breaker for tech companies.

Listen to the full show here. 

In Review: Wyoming's Legislative Session 2017

The Wyoming legislative session is wrapping up today and Wyoming Public Radio's Bob Beck joins Caroline Ballard to discuss this year’s work. 

JRProbert via Wikimedia Commons

 

  

Dr. Ali Abdullahi  knew that he wanted to work with wildlife when he visited the Masai Mara reserve in his home country of Kenya. He earned a PHd from the University of Wyoming's ecology department, and embarked on an effort to save the hirola - the world's most endangered antelope. Wyoming Public Radio's Alanna Elder spoke with Dr. Ali about his work. 

Alanna Elder

Wyoming’s sheep industry relies on foreign labor from the Department of Labor’s H2-A visa program, which applies to agricultural jobs. When that agency raised wage requirements for sheepherders in 2015, ranchers complained that the rule change could put them out of business. But worker’s advocates argued that the new regulations were not enough. Wyoming Public Radio’s Alanna Elder met with a rancher and a shepherd  just after the latest round of raises went into effect.

 

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A University of Wyoming scientist has created a documentary to celebrate women in paleontology.

Ellen Currano said she and a friend, filmmaker Lexi Jameison Marsh, conceived of the project after a hard day in their separate fields. Both women had felt like outsiders who were not taken as seriously as their male colleagues.

CocoaBiscuit via Flickr

Congress canceled a set of coal mining regulations last week, just two months after they’d been passed. President Trump signed the repeal with support from Wyoming Governor Matt Mead.  

The Stream Protection Rule created a buffer zone around waterways and placed stricter requirements on companies to monitor and reclaim mine sites. But Wyoming’s Congressional delegation and Department of Environmental Quality called the decision an overreach that should not apply to the arid conditions of the Western U.S.

Carol S. Bock

The Endangered Species Act was under Senate scrutiny Wednesday, when the Environment and Public Works Committee met to discuss how to reform the law.  

Former Wyoming Governor Dave Freudenthal attended the meeting chaired by Senator John Barrasso. Both politicians said that while the ESA is important, it needs an update, and mentioned the Western Governor’s Association’s efforts to come up with specific recommendations for reform.  

The City of Laramie has hired a consultant to convince shops and restaurants to set up storefronts there.

City Manager Janine Jordan said in a press release that even though Laramie has a thriving downtown, the community has room for more retailers, especially when she compares it to other college towns.

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Last year, the Wyoming legislature created a task force to make the state’s communities more attractive to bicyclists and pedestrians. That group will host a phone meeting Monday morning to discuss the value of these modes of transportation, as well as the projects and policy changes that would make them more workable.

Task Force Chairman Tim Young says it’s all part of a report they’ll submit to the legislature in October.

Wyoming lawmakers have introduced a bill that would bar utilities from using solar or wind power to generate electricity, but since the open of the legislative session the measure hasn’t made it to committee.

The proposed measure draws a line around “eligible resources”: coal, natural gas, oil, nuclear, and hydropower, and asks electricity providers to use those industries to meet 95 percent of demand by 2018. By 2019, they’ll be expected to phase out wind and solar, purchase energy credits, or pay a fee.

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After accepting a $15 million dollar loan from the State of Wyoming, Standard Alcohol Inc. is continuing plans for a new facility at Swan Ranch, outside of Cheyenne. The loan is set to be paid back in twenty years, while the rest of the funding for the $76 million dollar plant will come from private investments.

The company will use natural gas, coal, and CO2 to create a gasoline additive that company vice president Robert Johns says is high value.

U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Johansen Laurel

Teton County’s Habitat for Humanity has released design plans for twenty-four low income homes that will help address the housing shortfall in the area.  

Many of the people who work in the Jackson area can’t afford to live there, and a recent study found that a third of the county's residents spend more than thirty percent of their income on housing.

A local group hopes to build the three bedroom units over the next four years, and sell them to people who make less than eighty percent of the county’s average.

Wyoming Department of Education

High school graduation rates in Wyoming have crept upward since 2012, according to a press release from the education department.

In 2016, 80 percent of students graduated within four years. That’s higher than the state’s rate has been in a while, but still falls short of last year’s national average of eighty-three percent.

State Superintendent Jillian Balow says that although the state has more work to do, these incremental gains are worth celebrating.

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As the January 31 deadline approaches to sign up for health insurance under the government’s health care marketplace, Senate Republicans are beginning plans to repeal the law that created that program.

It’s still unclear how lawmakers will replace the Affordable Care Act if it is repealed, and experts around the country are unsure what a reformed health care system should look like.

Photo courtesy of National Archives and Records Administration

It could be a good year for moisture in Wyoming, according to this week’s snow report from the Natural Resource Conservation Service.  

The NRCS has data stations scattered across the state that measure the amount of water in snowpack, and use that to predict how much water will be available in the spring and summer. These measurements are important in a region where most of the water supply comes from snowfall.

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Wyoming’s economy is the most sluggish in the nation, according to a report released by Bloomberg in December. That ranking came from analysis of employment, income, stock and home prices, as well as late mortgage payments around the nation. Bloomberg analysts attributed the state’s poor score to the recent energy downturn, as well as the fact that Wyoming has no urban center, where job growth tends to accelerate.

By Joe Ravi, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16542775

Prairie dogs can be a source of frustration to livestock producers in Wyoming because they compete with cattle for food. But new research from the University of Wyoming shows that the animals may also improve the quality of grass that is available.

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Yellowstone National Park officials said at a meeting in Nevada last week that their wild bison population is larger than ever, with over 5,000 animals in the herd. This could be a challenge for the park, which is charged with controlling the numbers that migrate into Montana. The park met with a group of federal and state agencies to discuss updates to their Interagency Bison Management Plan (IBMP). 

 

Wyoming saw higher rates of chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis and other sexual transmitted diseases in 2015 compared to reports from the previous year, according to recent data released by the Department of Health.

The report shows a 3 percent increase in chlamydia cases and a 150 percent rise in gonorrhea. Young people aged 15 to 24 accounted for a majority of these infections, which health officials say can have lasting health impacts.

United States Department of Agriculture

Recent data shows that childhood obesity rates among low-income families have decreased in Wyoming, down from nearly 11.8 percent in 2010 to 9.9 percent in 2014. 

Photo by Hannah Dunn

Farmers and gardeners will gather in Cheyenne this weekend for a new local food gathering called the Farm to Market Conference, where they will learn how to grow, sell, and process their produce.

Wyoming Department of Agriculture grants manager Ted Craig is helping organize the event. In recent years, he has noticed increasing demand, but also increasing options for selling local food in Wyoming. Craig gives credit to the widespread use of hoop houses, which help producers push the season into the early winter.

Pixabay

A new economic study could help the State Board of Land Commissioners decide on a proposed exchange that could affect as many as 8,000 acres of public lands in Albany County.

Under the Bonander Ranches Exchange, the state would swap 1,000 acres of state trust land in the Laramie Range to a private landowner for less than 300 acres in Crook County. These areas are valued at the same amount, and the smaller parcel could bring revenue to the state in the form of leases and timber sales. 

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park officials will close most of the park’s roads Monday to prepare for winter. The East, South, and West gates will also remain closed for the remainder of the season.

The North and Northeast entrances and the road that connects them will remain open. Park spokeswoman Morgan Warthin says that people who live in the area use the road throughout the season, as do visitors hoping to see wildlife in the Lamar valley. She adds that travelers should visit the park’s website to stay informed about weather-related closures.

jacdupree via Flickr

Vehicle collisions with bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem are up this year. A total of eight grizzlies have been hit by cars in 2016, more than records from 2012 through 2015 combined.

Most recently, a 260 pound grizzly bear was killed on Highway 89 in Grand Teton National Park.

The National Park Service received a call Sunday that a driver had seen the carcass on the side of the road. Park Rangers found the vehicle involved in the crash a mile up the road, and did not cite the driver.

TLLAMWY (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons

Construction for a long awaited replacement bridge from the east side of Laramie to the west is about to begin. The current Clark street bridge that runs over Laramie’s train tracks has connected the city the city for 53 years, but faced a number of safety concerns. The new bridge will be located on Harney street.

Wyoming Department of Transportation engineer Steve Cook said the current structure is too weak for rehabilitation and its materials will not be used in the construction of the new bridge.

healthcare.gov

On November 1, people will be able to sign up for this year’s round of health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act. Wyoming’s rates are expected to increase by roughly seven percent, and while the increase will be less than some other states, Wyoming’s insurance prices are typically among the highest in the country.

Public Domain

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is reevaluating a previous decision not to extend endangered species protections to wolverines. The agency decided against listing wolverines as an endangered species in 2014, but was then sued by environmental groups. Under court order, the agency will undertake a two-year review of whether the wolverine should in fact be listed, and will reopen the public comment period. 

Human Rights Campaign

Wyoming’s cities rank below the national average in protections for LGBTQ residents, according to new ratings from the Human Rights Campaign.  

The group scored hundreds of cities across the nation in their Municipal Equality Index, giving points for non-discrimination laws, transgender-inclusive healthcare benefits and other policies.

Despite the low ratings, Sarah Burlingame of the advocacy group Wyoming Equality says there is growing support for LGBTQ rights around the state.

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