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.

Will Dinneen

May is Historic Preservation Month, and the City of Cheyenne kicked it off by loading three 19th century homes onto trailers and moving them to a new neighborhood.

Photo from cheyennecity.org

Laramie County voters decided Tuesday which projects to fund through a sixth-penny sales tax. Of the seven items on the ballot, only two failed.

Among the projects was a proposal to build a new municipal court building and expand the county courthouse. That ballot item passed within such a narrow margin that it triggered a recount. County residents also green-lighted a jail expansion and a new, multi-purpose event facility.

Downtown Laramie

Cities in Wyoming are reworking their liquor laws after the legislature removed state-level restrictions during this year’s session.

Lawmakers rolled back rules that prohibited bars from being open during certain hours, and that required establishments to separate their bars and restaurants with a physical barrier. But it’s up to city governments whether to lift those rules locally or continue enforcing them.

Jordan Cooper via Flickr

Teton County residents will vote in May whether to approve $70 million in revenue collected from a Special Purpose Excise Tax, or SPET. The tax would fund local infrastructure projects, including three housing developments meant to accommodate Jackson’s far-flung workforce. Two of the projects would provide housing for seasonal town and county employees.

Stephanie Joyce

Gillette and other towns in Northeast Wyoming may be looking to carbon products - goods like water filters and building materials – to stabilize the coal industry.

The New Growth Alliance, which includes Sheridan, Buffalo, and Gillette, is a group focused on economic development in Northeast Wyoming. It recently held a conference to discuss alternative coal markets, and now the communities are combining efforts to recruit other types of businesses, as well.  

Caravan to March for Science-Laramie

Communities across Wyoming are joining the National March for Science next Saturday to recognize the field’s contributions to the public.

Joan Anzelmo, one of the organizers of the Jackson march, said she hopes to demonstrate that science is universally important to people’s lives.

By Matt Reinbold from USA (Fishface) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

April showers mean tiger salamanders are now migrating in much of Wyoming.

The species spends the winter underground and in basements, but with recent warm temperatures and evening rains, they are currently moving to breeding habitats near ponds and lakes.

Cody Porter, a PhD student in the University of Wyoming’s ecology program, said that the Western tiger salamander can be found in most parts of the state, even when temperatures are low. If there is a riparian area in your community, you might be able to see them on wetter nights. 

Wyoming Women's Foundation

In time for Equal Pay Day, a national organization has released an analysis that again names Wyoming as the state with the largest gender wage gap in the country.

U.S. Census data from 2016 suggests that women in the state earn just 64 cents for every dollar earned by a man. For full-time female workers, that annual shortfall added up to about $2 billion.

U.S. Senators Mike Enzi of Wyoming and John McCain of Arizona reintroduced the COINS Act last week, pushing to replace the dollar bill with a coin. The legislation would also create a cheaper process for producing nickels and eliminate the penny, which the treasury has said costs more than it is worth.

Proponents of these changes say they will add billions of dollars to the federal budget. Similar bills have failed in multiple recent sessions, but Press Secretary Max D’Onofrio said Enzi sees the bill as a tool to reduce the deficit.

Wyoming Game and Fish Department

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is requesting public comments on its latest plan that evaluates the status of the state’s most threatened species.

Biologists have been using the State Wildlife Action Plan (SWAP) that was developed in 2010 to study everything from mollusks to sage grouse. Game and Fish planning coordinator Glenn Pauley said the purpose of these strategies is to preempt endangered species listings by identifying threats and population declines early.

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.

publicdomainpictures.net

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.

 

thebeardedladyproject.com

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.

http://maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com/Cycle-Path-Road-Gauge-Away-Bike-Bicycle-Path-Tar-228126

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.

https://pixabay.com/en/chemistry-chemical-flask-glass-155121/

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.

pixabay.com

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.

picserver.org/e/economy.html

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.

Henry Mulligan

  

 

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). 

 

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