Bob Beck

News Director

Phone: 307-766-6626
Email: btwo@uwyo.edu 

Bob Beck has been News Director of Wyoming Public Radio since 1988.  During his time as News Director WPR has won 94 national, regional and state news awards.  Bob has received the WEA School Bell Award for education reporting and was honored by the Governor’s Council on Impaired Driving for his reporting.  He was also the voice of an Emmy award winning documentary on memory.  He has covered the Wyoming Legislature longer than any broadcaster in the state and is a frequent political guest and host on Wyoming PBS.   

Bob also taught broadcast news at the University of Wyoming for 20 years and his 1998 television reporting class won a regional Emmy for reporting excellence.  He also was twice given a Top Prof award by the UW Mortar Board.   Bob is also active in community events and co-chaired the 2009 Albany County United Way Campaign with his wife Debra. 

Prior to coming to WPR, Bob worked as a News and Sportscaster at stations in Wyoming and Illinois.  He received a Bachelor of Science degree in Radio-Television from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale and is a native of Wheaton, Illinois in suburban Chicago.  When he is not working he is running, mountain biking, doing CrossFit, walking his dog, or cheering on his beloved Packers, Bulls, Blackhawks, Cubs and Salukis.

Ways To Connect

The US Census Bureau says Wyoming’s minority population has increased since 2010, but Wyoming is still among the whitest states in the country ranking 41st in minority population. 

Economist Wenlin Liu says Wyoming’s total population increased 3-point-6 percent, but it was driven by a growth in the number of Hispanics and other minorities coming to the state in an effort to find jobs.

“From 2010 to 2014 the minority population increased 17-percent compared to the white population that only increased 1-point-4 percent.”

Governor Matt Mead is creating a task force that is intended to gather information on the pros and cons of legalizing marijuana in Wyoming. 

The governor says he continues to oppose any legalization of the drug. But he says he wants to get ahead of a possible 2016 general election ballot initiative that could ask voters to decide whether to legalize medical marijuana. 

National Park Service

Fire Reforms Heat Up Congress

Pine beetles and drought is leaving Wyoming and other states more susceptible to wildfires than at any point in recent memory, yet the federal fire policy doesn’t seem to be keeping up with the new climate. Wyoming lawmakers are trying to solve the problem.

Pharmacists are currently not recognized as health care providers and despite their obvious knowledge of medications, they are not currently allowed to help people manage their medication. There are two bills in Congress that could change that. Tom Menighan is the CEO of the American Pharmacists Association and he say this would help those in rural areas.

Bob Beck

Earlier this year when the legislature voted down Medicaid expansion, lawmakers realized that some hospitals were struggling to make up for the fact that some people cannot afford to pay their medical bills.  So after a lot of discussion, they provided roughly three million dollars to be spread among the smaller rural hospitals. But some thought that was not enough, so two legislative committees are looking into what else can be done to help. 

Wyoming’s decision to not set up a set health care marketplace could haunt it if the United States Supreme Court rules that federal marketplaces or exchanges cannot receive federal subsidies. The King vs. Burwell case could impact close to 20 thousand Wyoming residents, especially the 17 thousand who would lose subsidies to purchase insurance. 

Wyoming lawmakers are considering working with communities to allow them to determine their own health care needs.

The Joint Labor and Health committee is trying to find ways to improve health care in the state and reduce costs to hospitals. Hospitals say the care they are required to provide to poor and uninsured patients is costing them millions.

State of Wyoming Legislature

The legislature’s joint Labor and Health Committee praised state health officials for their quick response when two nursing homes threatened to close last month.

The state took over the facilities in Rock Springs and Saratoga after the company that owned them said it was suddenly closing them. Senator Bernadine Craft of Rock Springs said Monday that it was a terrifying time in her community. 

State Health Director Tom Forslund noted that the state was criticized by some for getting involved with a private business. He said that leads to policy questions for the future.

Sara Hossani

Last Monday saw the close of the public comment period concerning a proposed rule put forth by the U.S. Department of Labor that could cause serious harm to Wyoming’s sheep industry. Currently, most sheep herders in Wyoming are foreign and hold what are called H-2A visas. Under those visas, they are required to be paid $750-dollars a month and be provided room and board.

Jeff Henry

In 1988 much of Yellowstone National Park was engulfed in flames. At the time a young employee and budding photographer named Jeff Henry was asked to take photos of the fire.

Over 25 years later Henry has written a book about the fires that includes numerous photographs that he took on the front lines. The book is called The Year Yellowstone Burned: A 25 Year Perspective. Henry joins us and recalls how politicians and others were critical of the Parks approach to the fires. 

Rebecca Martinez / Wyoming Public Radio

The U.S. Department of Labor is considering whether to institute a new rule that would raise the required pay of foreign sheep herders with visas.

The rule would increase pay from $750 dollars a month plus room and board to $24-hundred dollars a month plus room and board. Those in the sheep industry say the increase could put them out of business and they apparently aren’t crying wolf.

A 27 year veteran of the National Park Service has been selected to be the new Superintendent of Devils Tower National Monument. Tim Reid has spent the last six years working as the Chief Ranger at Yellowstone National Park. 

Reid is known as someone who provides a balance of resource protection, while providing an excellent visitor experience. He says the key is communication with stakeholders.

University of Wyoming

For the last several years the University of Wyoming has been working on issues of recruiting and retaining students. UW President Dick McGinity says the University is averaging over three thousand new students in the fall and roughly half of them are freshman. 

Some legislators believe that if UW’s enrollment increases, it will generate more internal dollars for the University. McGinity says there is some truth to that, but they need to determine if they have enough faculty to fulfill the needs of more students.

Conservation groups are expressing huge concern over the proposed Bureau of Land Management proposed resource management plan for the Powder River Basin.  

The plan authorizes 10 billion tons of coal production along with oil and gas development. With concern being expressed over Sage Grouse habitat, some conservation groups thought the BLM would proposed reduced energy development.

BLM Director Neil Kornze said last week during a trip to Cheyenne that Sage Grouse will be monitored and that the declining coal market will take care of a lot of the carbon dioxide concerns.

Officials Are Optimistic About Sage Grouse Protection Plans

Secretary of Interior Sally Jewel came to Cheyenne to announce a massive plan to conserve Sage Grouse habitat in several western states. Wyoming started its own conservation efforts in 2007 and Jewel says it is a model state. The question is whether the federal efforts can keep the Sage Grouse from being placed on the endangered species list. 

Bob Beck

Secretary of Interior Sally Jewel came to Cheyenne to announce a massive plan to conserve Sage Grouse habitat in several western states. Wyoming started its own conservation efforts in 2007 and Jewel says it is a model state. The question is whether the federal efforts can keep the Sage Grouse from being placed on the endangered species list. 

University of Wyoming

The University of Wyoming school year recently came to a close and we asked UW President Dick McGinity to stop by and tell us about the state of the University. McGinity discusses stability, hiring, tuition, and enrollment in a wide-ranging interview with Wyoming Public Radio’s Bob Beck.  

Bob Beck / Wyoming Public Radio

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell has unveiled several new federal plans for western states to preserve the habitat for the Greater Sage Grouse in an effort to keep the bird from being added to the endangered species list. The plans would keep energy development from occurring in sensitive areas.

Governor Matt Mead and other state officials are spending the summer watching energy prices as they make plans for a new budget next year. 

The governor says his priorities range from local government to health care. Mead expects that projected revenue may be down for the next two years, but he doesn't want budget cuts.          

"To cut another six percent as we did before I think would be very difficult, I think just not hiring people to fill jobs would be difficult and even together it may not make up the difference."

Wyoming has too many children who are in institutionalized care versus foster care. That’s according to a new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation that says 27 percent of kids in state custody end up in group homes of institutions as opposed to foster parents. The national average is 14 percent. 

The report finds that teens in particular are less likely to end up with foster families.  The Casey Foundation’s Tracey Feild says there needs to be a fundamental shift in how the state deals with children who are removed from their homes.

For the first time, Wyoming now has two cities with a population of 60-thousand or more as Casper has gone over the 60-thousand mark. Economist Wenlin Liu says Natrona County is the fastest growing county in the state.

“It grew over eight percent from 2010 to 2014. It was mainly driven by oil exploration in the Powder River Basin. You know Casper has a service center for lots of these training activities, so that’s why they attracted so many workers.”

This week a group of legislators will be deciding how much money Wyoming schools will receive over the next five years. The process is called re-calibration and it looks at all the elements of the school funding model. 

The review comes at a time when the state is looking at a possible financial downturn and Senate Education Chairman Hank Coe says that will enter into their discussions. He says they may need to be more frugal than in the past.

Wyoming PBS will air a program tonight that will examine the challenges facing the sage grouse that may land the bird on the endangered species act this year. 

Called The Sagebrush Sea, the program will take a close look at why sage grouse numbers are in decline. Producer Marc Dantzler says he has been impressed by efforts made by the state of Wyoming to improve conditions for the sage grouse, but he says the bird’s condition in other states could cause it to be listed.

A Montana company called Health Management Services will step in and take over operations of a nursing home in Saratoga that was slated to shut down. 

The Deseret Health group had planned to close the nursing home in Saratoga and another one in Rock Springs that was sold last week. Both facilities will remain open after the Wyoming Department of Health stepped in and brokered the deals for both facilities. 

The Wyoming Democratic Party has chosen a new Executive Director.  22-year-old Laramie native Aimee Van Cleave will be the youngest political party director in the nation. Despite her age she has already worked as a legislative aide, worked on a political campaign, and has worked as a lobbyist.

University of Wyoming

The University of Wyoming Board of Trustees voted Thursday keep the search for the next UW President open.  

The trustees voted to release the names of the finalists and also voted to bring them to campus and possibly other places in the state sometime before March. The goal is to have them meet members of the campus community and the public. 

Bob Beck / Wyoming Public Radio

This week, an opinion piece published on Slate.com claimed that a new Wyoming law makes it illegal to collect data on federal lands.

The Wyoming Farm Bureau and the Office of State Lands and Investments says that is not accurate. Wyoming State Lands Assistant Director Jason Crowder says Wyoming has no jurisdiction over federal lands, but the law could impact state lands on a case by case basis. 

Bob Beck / Wyoming Public Radio

Wyoming’s Department of Workforce Services has unveiled a new program intended to bring former residents back to the state to live and work. Called Wyoming Grown, it allows family members or friends of someone living out of state to refer them the Department of Workforce Services, who will attempt to recruit them back to Wyoming to fill a job. 

The State of Wyoming has delayed the transfer of residents from two troubled nursing homes after learning that two private companies are considering purchasing them. The state was contacted by the companies over the weekend.

Wyoming took over operations of nursing home facilities in Saratoga and Rock Springs after Deseret Health Group said it was promptly closing the homes due to financial difficulties. State Health Department Director Tom Forslund says they were looking to place residents of the facilities into new nursing homes. 

Pages