Irina Zhorov


Irina Zhorov is a reporter for Wyoming Public Radio. She earned her BA from the University of Pennsylvania and an MFA from the University of Wyoming. In between, she worked as a photographer and writer for Philadelphia-area and national publications. Her professional interests revolve around environmental and energy reporting and she's reported on mining issues from Wyoming, Mexico, and Bolivia. She's been supported by the Dick and Lynn Cheney Grant for International Study, the Eleanor K. Kambouris Grant, and the Social Justice Research Center Research Grant for her work on Bolivian mining and Uzbek alpinism. Her work has appeared on Voice of America, National Native News, and in Indian Country Today, among other publications. 

In her off time, Irina is pursuing treasure hunters, leafing through photo books, or planning and executing quests.

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Irina Zhorov

Revisions to the Wyoming Department of Agriculture’s proposed food safety rules could make it easier to obtain raw milk. Raw milk is unprocessed, unpasteurized milk. The originally proposed food safety rules said that raw milk could only be used by the sole owners of a milk cow and their families or guests.

Manager of Consumer Health Services, Dean Finkenbinder, says the word ‘sole’ was removed after about 130 people spoke out at public meetings and a public hearing.  

Obesity rates in Wyoming could rise from 25% now to 57% of the population by 2030. That's according to a study by Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The report predicts that most states will see comparable increases.

Chronic Disease Epidemiologist for Wyoming’s Department of Health, Joe Grandpre, says Wyoming doesn't have state-run programs dedicated to obesity prevention, but initiatives like heart and diabetes programs address it.   

The Western Sugar Cooperative has kicked-off its sugar beet harvest in the Lovell area.

The early harvest normally begins around September tenth, but started almost a week earlier this year due to expected high yields. Western Sugar’s Agricultural Manager for the region, Randall Jobman, says the company is pleased with the crop.

We’ve had an above average growing season, a lot of heat units, we had a decent type of spring without a lot of frost, we expect an above average crop, to possibly even a record crop.

Irina Zhorov

With the start of football season, comes the start of Cowboy Joe’s work season. Cowboy Joe, if you don’t know, is one of two University of Wyoming mascots. He’s a pony with a lot of attitude who arguably has more admirers than the football players themselves. Wyoming Public Radio’s Irina Zhorov reports that the current mascot is actually Cowboy Joe four, and he’s passing the reigns to Cowboy Joe five.

The Sheep Herder Hill fire near Casper remains fifty percent contained. There are currently 354 people fighting the fire and evacuations remain in place.  Public Information Officer, Susan Ford, says that at least 37 homes have been destroyed.

Ford says wet, colder weather has helped fire fighters with the blaze, but this weekend promises hot, dry conditions once again.

A small business investment company out of Jackson is ready to invest in qualified Wyoming businesses.

The Enhanced Capital Wyoming Fund operates under the Wyoming Business Council’s Small Business Investment Credit Program, which helps Wyoming companies grow and create jobs. To qualify, businesses must by headquartered in the state, and employ fewer than one hundred people, 60-percent of whom must be local.

Credit Program Manager, Ryan Whitehead, says Enhanced Capital is just another alternative to existing capital sources.

Willow Belden

Drought, hay shortage mean tough economic times for Wyoming ag industry
The U.S. Department of Agriculture says this year’s hay crop will be the worst in decades, because of the drought. Hay is already in short supply, and prices have spiked. Wyoming Public Radio’s Willow Belden reports that the hay shortage is forcing ranchers to make tough choices and could have a lingering economic impact on the state’s ag industry.

The gender wage gap in Wyoming is the largest in the nation. And that’s not news, either…it’s been this way for years. Groups around the state are working to fix it through policy, training programs, and education, but Wyoming Public Radio’s Irina Zhorov reports that it could be the state’s industries that keep the gap firmly in place.

US Department of Energy

The Department of Energy is gearing up for new, one-time testing at the contaminated Uranium Mill Tailings site in Riverton.

A uranium mill in the 1960s left the groundwater there with high levels of uranium, and the DOE is still monitoring it. Additional testing is supposed to help the agency update their computer model, which predicts progress of clean-up at the site.

Wyoming’s kids will have healthier school lunches this year.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture teamed up with the Institute of Medicine to develop menu standards that are more nutritious. The biggest changes include calorie and sodium limits, more whole-grain foods, more fruits and vegetables, and a ban on trans fats.

Wyoming Department of Education’s Nutrition Program Supervisor, Tamra Jackson, says the changes are positive.   

Voter turnout for the primary election this year was the lowest in over thirty years. Just under 50% of registered voters came to cast their ballots. State Election Director, Peggy Nighswonger, says she’s not sure why the numbers are down.

"None of our congressional races were close. There were some close legislative races. But usually turnout is kind of generated by some close local races, you know commissioner races, or…those kinds of things, that kind of bring the turnout up. I really don’t know what the apathy is all about here." 

State Senator Phil Nicholas won the Republic nomination for the District 10 Senate seat, defeating Anne Alexander. Nicholas won with 57 percent of the vote.

This was Alexander’s first campaign, and she says she was floored by the number of votes she got.

“I have no legislative experience at all and it made me feel confident that maybe we got some of our message out and it just kind of felt like a good vote of confidence even if we didn’t win.”

Irina Zhorov

Coal production and coal prices are down and stakeholders are offering up lots of reasons as the cause, from weather to new policies and competing fuels. Wyoming Public Radio’s Irina Zhorov reports that it’s a combination of all these factors. 

Irina Zhorov: There is no doubt coal is struggling right now. Karim Rahemtulla is the Senior Correspondent for investment blog Wall St. Daily.

Rahemtulla: The predominant trend that’s in the market right now is a slowdown in consumption, directly related to coal, not necessarily other energy sources.

Irina Zhorov

In the midst of a coal slowdown nationwide, not all is dark. Wyoming has been investing millions in research that would make coal a clean, viable resource in the future, despite its dirty reputation. The state has also been making strides towards friendship and collaboration with other big coal stakeholders, like China. Wyoming Public Radio’s Irina Zhorov reports.

In Albany County, Republican Phil Nicholas is the incumbent for Senate District 10, but will need to win a primary election if he wants to return to the state legislature.  Nicholas is in line to become the Senate majority floor leader if he wins his re-election.  His Republican primary opponent is Anne Alexander, who’s an economics professor at University of Wyoming.

The U.S. Department of Energy will run additional groundwater tests at a Riverton site contaminated with uranium. The Uranium Mill Tailings Radiation Control Act site was contaminated after hosting a uranium mill there in the 1960’s.  

Coal production in the Powder River Basin continues to decline for the second quarter in a row. Second-quarter financial results show that ARCH coal is down 22% from the second quarter of 2011, and Union Pacific, which transports coal from the Basin to utilities nationwide, shipped 18% less coal this quarter than the same time last year.

Irina Zhorov

BAER Teams Check Extent of Damage After Wild-land Fires

The fire season came early to Wyoming this year. Usually, Wyoming doesn’t see its biggest fires until late July but already there have been 10 fires that have burned over 265-thousand acres of land. Wet weather and the efforts of thousands of firefighters have contained the larger blazes …So what happens after a fire? Wyoming Public Radio’s Irina Zhorov reports.

Irina Zhorov

HOST: The fire season came early to Wyoming this year. Usually, Wyoming doesn’t see its biggest fires until late July but already there have been 10 fires that have burned over 265-thousand acres of land. Wet weather and the efforts of thousands of firefighters have contained the larger blazes …So what happens after a fire? Wyoming Public Radio’s Irina Zhorov reports.

Irina Zhorov: When the firefighters leave, the BAER team gets to work…

Larry Sandoval: It’s B-A-E-R, and it stand for Burned Area Emergency Response…

Irina Zhorov

The Wyoming Department of Agriculture recently proposed new food safety rules. One of the most contentious adjustments has to do with raw milk – that’s milk that is not pasteurized. It’s already illegal to sell raw milk in the state, but if passed, the new rules would make it illegal to obtain it unless you own your own dairy cow. This has some milk drinkers very upset. Wyoming Public Radio’s Irina Zhorov reports.

Irina Zhorov: Frank Wallis hosts a herd of twelve milk cows on his ranch in Recluse, Wyoming.

The Wyoming Department of Education recently released the Proficiency Assessments for Wyoming Students – or PAWS – results. In reading, the state improved by about 2 percentage points, but the Arapahoe School on the Wind River Reservation, which serves 350 Native American students, jumped an average of 13 points.

The Wyoming Department of Education has released the 2012 Proficiency Assessments for Wyoming Students – or PAWS - results. For the second year in a row, the results indicate a statewide rise in scores in math, reading, and science.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Cindy Hill, did not point to specific policies or efforts made by the Wyoming Department of Education, but rather said the results were due to a team effort.

The US Department of Agriculture has named more than 1,000 counties – about a third of all counties nationwide – to be natural disaster areas. The drought-driven designation is the largest the USDA has ever made.

In Wyoming, all but a small corner in the northwest part of the state is currently dry, with designations ranging from Abnormally Dry to Extreme Drought.  

Todd Even of the Farm Service Agency in Wyoming says that in some areas it’s estimated that more than fifty percent of range land or grass hay crop has been lost.


A Western Organization of Resource Councils report says an increase of Powder River Basin coal exports from Pacific ports to Asia could bring unconsidered problems. The environmental group’s report alleges that increased coal traffic would congest rail lines, bring coal dust, and force communities to front billions of dollars for infrastructure improvements.

The Wyoming Department of Agriculture’s Consumer Health Services Section is proposing new amendments to the Wyoming Food Safety Rule.

The changes outline rules for egg producers wanting to sell their eggs to restaurants, make more stringent the rules for processed cut leafy greens such as packaged salads, and limit consumption of raw milk to sole owners of the producing cows, their families, and unpaying guests.

Dean Finkenbinder is the manager of Consumer Health Services and he says the goal is get Wyoming in line with federal food safety guidelines.

Fires burning around Wyoming are impacting livestock, in addition to people. The Wyoming Livestock Board estimates that between 8,000 and almost 13,000 head have been displaced as a result of the fires.

Board Director Leanne Stevenson, says the board issued an emergency order allowing for the movement of livestock between county lines without the brand inspection that is normally required.   

Irina Zhorov

Officials say the Squirrel Creek fire in Southeastern Wyoming was started by people. The ongoing investigation involves the Forest Service, Sheriff’s Department, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, as well as the U-S Attorney’s office.

Forest Service spokesman, Aaron Voos, says it’s a criminal investigation that could carry significant repercussions if someone is convicted.

Irina Zhorov / Wyoming Public Media

Evacuations around the Squirrel Creek Fire near Laramie continued to expand north from Sheep Mountain to Lake Hattie on Tuesday. One house has been destroyed, but there are no numbers yet on how many more are threatened. 

Incident Commander Rocky Opliger says the fire’s proximity to residences as well as its erratic nature are keeping it the third priority fire in the nation.