Melodie Edwards

Reporter

Phone: 307-766-2405
Email: medward9@uwyo.edu   

Melodie Edwards grew up in Walden, Colorado where her father worked in the oilfield and timber industries. She graduated with an MFA from the University of Michigan on Colby Fellowship. She is the recipient of the Doubleday Wyoming Arts Council Award for Women and is the author of Hikes Around Fort Collins published by Pruett Publishing.

Melodie Edwards and her husband own Night Heron Books and Coffeehouse. When she's not writing, she loves to putz in the garden and hike and ski in the mountains with her daughters.

Ways To Connect

This week, an Idaho environmental surveying company was issued several citations and a $15,000 dollar fine by the Wyoming Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Officials say the company, Nature’s Capital, failed to provide safety equipment or training to an employee who was killed by a bear in Teton National Forest last fall.

OSHA administrator John Ysebaert says Nature’s Capital should have provided bear spray, noise makers and required a trip itinerary. He says while $15,000  isn’t a steep fine, the amount is based on the violation, not on whether it was a fatality.

Some landowners are expressing concern about how expanded sage grouse protections could affect their private property rights. At a state sage grouse meeting last week in Douglas, two ranchers requested that their property be removed from the grouse’s current protected areas or be left out of proposed additions.

Last week, Utah representative Rob Bishop added a rider to the National Defense Authorization Act that would delay the listing of the greater sage grouse as an endangered species. The bill says listing the bird could endanger the country by placing restrictions  on how military property can be used. 

Melodie Edwards

This year, while Wyoming lawmakers were voting down Medicaid Expansion in the state, they also approved a Medicaid Waiver for the state’s two tribes, potentially pumping some $16 million of aid into the reservation’s health system. The health crisis on the Wind River Reservation is now at critical levels, but tripling the amount that the tribe’s receive for health care could help.

In March, Northern Arapaho member Cherokee Brown’s daughter brought her a tooth. She didn’t think much about it. Kids lose teeth.

Wyoming business Bright AgroTech will be in full bloom at the Milan World Fair this year—literally.

One whole wall of the American exhibit will showcase the company’s vertical gardening design. Long tubes with plants growing out of them move wave-like along the length of the wall. CEO Nate Storey says he convinced the American’s architect James Biber to use his design with the argument that the future of agriculture is in vertical farming.

Storey says the theme of this year’s World Fair is “energy and food.”

Flickr Creative Commons

A report commissioned by Pew Charitable Trusts predicts that sage grouse will be extinct in 100 years and could be gone from the Powder River Basin in 30 years, if their decline continues at its current rate. The Garton report, as it’s known, was released last week in the “Environment and Energy Daily,” an online magazine. Wyoming Sage Grouse Coordinator Tom Christiansen says he has concerns with the study--not the method or the analysis, but its conclusion that conservation efforts aren’t working.

Department Of Wildlife

It’s been five years since Governor Matt Mead signed an executive order giving special protections to the state’s greater sage grouse populations. Now that order says it’s time to re-evaluate the plan and make sure it’s actually doing its job. The goal is to convince the U.S. Fish and Wildlife not to list the grouse as an endangered species come September 30.

At a public meeting this week in Buffalo, the state’s sage grouse team heard ideas for increasing the Powder River Basin grouse populations. A new Pew Charitable Trust report shows that the area’s sage grouse are close to extinction with a 98 percent chance that in 30 years there will be less than 50 birds left there. Wildlife biologist Erik Molvar with the environmental group WildEarth Guardians says the coalbed methane industry played a role in the decline.

Melodie Edwards

In the recent legislative session, lawmakers approved a Medicaid Waiver for tribes on the Wind River Indian Reservation that could give the tribes federal money to expand healthcare.  But there’s still one more hurdle: approval by the Center for Medicaid Services, a federal agency.

Representative Lloyd Larsen of Lander says he expects the process to go smoothly. “We don’t expect the application process to take too long because they’re working closely with CMS.”

10th circuit Federal court judges have denied Andrew Yellowbear's request to become a “friend of the court” in a case about the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision that the city of Riverton falls inside reservation boundaries. Yellowbear was convicted by a state court in the 2004 murder of his infant daughter. He argues he should have been tried in a federal court since, according to the EPA, Riverton is part of the reservation.

An environmental watchdog group says the Environmental Protection Agency’s latest permits violate the Clean Water Act by allowing thousands of gallons of fracking fluids to be released onto Wind River Reservation lands. The group, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility or PEER, say the permits were originally issued in the 1970’s to provide drinking water for livestock and wildlife in the arid West. Director Jeffrey Ruch says, since then, fracking fluid ingredients have become much more complex.

Melodie Edwards

Wyoming lawmakers may not have agreed on much this legislative session but there is one issue they did vote together on: de-regulating the state's locally produced foods. The new Food Freedom Act now allows consumers to buy processed produce, poultry, eggs and unpasteurized milk direct from the cook or farmer, something that was illegal just a few months ago. And it's that last item—raw milk—that's so controversial nationwide.

commons.wikimedia.org

After lengthy discussions, Jonah Energy has agreed to hold off on plans to drill some 3500 gas wells near Pinedale until an environmental impact statement is complete.

Governor Mead’s Sage Grouse Implementation Team could not reach a consensus on Tuesday on whether to include the area—known as the NPL or Normally Pressurized Lance—as protected habitat. Wyoming Game and Fish sage grouse coordinator Tom Christiansen says, the team didn't agree on whether or not to adopt the area into the grouse's core area habitat.

The Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest is looking at closing or limiting access to some 150 miles of forest roads on the west side of the Snowy Range near Saratoga. Every few years, the Forest Service is required to evaluate its roads to make sure they are safe and to budget their upkeep. Forest Service Spokesman Aaron Voos says some roads—like the Cedar Pass Road over Kennedy Peak—just aren’t salvageable.

Melodie Edwards

When you hear the word “boom” in the West, you usually think of the energy industry. But in the last 15 years, there’s been another kind: a timber boom. That’s thanks to the mountain pine beetle, a tiny ravenous bug that’s now chomped its way through over 40 million acres of forest in the U.S., moving north into Canada, expanding its reach as the climate warms.  To clean up all that dead wood, forest managers have turned to the timber industry, leading to a surge in jobs and enterprise. But now, the bugs have almost eaten themselves out of food.

The Western Governor’s Association has released a special report outlining numerous programs Wyoming and other western states have adopted to stop the rapid decline of the greater sage grouse. But Wildlife Biologist Erik Molvar with WildEarth Guardians says sage grouse numbers have been plummeting and it’s going to take more than local, voluntary efforts to turn things around.

“It’s going to require range-wide commitments to science-based protections that are mandatory.”

U.S. Forest Service

People have been saying for years that forests ravaged by the mountain pine beetle are more fire-prone than healthy ones. But a new study out this week says, think again. 

University of Colorado researcher Sarah Hart was the lead author on the study, published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

“Our approach to answering this question was to overlay maps of infested forest that are from the U.S. Forest Service with maps of where fires have burned.”

The clock is ticking for Governor Mead and his sage grouse team. They have a September deadline to re-evaluate their so-called Core Area Strategy that would slow the bird’s declining population so the U.S. Fish and Wildlife doesn’t list it as an endangered species.

Getting doctors to move to Wyoming has long been a big problem, but maybe just borrowing them could be an alternative. A new interstate compact law could make it easier for more out-of-state doctors to practice in Wyoming by fast tracking their licensing process. The state continues to wrestle with a severe shortage of physicians that’s left many rural communities without adequate health care. Representative Sue Wilson of Cheyenne sponsored the bill and was excited to see Wyoming be the first to pass the law.

Wyo. Republicans Now Fighting To Preserve Obamacare Funding

One of the biggest Supreme Court cases of this term could wipe away the insurance subsidies that tens of thousands of Wyoming residents now rely on under so-called Obamacare. Matt Laslo has the story from Washington on how Wyoming Senator John Barrasso is now scrambling to find a Plan B for a law he's staked his name as a doctor opposing.  

Melodie Edwards

When it comes to the spread of disease from domestic sheep to bighorn sheep, it’s not that different from the arrival of Europeans in the Americas when small pox and other diseases killed millions of indigenous people. Without a built-in immunity, pneumonia can wipe out an entire bighorn sheep herd in no time. And that’s why, last week, the Wyoming legislature passed a pair of historic bills that will effectively keep the two species apart.

Timothy Haase

If it has felt like an especially warm winter, you’re not imagining things. This year has been the third warmest winter on record in Wyoming. That’s according to the National Weather Service in Riverton. Meteorologist Chris Jones says all these balmy temperatures have been caused by a persistent ridge of high pressure along the Pacific Coast. He says temperatures have been as much as six degrees higher than normal, especially on the Western side of the state. And there are no signs that they will return to average in the next month.

The Northern Arapaho tribe recently lost a lawsuit against the Internal Revenue Service. The tribe sued the IRS because it classified the Northern Arapaho as a large employer, requiring them to pay for employee health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. The tribe argued that a long-standing treaty requires the federal government to pay for Native American health care, and that the federally-run Indian Health Services isn’t doing good enough to fulfill that agreement.

Billings Gazette

Tuesday, the Wyoming house passed two bills that would lay out a strategy for keeping domestic sheep and bighorn sheep separated. Domestic sheep carry a bacteria that can spread pneumonia to bighorns, wiping out whole herds. But Wild Sheep Foundation Director Kevin Hurley has problems with the bills, especially Senate File 133, which sets aside funds to remove a herd of transplanted bighorns from the Wyoming Range    

Asher Jay

A wildlife advocacy group in Jackson wants to convince the public that the use of traps for hunting is inhumane, and they’re using art to convey their message.

The group, Wyoming Untrapped, has commissioned an internationally renowned environmental artist to show the value of free-roaming wild animals such as bob cats and coyotes that traditionally are some of trapper’s favorite targets.

Mark Jenkins

Adventurer Mark Jenkins of Laramie gets assignments all over the world for National Geographic, the magazine he writes for. He’s climbed Mount Everest, bicycled across Siberia, and even skied in Central Asia with the world’s oldest ski culture. Now, he’s one-upped himself.

To find out more about his expedition to the caves of Vietnam, I met with Jenkins in his gear room, a very orderly nook in the basement of his house, stacked with well-labeled bins full of outdoor equipment. It’s here that all of his adventures begin.

  

Some Call It A Disappointing Legislative Session

The Wyoming legislative session is coming up on its last week. It’s a session that’s seen the defeat of Medicaid Expansion and some other key issues. Because of that, critics say they really haven’t accomplished much, and some legislators agree.  

Pages