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

Ana M. Balcarcel

When you think of a Jesus lizard you probably think of the rainforest creature: green crested with big floppy feet zipping across the surface of water.

Now, a new skull fossil shows that a very close relative of that lizard lived in Wyoming 50 million years ago. Anatomy professor Jack Conrad from the New York Institute of Technology just released a paper on the discovery. 

Luke Anderson

Sometimes there can too much of a good thing, even cute little bunny rabbits.

This year’s wet weather has brought on an explosion in the population of cottontail rabbits. Wyoming Game and Fish biologist Steve Tessmann says lots of grass means more for rabbits to eat and hide in. But he says an increase in prey is often followed by an increase in predators.

Steve Fairbairn / USFWS

Last month, the Bureau of Land Management rolled out several new landscape vision plans that will shape public land protections in the West for the next two decades. But some conservation groups--including the Sierra Club and Western Watersheds Project--say these plans don’t use strict enough science to stop the extinction of the greater sage grouse.

Wildlife biologist Erik Molvar with WildEarth Guardians says that’s why his group decided to join forces in filing an administrative protest against those federal plans.

Wyoming State Historical Society

Pioneers, dinosaurs, outlaws: Wyoming’s history includes them all. But the state’s museums are chock full of artifacts that sometimes don’t get the attention they deserve. With the 125 year celebration of statehood coming up, the Wyoming State Historical Society wants to do something about that.

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.

Ben Ramsey

In the small town of Pinedale, people have a lot of opinions about sage grouse. That’s because Pinedale just happens to sit in the middle of some of the best sage grouse habitat in the state. It’s also in the middle of some of the best oil and gas fields in the country. So when a Pinedale math teacher joined forces with a sage grouse conservation project, it started a community conversation.

Mark Elbroch

A researcher studying the social behaviors of mountain lions will present his findings on Thursday, June 18, in the first of a series of summer talks co-sponsored by the University of Wyoming and the National Parks.

Mark Elbroch is a wildlife biologist with Panthera, a conservation group studying big cats and their habitats. He says new technology like GPS collars and remote video cameras have given him unprecedented access to the lives of mountain lions.

Forecasters say drought and wildfire could ravage much of the Western U.S. this summer. To help farmers and ranchers be prepared, the Obama Administration rolled out several programs last week at a press conference for Western governors. Some initiatives could help Wyoming producers.

U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Robert Bonnie said some short term solutions are necessary. One is to reimburse ranchers who lose livestock because of a lack of grass or water.

Eric Cole / USFWS

North America’s largest shorebird—the Long Billed Curlew--might not be a household name now, but a lot more is about to be discovered about its nesting and migration habits.

New funding this year has allowed researchers to affix satellite transmitters on 7 new curlews in Western Wyoming. Researcher Jay Carlisle with the Intermountain Bird Observatory at Boise State University says last year they tracked a female named AJ that migrated to central Mexico, which is much farther than usual.

Ben Ramsey

A Pinedale high school teacher used math to teach kids about the importance of sage grouse conservation last week. Cami Dudrey’s Algebra I class collaborated with the Wyoming Wildlife Foundation to solve real world math problems related to putting reflective tags along fences in a critical sage grouse breeding area outside Pinedale.

“Kids don’t see the application of math ever. The most common question I get is when are we ever going to use this?” Dudrey says. “Math’s everywhere. So just finding something to apply any type of math to helps the students connect.”

Kari Greer, National Interagency Fire Center

With wildfires becoming larger and more expensive every year, the federal government is proposing new ways to fund fighting them. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a press conference Tuesday that even though $50 million more has been budgeted this year than last year for wildfires, they’re expecting a shortfall of up to a $1.5 billion if wildfires rage out of control in California and in the northwest like they did last year.

Vilsack says wildfire management has exceeded its budget in half of the last 14 fire seasons.

Andrew Cowell

This week, Riverton will host a conference on how to save the native languages of indigenous peoples across the globe. It’s the first time in its 22 year history that the “Stabilizing Indigenous Languages” symposium has been held in Wyoming. Last year it took place in Hawaii.

Linguist Andrew Cowell from the University of Colorado says indigenous speakers are expected to come from all over the world to discuss new strategies for rescuing dying languages.

Melodie Edwards

These days, most rural communities in the U.S. are elderly communities. 15 percent of Wyoming’s population is over 65 and a high percentage of them live on ranches and in small towns. But with younger generations leaving the ranch for more urban jobs, there are few staying behind to take care of their elders. They could move to nursing homes, but many of Wyoming’s seniors are often insistent--they want to stay home, even if it means a snowmobile ride out in the winter.

Melodie Edwards

A new elder care program in Carbon County is allowing more seniors around Baggs to stay living in their own homes longer. It’s called the Little Snake River Valley Village Program and it’s one of a kind in Wyoming.

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. 

At least one of the 15 plans released this week by the Bureau of Land Management has environmentalists concerned. The plan—covering Wyoming’s Bighorn Basin—is drawing criticism from some environmental groups that say it doesn’t do enough to protect three especially wild regions in the basin. Wyoming Outdoor Council spokeswoman Julia Stuble says the plan needs to adopt a stronger “look before leasing” approach to make energy development decisions on a case-by-case basis.

Michael Berman's "Fence Line"

Coming up May 29 and 30 in Sheridan County, a pair of events will celebrate Wyoming grassland ecology. 20 artists and scientists will come together to present their work about a landscape many Wyomingites often take for granted: the prairie.

David Koch

For some Wyoming residents, Memorial Day weekend means enjoying the season’s first drive over a mountain pass that’s been closed all winter. Barring any major snow storms, Wyoming Department of Transportation says most seasonal closures over the state’s mountain passes should re-open in time for Memorial Day weekend.

District engineer Pat Persson manages snow removal on the Snowy Range between Laramie and Saratoga. He says it’s been an easier job this year than year’s past because the snow pack isn’t as deep. But he says, a snowstorm could still quickly move in and slow progress.

Wikimedia Commons

The director of the Wyoming’s chapter of the Conservation Fund, Luke Lynch, was killed in an avalanche on Sunday. Lynch and three others had ascended Mount Moran in Grand Teton National Park when a wet slab swept them off the mountain. One other man was seriously injured but two others survived to make a rescue call.

Park spokeswoman Jackie Skaggs says it was the accumulation of fresh snow on top of winter snowpack that created the dangerous conditions.

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.

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