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

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1 in 4 Native Americans lives under the poverty level--it’s the worst poverty rates in the U.S. of any racial group. But one group is improving its economic outlook on the reservation: Native women. They’re taking managerial jobs and pursuing higher education more than ever before and are often the primary family breadwinners. In fact, at the Wind River Casino--the largest employer in Fremont County--the female workforce is now almost 60 percent.

Yoga and competition are not two words people tend to put together. But in Pinedale this weekend, Wyoming will host its first regional yoga competition. 25 competitors of all ages are scheduled to demonstrate a three-minute silent routine with five poses. Darcie Peck is the event’s organizer and the owner of Wind River Yoga and Bodyworks. She says yoga competitions have been held for centuries and were especially popular in India in the 1930’s.

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell has fired back at a federal provision banning the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from placing the sage grouse on the endangered species list for one year. The provision was a rider in the omnibus spending bill, passed last month.

When Rancher Frank Robbins had his cattle leases revoked a few years back, he decided to run sheep on his property instead. But now his animals are trespassing into the habitat of the state’s largest bighorn sheep herd, exposing them to pneumonia which is deadly in bighorns. Advocates on both sides say that while Robbins may be using the situation to pressure the Bureau of Land Management to return his cattle leases, the agency is also at fault. Kevin Hurley is director of the Wild Sheep Foundation.

Senator Mike Enzi (R)

Sen. Enzi Gets A Gavel - The First Accountant Ever To Chair The Budget Committee

Republicans now are the majority in both chambers in the U.S. Congress, which means they control all the gavels on Capitol Hill. Wyoming's senior senator, Mike Enzi, gets to wield one of those gavels in the all-important Budget Committee.

Melodie Edwards

There was a big surprise in the annual state rankings released by Education Week recently. Wyoming made the top 10 list for best places to get your child an education, the only state in the Western U.S. The reason is Wyoming spends more on education than any other state. But even paying $18,000 per student--50 percent higher than the national average—Wyoming’s standardized test scores are very mediocre when compared nationally.

Wyoming's U.S. Representative Cynthia Lummis is one of several lawmakers sponsoring a bill that would delist wolves in Wyoming and the Midwest. The bill comes just months after a federal judge found Wyoming’s management plan unfit to protect the species.

Wyoming’s management plan protected 100 wolves and ten breeding pairs, but also allowed them to be shot on sight. Attorney Rebecca Riley with the Natural Resources Defense Council says it’s not the job of politicians to decide whether a species should be protected or not.

Key Issues Await The Wyoming Legislature

For the next two months the State’s 90 legislators will gather in Cheyenne to consider a wide range of bills. Some ideas will be dead on arrival while others should generate considerable debate.

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The state of Montana sued Wyoming in 2007, claiming that it violated the Yellowstone River Compact of 1950 by withholding too much water for irrigation and coal bed methane production. But at the end of December, the eight-year-long U.S. Supreme court case concerning the water flows of the Tongue River was finally settled.

Penny Preston

Chronic Wasting Disease spread into seven new hunting areas around the state in 2014. The slow-spreading neurological disease affects deer, elk and moose and causes weight loss, abnormal behavior and, eventually, death. Game and Fish tested more than 1500 animals this year. 

Communications Director Renny MacKay says although the disease continues to move into almost every county in the state, the new areas were no surprise.

  

Last week, Governor Mead appointed a new commissioner at the Department of Insurance. Paul Thomas Glause was previously the vice chairman of the Wyoming Board of Equalization. Tom Hersig recently left the position to become CEO of Cheyenne Frontier Days. Looking forward, Glause says the question is whether a new Republican lawsuit will succeed in dismantling parts of the Affordable Care Act, leaving states to fulfill subsidies to help pay for health insurance.  

Cheyenne Regional Medical Center is recruiting internal medicine doctors after the recent closure of a busy clinic left many patients without a doctor.  Internal medicine physicians practice the general health care of adults the way pediatricians do for children.

Hospital CEO Margo Karsten says the same thing that’s a challenge in attracting good doctors to Wyoming is also what can lure people to the area.  

The Boom: Short Term Gain, Long Term Pain

In case you hadn’t heard, the United States has been experiencing an oil boom for the last five years. The boom has helped the country’s economic recovery and created thousands of jobs for people in states like North Dakota, Wyoming and Texas. But although booms are often heralded for the economic opportunities they provide…they also have a darker side.

Melodie Edwards

When you think of towns impacted by energy development, it usually involves transient workers, increased crime, and RV parks. Maybe not the most family oriented place. But plenty of oil and gas workers try to make it work, which could be just the cure for some of these social ills. The challenge is finding these families adequate housing. 

USDA photo by Scott Bauer

A great deal of research is happening right now on why mule deer populations are declining so fast in the state… and now the University of Wyoming and Wyoming Game and Fish are offering a week-long Tweet Event to let the public participate in the capture and collaring of mule deer. 

This week, the state of Wyoming filed suit against the Bureau of Land Management and the Department of the Interior in hopes of further reducing the size of the wild horse herds in the state. The lawsuit contends that wild horse populations are growing and exceeding their management levels.

Leigh Paterson / Inside Energy

Relationships 101: Oil And Gas Looks For A Social License To Operate

A month ago, something happened that many never imagined possible: Voters in Denton, Texas passed a ban on fracking.

INSIDE ENERGY: Energy Job Corps Focus On Safety

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It's been a topsy-turvy couple years for the tribes on the Wind River Reservation. They're in litigation with the state of Wyoming over the decision by Environmental Protection Agency declaring the city of Riverton within reservation boundaries, the Northern Arapaho dissolved the Joint Business Council it has always shared with the Eastern Shoshone, and their water rights were officially adjudicated in a historic ceremony this fall. Last week, both tribes held their council elections.

According to a new study by the National Institute for Money in State Politics, Wyoming has the third lowest number of contested races for state legislature, tying with Arkansas for the spot. In 36% of its state races, there’s only one name on the ballot.  Only Georgia and South Carolina have less competition in their state elections. Researcher Zach Holden says, yes, it’s because Wyoming is dominated by strong partisan politics. But it’s also a state without term limits.

There was little turnover during the Northern Arapaho and the Eastern Shoshone tribal elections last week. Elections are held every two years. Half of the Shoshone Council's six members will be new going into the next term, including Clinton Wagon, Jodie McAdam and Rick Harris Jr.

The Northern Arapaho also have three new councilmen-- Forest Whiteman, Richard Brannan and Norman Willow Sr. Re-elected Arapaho councilman Darrell O’Neal says the relative lack of turnover is a sign of support for the council’s decisions this last term.

Melodie Edwards

With goats flocking all around him for ear scratches, you could say Terry Hayes is a happy rancher. He’s the owner of the largest goat ranch in Wyoming, Open A Lazy S outside Riverton, and he says in the last few years his business has tripled. He says it’s because more people all the time are embracing the urban homesteader’s lifestyle. They’re raising backyard chickens, canning sauerkraut and knitting scarves. The number of backyard goats has also been on the uptick.

Stephanie Joyce

Low Gas Prices Double-Edge Sword For Wyoming

It’s lunchtime in Douglas, Wyoming and the line of cars at the McDonald’s drive-thru wraps around the building. A hiring poster hangs in the window and the parking lot is full. Leaning out the window of his black pick-up truck, Troy Hilbish says he had no idea oil prices have fallen more than a quarter in recent months. But he knows what falling oil prices mean.

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Many people in Wyoming are looking forward to the upcoming holidays with anticipation, but for people taking care of a loved one the holiday can bring a great deal of added stress.

AARP Family Caregiving advocate Amy Goyer says for Wyoming’s 72,000 caregivers who provide for an elderly family member at home, the idea of adding shopping and entertaining to an otherwise tight schedule can be too much. Her advice is to let yourself off the hook.

Al Hubbard

Last week, the Lander Art Center hosted an opening for its second annual Native American art exhibit. The show runs through December 20 and boasts more than 50 artists, most of them from the Wind River Indian Reservation. One artist in the exhibit is Al Hubbard, a 42-year-old Navajo and Arapaho artist who says traditional Native American images are fine, but Hubbard says he’s more interested in using pop art and other contemporary styles to express his ideas about tribal history and spirituality.

The open enrollment period to sign up for health insurance starts November 15 and runs through February 15. That gives customers a short three-month window to sign up. There will not be another chance to enroll again until next November. Wyoming Insurance Commissioner Tom Hirsig says a wide range of Wyoming residents qualify for government aid to help pay for the health insurance.

“That’s kind of the range,” he says. “A single person making $12,000 to, say, a family of four making $100,000. So as you can well imagine that encompasses a vast majority of the population of Wyoming.”

Bob Beck

Last week, Governor Matt Mead attended a cable cutting for a new biogas-fueled data center in Cheyenne. It’s a zero emissions demonstration project built in collaboration with Microsoft, the governor’s office, the University of Wyoming and the utilities industry. Cheyenne LEADS is an economic development group that helped coordinate the project.

The group’s CEO Randy Bruns says many solid waste plants around the U.S. create biofuel to control the methane build-up they produce and to power their facilities. But no one has ever tried powering a data center with this kind of energy.

In a press conference Thursday, Governor Matt Mead says he’s instructed the Attorney General to remove the sheriff of Campbell County from office. County commissioners submitted a complaint last week saying Sheriff Pownall tampered with drunk driving charges against his son, Seth. The sheriff is accused of coercing his deputies into changing it to a pedestrian under the influence charge.

Governor Mead says he was troubled by the report since he recently supported Pownall’s nomination for legislature.

An opening reception on Friday at 6 p.m. at the Lander Art Center will launch a new exhibit of Native American art work. It’s the show’s second year in a row and comes in honor of National Native American Heritage Month. The exhibit will showcase over 50 artists, mostly from Wind River Indian Reservation. Director Lisa Hueneke says, this year, about half the artists are students from reservation high schools. She says the exhibit demonstrates a wide diversity of artistic styles. One of the artists on display is Al Hubbard, a Northern Arapaho and Navajo artist.

Charlie Hardy

Facing an incumbent like Senator Mike Enzi, who has been in the U.S. Senate since 1997, is a daunting task. But Democrat Charlie Hardy says he took on the challenge to give better representation to those people in Wyoming without the money or connections to represent themselves, like children, the elderly and working families.

Hardy says these people also have a harder time voting and that could be why in Tuesday’s election, Enzi retained his seat with over 70 percent of the vote.  Hardy is thankful for the voters who did turn out for him, though.

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