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.

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Melodie Edwards

For years, no one could figure out why birds of prey were turning up with extremely high levels of lead poisoning. The issue made headlines when the newly reintroduced condor in California began dying off from lead exposure. Craighead Beringia South is a group of wildlife researchers in Kelly, Wyoming who were among the scientists who started studying the problem in other species, back in the early 2000’s.

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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced its proposal to remove the Yellowstone area grizzly bear from the endangered species list.

In his announcement, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Director Dan Ashe called the plan a triumph.

“This population of bears has increased by more than 500% since efforts to conserve the bear began in 1981 from as few as 136 bears to probably over 1000 today.”

flickr: Old Man Travels

When Community Naturalist Zach Hutchinson moved to Wyoming three years ago, he had trouble finding updated guide books for where to find the best places in the state to view birds. So in his spare time, he started creating a map. This summer, in collaboration with the Rocky Mountain chapter of the Audubon Society, he plans to release an app called the Great Wyoming Birding Trail.

“Let’s say you’re coming to the National Parks in the northwest corner to see the great grey owl, but you have no idea where to start. This is going to put you in the place to see that great grey owl.”

Wikimedia Commons

Hunters who use lead bullets may be contributing to the lead poisoning of eagles and ravens. But a voluntary non-lead ammunition program on the National Elk Refuge in Jackson is helping to curb the problem.             

Back in 2010, the non-profit Craighead Beringia South gave away copper bullets to prove to hunters that the quality was as good or better than lead. Research biologist Ross Crandall says, hunters are natural conservationists and don’t want to contribute to the illness or death of scavengers feeding on their gut piles anyway.

Melodie Edwards

It’s standing room only in a large conference room in Riverton, Wyoming. Up front, people mill around a display of old photographs of Arapaho children sent to Carlisle Boarding School in the late 1880’s. One is a before-and-after photo of a boy in braids wearing feathers and jewelry; a second, same boy, now in a starched suit and short Ivy League haircut.

Wikimedia Commons

Last fall, many groups celebrated when the federal government decided not to list the sage grouse as an endangered species and rolled out plans to ensure the bird’s populations didn’t continue to dwindle. But now a group of wildlife advocacy organizations is suing the federal government for not making those plans strong enough. 

Mark Jenkins

This week, National Geographic adventure writer Mark Jenkins embarks on what he calls his World-to-Wyoming Tour. Every year, he visits the state’s community colleges and talks about his latest expedition. This year he says he’ll tell a bittersweet story about twice failing to climb the highest peak in Burma. But he says, he won’t just be telling stories.

Tom Koerner

A first-of-its-kind study shows that wind farms do have a slight effect on the nesting and chick raising of female sage grouse. The six-year study was recently completed by Western Ecosystem Technology (WEST), a research firm in Laramie. Biologist Chad LeBeau says that the wind turbines didn’t effect where female sage grouse chose to build nests, but once chicks hatched, they did tend to move farther away from them.

It isn’t easy for farmers in Wyoming’s arid climate to make a healthy profit on their crops, but at a conference next week in Cheyenne, farmers can learn how organic methods could help their bottom line.

University of Wyoming soil science professor Jay Norton is one of the organizers. He says the conference will offer a full schedule of talks focused on irrigated and dryland food production, among other topics.

Cory Richards

In the 1980’s, Laramie native and National Geographic adventure writer Mark Jenkins came upon an old book called Burma’s Icy Mountains. It was written in the 50’s by an eccentric British explorer, Frank Kingdon Ward. Jenkins was hooked, especially when he learned that no one knew for sure which mountain was the highest peak in Burma: Gamlang Razi was officially measured at 19,259 feet in 2013, but as for neighboring Hkakabo Razi, no one had ever stood on top and gotten a GPS reading. Some said it was higher, some lower.

With drought and climate change creating water shortages in lower desert states, Wyoming is looking for more ways to store its share of Colorado River water. Last week, a bill sponsored by Representative Cynthia Lummis that would expand the storage capacity of Fontanelle Reservoir on the Green River in southwest Wyoming passed the House Natural Resources Committee unanimously.

Lummis says Wyoming needs more water to grow.

Alejandra Silver / Riverton Ranger, Inc.

    

Next Thursday in Fort Washakie on the Wind River Indian Reservation, tribal and non-tribal community members will gather together to talk about how to solve the problem of escalating racial tensions in the area. The U.S. Justice Department offered to sponsor the meetings following the shooting of two Northern Arapaho men by a white man last summer at a detox center in Riverton. The forums are part of a four-part curriculum intended to build toward a set of practical goals that the community can agree to implementing.

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Next week, legislators will debate whether or not to add mountain lions to the list of animals that can be legally trapped in the state. Newcastle Representative Hans Hunt is one of the bill’s sponsors. He says sportsmen and ranchers complain that mountain lions are hurting mule deer populations.

“The incidence of predator kills on deer populations in certain parts of the state has to be evidence enough that their population is certainly increasing and at a rate that’s cause for concern,” Hunt says.

The Bureau of Land Management

Several Wyoming counties are looking into ways to change wilderness study areas on Bureau of Land Management lands. Park County’s commissioners discussed the process Tuesday, and decided to give it a try.

The BLM preserves Wilderness Study Areas as undeveloped federal lands. One of Park County’s Wilderness Study Areas is on the BLM's McCullough Peaks near Cody. 

Park County Commissioner Bucky Hall says Governor Mead has asked Wyoming’s counties to start the Wyoming Public Lands Initiative. 

Recently, new GPS technology has allowed wildlife biologists to learn much more about migration routes for big game like mule deer and pronghorn. Wyoming Game and Fish Department Deputy Chief of Wildlife Scott Smith says they aren’t just roads where animals move along quickly. Instead, they’re habitats where animals spend a lot of time each year.

That’s why, last week, the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission decided it was time to adopt updated policies to protect those routes.

USFWS Mountain Prairie, Flickr Creative Commons

In the Wyoming Range in western Wyoming, mule deer numbers have plummeted by 20,000 animals since the early 90’s. One problem has been the high number of fawns that don’t make it to adulthood. Now, a new study of that herd shows a rare disease called adenovirus may be a culprit.

University of Wyoming professor Kevin Monteith is working closely with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, the Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust and Animal Damage Management Board on the study.

Yathin S Krishnappa, wikipedia.org

The Lander school district is serving up local beef to students from animals the students raised. 

Fremont County School District Food Director Denise Kinney grew up on a dairy farm and was a member of Future Farmers of America as a kid. With recent government interest in getting more locally-sourced foods into schools, she started thinking about what type of food that could be in Wyoming. This year, she partnered with the Lander FFA program.

Melodie Edwards

The state of Wyoming along with the Northern Arapaho and the Eastern Shoshone tribes have successfully submitted an application for a Medicaid Waiver.

If the Center for Medicaid and Medicare approves the application, the Medicaid Waiver could inject almost $17 million dollars a year into tribal health services on the Wind River Indian Reservation where there’s a severe shortage of healthcare providers.

Melodie Edwards

For victims of violent crime on the Wind River Indian Reservation, finding help and safety after an attack can be hard. A lack of funding means there are very few services for crime victims there. Recently, the only safe house for victims of sexual assault on Wind River closed down when its funding went dry, forcing victims to risk traveling to nearby towns to shelters off the reservation. But a new bill recently introduced in Congress would make it easier for tribes to get money to run their own safe house.  

14 years ago, the state’s bighorn sheep herds were dying from pneumonia that was thought to have been contracted from grazing domestic sheep. Since then, the state has worked with wildlife advocates and ranchers on the so-called Wyoming Plan which designates areas for each species. Last year, the Legislature passed bills formally adopting the Wyoming Plan in hopes of keeping domestic sheep from spreading pneumonia to wild sheep.

U.S. Senator John Barrasso and the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs have introduced a bill to help Native American tribes get better access to federal funds meant to help crime victims. In the last five years, tribes have received less than one percent of the federal victims’ funding available, even as crimes like homicide and sexual assault continue to rise on reservations.

Catherine Jamieson

Shipping oil by rail took off in recent years, as pipelines struggled to handle all the new crude oil being produced in the U.S. But now, with the price of oil in a slump, crude-by-rail companies are seeing their business drop off. 

Tiger Transfer Chief Operating Officer Rueben Ritthaler says now, with drilling slowing down, his rail yard is quiet.

“The pipelines are handling it, productions down and the need for the oil movement, it’s just stopped.”

A militia group occupying a wildlife refuge in Oregon argues that Westerners want to turn federal lands over to states and private interests. But a new poll released Monday shows that’s not the case.

A majority of voters in seven Rocky Mountain states say they oppose state or private control of public lands. Wyoming was more split on the subject with about 54% of respondents in agreement, compared to 87% in Utah, 59% in Colorado and 63% in Arizona.

April Barnes

You might think of the Grand Canyon as one of the wildest places in the U.S. But the fact is, the Colorado River that runs through that canyon is not wild at all. Here’s a quote from Cadillac Desert, a documentary on water in the West.

"This river, the Colorado, can be turned on and turned off down to the last drop on orders from the Interior Secretary of the United States," a voiceover tells us. "This was the first river on earth to come under complete human control."

It’s that time of year again when Yellowstone’s herd of 4,900 bison start migrating down to lower elevations, often taking them outside park boundaries. Ranchers worry the animals will spread brucellosis to cattle and since the 1980’s the bison herd has been culled in response.

A new winter management plan released Tuesday says this year 600-900 bison can be killed through hunting or by capturing as they leave the park. Park spokesperson Sandra Snell-Dobert says the decision isn’t the park’s preference.

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