Melodie Edwards

Reporter

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

Melodie Edwards covers a wide variety of Wyoming topics from wildlife to Native American issues to agriculture. She is currently working on a civil discourse project called, “I Respectfully Disagree,” interviewing people in the state who are modeling how people find compromise to make change. She is the recipient of a national PRNDI award for her investigation of the reservation housing crisis and several regional Edward R. Murrow Awards, two for "best use of sound."

Melodie grew up in Walden, Colorado where her father worked in the oilfield and timber industries and her mother was the editor of the Jackson County Star. She graduated with an MFA from the University of Michigan on a Colby Fellowship and received two Hopwood Awards there for fiction and nonfiction. 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 and her husband own Night Heron Books and Coffeehouse. She also loves to putz in the garden, and hike and ski in the mountains with her daughters and her dad.

Ways to Connect

With winds and low precipitation causing fire danger to escalate in rangelands around the state, the Bureau of Land Management is keeping a close eye on sage grouse habitat. Senior Resource Advisor Pam Murdock says they’re working hard to control the fires.

"I know that there are a few going on currently," she says. "We have one, I was just informed of yesterday, that did get ignited over the weekend that was in sage grouse core area up in the Bighorn Basin."

She says it isn't easy juggling conflicting priorities. 

The face of Wyoming is changing, slowly but steadily, according to Wyoming’s Principal Economist Wenlin Liu, who says the state will continue to see ethnic diversity as people move here to work. There has been a 17-percent increase in all ethnic groups between 2010 and 2013. Meanwhile, white population growth was only a little over one percent.

Liu says minority populations are also keeping the median age lower than the national average by as much as a year.

Cynthia Lummis

The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations has approved a budget for the Interior and Environment for 2015, and Wyoming Representative Cynthia Lummis says, if passed into law, the bill would have a huge impact on Western states like Wyoming. 

Governor Mead Seeks Second Term

Governor Matt Mead is seeking his second term in office. The governor is facing Cheyenne Businessman and Doctor Taylor Haynes and Superintendent Cindy Hill in the Republican primary. Mead spoke with Bob Beck. They begin by discussing some of the challenges facing the state.

Melodie Edwards

Too many jobs, not enough bodies. That’s the dilemma of many Wyoming construction companies these days that can’t keep up with the building demands of the state’s energy boom. An influx of Latino workers are moving to Wyoming to take up the slack. And national figures show that Hispanics lead the nation in fatal injuries. And with Wyoming having one of the worst records for workplace fatalities, the question is: are Latinos putting themselves in the line of fire? 

A group in Cheyenne hopes to reverse a city ordinance that bans backyard chickens in the city limits. The group calls itself CLUCK, which stands for Cheyenne Local Urban Chicken Keepers. They have scheduled meetings with Cheyenne city council to write a new ordinance to allow as many as four hens to be kept.  Laramie County horticulturalist Catherine Wissner is working with the group. She says the fresh eggs and garden compost that chickens provide is great.  But they also make wonderful pets.

Fishthefly.com

Thanks to a bill passed in the last budget session, it may soon be legal to use artificial light and out-of-state live bait when fishing in Wyoming.  Dave Zafft with Wyoming Game and Fish says its long been against the rules to use lights to draw fish to the lure.  Now it could be allowed for nearly all kinds of fishing.

Federal Highway Money Remains At Risk

The federal pot of money that’s supposed to keep local roads and bridges intact may soon be empty, yet lawmakers on Capitol Hill are miles apart from each other. It remains unclear if they’ll be able to bridge the gulf. Matt Laslo reports from Washington on how the Wyoming delegation is weighing in on the debate that’s sucking the air out of Washington this summer.

commons.wikimedia.org

The clock is ticking about whether to list the greater sage grouse as an endangered species.  Such a listing could all but shut down mineral development in the bird’s habitat.  The state has already tackled sage grouse protections.  Now it’s the federal government’s turn.  It’s been 30 years since the Lander Resource Management Plan was revised.  And so the Bureau of Land Management took the opportunity to put more protections in place for the grouse while they were at it. 

The Lander Resource Management Plan is hundreds of pages and covers a lot of ground. 

The International Climbers' Festival starts Wednesday, July 9 in Lander. Director Mandy Pohja says this is the 21st year for the rock climbing event and this year’s line-up is particularly strong.

"We have probably the most significant number of professional climbing athletes coming to Lander than any other year.  And also more than any other festival in the world.  So that is a really neat collection of professional climbers from the last 40 years of rock climbing that will be in Lander this coming weekend."

Stereogab / Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0

A cool, wet spring has Wyoming’s growing season off to a sluggish start.  Ken Hamilton with the Wyoming Farm Bureau says some crops—like corn and sugar beets—were planted as much as three weeks later than usual.  He says hay production has also been hurt by all the precipitation.

Robert Verzo via Flickr

If a proposed plan is adopted, employers in the state could face some significant changes to how worker’s compensation sets its premiums.  Right now, Wyoming only factors in how severe a company’s claims are.   This new system—called a split plan-- would hold companies accountable for both severity and frequency, as is the case in most states. 

Wyoming Coal Versus The Courts

This week’s Supreme Court ruling on the EPA and its ability to regulate carbon is a mixed bag for Wyoming officials and energy producers. It sets the stakes even higher for Republicans in the state who are determined to derail a pending EPA rule on climate change.

Wyoming Does Not Officially Track Health Impacts From Energy

Melodie Edwards

In 1986, a large mammoth rib bone was found jutting out of the bank of a creek a few miles from Douglas.  The state archaeologist, Dr. George Frison, did a hasty 4-day excavation at the time.  But a thorough excavation has never been done because the land owners weren’t interested in hosting an archaeology dig on their property.  That left archaeologists with a big question--was LaPrele Creek a mammoth kill site?  But recently the land sold and archaeologists have finally been allowed to dig. 

The federal government is trying to create a better system for pricing oil and gas on Indian reservations. The Office of Natural Resource Revenue brought together government, tribes and the energy industry to write the new rule. 

Claire Ware is the Director of the Shoshone-Arapahoe Tribes Minerals Compliance Program and sat on the committee.  She says the old rules put tribes at a disadvantage.   

A wild horse sanctuary has been proposed on a 900-acre ranch outside Lander with hopes of providing a haven for as many as 250 horses.  Bureau of Land Management spokesman Sarah Beckwith says the agency would pay the sanctuary, just as it does private landowners in the mid-West who adopt horses. The perk is that sanctuaries provide an opportunity for education.

Wikimedia Commons

Loon populations in Wyoming have dropped to only 14 pairs and are the rarest nesting bird in the state, according to an initiative by the Biodiversity Research Institute based in Gorham, Maine.

The birds nest mainly in the northwest parts of Wyoming.  Executive Director David Evers says loons need large lakes with islands for safe nesting.  The initiative—known as “Restore the Call”—will use several innovative strategies to help loons feel less threatened.  One way is nesting rafts. 

After meeting with its actuaries, the Wyoming Retirement System learned it’s doing better than expected. That’s thanks to the legislature’s increases to the state’s contributions to the fund, and investment returns that came in above projections.  Executive Director Ruth Ryerson says the long term outlook for the retirement fund is excellent.

“Pretty much, every plan is projected in 30 years or less to be 100 percent funded.  And that’s the goal.  That means you have every dollar you need to meet every liability you have.”

Despite violations at sister plants, the Wyoming Department of Workforce Service never inspected a sugar beet plant in Lovell where an employee was killed in January. Western Sugar Cooperative's Torrington plant received 15 citations in 2013, including one for improper guard rails -- the same problem that led to the death of 28-year-old Anfesa Galaktionoff.

biorootenergy.com

The U.S. Department of Agriculture starting a program that pays people to deliver dead trees to power plants that can convert them to biomass fuel.  Large swaths of Wyoming’s forests have been killed by pine beetle infestations and some say they pose a fire danger. Todd Atkinson with the Farm Service Agency says he hopes money will give people the incentive to harvest from more remote areas.

Wyoming's Wind River Country

An organization that's working to end tribal sovereignty hosted a national conference in Riverton this weekend. The group is protesting the Environmental Protection Agency's recent decision that the city of Riverton falls within Wind River reservation boundaries. That has led to tensions between tribal members, the state, and Riverton.   The group--known as Citizens Equal Rights Alliance—posted on their website that it isn't fair that tribal members receive special status because it threatens the individual rights of all Americans.  

Melodie Edwards

This spring, rivers were overflowing banks all over the state.  Some rivers saw record—or near-record—flood stages.  The Laramie River hit its second highest flood level on record, and that’s only four years after its highest on record in 2010.  But floods aren’t all sandbagging and property damage: they also mean plenty of water for the long dry summer ahead. 

The Eastern Shoshone tribal liaison has stepped down from her position, saying the governor and legislature were disrespectful to her, both as a woman and tribal member. But the Governor's office says she wasn't fulfilling her responsibility to mediate between the tribes and the state. 

Tensions have been mounting between the governor’s office and the Wind River Indian tribes for months. The Environmental Protection Agency recently ruled that the city of Riverton falls within reservation boundaries, setting the state and tribes at odds.

Rogers Canyon north of Laramie has long been a favorite destination for cyclists. But also for off-road vehicle riders, gun enthusiasts and people with a trunk full of garbage unwilling to pay the dump fee.  Conflicts between the groups have been mounting, and the Bureau of Land Management wants to set new guidelines to make the area safer and cleaner.  

The Rogers Canyon Coalition is working with the BLM to find a solution.  Coalition member Teri Lund says they’ve come up with a few ideas.

A local organization is calling for an overhaul of Wyoming’s trapping regulations, saying they haven't been updated since before the de-listing of wolves.

The group—called Wyoming Untrapped--says more people are setting traps since the de-listing of wolves, which are considered livestock predators. The increase has led to more pets caught in snares and leg holds. 

The Wyoming Industrial Siting Council has approved a plan for a new ammonia plant about four miles outside Rock Springs.  Simplot currently operates a phosphorous fertilizer plant on the site, and ammonia is one of the raw materials they need for production.  With the cost of shipping it long distances by rail, Simplot decided to start producing their own.   

Roger Barber

Wyoming reservoirs have been spilling over with run-off from the heavy snowpack.  But Bureau of Reclamation area manager Coleman Smith says they’re doing their job—capturing flood waters to reduce damage downstream. 

He says when the flood waters hit Buffalo Bill Reservoir it was touch and go for a while.  “We were actually releasing 400,000 cubic feet a second out of--it was going through Cody—which is a tremendous amount of water.  And the Emergency Manager up there for Park County was keeping a close eye on it.”

Green River’s train depot will soon become a community center, thanks to a $200,000 grant from Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA ‘Brownfield Funds’ are given to communities to clean up contaminated industrial sites and develop them for community use. 

Misty Springer is the grant specialist for Green River.  She says big plans are in store for the train depot. “It’s quite exciting,” she says  “It will be used hopefully we’ll have perhaps a restaurant there.  There’ll be community gathering spaces, spots for incubator businesses and hopefully space for artists.”

The city of Sheridan has received a $400,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency to clean up the north end of its downtown.  The money will pay to assess several contaminated sites including an abandoned rail yard, sawmill and fuel storage areas that many see as slowing economic growth. 

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