Melodie Edwards

Reporter

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

Melodie Edwards graduated with an MFA from the University of Michigan on Colby Fellowship where she received two Hopwood Awards in fiction and nonfiction. Glimmer Train published “Si-Si-Gwa-D” in 2002 where it was one of the winners of their New Writers fiction contest. She has published stories in South Dakota Quarterly, North Dakota Review, Michigan Quarterly, Prairie Schooner, Crazyhorse and others.  She is the recipient of the Doubleday Wyoming Arts Council Award for Women.   “The Bird Lady” aired on NPR's Selected Shorts and Prairie Schooner nominated the story for a Pushcart Prize.  She has a story upcoming in an anthology of animal stories, published by Ashland Creek Press. She is the author of "Hikes Around Fort Collins," now in its third printing.  She  is circulating Outlawry, a novel about archeology theft in the 1930's with publishing houses. She is currently working on a young adult trilogy about a secret society of crows and ravens.

Melodie Edwards lives in Laramie, Wyoming with her husband and twin daughters. She and her husband own Night Heron Books and Coffeehouse.  When she's not working or writing, she's love to putz in the garden, play guitar, hike and make pilgrimages to hot springs.

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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. 

ncrsresearch.blogspot.com

In the next half century, scientists are predicting more extreme weather for Wyoming with bigger winter storms and hotter, dryer summers.  That’s according to the latest National Climate Assessment out this month. Wyoming’s farmers and ranchers are skeptical about climate change, but some of them have been forced to adjust their methods of production. 

Several residents have been asked to evacuate their homes in Wood’s Landing because an access road was flooded by the rising Laramie River.  And residents in the towns of Saratoga and Encampment are on alert for evacuations, as high snow melt floods the North Platte River.  Flooding in Park and Fremont Counties has not led to evacuations, but officials are wary of rainfall this weekend.  

Kathi Metzler is the Emergency Management Coordinator in Fremont County where she’s monitoring the Wind River.

SFC McGuire

Flooding may lead to evacuations in some Wyoming communities this week. Rapid snowmelt and heavy rain have brought the North Platte and Laramie rivers to flood levels.  Kelly Ruiz with Wyoming Homeland Security says Saratoga, on the west side of the Snowy Range, will be hardest hit.

“Right now, the National Weather Service is predicting that the North Platte River at Saratoga, they’re predicting it to be at 10.58 on Friday.  And that’s a record level of water.  The previous record was set in 2011 at 10.49.”

David Koch

All but one of Wyoming’s mountain pass highways will be open for Memorial Day weekend.  The Wyoming Department of Transportation shuts down several of the state’s passes because of deep snow during winter months.  Maintenance engineer Tim McGary says it wasn't clear they would be able to get Snowy Range Pass between Centennial and Saratoga open in time.

Wyoming population is continuing to grow, increasing by one percent in 2013.  That’s according to a new report by the Department of Information and Administration.  Senior economist Amy Bittner says migration to cities in the energy-rich central part of the state accounted for most of the growth.   

“Several of those towns at the top of the list are in the central part of Wyoming,” she says.  “You have Bar Nunn, you have Mills, which is also outside Casper, and then you have Douglas.  You know, that’s due to the economic activity with the energy industry.”

WyoLotto

Wyoming is starting a state lottery and vendors interested in selling tickets can now start submitting applications. Brian Gamroth is Chairman of the Wyoming Lottery Corporation. He says they’ve set a firm date of August 24 to begin selling the tickets.  “With the applications out now, our first retailers will be picked in the next five or six weeks.  And machines will start going out, training will start…There’s a lot to get done in a short amount of time.”

A 5000-well oil and gas project proposed for the Powder River Basin is drawing sharp criticism from a wildlife advocacy group.  Erik Molvar with WildEarth Guardians says the drilling would take place right in the middle of critical sage grouse habitat.

“Well, the 5000 wells are projected in an area of over a million acres to the north of Douglas, stretching all the way up in the Thunder Basin National Grassland and including several core areas that have been proposed priority habitat for sage grouse,” Molvar says.

Contrary to its reputation as an independent state, Wyoming receives the sixth highest amount of federal financial aid of any state in the country -- almost 40 percent of state revenue --   according to the Tax Foundation.

Other states that rely heavily on federal aid are Louisiana, South Dakota and Tennessee.  Tax economist Liz Malm says many states have higher numbers of people who qualify for federal programs such as Head Start and Medicaid.   But Wyoming’s federal funding mostly comes from mineral royalties since over 40 percent of its lands are federally owned.

AFL-CIO

The AFL-CIO, a coalition group of labor unions, has released a report blasting industry for failing to make workplaces safer, especially in oil and gas.  Wyoming has ranked as one of the five most deadly states to work in for the last ten years.  In 2012, only North Dakota had more workplace fatalities.  Kim Floyd, Executive Secretary for the Wyoming chapter of the AFL-CIO says it has a lot to do with the focus of both states’ economies.

US Forest Service

On a routine winter patrol, Powder River Ranger District officials discovered over 100 trees carved with deep one-foot-sized arrows.  District recreation staff member Craig Cope says very rarely has he seen such large-scale vandalizing of trees.  And, he says, it was completely unnecessary.

“There’s much more minimum impact ways of route finding through the woods,” Cope says, “from G-P-S to the nylon ribbon flagging that you can put up temporarily and take down when you’re done.”

Denver-based Western Sugar Beet Cooperative has been fined $71,000 for violations that led to the death of an employee  in January at its facility in Lovell.  OSHA and the Wyoming Department of Workforce services allege that because no guard rails had been installed, 28-year-old Anfesa Galaktionoff fell through an opening in the floor into a production pit. 

The company was issued 12 violations for serious and repeat workplace hazards. Wyoming Workforce Services Director Joan Evans said in a statement that the young woman’s death was completely unnecessary.

The price of beef hit an all-time record this quarter at $5.55 a pound—a full 25 cents higher than last year at this time.  Ann Wittmann, Director of the Wyoming Beef Council, says it’s a case of supply and demand.  A nation-wide drought has reduced herd sizes to the lowest they’ve been in 60 years and that is driving up the price for both consumers and producers.

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