Willow Belden

Reporter

Phone: 307-766-5086
Email: wbelden@uwyo.edu 

Willow Belden joined Wyoming Public Radio after earning her masters degree at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. Prior to grad school, Willow spent a year in the Middle East on a Fulbright grant, conducting research in a Palestinian refugee camp, and writing for the Jordan Times and JO Magazine. Upon returning to the U.S., she became a reporter and editor at the Queens Chronicle in New York City and received the Rookie Reporter of the Year award from the New York Press Association. This spring, she received the Pulitzer Traveling Fellowship from Columbia University. When she’s not working on stories, Willow spends her time bicycling, hiking, kayaking and traveling. She can occasionally be spotted on a unicycle. And she has a habit of swimming in the ocean with the Polar Bear Club on New Years Day.

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News
5:03 pm
Thu March 20, 2014

DEQ Drafts Rules To Limit Emissions Near Pinedale

Credit Dustin Bleizeffer/WyoFile

Energy companies operating near Pinedale will soon have to retrofit their older equipment to curb emissions.

Natural gas development in the Pinedale Anticline gas field has caused air pollution, to the extent that the area violates federal air quality standards. The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality has already imposed limits on emissions from new equipment. But until now, older equipment that was already in place was exempt from those standards. DEQ Air Quality Administrator Steve Dietrich says that needs to change.

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News
1:59 pm
Mon March 10, 2014

Floodwaters Receding, Several Homes Damaged

Ice jams along the Bighorn River in northern Wyoming have caused flooding in recent days.
Credit WYDOT

Flooding along the Bighorn River near Worland and Greybull has damaged buildings and caused several residents to evacuate from their homes.

The flooding was caused by ice jams, which occur when chunks of ice block the flow of the river.

Kelly Ruiz with the Wyoming Office of Homeland Security says this is different than the flooding in 2011, which was caused by snowmelt.

“They react in completely different ways,” Ruiz said. “It’s hard to predict what an ice jam flood will do – where it’s going to get hung up, if it gets hung up, and if it’ll cause flooding.”

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Open Spaces
4:41 pm
Fri March 7, 2014

Researchers Map Migration Routes With An Eye To Protecting Wildlife

Wyoming has some of the longest wildlife migration routes in the nation.
Credit Joe Riis

Wyoming has some of the longest wildlife migration routes in the U.S. Animals travel in some cases over 100 miles from summer ranges to winter habitats. Protecting the migration routes is important for maintaining healthy populations. But land managers and other decision makers often don’t actually know where the animals travel. Now, scientists are tracking their routes. Wyoming Public Radio’s Willow Belden reports.

(Sound of deer walking along streambed)

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Open Spaces
4:29 pm
Fri March 7, 2014

New Documentary Shows How Lincoln Highway Changed America

Courtesy PBS

The Lincoln Highway is 100 years old this year, and Wyoming PBS will be screening a new documentary about it this weekend. Much of what was the Lincoln Highway in Wyoming is now Interstate 80, but parts of the original route are still separate. The film tells the story of the highway in Wyoming. Producer Tom Manning joins us now. He says the Lincoln Highway holds an important place in Wyoming’s history and in the history of the U.S. as a whole.

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News
12:10 pm
Thu March 6, 2014

Hill Announces Intention To Resume Superintendent Duties

Credit Cindy Hill Superintendent

Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill says she intends to resume her job leading the state department of education on Monday.

Lawmakers stripped Hill of many of her duties last year and removed her as the head of the department, but the Wyoming Supreme Court ruled that the move was unconstitutional. A District Court still must certify the ruling, but Hill told reporters today she’s ready to go back to work.

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News
1:15 pm
Mon March 3, 2014

National Parks Bring In Millions For Wyoming

Credit Wallpaperslot.com

A report by the National Park Service indicates that parks are major economic drivers for surrounding communities.

The report shows that park visitation generated more than $700 million in Wyoming in 2012 and supported thousands of jobs and local businesses. Nation-wide, tourists spent more than $26 billion when visiting parks.

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Wyoming Stories
12:14 pm
Mon March 3, 2014

Wyoming Stories Podcast #5

Stories about the Snowy Range Ski Area, a sticky car crash, and how the Centennial train depot became a museum.

Subscribe to the Wyoming Stories podcast here.

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Open Spaces
3:07 pm
Fri February 28, 2014

Wyoming Public Media's 2014 Forum On Coal On Open Spaces

Speakers Rita Meyer, Leslie Glustrom, and Mark Gordon with Moderator Stephanie Joyce.
Ray Mitchell

The WPM Forum On Coal was a moderated discussion about the challenges coal is currently facing politically, economically and environmentally, how that could impact Wyoming in the future, and ways the state is innovating to keep coal relevant.

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News
6:18 pm
Thu February 27, 2014

Coalbed Methane Extraction Altered Water Quality In Powder River, Study Finds

A U.S. Geological Survey study shows that coalbed methane development has changed the chemistry of the surface water in parts of the Powder River. CBM wastewater was often discharged directly or indirectly into the stream.  

The study analyzed three decades of data and determined that after extraction activities, the water contained more sodium and bicarbonate, which are compounds commonly found in CBM wastewater.

Report author Steve Sando says high sodium levels can be bad for irrigation, but he says the concentrations in the Powder River are not alarmingly high.

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News
7:54 am
Mon February 17, 2014

Study Finds Forest Growth Dictated By Bedrock, Not Just Climate

A study by UW scientists finds that bedrock plays as big of a role as climate in determining how much vegetation grows in an area.

Bedrock is the layer of rock beneath the soil.

Lead author Jesse Hahm says he did the research because he was puzzled by the patchiness of forest cover.

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Open Spaces
4:06 pm
Fri February 14, 2014

New Grand Teton Superintendent Says Collaboration Is Key

The National Park Service named a new superintendent for Grand Teton National Park this week. David Vela will replace former superintendent Mary Gibson Scott, who retired last year.

Vela is currently an associate director for the Park Service in Washington DC. He has worked at parks and historic sites in Texas, Virginia, and Pennsylvania and directed the Park Service’s southeast region for four years. He says one of his goals is to listen to visitor feedback.

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News
5:14 pm
Thu February 13, 2014

Pine Beetle Spread Slows Dramatically

The spread of mountain pine beetles is slowing in Wyoming, according to a survey from the U.S. Forest Service.

Beetles killed 180,000 new acres of trees in 2012, but only 82,000 acres in 2013.

The Forest Service’s Aaron Voos says it’s not surprising.

“They’ve kind of eaten themselves out of house and home,” Voos said. “All of the trees that were susceptible to attack … have been either eaten and are now dead and dying, or they were able to fend off the epidemic and have developed some sort of resiliency.”

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News
6:14 pm
Tue February 11, 2014

Grand Teton Gets New Superintendent

The National Park Service has picked a new superintendent for Grand Teton National Park. David Vela will replace former Superintendent Mary Gibson Scott, who retired in November.

Vela is currently an associate director for the Park Service in Washington D.C. and has overseen several other parks and historic sites. He also served as director of the National Park Service’s southeast region.

Vela says he will place a major emphasis on working with park employees and the community.

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Open Spaces
4:42 pm
Fri February 7, 2014

February 7th, 2014

Federal Courts’ Distance From Wind River Reservation A Hardship

Major crimes committed on the Wind River Indian Reservation end up in federal court. But federal courthouses in Wyoming are really far from the reservation, which leads to logistical, constitutional, and social problems. Wyoming Public Radio’s Irina Zhorov reports.  

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Open Spaces
4:08 pm
Fri February 7, 2014

Outdoor Enthusiasts Lock Horns Over Emerging Sport Of Snow Biking

Bikers take off on the first ever snow bike race in southeast Wyoming.
Credit Willow Belden

If you’ve been out snow shoeing or cross country skiing this winter, you may have noticed bicycle tire marks on the trails. That’s because of a new sport called snow biking. It’s gaining popularity fast, and cyclists and bike shops are thrilled. But some skiers feel the bikes present safety risks. Wyoming Public Radio’s Willow Belden reports.

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News
5:43 pm
Wed February 5, 2014

DEQ Seeks To Lower Environmental Standards For Many Streams

About three-quarters of the streams in Wyoming could soon be subject to less stringent environmental standards.

The streams are currently classified as “primary contact” water bodies, meaning that people swim or otherwise recreate in them. Now, the Department of Environmental Quality is proposing to designate them as “secondary contact” streams, meaning human contact is less likely. The change would lower the standards for how much pollution can be discharged into the waterways.

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News
5:33 pm
Wed February 5, 2014

BLM Seeks To Educate Public With New Horse Sanctuary

Credit Willow Belden

The Bureau of Land Management says educating the public is a key reason they’re proposing a wild horse sanctuary near Lander. It would be the second sanctuary of its kind in Wyoming.

The BLM regularly removes wild horses from public lands in the western U.S. and often, the animals are shipped to long-term pastures in the Midwest. But the BLM’s Scott Fluer says keeping them closer to home has some advantages.

“This would allow the public to be able to come out and take a look at these horses and be able to see them in more of a natural environment,” Fluer said.

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Wyoming Stories
1:14 pm
Mon February 3, 2014

Wyoming Stories Podcast #4

Stories from Jackson Hole about historic skiing, an indestructible skirt, and overcoming obstacles.

Subscribe to the Wyoming Stories podcast here.

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News
7:55 am
Mon February 3, 2014

BLM Plan Would Add Sage Grouse Protections

Sage grouse in Wyoming could get new protections, if a Bureau of Land Management plan is adopted.

The agency is proposing to cap the amount of disturbance that can happen on public land where the bird lives, and to impose other rules designed to protect sage grouse habitat.

The BLM’s Lisa Solberg Schwab says part of their plan involves adopting the core area strategy that Wyoming has already established.

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Open Spaces
4:56 pm
Fri January 24, 2014

January 24th, 2014

Potential for Gas Price Increase If Oil Ban Lifted

For forty years the U-S has banned the export of most all crude oil. Matt Laslo reports a new debate is raging in Washington over whether to end the ban.

Sage Grouse Concerns Prompt Changes In Reclamation Regs

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Open Spaces
4:42 pm
Fri January 24, 2014

Sage Grouse Concerns Prompt Changes In Reclamation Regs

Pete Stahl and Calvin Strom examine a reclamation demo site to see if any native plants have grown back.
Credit Willow Belden

When energy development happens on public lands, companies have to reclaim the land. That means restoring the landscape after it’s been disturbed. But exactly what’s required varies from one part of the state to another. Wyoming Public Radio’s Willow Belden reports that agencies are making those rules more consistent, in hopes of helping keep sage grouse off the endangered species list.

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Open Spaces
4:26 pm
Fri January 24, 2014

Author Discusses America’s First Everest Expedition

Wyoming Public Radio’s Willow Belden spoke with author Brot Coburn. He lives in Wilson, and his book “The Vast Unknown” is about America’s first expedition up Mount Everest. Coburn says many of the members of the expedition honed their climbing skills in Wyoming.

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News
5:11 pm
Tue January 21, 2014

Study Shows Cows Gain Less Weight After Wolf Predation

A study from the University of Montana shows that when wolves attack cattle, it can cause calves to gain less weight.

Report co-author Derek Kellenberg says his team found that when wolves were simply in the area, there was no change in cattle weight, but that on ranches where there was a kill, the cows weighed less.

Kellenberg says skinnier cows are worth less, so ranchers can lose thousands of dollars.

But he says wolf predation was not the biggest factor affecting weight.

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News
7:07 am
Mon January 20, 2014

Mead praises pick for UW president

Gov. Matt Mead says he thinks Dick McGinity will be a good president for the University of Wyoming.

McGinity had been serving as interim president, after Bob Sternberg resigned last year. Last week, the UW Board of Trustees decided to appoint him as the new president, without conducting a search.

Speaking to the Wyoming Press Association on Friday, Mead said McGinity is a good pick.

“He and I served together on the Wyoming Business Council,” Mead said. "I think he is a stellar guy. … He is humble; he is smart; he is going to provide great direction to UW.”

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Open Spaces
5:21 pm
Fri January 17, 2014

Growth In Energy Production Prompts Concerns Over Air Monitoring Network

Monitoring stations like this one in Converse County track a range of pollutants in the air.
Credit Willow Belden

We’ve reported often on the effects that energy production can have on air quality. The most obvious example is Pinedale, where federal ambient air quality standards were violated, largely because of emissions from natural gas production. Regulators say the air elsewhere in the state is fine. But some worry that Wyoming doesn’t have a sufficient monitoring network to know for sure. Wyoming Public Radio’s Willow Belden reports.

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Open Spaces
4:58 pm
Fri January 17, 2014

Economist Discusses Whether Regulations Scare Off Industry

Credit University of Wyoming

For many years, Wyoming lawmakers have been reluctant to impose new regulations on industry.  At the national level, the congressional delegation has been highly critical anytime the Environmental Protection Agency proposes new regulations on energy production, saying that it costs jobs. 

State leaders have echoed those statements, and over the years many legislators have even expressed concern about adding staff to the Department of Environmental Quality, fearing that it could lead to over regulation. 

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News
7:56 am
Thu January 16, 2014

Oil and gas could see new setback rules

Grant Black talks with an attendee of Wednesday's public meeting in Douglas.
Credit Willow Belden

The head of the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission says his agency will consider changing setback rules. Those are the rules that govern how far away oil and gas operations, such as wells, have to be from things like houses.

Grant Black spoke at a public meeting in Douglas last night. He says currently, the setback rule is the same, regardless of whether you’re dealing with a home or something else. But he says that could change.

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