Willow Belden


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.

Ways To Connect

The Wyoming Women’s Foundation and Wyoming Women’s Legislative Caucus want more women to run for public office, and they’re hosting a series of workshops to encourage women to do so.

There are only 13 women in the state legislature, and Richelle Keinath of the Women’s Foundation says that’s not enough.

“The conversation changes if women are involved in decision making,” Keinath said. “We’re half the population, so why wouldn’t we want to be half the people that are making decisions about our communities?”

Listen to the Story

Wyoming has one of the highest rates of workplace fatalities in the nation. Recently, the state epidemiologist issued a report looking at why that’s the case and making recommendations about what should be done. Workers’ rights advocates are pushing for tougher penalties for companies that violate safety regulations. But for now, it seems the state plans to take a softer approach. Wyoming Public Radio’s Willow Belden reports.

Researchers hope to determine how much development mule deer can tolerate on their migration routes.

Biologist Hall Sawyer found in a recent study that when mule deer travel between their summer and winter ranges, they spend 95 percent of their time stopping and eating.

“If we consider these migration routes highways, the stopovers would be like the hotels, where you crash in for the night and grab a bite to eat,” Sawyer said. “And maybe you stay there for a night, maybe you stay for a week.”

The Wyoming Business Council is conducting a survey to determine what parts of the state have inadequate Internet access.

Leah Bruscino is the Council’s northwest regional director. She says some rural areas have nothing but dial-up, and it’s hard to run a business that way.

“Mountain lodges that cater to, say, snowmobilers or summer trade – you know, obviously being tourism businesses, they’d like to have rich, vibrant sites and be able to send clients nice, rich information.,” says Bruscino. “That’s a challenge.”

Gov. Matt Mead is hoping to more than double the number of Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspectors in Wyoming.

Wyoming has one of the highest rates of workplace fatalities in the nation.

In a recent report to the governor, former State Epidemiologist Tim Ryan recommended fixing the problem, in part, by encouraging more OSHA courtesy inspections. That’s where a company invites OSHA to check out their operations and help them comply with safety regulations.

But Ryan says there aren’t enough OSHA employees.

The Game and Fish Department is coming up with a new management plan for mule deer in the Platte Valley.

The mule deer population has declined by at least 30 percent over the past few decades, and last fall, Game and Fish solicited input from the public about how to address the problem.


After a meeting with Gov. Matt Mead’s staff on Thursday, workers’ rights advocates say they’re optimistic that Mead will take steps to ensure safer work environments in Wyoming.

Wyoming has one of the highest rates of workplace fatalities in the country, and a recent report by the state epidemiologist documenting injuries and deaths over the past 17 years has put the problem back in the spotlight.

Kim Floyd of the AFL-CIO says the meeting with the governor’s staff was productive.

Wyoming’s ski resorts are benefitting from the lack of snow elsewhere in the country.

  Some areas in the Tetons have gotten more than 12 feet of snow so far this season, and both major resorts near Jackson say they’re getting visitors who would normally have gone to resorts in other states.

  Grand Targhee Resort has been honoring season passes from other ski areas, provided visitors stay at least two nights. And Jackson Hole Mountain Resort says skiers who had planned to vacation in Colorado or Utah are changing plans last minute and coming to Wyoming.

Dustin Bleizeffer/WyoFile

The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality says oil and gas companies in the Pinedale area are improving efforts to curb emissions on high ozone days.

The area is not in compliance with federal Clean Air Act standards, and the DEQ held a public meeting Tuesday, to brief residents on its efforts to combat the high ozone levels.

A group of residents in Laramie are trying to make it easier for new mothers to breast feed their babies and go back to work. Women who breast feed their children typically have to pump milk during the workday, but many workplaces don’t give their employees time and space to do that.

Gov. Matt Mead says tougher regulations aren’t the only answer to improving workplace safety.

“I want to be careful before we move down that path, because I also think that industry, on a voluntary basis, has a role to play,” Mead said. “I think enforcement is also part of it. But … we need to make sure that we have the data on what are the cause of these accidents and what are possible corrections for those accidents.”

Mead was speaking to the Wyoming Press Association in Laramie.


Researchers at the University of Wyoming are trying to figure out how wind turbines affect antelope and elk. They’ve collared dozens of animals near the town of Medicine Bow and are tracking their movements over the course of several years.

Jeff Beck, who teaches ecosystem science and management, is overseeing the study. He says pronghorn tend to stay away from certain man-made structures … but wind farms are a relatively new phenomenon.

Wyoming’s food bank is going to become its own entity this summer. Currently, it’s part of the Food Bank of the Rockies in Colorado, but in July it’s splitting off.

Development Manager Jamie Purcell says it's been good working with the Colorado food bank, but that that the change will be beneficial.

“Because of the restraints placed on us by our parent organization, we’re not able to expand to the level that we need to be at,” Purcell said. “But when we become autonomous, whatever our board of directors sees fit to do, we will be able to do.”

Associated Press

One of the scientists evaluating Wyoming’s proposed wolf plan for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says the plan is flawed.


The plan calls for Wolves to be protected as trophy game in northwestern Wyoming but would allow them to be killed as predators elsewhere.


Biologist John Vucetich says Wyoming is overestimating what an acceptable mortality rate would be.


“They state in there that up to 43-percent mortality rate can be endured without any population decline,” Vucetich said. “And that’s simply not true.”


stock photo

The women’s prison in Lusk is seeking funding for a nursery. That would enable inmates who give birth while incarcerated to keep their babies with them in prison for up to 18 months.

Warden Phil Myer says it’s usually better for newborns to be with their mothers – even in prison – than to live with relatives or foster parents, and he says taking care of a baby in prison also makes inmates less likely to commit further crimes.

It’s time for another round of wildlife project proposals: For the tenth year in a row, the Wyoming Governor’s Big Game License Coalition is funding projects that benefit moose, elk, wild sheep and other animals.

The money comes from 20 big game hunting licensesthat the governor auctions offeach year, with proceeds going to conservation projects.

Coalition chair Kevin Hurley says wild sheep tags have sold for as much as $55,000 apiece, and he says hunters are willing to pay the price for two reasons.