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
5:10 pm
Wed January 15, 2014

Laramie County water study shows varied rates of drawdown

Draft results of a hydrogeologic study in Laramie County indicate that water is being used at different rates, in different parts of the county.

The State Engineer’s office undertook the study because of water shortages in the area. They wanted to find out why water levels have been declining, and whether the drawdowns are equally bad everywhere.

State Engineer Pat Tyrrell says what they’ve found so far is somewhat reassuring.

“It does appear that most of the drawdown issues are localized,” Tyrrell said. “And that’s a good result to know.”

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News
5:24 pm
Tue January 14, 2014

Yellowstone says remote vaccination for bison would be costly

The National Park Service does not wish to start using air guns to vaccinate Yellowstone bison for Brucellosis.

Brucellosis is a disease that can cause bison and other large animals to abort their calves. Currently, the park only vaccinates bison when they leave the park, and even then, only a few animals are vaccinated. But Park Spokesman Al Nash says after some legal disputes regarding bison management over a decade ago, Yellowstone agreed to look into new options.

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News
5:25 pm
Fri January 10, 2014

Winter storm poses substantial avalanche risk

Credit Bridger Teton Avalanche Center

The Bridger-Teton Avalanche Center has issued an avalanche watch for the Teton, Gros Ventre, Salt River, and Wyoming ranges.

The western mountains got more than a foot of snow yesterday, and two more feet are expected over the weekend.

Bob Comey with the Avalanche Center says that could make for very dangerous avalanche conditions.

“The hazard could get so high here, with this storm, that we could put out the recommendation that back-country travel is not recommended,” Comey said.

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News
5:52 pm
Thu January 9, 2014

Air monitor stays in Converse County

The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality has decided to keep an air quality monitor in Converse County for another year.

DEQ placed a mobile monitor near Douglas after residents voiced concerns about emissions from new energy development in the area. So far, there’s no indication that air quality standards have been violated, but there were several days with high pollution levels.

Typically, DEQ moves their mobile air quality monitors to new locations each year, but the agency’s Cara Keslar says they want to keep a close eye on this area.

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News
6:01 pm
Wed January 8, 2014

Conservation easement protects thousands of acres in Albany County

Credit Courtesy of the Wyoming Stock Growers Land Trust

Nearly 9,000 acres of ranchland north of Laramie is now protected, under a new conservation easement.

Matt Wells with the Wyoming Stock Growers Land Trust handled the deal. He says the landowner wanted to make sure the property would never be developed.

“The conservation easement limits the future non-agricultural commercial development of the property, meaning that agriculture will always be present but it won’t be cut up into office buildings or a Walmart or something like that,” Wells said.

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News
5:54 pm
Thu January 2, 2014

Conservationists say prairie dog proposal could hamper endangered species reintroduction

Conservation groups are criticizing a proposal to reduce the amount of land protected for prairie dogs in the Thunder Basin National Grassland.

The U.S. Forest Service is considering shrinking the acreage of protected land, largely because ranchers have concerns about livestock being injured in prairie dog holes and acquiring diseases.

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Open Spaces
3:02 pm
Fri December 27, 2013

December 27th, 2013

Stephen Watt (right) and Mark Farnham (left) during a recent visit.

A crime victim and perpetrator talk about how their unlikely friendship came to be

Restorative justice is an approach to dealing with crime that put the victim of the crime front and center and considers how the offense affected the community, rather than looking at it as an isolated incident. Wyoming Public Radio’s Irina Zhorov has a three part series about restorative justice efforts in Wyoming, starting with a case study.

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News
6:28 am
Thu December 26, 2013

Game and Fish studies invasive fish habitat

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is studying invasive fish called burbot, to figure out what parts of the Green River they occupy at different times of year.

The department’s Darren Rhea says that could help them come up with ways to reduce the burbot population. He says burbot are problematic for the river’s ecosystem.

“They are almost exclusively a pisciverous fish, so they prey almost exclusively on other fish,” Rhea said.

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Open Spaces
4:32 pm
Fri December 20, 2013

December 20th, 2013

UW Interim President prepares for the Legislative Session

Following the resignation of Bob Sternberg, Dick McGinity has taken over reins at the University of Wyoming as Interim President.  McGinity was simply a faculty member at UW until Sternberg promoted him to be part of the administration and now he’s running the show.  Among his first duties is getting UW priorities through the legislature.  He tells Bob Beck that includes pay raises.

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News
4:16 pm
Fri December 20, 2013

Online shopping poses challenges for Wyoming businesses

Shoppers across the nation spend billions of dollars during the holiday season, but the Wyoming Retail Association says local businesses are struggling to compete with online sales.

The Association’s Chris Brown says if an item isn’t available locally, it makes sense to order it. But he says online shopping is becoming a habit, even for things that are sold locally.

“The rural nature of Wyoming causes some folks to just naturally shift to online sales, versus stopping to think to go downtown and support their local community,” Brown said.

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Open Spaces
3:59 pm
Fri December 20, 2013

Writer Mark Jenkins speaks about a recent assignment in Asia

Mark Jenkins
Credit uwyo.edu

We’re joined now by Mark Jenkins of Laramie. He recently went to a remote area in Asia for a story for National Geographic.  He speaks with Willow Belden. 

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Wyoming Stories
10:55 am
Fri December 20, 2013

Wyoming Stories: Trimming the Christmas tree

The Belden Christmas tree in 2012.
Credit Willow Belden

This holiday season, the Wyoming Public Radio news team is sharing stories about  memories and traditions that stand out to them. In this piece, reporter Willow Belden tells us about her family's tradition of trimming the Christmas tree.

It’s the week before Christmas. Carols are playing, boxes of ornaments are strewn around the house waiting to be unpacked, and I stand in the living room, holding a pair of garden shears and scrutinizing the tree.

My uncle grasps a branch and holds it to the side. “How would it look if we got rid of this one?” he asks.

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Wyoming Stories
2:51 pm
Thu December 19, 2013

Wyoming Stories Podcast #3

The Wyoming Public Radio news team offers some holiday memories.

Subscribe to the Wyoming Stories podcast here.

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News
5:11 pm
Wed December 18, 2013

No evidence that sage grouse dislike tall things, report finds

A new report questions the assumption that sage grouse dislike tall things.

It’s often assumed that the birds avoid tall structures, such as electrical poles or wind turbines, because they fear that predators could perch on top. But report co-author Karl Kosciuch says that’s not necessarily true. His team reviewed the existing scientific literature about how the birds respond to development, and they found no evidence one way or the other.

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coldhorses
5:38 pm
Fri December 13, 2013

Advocacy group questions conditions at wild horse corral

Horses in BLM corral in Rock Springs
Credit Carol Walker

A wild horse advocacy group says conditions at a facility near Rock Springs are inadequate.

The Bureau of Land Management removes thousands of wild horses from public lands each year. Some are placed in temporary corrals in Rock Springs, until the agency can find a permanent home for them.

Ginger Katherens with the Cloud Foundation says the corral has almost no shelter, so the horses are subjected to “bitter cold and battering wind.” She acknowledges that wild horses always live outside, but she says this is different.

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News
8:16 am
Thu December 12, 2013

Railroads receive few federal inspections, report finds

A report by the Government Accountability Office finds that the Federal Railroad Administration is only able to inspect about one percent of railroad activities for compliance with safety rules.

Report author Susan Fleming says the agency doesn’t have the personnel to do more, so they focus enforcement in areas that they determine to be high-risk – for example, places where there have been accidents in the past. But she says the system is not perfect.

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News
5:16 pm
Fri December 6, 2013

Bark beetles expected to survive cold snap

Credit www.fs.fed.us

Ecologists say the sub-zero temperatures Wyoming has been experiencing probably are not extreme enough to kill off bark beetles in the area.

One of the reasons the beetle kill epidemic has been so severe in recent years is that the region has not experienced cold enough weather to freeze out the beetles.  UW botanist Dan Tinker says this cold snap is no exception. He says temperatures would need to be 30 degrees below zero for several days in a row to kill the beetles.

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Open Spaces
4:41 pm
Fri December 6, 2013

Study shows Pinedale water contamination mostly unrelated to gas drilling

Pollutants including benzene and diesel-range organics have shown up in water wells like this one in the Pinedale Anticline for several years.
Credit Courtesy Linda Baker

Pollutants have been showing up in water wells in the Pinedale Anticline gas field since 2006. Until recently, no one knew where the contamination was coming from. Now, the Bureau of Land Management and Department of Environmental Quality have released a report indicating that most of the problem was not caused by energy production. Wyoming Public Radio’s Willow Belden reports.

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Open Spaces
4:18 pm
Fri December 6, 2013

Bark beetles turn forest into carbon source

Pine and spruce beetles have killed millions of trees across Wyoming and the West. To many, the dying forests are visually unattractive. But there’s a bigger issue. Researchers in the Medicine Bow National Forest are finding that beetle kill has had a major impact on how the forest processes carbon dioxide. Wyoming Public radio’s Willow Belden reports.

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Wyoming Stories
12:40 pm
Mon December 2, 2013

Wyoming Stories Podcast #2

In honor of Veterans Day, stories from the Vietnam and Iraq Wars.

Subscribe to the Wyoming Stories podcast here.

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News
6:17 pm
Mon November 25, 2013

Environmental groups urge speedy development of pollution prevention plan for Pinedale

Credit Courtesy Linda Baker

Environmental groups are urging the Bureau of Land Management to quickly develop a plan for preventing future groundwater pollution in the Pinedale Anticline gas fields.

The BLM released a report this week that said groundwater contamination in the area was mostly not a result of natural gas production. But Bruce Pendery with the Wyoming Outdoor Council says regulators still need to be vigilant in preventing potential future problems.

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News
11:42 am
Wed November 20, 2013

Pinedale water contamination mostly unconnected to gas production, study finds

A new Bureau of Land Management report indicates that most of the groundwater contamination near Pinedale was not caused by the energy industry.

After petroleum products showed up in water wells in the Pinedale Anticline gas field in 2006, several agencies launched an investigation to figure out where the contamination was coming from. They concluded that some pollution occurred naturally, as gas seeped upward through geologic layers and into the groundwater. The report says other pollutants came from the process of drilling and installing water wells.

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News
11:00 am
Tue November 19, 2013

Converse County air quality monitoring in question

The Department of Environmental Quality says it’s not clear whether they will continue monitoring air quality in Converse County after this year.

DEQ began the monitoring about a year ago, because of public concern about emissions from oil and gas development. So far, their data does not indicate any violations of air quality standards but there have been several days with high pollution levels. The agency’s Cara Keslar says they’ll probably move the monitoring station to another location after they’ve collected a full year of data.

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Open Spaces
4:16 pm
Fri November 15, 2013

November 15th, 2013

UW Board of Trustees President talks about Dr. Sternberg’s resignation

The University of Wyoming Board of Trustees announced UW President Bob Sternberg’s resignation on Thursday. The Trustees spent Thursday and Friday in meetings, but President of the Board David Bostrom sat down to talk with Wyoming Public Radio’s Irina Zhorov about what comes next. Bostrom says the Trustees didn’t try to convince Dr. Sternberg to stay.

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Open Spaces
3:52 pm
Fri November 15, 2013

Historian offers perspective on Sternberg resignation

Bob Sternberg
Credit trib.com

It’s not often that a president leaves a university as quickly as Bob Sternberg, but it has happened before at UW. Phil Roberts spoke with Wyoming Public Radio’s Willow Belden. He says there are often times that people are just not the right fit for a particular position.

For more on UW President Bob Sternberg’s resignation, click here.

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Open Spaces
3:36 pm
Fri November 15, 2013

Pollution spikes in Converse County spark concerns over oil and gas expansion

Energy development in Converse County has led to concerns about air quality.
Credit Willow Belden

Converse County is seeing an increasing amount of energy development, and some residents worry that air quality could suffer as a result. The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality and researchers from the University of Wyoming are now monitoring air quality in the area.

On the whole, they’ve found that the air is pretty clean. But they’ve also documented times when pollution levels have spiked. Wyoming Public Radio’s Willow Belden reports.

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News
6:06 am
Fri November 15, 2013

NRCS seeks to reduce power consumption on farmland

The Natural Resources Conservation Service is trying to reduce energy consumption on farms in Laramie County.

Jim Pike is the district conservationist for the NRCS. He says many farms in the area have old, inefficient irrigation equipment that uses so much power it can overload the electrical grid.

“In 2012, the rural electric company had to bring portable, truck-mounted generators that were powered by diesel motors to generate additional electricity because they couldn’t keep up with it in their normal infrastructure,” Pike said.

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News
8:53 pm
Thu November 14, 2013

UW president resigns, no decisions yet on new search process

Dick McGinity has been named Interim President of the University of Wyoming.
Credit Willow Belden

University of Wyoming President Bob Sternberg has resigned, after less than five months in office.

He said in a statement that “as wonderful as the University of Wyoming is, it may not be the best fit for me as president.”

Sternberg had come under fire from members of the campus community after several deans and other top officials were replaced.

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Sternberg
5:31 pm
Thu November 14, 2013

University of Wyoming president resigns

Bob Sternberg

University of Wyoming President Bob Sternberg has resigned. The decision was announced in a press conference this evening. The Board of Trustees says the decision was Sternberg’s – that he was not asked to resign.

Sternberg had come under fire from members of the campus community, who were upset about the departures of several deans and other top officials.

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