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.

Ways To Connect

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.

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.

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.

A few weeks ago, the Sinclair Wyoming Refining Company got a $707,000 fine for safety violations. Wyoming’s Occupational Health and Safety Administration, or OSHA, found that Sinclair had willfully violated various safety regulations and failed to fix hazards that could have resulted in death or serious physical harm.

Willow Belden

In our occasional “Upstarts” series, we’re going to visit a company called Snowy Range Instruments. It’s based in Laramie, and it makes devices that can identify mystery substances. Wyoming Public Radio’s Willow Belden reports.

WILLOW BELDEN: In a large warehouse-like room, Tony Eads sits hunched over a workbench. He’s holding a soldering iron, and working on the control board for a high-tech instrument. At this stage, the device looks kind of like what you might see if you took apart a computer: basically, a green board with a maze of tiny copper-colored components.

Stories about domestic abuse, burlesque dancing, Buffalo Bill’s chef, and learning to read.

Subscribe to the Wyoming Stories podcast here.

The Sinclair Wyoming Refining Company is being fined more than $700,000 for safety violations at its Rawlins facility.

Wyoming’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, inspected the facility in May, following an employee complaint and several toxic gas releases. They found that Sinclair had willfully violated various safety regulations and failed to fix hazards that could have resulted in death or serious physical harm.

Workforce Services Director Joan Evans says the company is trying to fix the problems.

Marc Koeplin

The Continental Divide Trail is a hiking path that runs from Canada to Mexico, along the great divide. It’s more than 3,000 miles long, and only a handful of people hike the whole thing in a single year. Marc Koeplin of Cheyenne is one of them.

He and his hiking partner finished the trail a few weeks ago, and joined Wyoming Public Radio’s Willow Belden to talk about the trip. He says his first long-distance hike was the Appelachian Trail, which he did 12 years ago.

StoryCorps

We’re going to hear now from a woman who was blind for the first 38 years of her life. At that point, a doctor told her he could make her see. After four surgeries, she finally gained her vision.

The woman’s name is Pat Logan, and we’ll hear a conversation she had with Dave Stratton, the chaplain for the Program for All Inclusive Care for the Elderly, in Cheyenne. The interview was recorded as part of StoryCorps, a project that records conversations between loved ones.

Willow Belden

Last year, we reported on research that’s being done at the University of Wyoming regarding coyote contraception. The idea is to use birth control to reduce coyote numbers, and in particular, to keep coyotes from killing livestock. The project now has some preliminary results, and Marjie MacGregor, who’s leading the study, joins us now to talk about what they’ve found, and what’s next.

Willow Belden

A school in Casper has started teaching some of its classes in Chinese. The idea is that the students in those classes will grow up bilingual. This is the first Chinese immersion program in a Wyoming school, but data from other states that have similar programs show a wide range of benefits. Wyoming Public Radio’s Willow Belden reports.

Courtesy Story Corps

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and we’re going to hear a story about abuse that stemmed from alcoholism. This interview was recorded as part of Story Corps, a project that records conversations between loved ones. In this case, 89-year-old Myrtle Forney talks with her grandson, Nate Swinton. After her first husband (Nate’s grandfather) passed away, she married another man, named Ken.

Now that the government shutdown is over, Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks have re-opened, and local communities are hoping business will pick up again.

Scott Balyo with the Cody Country Chamber of Commerce says the area saw a 25 to 30 percent drop in business while the parks were closed.

“The first couple of days of the shutdown, we probably saw a slight increase in business, because people were hopeful that it would be short lived,” Balyo said. “So we had people who were willing to stay in the area and wait and see if the park would reopen.”

Scientists at the University of Wyoming are moving forward with research into coyote contraception. The goal is to control coyotes without killing them.

Researcher Marjie MacGregor says research has shown that coyotes without babies tend to leave livestock alone. So by controlling coyote reproduction, she hopes to be able to keep livestock safe.

MacGregor says the drug they’ve developed to sterilize male coyotes seems to work, at least in the short term. And they have not noticed any side effects.

Some environmental groups have concerns about a land use plan that the Bureau of Land Management has drafted for the Buffalo area.

Jill Morrison with the Powder River Basin Resource Council says until now, the BLM has placed restrictions on energy development in areas that can't  easily be reclaimed – for example, areas with steep slopes, or with fragile soil.

Charles Willgren / Wikipedia

An explosion at the Sinclair Refinery near Rawlins on Friday night resulted in a fire.

The explosion occurred around 10 p.m. on Friday. No one was injured, and by 3 a.m. the fire was under control. The Wyoming Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, is investigating the incident. The cause is still unknown.

Wyoming will not issue any new permits for agricultural or other high-capacity water wells in the Ogallala Aquifer, until a hydrogeologic study of the area is completed.

The Ogallala supplies water to southeastern Wyoming and many other states, and State Engineer Pat Tyrrell says the water is being used up too quickly.

“We’ve continued to see declines in the water level,” Tyrrell said. “And at some point, if we don’t arrest that decline, we’re essentially going to pump ourselves right out of water.”

Natural Gas producers are concerned about the future

More than 500 industry people gathered in Jackson this week for the 17th Annual Wyoming Oil and Gas Fair. Wyoming Public Radio’s energy and natural resources reporter, Stephanie Joyce was there, and she joins us now to talk about the event.

September is suicide prevention awareness month. Wyoming consistently has one of the highest rates of suicide in the nation, and the state is working hard to change that.

One of the reasons that suicide prevention efforts are so important is because of what suicide does to the family and friends of the victim. Wyoming Public Radio’s Willow Belden reports that the grief survivors go through can be much more acute than other types of grief.

The Bureau of Land Management’s Buffalo office is hoping to ensure more rigorous protections for sage grouse in the area. It’s drafted a new Resource Management Plan – or land use plan – to replace the one that’s been in place since the 1980s.

The plan outlines four alternatives. Thomas Bills with the BLM says the agency’s preferred alternative would incorporate the governor’s Core Area strategy, which limits development in prime sage grouse breeding areas.

wsgalt.org

Real estate brokers across Wyoming and the west have been seeing more and more people buying ranches for investment purposes. In many cases, that’s changing the way the ranches function and affecting the communities around them. Wyoming Public Radio’s Willow Belden reports.

WILLOW BELDEN: Art Sigel is a retired chemical engineer from Chicago. Well, sort of retired. He’s no longer a chemical engineer. But now he and his wife own and operate a ranch in southeast Wyoming.

Tuesday is World Suicide Prevention Day, and Wyoming consistently has one of the highest rates of suicide in the nation.

Middle-aged men are the most likely to commit suicide, and the Prevention Management Organization of Wyoming has been conducting a pilot media campaign to encourage them to seek help.

The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality is issuing stricter air quality rules for the Upper Green River Basin.

The area does not meet federal air quality standards because emissions from oil and gas production have caused ozone to form. The new rules impose stricter emissions controls on new facilities, or facilities that are being modified.

The D-E-Q’s Steve Dietrich says these requirements were already in place within the boundaries of the Jonah and Pinedale Anticline gas fields … but now they’ll extend to the entire Upper Green River Basin.

Willow Belden / WPR

Students and researchers at the University of Wyoming now have access to high-tech equipment that will enable them to do more advanced energy research than in the past.

The university’s new $25 million Energy Innovation Center houses labs for researching better ways to extract oil and more efficient techniques to convert coal into liquids.

The man who owns America’s smallest town wants to launch a national coffee business there.

Vietnamese businessman Ngyen Dinh Pham bought Buford at auction last year for 900-thousand dollars. Today he announced plans to start selling coffee imported from Vietnam at the town’s lone convenience store. His goal is to eventually distribute the coffee nation-wide.

With a population of one, Buford might seem like an odd place to get a foothold into a major American market. But Business Development Consultant Kip Cheroutes says it just might work.

Pages