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.


Best of Wyoming
9:26 am
Tue November 27, 2012

Laramie’s Mark Jenkins discusses his Everest trip

Mark Jenkins

Laramie resident Mark Jenkins returned to Wyoming after climbing Mount Everest in May 2012.

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1:55 pm
Fri November 23, 2012

Grizzly shot in Grant Teton National Park

Grizzly bear No. 399 crossing a road in Grand Teton National Park, Wyo., with her three cubs.
Credit Tom Mangelsen / AP Photo

Grand Teton National Park officials are warning hunters to be bear aware, after a group of elk hunters shot and killed a male grizzly bear on Thanksgiving. The hunters say the bear charged at them.

Park Spokeswoman Jenny Anzelmo-Sarles says hunters within the park are required to carry bear spray and have it immediately available.

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9:39 am
Tue November 20, 2012

Wyoming Could See A Dry Winter

The National Weather Service says Wyoming can expect a warmer-than-usual winter this year.

Temperatures have been above average for more than a year, and Meteorologist Chris Jones says the trend is likely to continue. He says it’s not yet clear how much snow the region will get this winter, but dry conditions would not be surprising.

Jones says that doesn’t bode well for Wyoming’s farmers and ranchers.

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5:16 pm
Fri November 16, 2012

Gov. Mead's energy strategy seeks a balance between development and conservation

Gov. Matt Mead’s energy strategy is beginning to take shape. It is meant to provide a framework for balancing energy production and environmental protection, and should offer more certainty to industry and other stakeholders about energy development in the state.

Mead has devised a series of objectives, including expanding production, investing in more infrastructure, and attracting new industries.

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Open Spaces
4:49 pm
Fri November 16, 2012

November 16th, 2012

Health Department director proposed new Medicaid Idea 
One of the costs that continues to grow in Wyoming’s budget is the cost of Medicaid.  Lawmakers were so distressed that they ordered the Department of Health to look for ways to control those costs. Department of Health Director Tom Forslund has proposed a plan to address the issue.  But first he explains why those costs have gone up.

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4:47 pm
Mon November 5, 2012

High early voting numbers could mean strong turnout tomorrow

State officials are expecting strong voter turnout tomorrow.

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Open Spaces
4:10 pm
Fri November 2, 2012

November 2nd, 2012

Riverton House and Senate Debate Recap
On Thursday night, candidates for U-S House and Senate gathered in Riverton for a set of debates. They answered questions ranging from how to address the Medicare shortfall … to their views on climate change and the energy industry. Wyoming Public Radio’s Bob Beck was one of the moderators … and he joins Willow Belden from Riverton to talk about the debate.

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1:26 pm
Wed October 31, 2012

WYDOT studies effectiveness of reflectors for reducing wildlife collisions

The Wyoming Department of Transportation is trying to determine whether reflectors posted at the side of roads help reduce wildlife collisions.

WYDOT’s Cody Beers says the reflectors are meant to bounce light along the roadside when cars pass, so the animals know not to cross the roads.

“Over the last 20 years there’s been roughly seventy-five thousand documented wildlife-vehicle collisions in the state of Wyoming,” Beers said. “So it’s our hope that we can save lives and save animals’ lives.”

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Open Spaces
4:33 pm
Fri October 26, 2012

October 26th, 2012

Gov. Mead reflects on GREG report, promises cuts
The Consensus Revenue estimating group came out with projections that lawmakers will have about 85 million more dollars to spend this session.  The CREG report is main tool government officials use to forecast how much money the state will have.  Governor Matt Mead joins Bob Beck to discuss the report and the impact it has on his budget as he prepares to present it in December.

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5:16 pm
Wed October 24, 2012

Deer collisions less likely this year

An insurance company says that Wyoming drivers are less likely to hit a deer this year than last.

State Farm agent Jason Paris says last year, the chances of hitting a deer were one in 102, whereas this year, they were one in 113.

“It is encouraging to see the numbers decrease,” Paris said. “That’s a good thing for everybody, because it does cost millions of dollars. Just in the state of Wyoming it’s millions of dollars of damage every year.”

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6:25 pm
Fri October 19, 2012

Health Department urges more women to get mammograms

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and the Wyoming Department of Health is trying to get more women in the cowboy state to have regular mammograms, meaning every one-to-two years.

Only about 67 percent of Wyoming women get mammograms, which is one of the lowest rates in the country. Carol Peterson with the Wyoming Department of Health says that’s probably partly because Wyoming is so rural.

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5:46 pm
Tue October 16, 2012

Secular lobbying group seeks to take root in Wyoming

A group that lobbies to keep religion out of government is hoping to start a chapter in Wyoming.

Spokeswoman Lauren Anderson Youngblood with the Secular Coalition for America says they’re worried that lawmakers in Wyoming and various other states are considering legislation that would undermine the separation of church and state.

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5:12 pm
Mon October 15, 2012

NCAR supercomputer ready for research projects

The NCAR supercomputer, which is housed in a series of cabinets, is so large that it required 18 semis to transport it to Cheyenne.
Willow Belden Wyoming Public Radio

The computing center that houses one of the world’s most powerful supercomputers opened today in Cheyenne. The new supercomputer, called Yellowstone, will replace an older computing facility that the National Center for Atmospheric Research has been using in Colorado.  Tom Bogdan is president of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, which manages the new computing center.

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5:26 pm
Fri October 12, 2012

UW trustees lay out plan for selecting new president

University of Wyoming trustees have decided on the process they’ll use to select a new university president, who will take over after Tom Buchannan retires next year.

UW’s Vice President for Government and Community Affairs Chris Boswell says the trustees’ resolution made a few things clear: “It sets out a prospective timeline, and also, very importantly, it sets out the very clear intention to involve faculty, students, staff at the university of wyoming, as well as external constituencies.”

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3:56 pm
Thu October 11, 2012

EPA fines Sinclair again, for Clean Air Act violations

Once again, Sinclair Oil has agreed to pay a penalty for violating the Clean Air Act at its refinery near Rawlins. The latest fine is for  $378,000.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s David Cobb says the company didn’t have proper procedures in place to prevent the release of hazardous chemicals, and that chemicals were released on several occasions in the past few years. Cobb says violations like this can be dangerous.

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9:54 am
Thu October 11, 2012

Early Flu Season Should Be Taken Seriously

Flu season is starting earlier than usual in Wyoming. Department of Health Spokeswoman Kim Deti says February and March are usually the peak times for the illness, and it’s not clear why the season is starting early.

Deti says everyone over the age of six months should get a flu shot. She says the vaccines are not guaranteed to prevent getting the flu, but they’re the best protection available.

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6:56 am
Tue October 9, 2012

Another fine for Sinclair

Wyoming’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, plans to fine Sinclair Oil $155,000 dollars for a fire on May 8.

The fire at the Sinclair Refinery injured four workers, three of them critically, and OSHA is referring to the incident as a “catastrophe.”

The agency says Sinclair didn’t have proper hazard detection hardware and didn’t properly train its employees. OSHA also found that employees didn’t have adequate time or protection to complete tasks that involved ventilating chemicals into the atmosphere.

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8:46 am
Mon October 8, 2012

NRCS offers protections to sage grouse-friendly farming and ranching operations

The Natural Resources Conservation Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are offering a new incentive to get farmers and ranchers to protectcertain species – including sage grouse – on their properties.

Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment Harris Sherman says they want ranchers to do things like shifting their grazing patterns, in order to preserve sage grouse habitat. If a rancher signs on, he or she would get certain protections, if sage grouse end up on the Endangered Species List.

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Open Spaces
4:38 pm
Fri October 5, 2012

October 5, 2012

Wisconsin hunters set up camp above the Gros Ventre River, where they're pursuing deer but some Wyoming hunters are targeting wolves.
Jennifer Tennican

Wyoming's Wolf Hunt Begins

Nearly 3,000 hunters have purchased permits to target wolves in Wyoming's first regulated wolf hunt, which began on Monday. Conservation groups, meanwhile, are preparing to challenge Wyoming's approach in court. As of Thursday, hunters had reported killing six wolves since opening day. Rebecca Huntington has more.

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Open Spaces
3:20 pm
Fri October 5, 2012

Residents near Douglas fear becoming ‘another Pinedale or Pavillion’

Flares like this one at a new oil well near Douglas are raising concerns amongst area residents.
Willow Belden

INTRO: This spring, an oil rig blew out near Douglas. Natural gas spewed into the air, and residents from a nearby neighborhood were evacuated for several days. Since the blowout, Chesapeake Energy has drilled several new wells around that same neighborhood, and residents have new concerns. Wyoming Public Radio’s Willow Belden reports.

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10:55 am
Wed October 3, 2012

Unprecedented fire season means record-breaking costs

This year has been Wyoming’s worst fire season on record, and fighting the fires has cost an estimated $90 million.

State Forester Bill Crapser says that’s much higher than usual.

“It’s by far and away a record-setting year,” Crapser said. “Our last big fire season was 2006 … and total costs were probably about a third of what they were this year.”

Crapser says the counties, the state, and the federal government will divvy up the costs. But even so, he says, paying for everything will be tough.

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5:44 pm
Fri September 28, 2012

Wyoming Symphony Orchestra produces season's first concert Saturday

The Wyoming Symphony Orchestra in Casper kicks off the season with a concert on Saturday.

Music Director Matthew Savery says they’ll be playing Paul Hindeman’s Symphonic Metamorphosis and a piece by an American composer named James Beckel, called Toccata for Orchestra.

“Both pieces are similar in that they’re really like concertos for orchestra – they really show of the virtuosic capabilities of an orchestra,” Savery said.

Later in the season, the orchestra will be collaborating with the Eugene Ballet Company to perform the ballet Swan Lake.

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5:24 pm
Fri September 28, 2012

Wyoming to take over wolf management Monday

Wyoming is set to take over management of wolves on Monday. Earlier this month, U.S. Fish and Wildlife decided to remove the animals from the endangered species list.

Wyoming’s management plan allows wolves to be shot on sight in most of the state. In a few areas, a license will be required.

Gov. Matt Mead says he’s pleased that the state will now have control.

Open Spaces
3:49 pm
Fri September 28, 2012

Sinclair fire the result of failure to train workers and other workplace violations, OSHA finds

The Sinclair Refinery near Rawlins has had four fires or explosions since May, and Wyoming’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, has been investigating what went wrong. OSHA has completed its investigation into one of the incidents. It was a fire on May 25, which injured two workers. Wyoming OSHA Administrator John Ysebaert joins us to talk about what they found. He says one of the main problems is that Sinclair wasn’t properly training its workers.

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Open Spaces
3:31 pm
Fri September 28, 2012

After slow start, ‘green’ building begins to take root in Wyoming

Davey Jackson Elementary in Jackson achieved LEED certification.

Over the past few years, a growing number of people in Wyoming have been constructing buildings with an eye to making them more energy efficient. But Wyoming still lags behind the rest of the country when it comes to “green” building. Wyoming Public Radio’s Willow Belden reports.

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6:27 pm
Thu September 27, 2012

Grand Teton elk reduction program starts next weekend

The annual elk reduction program in Grand Teton National Park begins on October 6.

Federal law requires the park to maintain a sustainable population of the Jackson elk herd. To keep the numbers low enough, they’ve had to harvest elk each year for decades.

Park Spokeswoman Jackie Skaggs says an over-sized elk herd could harm the park.

“The risk of having too large of a population is that they would over-graze the range," Skaggs said. "And that would probably be a detrimental impact to other species.”

4:28 pm
Wed September 26, 2012

USGS releases raw data, but no analysis, about Pavillion groundwater

The U.S. Geological Survey has released new data about groundwater testing near Pavillion. The testing was meant to provide additional information about whether hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, caused water contamination there.

Keith Guille with the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality says no one quite knows what the results mean yet, because the USGS only provided raw numbers, not analysis.

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5:11 pm
Tue September 25, 2012

Game and Fish prepares to implement new boat inspection rules

Starting next year, all boats that enter Wyoming will have to be inspected, to make sure they’re not carrying any aquatic invasive species.

Until now, boats had to be inspected if they passed by an open inspection station, or if they had been in a body of water that was known to host invasive species. But Beth Bear with the Game and Fish Department says under that system, many boats went un-checked.

Bear says Game and Fish is trying to make it easy for boat owners to comply with the new rules.

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11:49 am
Mon September 24, 2012

Farmers Markets Contribute Big Money To Wyoming's Economy

The Wyoming Business Council found that farmers markets contributed more than a million dollars to Wyoming’s economy last year.

The Business Council’s Cindy Garretson-Weibel says that includes direct sales from the markets, plus additional money people spend in communities when attending farmers markets.

She says farmers markets give producers marketing opportunities, and that meeting consumers face-to-face can be good for business.