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
4:11 pm
Thu August 30, 2012

Fire activity in 2012 sets record

2012 has been the worst fire year on record for Wyoming, according to the Wyoming State Forestry Division.

State Forester Bill Crapser says there’s been more fire activity, and fires have been larger and more extreme than ever before.

“Statewide, the only year that we came close to the same amount of acreage would have been way back in 1988 with the Yellowstone fires,” Crapser said.

The holiday weekend is expected to be hot and dry, so Crapser warns that anyone recreating outside should be exceptionally careful not to start fires.

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News
5:55 pm
Wed August 29, 2012

OSHA investigates string of fires at Sinclair refinery

Wyoming’s Occupational Health and Safety Administration is investigating a series of fires and explosions at the Sinclair Oil Refinery near Rawlins.

The plant has seen four fires since May, and seven workers have been injured, some critically. The most recent incident was last week.

OSHA Administrator John Ysebaert says investigations are still pending, but they have some preliminary ideas about the problems.

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News
4:29 pm
Wed August 29, 2012

Enviro groups support Gingery’s bison plan

Some environmental groups say they support a plan to alter bison hunting rules. The proposal by Rep. Keith Gingery of Jackson would end the once-in-a-lifetime limit on hunting cow bison and would drastically reduce the cost of nonresident licenses.

The goal is to get the bison population down to about 500, from a high of 12-hundred.

Lloyd Dorsey with the Greater Yellowstone Coalition likes the idea.

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News
6:29 pm
Tue August 28, 2012

Wyoming behind schedule with energy policy

Gov. Matt Mead says it’s taking longer than he expected to develop an energy policy for Wyoming.

Mead wanted to have a draft energy policy finished this summer, but he says it’s taking a long time to gather input from all interested parties, including conservation groups, ag groups and the energy industry. Still, he says the finished product will be worth the wait.

“Rather than being reactive and engaging in lawsuits and court battles, let’s work together to find a consensus on where we should go with energy development in the state,” the governor said.

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News
10:01 am
Tue August 28, 2012

Republican governors recommend measures to encourage energy development

The Republican Governors Association has released an “Energy Blueprint for America,” which outlines recommendations for a federal energy policy.

The document calls for developing new energy partnerships with Canada and Mexico, approving the Keystone XL oil Pipeline, reducing EPA regulations regarding oil and gas production, and making it easier to use public lands for energy development.

Gov. Matt Mead says those measures would help encourage energy production of all kinds.

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Politics
11:02 pm
Tue August 21, 2012

Lummis and Henrichsen favor differing fixes to Congressional stalemate

U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis and Democrat Chris Henrichsen both ran unopposed in today’s primaries, and they’ll be facing each other in November.

The two candidates say they have different approaches to working with their colleagues across the aisle.

Lummis says ending the stalemate in Congress is simple.

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News
5:24 pm
Tue August 21, 2012

Wyoming jobless rate up slightly

The Department of Workforce Services says the unemployment rate increased slightly in July, for the second month in a row.

Carola Cowan with the Bureau of Labor Statistics says there are a number of possible reasons for the increase.

“Job gains from natural resources and mining have slowed down from earlier in the year,” Cowan said. “Natural gas prices have remained low, so that kind of affects us. Also, the national recovery has been fairly slow. … And of course the still-weak global economy.”

But Cowan says there’s no major cause for alarm.

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Wildfire
8:54 am
Tue August 21, 2012

Drought and Fires Mean Lean Times for Wildlife

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department says the combination of fires and drought this season is taking its toll on wildlife in the state.

Tom Ryder is the assistant chief of the Wildlife Division. He says larger animals are usually able to escape fires and relocate in surrounding areas. But he says this year, because of the drought, there’s not always enough forage to go round in those surrounding areas.

“Given the fact that this has been one of the most significant droughts in the last hundred years, we anticipate some additional mortality,” Ryder said.

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News
4:40 pm
Mon August 20, 2012

Sinclair Oil to pay $3.8 million penalty for air pollution

Sinclair Oil has agreed to pay a fine of $3.8 million and install pollution controls at its refineries in Casper and Rawlins, to settle a lawsuit that the Environmental Protection Agency filed.

The EPA says the refineries exceeded federal limits on various emissions.

Sheldon Muller, a lawyer with the EPA, says the Casper refinery will have to install equipment to reduce nitrous oxide emissions by 50 percent, and the Rawlins plant has make changes to its flare gas recovery system, in order to limit sulfur dioxide emissions.

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Women in Politics
5:48 am
Mon August 20, 2012

128 women on the ballot for primaries

The primary elections are Tuesday, and 128 women are on the ballot as candidates for state and local offices. Richelle Keinath of the Wyoming Women’s Foundation says that may sound like a lot, but there are nearly three times as many men. “I think we still have a ways to go in terms of what is actually equal,” Keinath said. The gender gap is even more pronounced when it comes to the state legislature. Eighty men are running, compared to 28 women.

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Open Spaces
3:30 pm
Fri August 17, 2012

Many Women Say Family Responsibilities Keep Them From Public Office

Wyoming’s primary elections are Tuesday, and there are more than three times as many male candidates on the ballot for the state legislature as females. That’s because many women find that serving in office, while also holding down a job and raising a family, is just too difficult. Wyoming Public Radio’s Willow Belden reports.

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Open Spaces
3:24 pm
Fri August 17, 2012

Drought Stunted Hay Crop Takes Heavy Toll On Ranchers

The drought this season has taken its toll on farmers growing hay. The U-S Department of Agriculture is predicting that Wyoming’s hay crop this year will be the worst since the Dust Bowl days of the 1930s. Platte County Extension Agent Dallas Mount joins us now to talk about that. He tells Wyoming Public Radio’s Willow Belden the situation is ALREADY very bad.

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Open Spaces
3:12 pm
Fri August 17, 2012

Wildfires Are Impacting Wyoming Wildlife

We’re joined now by Tom Ryder with the Game and Fish Department. He’s here to talk about the how wildlife are affected by the wildfires that have burned this season. He tells Wyoming Public Radio’s Willow Belden that, when fires break out, some animals tend to suffer, while others actually benefit in the long run.

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News
3:12 pm
Wed August 15, 2012

Drought-induced hay shortage drives up prices

The USDA is predicting that this year’s hay crop will be the worst in decades because of the drought.

Platte County Extension Agent Dallas Mount says most Wyoming hay farmers are producing only half as much hay as usual, and some are producing none at all. He says that’s driving up prices.

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Elections
6:31 pm
Tue August 14, 2012

Bleming, a soldier of fortune from Lusk, seeks Barrasso’s seat

Sen. John Barrasso faces two Republican opponents in next week’s primary election. One of them is Thomas Bleming of Lusk.

Bleming is a former soldier of fortune and says what most sets him apart from the incumbent is that he opposes the Patriot Act, which Barrasso voted for.

Bleming says to balance the federal government, he would make sweeping cuts.

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US Senate
5:56 am
Mon August 13, 2012

Democrat Tim Chesnut vies for Barrasso’s seat

Two Democrats are running for the chance to replace U.S. Senator John Barrasso this election season.  One of those Democrats is Albany County Commissioner Tim Chestnut. 

  Chesnut says he has a number of ideas for balancing the federal budget, starting with cutting funding for the military by ten percent.

  “I think we need to stop all the wars and bring the guys home, especially the most costly and longest war we’ve been in – that’s the war on drugs,” Chesnut said. “I think raising taxes and cutting programs are all on the table.”

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Sage Grouse
5:53 am
Mon August 13, 2012

Research shows recreators disturb eagle nests

New research suggests that golden eagles may be more disturbed by people recreating near their nests than by energy development.

  Charles Preston is in charge of the study, which is monitoring eagles in the Bighorn Basin. He says eagles didn’t alter their nesting habits when oil and gas wells moved in, but he says an increase in people riding ATVs, target shooting, and hiking did seem to have an effect on the birds.

News
5:51 pm
Fri August 10, 2012

Veterans group stages cavalry re-enactment

The group Veterans Silent Cavalry is putting on a re-enactment of a cavalry supply patrol. They’ll be going from Cheyenne to Fort Laramie, riding in formation and dressed in cavalry uniforms from the 1800s.

Organizer Doug Gumm says they’re trying to raise money for injured service members. And he says they’ve gotten a lot of support from local businesses already.

“And we’ve had several ranches that are allowing us to camp on their properties as a donation,” Gumm said. “We’ve had a couple ranches give us feed for the horses.”

Open Spaces
5:05 pm
Fri August 10, 2012

Yellowstone raptor study examines impact of human disturbance on eagles

We’re joined now by Charles Preston. He’s the senior curator at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, and he’s overseeing a research project involving golden eagles in the Bighorn Basin. The first goal of the project is to get baseline numbers on eagles in the area. Then, they’re looking at how human disturbances – like energy development, or just people recreating – are affecting the birds.

Open Spaces
5:02 pm
Fri August 10, 2012

Researchers study contraception as a potential coyote management tool

Marjie MacGregor weighs one of the test coyotes
Willow Belden

Talk to almost anyone who raises sheep in Wyoming, and they’ll tell you they’ve had problems with coyotes.  Traditionally, the response has been to kill the coyotes, often by aerial gunning. But researchers at the University of Wyoming are trying to come up with an alternative management tool, which they hope will work better in the long-term and be more  humane. Wyoming Public Radio’s Willow Belden reports.

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News
4:23 pm
Thu August 9, 2012

Heart Mountain Pilgrimage kicks off Friday

Japanese Americans whose families were incarcerated at the Heart Mountain Relocation Center during World War II will be gathering in Cody tomorrow and Saturday.

Former U.S. Senator Al Simpson, and former Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta will join the group for panel discussions and documentary film screenings. Shirley Higuchi is one of the organizers, and she says participants will be discussing whether this type of thing could happen again.

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News
6:38 pm
Tue August 7, 2012

Wyoming ranks first in the nation for women owned firms

A new report says that businesses owned by women are doing better in Wyoming than in any other state.

The study by the group Womenable considered the growth in the number of women-owned firms, how many people those firms employ, and the revenue they generate. CEO Julie Weeks says Wyoming’s ranking makes sense, despite the dominance of the energy industry.

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News
12:16 pm
Mon August 6, 2012

Study maps preferred territory for sage grouse

A new study has determined which areas within the Atlantic Rim oil and gas field near Rawlins are most important for sage grouse.

The study’s author, Chris Kirol, was a grad student in the University of Wyoming’s Department of Ecosystems Science and Management. He says they put radio collars on sage grouse to track which areas they liked and which areas they avoided.

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News
4:25 pm
Fri August 3, 2012

Mills officials upset over proposed mud recycling facility

Officials in Mills say they don’t want a proposed drilling-mud recycling facility to be built just outside of the town’s borders.

The plant would take oil-soaked mud from oil and gas wells, and remove impurities before sending it to the landfill.

Mills Mayor Elsie Herbort says she’s concerned that the plant could give off bad odors and use dangerous chemicals.

“Why don’t they put it out closer to the rigs where the drilling is taking place, rather than in a residential and commercial area?” Mills said.

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News
6:43 pm
Wed August 1, 2012

Fire ban leads to drop in park visitors

Wyoming’s state parks are getting fewer visitors than usual, and park officials say it’s probably because of the ban on campfires.

State Parks Chief of Operations Bill Westerfield says the decline in visitors will mean less money will be available for future improvements at parks and historic sites.

“The user fees – camping and day use fees – go into an enterprise account, and we use that money to build new facilities and to conduct major maintenance on the facilities we have,” Westerfield said.

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News
6:27 pm
Tue July 31, 2012

Court Rules In Favor Of Powder River Basin Coal Leases

A federal district court judge in Washington, D.C. ruled against several conservation groups, who had challenged the BLM over new coal leases in the Powder River Basin.

The leases would let Cloud Peak Energy mine more than 400-million tons of coal. Shannon Anderson with the Powder River Basin Resource Council says her group opposes the plan because they feel coal companies haven’t been doing adequate reclamation of mines.

News
5:24 pm
Mon July 30, 2012

Workers inhale dangerous amounts of fracking dust, study finds

A study by the National Institute of Occupational Safety found that workers involved with hydraulic fracturing are often exposed to dangerously high levels of silica.

Silica sand is used in fracking fluid, and breathing dust from the material can cause lung diseases and cancer.

The sites that were monitored for the study were all outside Wyoming, but John Robitaille with the Petroleum Association of Wyoming says companies here still need to take the matter seriously.

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News
6:36 pm
Fri July 27, 2012

USGS study shows gas production can affect stream water

A new report by the U.S. Geological Survey finds that coal-bed natural gas production can affect water quality in nearby streams.

The study monitored water quality over a ten-year period in Wyoming and Montana, and found that in places like the Powder River, sodium levels increased. Other test sites showed little or no change in water quality.

Report author Melanie Clark says the changes occur because water that’s extracted during gas production sometimes flows into the streams and rivers.

But she says the additional sodium in the water isn’t particularly worrisome.

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