The Modern West

The Modern West is a rich collection of news and cultural stories from the Mountain West. Features, interviews, oral history, readings, and more offer a snapshot of Western life. Catch our monthly digest of stories on The Modern West podcast.  

Supported in part by a grant from the Wyoming Cultural Trust Fund, a program of the Department of State Parks and Cultural Resources.

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The Modern West 24: The Native West, Part 2

Jun 20, 2017
Melodie Edwards

Part two of a two-part series on the Wind River Reservation, focusing on housing issues on the increasingly populated Wind River Reservation. 

Rebecca Huntington

On the Wind River Reservation, students are learning how to use futuristic tools to stretch the bounds of what's possible in the classroom.

What if you could put a swimming pool in the middle of your classroom?

“Me, me, me, me...” students gleefully shout.

That's just what students at the Arapahoe Elementary School couldn't wait to do...

“Let's be careful to not stand on the swimming pool,” a teacher says. “So now we're going to push select. I think we probably want a really big swimming pool so everybody can fit in it, right?”

Charles Preston

 

Grizzly bears may be taken off the Endangered Species list soon. And, hunts are part of Wyoming’s bear management plans. Those planned hunts are drawing fire from tribes, the Sierra Club, and comments from Yellowstone National Park.

For 40 plus years, the only people who have hunted grizzlies here are tourists and photographers. They come from around the world, hoping for a glimpse of the country’s largest and most powerful carnivore.

South-facing slope covered in cheat grass near medicine bow forest
Cooper McKim

Near Medicine Bow Forest, there’s a scenic road that cuts in between a valley. The north face is shaded, covered with small flowers, trees, and dark green plant life — edible to deer and small animals. The south face doesn’t look so good.

Lindsey Wheat, Supervisor at the Albany County Weed and Pest Council, said, “You see over here on this slope, you see nothing but rocks, cheat grass, not a lot of animals are going to hang out in there."

Steve Horan

A new book focused on the people who live and work in Yellowstone is out. Called People of Yellowstone by Steve Horan and Ruth W. Crocker, it features wonderful photography by Horan with prose by Crocker. Horan photographed 120 people who work in and around the park. It features 87 photographs and stories of people who have a number of jobs and roles. Horan says the idea was pitched to him by his brother and it took several years to complete.

Madelyn Beck/Inside Energy

 

The Gillette Workforce Center had a front row seat for the town’s coal woes.

The office has cream-colored walls, decorated with motivational posters and pictures of coal mines. Vermona Petersen is the manager of the center, which helps people find a new job.

“At the height of the layoffs last year, we were seeing between 250 and 300 people a day,” she said. 

Wyoming coal mines laid off more than 450 workers last March amid financial troubles exacerbated by low natural gas prices and debt.

Volunteers carrying toads down to Mortenson Lake
Cooper McKim / Wyoming Public Radio

The Endangered Species Act is threatened. Or at least facing significant reform. Momentum in Congress and in western states is building to make changes to the landmark regulation that protects threatened animal and plant species and their habitats. 

Moosejaw Bravo Photography

For nine years now, the Draper Museum in Cody has been studying golden eagles and what they mean for the dwindling sagebrush ecosystem where they live. That study will end next year so Wyoming Public Radio’s Melodie Edwards joined researchers on a trip to band eaglets and find out what all this research is revealing about this iconic species.

June Glasson

A new art exhibition at the University of Wyoming explores and expands what it means to live in and love the American West. TOPOPHILIA: A loving reconfiguration of the mythology of our American West through studio practices and collaborative projects has its opening reception tonight from 5 to 7 p.m. at the University of Wyoming Visual Arts Building Gallery, and runs through the end of August.

Wyoming State Parks

Many communities and hotels in Wyoming are preparing for a busy few days surrounding the August eclipse. State Parks Administrator Dominic Bravo says that it should be very busy in parks along the eclipse.

Dr. Michael Pierce

Wyoming is scrambling to prepare for the August 21st total solar eclipse which could attract so many people here that it'll double the state's population. But one thing many people may not be prepared for is what to watch for in a total solar eclipse. Wyoming Public Radio's Melodie Edwards sat down with University of Wyoming astronomer Mike Pierce to get some tips. Pierce says this eclipse is known as the Great American solar eclipse because the shadow of it will race at almost 2,000 miles an hour across the entire U.S. from Oregon to South Carolina. 

The Modern West 23: The Native West, Part 1

May 16, 2017
Aaron Schrank

Part one of two-part series, featuring stories that take us into the heart of the Wind River Reservation.

Chris Drury

In late 2010, English sculptor Chris Drury visited the University of Wyoming's campus. The school had commissioned artwork from him, though he still hadn’t decided what to make. As he spoke with locals around Laramie, Drury learned how trees in the Rockies were dying due to warmer winters due to climate change. He wanted to draw a connection between the trees' downfall and the state’s contribution to global warming through the coal, oil and gas industries.

Bob Beck

Earlier this month, those involved with arts organizations in the state were able to exhale after a proposal to zero out funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, Humanities, and similar organizations this year was averted. The proposal was part of President Trump’s budget.

At the University of Wyoming Art Museum, Susan Moldenhauer sits at a desk of neatly stacked brochures and contracts as she prepares for another year of exhibits. She is the Director and Chief Curator at the facility. 

Wyoming Humanities Facebook

  

President Trump's first budget proposal called for totally zeroing out federal funding for the arts and humanities, which could disproportionately hurt rural states like Wyoming.   

Last year some of that money went to a mobile museum that toured the state teaching students and adults alike about the state's heritage. Wyoming Senator John Barrasso admits that he doesn't like that the president is calling to end the program. 

Melodie Edwards

Wyoming may be in the middle of an energy bust, but there’s one industry that’s quietly booming: the shed antler business. More and more people are discovering how lucrative picking up deer and elk antlers can be. But that’s led to more out of season poaching of antlers and even serious accidents. Hundreds of people lined up for the season’s opening day May 1 and Wyoming Public Radio’s Melodie Edwards was there.

University of Wyoming

As the University of Wyoming faces steep budget cuts, the university community is revisiting which programs are core to the land grant mission. To a lot of people, it feels like the humanities are at odds with the sciences, and both of them are at odds with applied disciplines. But one English professor has taken a look at the history of the land grant university and found that none of that is quite true.

Jennifer Tennican

Vertical Harvest is finishing up its first year of operation. The hydroponic, or soil-less, greenhouse is located in downtown Jackson, and not only provides locally grown produce, but also employs 15 people with intellectual and physical disabilities.

Melodie Edwards

On July 3, 2013, 21-year-old Northern Cheyenne member Hannah Harris left her baby with her mom and went out. Hours later, she still hadn’t come back to breastfeed her child. The police investigation was slow to start a search and the family was forced to rely on word of mouth and social media. Still, it was five days before Harris was found, brutally beaten and raped, her body thrown in a ditch. 

CC0 Public Domain

 

Wyoming is taking over wolf management, again. A federal appeals court has entered its final order upholding Wyoming’s wolf management plan. So, the state will pick up where it left off five years ago. And wolves outside a protected area can be shot on site.

Wolves in Wyoming were first protected by the Endangered Species Act in January 1995, when Canadian wolves were brought into Yellowstone by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Clay Landry

The era of the mountain man was brief—the high point of the Rocky Mountain beaver fur trade was between 1820 and 1840. But the period still holds fascination today. Clay Landry has written extensively on the subject.

He’ll be speaking on non-fiction writing at the Wyoming Writers Conference June 2-4 in Gillette. As Landry told Wyoming Public Radio’s Micah Schweizer, he recently served as a historical advisor for the 2016 film The Revenant.

The Modern West 22: Climate Change In A Fossil-Fuel State

Apr 20, 2017
Ken Koschnitzki

Wyoming’s economy revolves around energy production. But climate change raises questions about what role fossil fuels will play in the state’s future.

twitter.com/Uber

Uber has been operating in the state for just over a month now. Their launch followed Governor Matt Mead’s signing of a bill to legally authorize ride-sharing companies in Wyoming. However, while some consumers have been taking advantage of the service, others are less excited.

Branden French was one of the very first drivers to start working for Uber in March. Right now, he’s a university student in Laramie. He said Mead signed the bill on a Friday, and he was on the road that weekend.

Kunio Yamamoto facing Heart Mountain, 1944.” George and Frank C. Hirahara Photograph Collection, 1932-2016 (SC14). Courtesy Manuscripts, Archives & Special Collections,Washington State University, Pullman.

This year is the 75th anniversary of the executive order that lead to the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.

To mark the occasion, the University Of Wyoming College Of Law is hosting Heart Mountain Week – a week of programming that explores what can be learned from this chapter in American History. Director of the International Human Rights Clinic and Assistant Professor of Law Suzie Pritchett joined Wyoming Public Radio’s Caroline Ballard to talk about Heart Mountain Week.

 

Filling In The Natural Gas Gaps

Apr 7, 2017
Amy Sisk/Inside Energy

  

With the fracking boom ushering in cheap natural gas prices nationwide, nearly 40 states have adopted or are considering new legislation to expand gas service.

Big gaps exist in rural America where natural gas does not reach. These areas rely heavily on propane, with 12 million homes that use it for heating.

One North Dakota town is looking to make the switch, pushing the Legislature for flexibility to craft its own plan to bring in natural gas service.

World Economic Forum Annual Meeting Davos, 2009

Baroness Catherine Ashton has done a lot. She is the former Vice President of the European Commission and former High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. She negotiated the Serbia-Kosovo peace agreement and the Iran Nuclear agreement. She was a leader in the UK House of Lords and has worked to fight for minority rights. Baroness Ashton visited the University of Wyoming this weekend and stopped by our studio to talk with Bob Beck.  

Melodie Edwards

The controversial play “What Would Crazyhorse Do?” recently made its national debut in Laramie, of all places. Playwright and Lakota member Larissa Fasthorse said the script is her most widely read but no other theaters have actually performed it until now. She said that had a lot to do with the play's subject matter.

Racial purity.

Early in the play, after grieving the death of their grandfather, twins Calvin and Journey got a knock on their door.

“We don’t want any more funeral food!” shouted Journey.

Stephanie Joyce

  

Coal country was celebrating this week when Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke lifted a coal moratorium signed into law by the Obama Administration 14 months ago. But now the question is whether coal companies will even decide to expand their production in states like Wyoming. With the price of natural gas so low, coal has been having a hard time competing. But if and when companies do expand, their first stop is the Bureau of Land Management to submit an application. Right now BLM has 11 applications, but all but one was submitted over ten years ago.

Clay Scott

As a child on Montana's Crow Reservation, Peggy White Well Known Buffalo was taken from her home, put on a bus (the first she had ever seen) and sent to a Bureau of Indian Affairs boarding school out of state. She was punished for speaking her language, and for following traditional Crow spiritual practices. The experience, as it was for most Native kids, was a traumatic one. As an adult, Peggy has dedicated her life to helping Crow children connect with their history, their culture, their language and their place.

Threshold Episode 06: Territory Folks Should All Be Pals

Mar 26, 2017
Amy Martin

  

Visit the American Prairie Reserve, a conservation project in the heart of Montana that could eventually be home to 10,000 bison. The vision is to stitch together 3.5 million acres of public and private lands to form the largest wildlife park in the lower 48. But some nearby ranchers feel the push to build the APR is pushing them off their land, and they're mounting a resistance. We also try to solve the Great Elk Mystery: why are elk that have been exposed to brucellosis allowed to roam free in Montana, while bison are not?

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