Natural Resources & Energy

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Ghost of the Mountains, Brian Leith Productions with Disneynature Productions and Chuan Films

Hundreds of filmmakers are gathering at Jackson Lake Lodge in Grand Teton National Park this week for a biennial film competition that attracts filmmakers from around the globe.

"It's incredible, I mean there's more than 800 people attending this festival from all over the world so it definitely is the Oscars of wildlife filmmaking," said Jackson filmmaker Shane Moore.

Chris DuRoss USGS

Scientists this week closed up a large trench they built to study the Teton Fault, a 40-mile geological feature along the east side of the Teton Range.

The research team affiliated with the U.S. Geological Survey, the Forest Service, the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and many other groups will now take data they collected in the trench and try to evaluate how often large earthquakes hit the Teton Fault.

Copyright by Dennis Kunzel and James T. Staley

Cutting edge science is discovering that billions of species of microscopic bacteria live everywhere... on our bodies and in nature.

Now, the National Science Foundation has awarded the University of Wyoming $20 million to learn more about those microbes. Scientists plan to sample and catalog microscopic life in the extreme ecosystems of Wyoming: from glaciers to oil pads to the bison rangelands of the Wind River Reservation.

UW Molecular Biology Professor Naomi Ward said the study will add greatly to human understanding of the role of microbes in nature.

Red Desert
Sam Cox / US Department of Agriculture

The Wilderness Society, a national conservation group, has designated the northern Red Desert as one of 15 wildland areas most at-risk of energy development on public lands. The Red Desert in southern Wyoming is home to several hundred wildlife species and numerous wilderness study areas, and up till now, has avoided significant energy development.  

But the Bureau of Land Management is reconsidering its management plan, which could result in renewed oil and gas drilling.

Constance Baltuck / NPS Photo

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is partnering with the National Elk Refuge and several other outdoor and hunting organizations to distribute 100 cans of bear spray to hunters and anglers in Jackson.

Dusty Lasseter, the Bear Wise Wyoming Coordinator for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, said, as bears prepare for winter, human-bear conflicts become more likely.

“Because [the bears] are really bold and they’re trying to do whatever they can to get on some needed calories before they go into hibernation,” said Lasseter.

Snake River in the Snake River Canyon of Wyoming near Alpine
Joe Tordiff

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is allowing a reclassification of nearly 80 percent of Wyoming’s waterways as secondary contact recreation. That means those streams are no longer recommended sites for swimming, tubing, fishing, or recreation in general — unlike the primary contact recreation status.

The DEQ’s Lindsey Paterson said these waters don’t make sense for recreation anyway. They’re shallow with little flow and are in remote areas. The change also means those waterways are allowed to hold five times the level of e. coli, an indicator for pathogens. 

Cooper McKim

  

Energy companies, environmentalists, ranchers and government officials are getting back together at meetings across the West this fall to talk about the fate of a chicken-like bird.

 

Many of these so-called stakeholders have sat at this table before. The well-being of the Greater Sage Grouse was the focus of a hard-fought compromise among 11 states, finalized a few years ago.

 

facebook.com/pg/replizcheney/

Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney is a part of a controversial new GOP push to loosen the nation’s gun regulations. Cheney and other Republicans say it’s an effort to restore second amendment rights.

It’s called the “Sportsmen Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act,” or SHARE Act. Not only does the bill deal with guns, Cheney added a provision that prevents the courts from revisiting the delisting of grey wolves from Endangered Species protection.

Madelyn Beck/Inside Energy

Over 80 percent of new wind power last year went up in states that voted for President Donald Trump. It may sound strange when Trump’s aim is to bolster coal, not wind, but what red states usually promote is individual choice and a smart use of money. Now, wind power large and small is literally changing Wyoming’s energy landscape.  

Wind Farmer and Rancher

Some of that changing landscape will be around Chugwater, Wyo., population 212. Chugwater claims the state’s oldest operating soda fountain. But finding farmer Gregor Goertz was more of a challenge.

Kate Foster

It’s another day of hazy skies at the airport outside Laramie. A team of atmospheric scientists from the University of Wyoming are busy unloading from a recent trip to Montana to study the fires where all this smoke originated. For weeks, skies across the west have been filled with this billowing white smoke. Many scientists agree that the warming climate is causing more extreme fires, but it’s hazy whether all that smoke is generating even more global warming as part of a self-perpetuating cycle. Scientists like these guys are scrambling to find out.

Sage Grouse Implementation Team meeting, 09/15/17
Cooper McKim / Wyoming Public Radio

The sage grouse implementation team met for the first time since the Department of Interior announced recommendations to a collaborative state and federal Obama era plan. But early last month, DOI Secretary Ryan Zinke recommended changes to the plan that would loosen restrictions on energy development while giving states more flexibility in implementing their own sage grouse protection plans.

CC0 Public Domain

Wyoming Hunters will be able to take wolves again. October first will start the first wolf hunting season in the Cowboy state since 2013.

Hunters took 43 wolves in the state’s first modern wolf hunt in 2012. Wyoming’s Game and Fish Department cut the next year’s quota. Only 23 wolves were killed then.

The state’s large carnivore biologist Dan Thompson said the upcoming wolf season will be a lot like the 2012-2013 seasons.

Public Lands in Wyoming
Bob Wick, BLM / Bureau of Land Management

Representative Liz Cheney is co-sponsoring a proposed bill that would allow states more power over leasing federal lands for energy development. The majority of Wyoming’s oil and gas development occurs on federal land. She said it could help reverse the decline in lease sales.

Black-footed Ferret
J. Michael Lockhart / USFWS

Wyoming biologists have spotted the first wild-born black-footed ferrets in over 35 years. They were found this week at a ranch outside of Meeteetse. The Game and Fish Department introduced a large number of black-footed ferrets at two ranches there last summer in hopes of developing self-sustaining populations.

Madelyn Beck/Inside Energy

  

The U.S. used to be the world’s number one uranium producer, and most of it came from Wyoming. But since the 1980s, production has fallen off a cliff. Prices are at rock bottom. That may be about to change — uranium’s biggest customer is the nuclear energy industry. In coming years, hundreds of new nuclear reactors are planned for China and India. Uranium companies in the U.S. are hoping to gear up for a boom.

Elements of the Market

Dan Boyce

  

Superfund cleanups are a priority for Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. He wants to cut through red tape that has left more than a thousand sites still contaminated with everything from radioactive waste to lead.

He also wants to remove sites that have already been cleaned up from the so-called National Priority List, which has more than 1300 sites. One of those sites is the town of Uravan.

Tennessee Watson

Farmworker families often have to move from state to state to find work, and that makes school challenging for their kids. For over 40 years the Wyoming Department of Education (WDE) ran a program to support this vulnerable student population, but that has come to an end.

Wyoming’s sugar beet harvest once was a big draw for migrant workers. On a tour of the farmland surrounding Torrington, Simon Lozano remembered a time when the fields were bustling.

“It was like 90 percent beets,” he said pointing out of the window of his truck.  

Cooper McKim

  

Paul Miller just got back from a 12-day hunting trip outside of Cody with some friends. 

 

"Yeah, we went on a mountain goat and bighorn sheep hunt. One guy drew both tags and we archery hunted it for a couple of days, then we hunted sheep with a rifle,” Miller said.

 

Melodie Edwards

Several advocacy groups were vindicated this week when a federal appeals court ruled Wyoming’s data trespass laws unconstitutional. Now, a lower court will reconsider the statutes, which forbid people from trespassing in order to take pictures or data samples from public lands. The laws also restrict agencies from using data they receive from people who got it by crossing private lands.

THEO STEIN / USFWS

According to a federal appeals court, Wyoming’s data-trespass laws are unconstitutional. The two laws made it illegal for people to cross private land in order to collect data or take photos on public land. 

Kate Foster

While Wyoming hasn’t had many forest fires this summer, plenty of smoke has blown in from fires in other states like Montana, California and Oregon. Atmospheric scientists at the University of Wyoming have been studying the soot from those fires to find out what role it plays in climate change. They’re chasing fires around the West this summer doing their research in a state-of-the-art mobile research lab.

ENDOW, Economically Needed Diversity Options for Wyoming, logo
ENDOW

The state’s economic diversification group, or ENDOW, has submitted its first report to Governor Mead and the state legislature. It attempts to establish a baseline on the status of Wyoming's economy. The report outlines workforce data, state-by-state comparisons, and trends in different sectors.

Wikimedia Commons

Earlier this month, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed the Yellowstone area grizzly bear from the endangered species list. On Wednesday, wildlife and tribal groups filed a lawsuit to stop the delisting.

Wyoming Outdoor Council

The environmental organization, the Wyoming Outdoor Council, will soon celebrate their 50-year anniversary. The group has announced they’ll host a celebration in Lander on September 22 and 23.

The event will include a public mural painting, food and kid’s events, along with workshops on citizen advocacy and a keynote address from former Environmental Protection Agency administrator Gina McCarthy.

The Jalan Crossland band is also scheduled to perform.

Erin Campbell out in the field
Provided by Wyoming State Geological Survey

Governor Matt Mead has chosen Erin Campbell as the new state geologist and director of the Wyoming State Geological Survey, or WSGS. A role responsible for studying the state's mineral resources and advising the government.  

Erin Campbell will enter her position with a background in government, industry, and education. She taught geology at the University of Wyoming for 15 years and is currently the manager of energy and natural resources at the WSGS. She’s also the first woman to hold the position.

With permission from Rock Springs Main Street/Urban Renewal Agency

Urban Renewal Agency Director Chad Banks was leading a group of Rock Springs residents through a tunnel beneath the train tracks that break the downtown business district in half. The underpass doubles as an art gallery, meant to advertise local artists and lure people to explore both sides of the railroad.

 

The railroad gave Rock Springs its start as a coal town. Local mines fueled the trains that reached the area in the 1860s. Public Services Director Amy Allen said the city’s layout matches the scatter of those original mines.

A male Sage Grouse (also known as the Greater Sage Grouse) in the USA
Pacific Southwest Region U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from Sacramento, US

The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission has approved a regulation that would allow captive breeding of greater sage grouse in the state. The law would allow specially licensed private farms to possess, breed, and sell the bird.

Melanie Arnett

A coalition called Keep It Public is hosting a rally this Saturday in hopes of gaining support for proposed legislation to create a Wyoming Public Lands Day. The holiday would encourage people to celebrate their access to national forests and parks.

Earl DeGroot is a Keep It Public member and an avid snowmobiler, hunter and hiker. He said the first thing the draft bill proposes is to officially designate the last Saturday of September as Public Lands Day.

publicdomainpictures.net

The solar eclipse has long been a research opportunity for astronomers and physicists. Now, energy researchers are taking part, too.

That's because the eclipse will disrupt U.S. solar energy production. It won't be a big disruption because solar still takes up a relatively small amount of the energy grid, but it'll happen when energy use is at its peak, and it’ll do so in a very predictable way across a huge area.

Dan Boyce

At 11 p.m. on a recent Friday night, the West Elk Mine outside Somerset opened its gates. Cars and trucks started rolling out, signaling the end of a coal mining shift in this rural pocket of Colorado.

Workers had been opening up a new section of the mine four or five miles underground, a tough job made tougher considering that the current economics of the coal industry means fewer workers at the mine.

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