Natural Resources & Energy

Click here for more information on Wyoming Public Media's Natural Resources & Energy.

Digest For SF-98
Wyoming Legislative Service Office

Proposed legislation passed introduction in the State Senate last Friday that would cut the severance tax rate in half for petroleum and natural gas companies for a certain period of time. The reduction from 6 percent to 3 percent would take place during the project's third year until the end of its fourth. 

Credit By Paul Rau and the Bureau of Land Management via CC BY 2.0

About 20 years ago, Wyoming acquired a ranch north of Cody that had briefly been the home of a wanted drug smuggler. Now, there’s debate in Park County about what to do with the property.

The Park County Sheriff and another local complained to the County Commissioners that the Beartooth Ranch near the Clark Fork of the Yellowstone River is an eyesore, full of decrepit buildings and weeds. So, the commissioners decided to write a letter to Governor Matt Mead requesting the right to sell the property.

Jim and Jamie Dutcher

Northern Wyoming might have hundreds of wolves now, but in the early 1990’s there were only a handful. So National Geographic commissioned a husband and wife filmmaking team to take a creative approach: they raised the pack from pups and lived in the wilds of Idaho amongst them.

Wyoming Public Radio’s Melodie Edwards spoke with Jim and Jamie Dutcher about their new book, The Wisdom of Wolves: Lessons From The Sawtooth Pack, on what they learned from living for six years with the wolves. Jim says his inspiration for the project came from a visit to Wyoming as a kid.

Oil and gas drilling on Butler’s property.
Cooper McKim

In northern Converse County, a semi-truck is pulling onto a highway from a rig site. It's rocking back and forth as 49 mile an hour sustained winds blow west. Many other trucks are parked in the lot as well, carrying oil, gravel, water and rig supplies. All this oil and gas activity is happening on Jay Butler’s ranch. 

 

Bob Beck

A State Senate Committee voted to unanimously support a bill that will help the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality clean up abandoned contaminated sites in the state. The DEQ has been busy repairing a number of so-called orphan sites around the state where the companies are no longer available to pay for the cleanup.  

Luke Esch of the DEQ says the legislation provides money from an account funded by taxes and fees. 

"Really allows us to get away from general funds and find a sustainable source of funding for these projects."

Methane is flared from a well pad in North Dakota’s Bakken formation in photo taken during a 2014 NOAA research project.
Jeff Peischl / NOAA/CIRES

The Bureau of Land Management is proposing a revision to the 2016 venting and flaring rule, or Waste Prevention Rule, meant to limit methane emissions from oil and gas projects. The change would rollback requirements strengthened under President Obama including waste minimization plans, well drilling requirements, and leak

People watching Old Faithful erupt from geyser cone, Yellowstone National Park, 1948
R. Robinson / National Park Service Photo Gallery

Several illegal actions took place within national parks during the three-day government shutdown in January. In Zion National Park, a pregnant elk was poached, in Gettysburg National Military Park, a family brought in a metal detector and a drone — both of which are prohibited—and in Yellowstone, private snowmobilers went past the legal boundary to get close to the geyser Old Faithful.

Al Evan / Flickr Creative Commons

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is considering whether it’s fair to allow hunters to use new military-style smart rifles, powerful new crossbows or trail cameras that show hunters where they can find wildlife in real time.  

Department Law Enforcement Coordinator Aaron Kerr said as new technologies hit the market, the question is whether they allow an animal a fair chance to escape. 

https://torange.biz/27249.html via Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

The 5th Annual High Plains Organic Conference will take place at the end of this month in Cheyenne, with presentations from agricultural producers, scientists, and policy experts.

The first day will provide an overview of programs that pay farmers for using organic practices and the rules for getting certified. On the second day, participants will discuss topics like choosing seeds, improving soil quality, and livestock health.

Wyoming Water Resources Data System;http://www.wrds.uwyo.edu/wrds/nrcs/snowrept/snowrept.html

Wyoming’s snowpack is currently in a better shape to protect against a drought than most other Western states.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service reported this week that statewide, there is more snow in the mountains than the 30-year average. But the agency’s Ken Von Buettner said it is a lot more useful to look at how individual basins are doing.

Peabody Energy logo
Peabody Energy

The largest coal company in the world released its earnings report today, announcing that 2017 was a strong year for its production, revenue, and exports. Peabody Energy operates several of its largest mines in the Powder River Basin, including the North Antelope Rochelle, Rawhide, and Caballo mines. The company filed for bankruptcy in 2016 and re-emerged last year.

Adjacent Property Owners Map, Laramie River Station -- map in emergency plan
Laramie River Station / Basin Electric Power Cooperative

The Sierra Club, a national conservation group, has threatened the Laramie River Station, LRS, a cooperative, coal-fired power plant near Wheatland, with a lawsuit over its failure to follow certain federal guidelines.

Henry Mulligan; https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:American_bison_on_the_National_Bison_Range,_Montana.JPG

A federal judge ordered the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to reconsider its decision to deny Endangered Species Act protections for the Yellowstone bison.

 

Comparison of North Atlantic and global marine-margin temperature reconstructions with our pollen-inferred mean annual temperature reconstruction for North America and Europe.
Jeremiah Marsicek/University of Wyoming / Macmillan Publishers Limited, part of Springer Nature

A paper published by a former University of Wyoming graduate student shows recent temperatures across Europe and North America are at unprecedented highs. The report, titled "Reconciling Divergent Trends and Millennial Variations in Holocene Temperatures” looked at climate patterns over the past 11,000 years.

Cooper McKim/Wyoming Public Radio

Winds were gusting over 45 miles per hour on an overcast day at the Dunmire Ranch in southeastern Wyoming. Black cows grazed in the distance with wind turbines lined up on the horizon. At the center of ranch, young colts milled around the corral. Gator, a 14-year-old blind and deaf dog, barked, guarding the home of rancher Les Dunmire. 

 

Inside the house, Dunmire put on his dirt-caked cowboy hat and boots, as he told me how he’s owned this ranch for just over 30 years and that this lifestyle goes back generations.

 

Alanna Elder

Standing behind a card table filled with stacks of pamphlets, Joy and Duane Koewn greeted people as they walk into the Forest Service’s open house in Laramie. Their mission was to get people to oppose the Landscape Vegetation Analysis, or LaVA – a project that will enable the U.S. Forest Service to cut, thin, or burn up to 360,000 acres of forest land over 10 to 15 years.

U.S. Forest Service

After a set of meetings this week, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department is asking the public to help with the future conservation of cutthroat trout in the Bighorn Basin. The department is not proposing specific projects but instead wants to collaborate with the public on a set of recommendations for the trout’s future restoration efforts.

Converse, Wyoming County Map
Sperling's Best Places

An oil and gas project that would develop 5,000 new wells over 1.5 million acres of private, forest service, Bureau of Land Management, and state land in Converse County has taken a step forward. The BLM has released a draft version of the project’s environmental impact statement.

Yellowstone National Park, public domain

Hunters killed the state quota of 44 wolves in Wyoming’s first wolf hunting season since endangered species protections were lifted last April. 

In 2017, under management by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a record number of 113 wolves were killed in the state to control the growing number of livestock predations.

By Terry Tollefsbol, NATIONAL CONSERVATION TRAINING CENTER-PUBLICATIONS AND TRAINING MATERIALS (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service:) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Environmental groups continue to voice alarm after the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission recommended moving forward on a grizzly bear hunting season. At a January meeting, the commissioners instructed the Game and Fish Department to start writing rules for hunting regulations. The first season could open as early as this fall.

Several orphan sites listed on the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality online page
Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality

Factories and dry cleaners used to dump contaminated waste wherever was convenient. Over the past thirty years, the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality has identified the locations many of these contaminated sites, also known as orphan sites, but the polluting companies are no longer around to pay to clean them up.

Sample of Wildlife Conservation Plate via Muley Fantatic Foundation
Muley Fanatic Foundation / Muley Fanatic Foundation

A state legislator wants to help prevent vehicle collisions with wildlife with the help of new wildlife conservation license plates. Representative Stan Blake of Sweetwater County is sponsoring a bill where individuals could purchase the $100 plates to generate new revenue for conservation efforts along big game migration corridors.

Pinedale, WY at sundown with a rig in the background
Cooper McKim / Wyoming Public Radio

When you look past the light brown brick courthouse in downtown Pinedale, there are rolling hills dotted with sage brush and thin dark shapes in the distance. Those are oil and gas rigs. They are the largest contributor to revenue out here, but sometimes, when those companies that own those rigs remove resources from the ground, they don’t follow through on paying a key tax to the county. 

Nic Patrick

With grizzlies off of the endangered species list, many scientists view grizzlies as a success story. But the question is how does the bear successfully return to a heavily populated environment? Wyoming Public Radio’s Kamila Kudelska looks at the history of grizzly management to possibly learn some lessons for how to handle grizzlies in the future.

 

Pioneer Cunningham Ranch Historic Cabin Wyoming
CC0 Public Domain

Organizations in the region are encouraging ranchers and farmers to think ahead about how to pass their land on to the next generation so the way of life doesn’t disappear. As property values outpace the potential revenue from agriculture, it’s harder for families to pass down their land or even sell it to another rancher. 

CC0 License

Teton County contributed $250,000 toward a shared solar energy facility in Jackson. The solar farm was approved by the town council this past August. Instead of individuals and business buying their own panels, customers will buy solar power from the plant.

The chair of the Teton County Board of County Commissioners, Mark Newcomb, said the farm will help alleviate pressure from their main source of energy: hydropower.

Loco Steve / Flickr

Last week, lawmakers on the Select Water Committee agreed to put $40 million in their budget to build a new dam in southern Wyoming, but only if all the money for the project is identified first. The total cost of the dam is estimated at $80 million dollars.

Water Development Office Director Harry LaBonde says with more droughts expected in the future, more irrigation water is needed for about 25 different ranches along the West Fork of Battle Creek in south-central Wyoming.

Charles Preston

The hunting of grizzly bears in Wyoming may start as early as this fall. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department's decision to pursue hunting comes after the department held a series of public meetings throughout the state on future management of grizzly bears. Chief Game Warden Brian Nesvik said the majority of the public seemed to support hunting, and the department welcomes this as a useful management tool.

 Logo of the United States Forest Service
US Forest Service

The U.S. Forest Service closed its comment period asking the public whether to reopen sage grouse conservation plans. The National Wildlife Federation found that over 120,000 comments were submitted requesting the agency to keep the plans how they are. The organization, along with several other conservation groups, analyzed the comments to come up with the number. 

UNIVERSITY OF WYOMING

New research at the University of Wyoming shows that healthier female bighorn sheep with access to more nutritious food tend to be bigger and to raise bigger rams. The study suggests allowing hunters to kill more female bighorn sheep could reduce competition for such a nutritious diet. The study builds on other research of unhunted bighorns in California.

Pages