Natural Resources & Energy

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 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.

Holly Copeland / The Nature Conservancy

In the first quarter of 2018, the Bureau of Land Management will place seven times more acres of sage grouse habitat on sale in Wyoming for oil and gas drilling than it did during the same time last year. Holly Copeland, conservation scientist with The Nature Conservancy, crunched the numbers.

AMY MARTIN

The Yellowstone National Park has initiated a criminal investigation into the release of bison from a quarantine facility. Early Tuesday morning, park officials discovered 52 bison missing. Park officials said the bison were able to leave the containment area through a cut fence, suggesting someone explicitly freed the bison.

 

Willow Belden

Last year, the Wyoming Range mule deer herd died in incredibly high numbers because of record-breaking snow depths. That same snow, however, meant extra deep grasses for the surviving deer, according to Wyoming Game and Fish Department biologist Gary Fralick.

Fralick is part of the Wyoming Range Mule Deer Project’s effort to understand why the population has been declining there. He said the 2017 winterkill was the worst since the 1980s, but the hope is that this year’s (so-far) mild winter might mean the start of a recovery.

POWDER RIVER BASIN RESOURCE COUNCIL

Mineral extraction companies owe Wyoming counties more than $42 million in back taxes, fees, and penalties, according to a new report from the Powder River Basin Resource Council. The publication looked at 12 counties in Wyoming from 2006 to 2016.

Bob Beck

Last year Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke infuriated Democrats when he announced intentions to cut about one third or about 4,000 people from his department. When Congress mostly rejected that plan in its funding bills, Zinke then focused more on a plan to reshape the department by moving key offices out West, to places like Denver. New Mexico Democratic Senator Tom Udall is dubious.

“It looks to me more like a dismantling rather than a reorganization, so I’m very worried about it.”

DXR

A coal company and an oil and gas company are stuck in legal limbo over who has superior rights on overlapping federal leases in the Powder River Basin. The case has been bandied back and forth in federal court, state court, district court… but in the end, who should settle this debate? Cheyenne oil and gas attorney Kris Koski, who is not involved in the case, helps give deeper analysis about what the controversy and potential resolution means for Wyoming.

 

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

Three environmental organizations joined together to file an administrative appeal Thursday to protest against an oil and gas lease sale proposed by the Bureau of Land Management.

The federal public land up for auction in March is located along the Yellowstone River and borders the Yellowstone National Park gateway community of Livingston, Montana. The Wilderness Society, Montana Wilderness Association, and Park County Environmental Council believe leases in the region threaten the outdoor economy.

Yellowstone National Park, public domain

Wyoming Game and Fish plans to capture wolves for monitoring purposes beginning this month and continuing throughout the year.

The state took over wolf management in April of 2017 after the animals were removed from the Endangered Species List. Now, Wyoming Game and Fish is following the same management plan that was put in place the last time wolves were briefly taken off the list, in 2012.

Supreme Court, State of Wyoming

The Wyoming Supreme Court says a mineral rights case involving overlapping federal leases in the Powder River Basin cannot be resolved without intervention from a federal agency. The court is now sending it back to a Wyoming district court.

Yellowstone National Park Emblem Sticker
National Park Service

A coalition of tribal and conservation groups is asking a judge to restore federal protections for Greater Yellowstone grizzly bears, as it also asks the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), to restore federal protections on their own.

Wikipedia Commons

The University of Wyoming is teaming up with the Center of the West in Cody to research archeological materials not typically found in most of Wyoming and the Mountain West.

Most of Wyoming’s archeology focuses on rocks, tools, and bones with knife markings, but as part of a new class, ten students will be looking at perishable items going back about 11,000 years. Brigid Grund, one of the class’s instructors, said it’s important to open students’ minds to the possibilities that perishables hold.  

The High Plains wind farm, near McFadden, Wyoming.
Leigh Paterson

  

The debate over tax reform has finally come to an end. Congress has passed its bill, and the President has signed it. But what’s it all mean for western energy?

Renewable Energy Threat Removed

Zach Frailey/Uprooted Photographer

What actually is clean coal? Depends on who you ask. In Wyoming, a state that produces the most coal in the nation, clean coal is looked at as a possible economic savior.  It’s a big deal for a lot of other people, too. Forty percent of the world still depends on coal for electricity, and it’s still one of the cheapest and most abundant fuels. Clean coal could be the holy grail both for coal producers and for the world.

Kamila Kudelska

In 2006, Montana granted permission to two tribes to hunt on federal public lands near Yellowstone National Park. This was due to a treaty that was agreed upon in 1855 that includes tribes from the Pacific Northwest. The Yakama Nation is the first tribe from Washington state to join in on the hunt. Those tribal members drew tags in November and recently traveled to Yellowstone to exercise their right to hunt buffalo on public land for the first time.

Bureau of Land Management; https://www.flickr.com/photos/mypubliclands/22885798609

U.S. Representative Liz Cheney has proposed an amendment to the Wyoming Wilderness Act to allow recreation in three Wilderness Study Areas (WSAs) in northwest Wyoming. But critics say it will hurt a local effort to decide whether the areas should be wilderness or not.

Wyoming Game and Fish Department logo
Wyoming Game and Fish Department

On December 5, a man was caught with an illegally hunted wolf from the Gros Ventre range north of Jackson.

Passing hunters had seen the wolf move from an open hunting area to a closed one, then heard gunshots soon after. The group called in the tip to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department with a vehicle description. Warden Jon Stephens tracked down the offending sportsmen, whose name cannot yet be legally released by the department.

Bureau of Land Management; https://ar.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D9%85%D9%84%D9%81:Coal_mine_Wyoming.jpg

Wyoming voted for President Trump at a higher percentage than any other state, in part because the President promised a new era of energy dominance. After declining employment numbers in fossil fuel industries, increasing environmental regulations and coal company bankruptcies, many were ready to see a change. So, what has changed in the President’s first year?

Wyoming Outdoor Council

Researchers at the University of Washington are proposing better ways to study the link between health and exposure to the natural world.

A multi-disciplinary group of scientists analyzed existing research to come up with strategies to improve understanding of the subject. Pooja Tandon, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington and one of the authors of the study, said it is a good bet that being in nature has a positive impact.

Wyoming Outdoor Council

A 14-year veteran of the Wyoming Outdoor Council will take the reins in the coming year. Lisa McGee has worked on decade long projects for the conservation organization that have prevented fracking at the Hoback River and stopped oil and gas leasing within the Wyoming Range. She replaces Gary Wilmot who stepped down in September.

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

Wyoming U.S. Senator John Barrasso is advising the Department of Interior to focus on Wyoming as a prime example for sage grouse management. He wrote a letter to the department’s secretary, Ryan Zinke, writing that Wyoming is a leader in sage grouse management.

Wyoming Game and Fish Department logo
Wyoming Game and Fish Department

The Wyoming Game and Fish department wants to hear from the public about its strategic plan and vision for the next five to ten years. They are giving citizens a platform to be heard. The main question: what should the future of Wyoming wildlife look like?

Scott Talbott, the department’s director, said the Game and Fish conducted a similar public input survey in the late 1990’s, which was successful. 

The sign at the entrance to Yellowstone National Park
Wikimedia Commons: Guerillero

 

Researchers at the University of Montana have found that the proposed hike in entrance fees to Yellowstone National Park will harm the economy of local gateway communities and decrease the number of visitors.

 

The National Park Service announced it is raising entrance fees to 17 popular national parks, including Yellowstone National Park. Officials are suggesting increasing the seven day car pass from $30 to $70 during May through September, the park’s most popular months.

 

US Fish and Wildlife Service

Very few of the elk that winter every year on the National Elk Refuge outside Jackson are making their traditional long migration all the way to Yellowstone National Park for generations, and wildlife biologists are worried they’ll eventually forget the route altogether.

Cattle Drive Near Pinedale, WY
Theo Stein / USFWS

Conservation groups want a fresh take on management of a contagious disease occurring in the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem called brucellosis, which affects elk, bison and livestock. It can kill fetuses, decrease fertility and hurt milk production, and many consider it an economic threat, too.

Joe Giersch, USGS

Scientists at the University of Wyoming have discovered an insect thought to be extinct in the region in four streams in the Tetons.

The glacier stonefly was believed to only survive in streams in Glacier National Park and the Beartooth Absorka Range in Montana. UW Invertebrate Zoologist Lusha Tronstad said the discovery has put the decision-making process on hold over whether to list the species.

Kamila Kudelska

Mountain lions, wolves and grizzly bears are all thriving in Wyoming. But only a couple of decades ago, these large carnivores were not doing so well.

Wyoming Public Radio’s Kamila Kudelska sat down with Dan Thompson, the large carnivore manager at Wyoming Game and Fish Department, to learn about the collaboration between Game and Fish and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that has helped increase these animals’ numbers. Thompson said we need to learn to live with an ever-increasing population of mountain lions, wolves and grizzly bears.

Anna Rader

As part of our series, “I Respectfully Disagree,” Wyoming Public Radio’s Melodie Edwards journeyed into the heart of Wyoming’s coal country to the city of Gillette up in the northeast corner. Recently, it’s become an intensely divided community. In the last election, Wyoming went in greater percentage to Donald Trump than any other state, but Campbell County was one of the counties that supported Trump more than any other in Wyoming.

PacifiCorp Logo
PacifiCorps

PacifiCorp, the largest utilities company in the western U.S., will evaluate the cost of its coal resources. The Oregon Public Utility Commission requested the action after customers and advocacy groups demanded more information on whether the current coal plants made sense economically.

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