Natural Resources & Energy

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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.

Charles Preston

Grizzly bears may be taken off the endangered species list soon. And, a Wyoming Game and Fish supervisor said the state will make plans for grizzly hunts. Yellowstone’s superintendent said he wants Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho to consider the impact on park visitors who come to see grizzly bears. A Sierra Club representative said it is too soon to remove federal protections.

EQC Hearing at the Game and Fish Department in Cheyenne
Cooper McKim

A hearing that will decide the fate of Wyoming’s first potential new coal mine in decades has come to an end. Ramaco’s Brook Mine would be built in Sheridan in the Tongue River Valley.

The Environmental Quality Council, or EQC, heard seven days of testimony from landowners, geologists, and regulators. A central question during the hearing was how the mine would affect water sources in the area. There was a coal mine in the area several decades ago that caused many wells to be drawn down.

NPS - JACOB W. FRANK

Bicyclists will soon be able to use an 180-mile rails-to-trails through the Greater Yellowstone area, thanks in part to a $20,000 grant from the Doppelt Family Development Fund. Wyoming Pathways applied for the funding and Tim Young is the group’s executive director. He said the Greater Yellowstone Trail will be a mix of gravel and paved surfaces and will take riders on a scenic route over Teton Pass.

The Jackson town council has voted unanimously to join other cities and states around the country to commit to the Paris Climate accord, an agreement among 196 of the world’s nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. President Trump recently pulled the U.S. out of that agreement, saying it wasn’t a good deal for the country.

Arturo de Frias Marques / WITH USE UNDER CC BY-SA 4.0

The U.S. Geological Survey and the University of Wyoming have published a new study showing that polar bears are having to expend more energy to keep up with faster drifting sea ice.

The study, titled "Increased Arctic sea ice drift alters polar bear movements and energetics," came out in the June 5 issue of Global Change Biology.

Elk
Wikimedia Commons

Four conservation groups filed a lawsuit to challenge a Jackson Elk feeding ground. The area is at Alkali Creek in the Bridger-Teton National Forest.

The Wyoming Game and Fish manages feeding grounds as a strategy to bait and concentrate animals for an extended period of time. The goal is to protect the vulnerable animals from harsh conditions and predators.  

The U.S. Forest Service permitted this particular feeding ground for the Jackson Elk. But Sierra Club’s Lloyd Dorsey said these feeding grounds aren’t protection at all. 

U.S. Department of State

President Trump has decided to leave the 2015 Paris climate agreement and many advocates in the coal industry say the move will be beneficial for Wyoming.

Coal production has been in decline for close to a decade and Wyoming’s congressional delegation says that leaving the climate agreement could help turn that around. Economists, though, often blame natural gas and renewable energy as reasons for coal's decline - not regulation.

Governor Matt Mead said Wyoming will need more than this for the coal industry to rebound. 

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.

Willow Belden

Last year, a mysterious collection of stuffed birds was found at the Laramie high school. It was a discovery that was perplexing at the time, but that would end up being a goldmine for scientists at the University of Wyoming.

It all started last summer, when a biology teacher was packing up her classroom to move to a new building. In the process, she came across some boxes of stuffed birds.

Nobody at the school knew anything about them, and none of the teachers wanted them. So they offered them to the University of Wyoming.

Wyoming Beef Council

Three Japanese food editors visited Wyoming last week to learn more about how beef is raised and cooked in the U.S. The tour was part of a partnership between the Wyoming Beef Council and the U.S. Meat Export Federation. 

Wyoming Beef Council director Ann Wittmann said the U.S. shipped 425 million pounds of beef to Japan alone in 2016. That brought in over $1 billion for U.S. beef producers. Wittmann said Japanese markets also prefer cuts that U.S. consumers don’t have a taste for.

University of Wyoming

A University of Wyoming astronomy professor is part of an international team of over 1000 scientists working to develop a telescope with an image up to 20 times sharper than the Hubble Space Telescope.

Michael Pierce specializes in understanding the evolution of galaxies. He said the 30-meter telescope, as it’s called, will help do that.

United States Department of the Interior

The Department of Interior is facing budget cuts of $1.6 billion. A summary of the proposed budget shows reductions in wildlife management while boosting funds for oil and gas development. Conservationists say this will have an effect here in Wyoming.

The proposed budget would reduce funding for endangered species, fisheries and wildlife management including almost $30 million less for sage grouse protection. It would also increase funds for programs ensuring oil and gas management while reducing permitting fees.

Photo Doug Smith via nps.gov/yell

A national tribal conservation group is proposing that Wyoming create a 31-mile “sacred resources protection zone” around Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks where wolves can’t be hunted.

The group, Protect the Wolves, has reached out to the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho in Wyoming for support. Both tribes told Wyoming Public Radio that they are still evaluating the proposal.

U.S. FOREST SERVICE-BRIDGER-TETON NATIONAL FOREST FACEBOOK PAGE

With wildfire season just around the corner, Wyoming is predicted to have a slightly below average or up to an average year. 

Bill Crapser is the state forester for Wyoming and he said moisture from the unusually high snow pack in the western half could stave off the flames, but the wet spring will also mean high grass and a lot of fine fuels.

The Black Hills in the northeastern corner is a lot drier, and Crapser said they could see a lot of flare ups in July and August since significant lightning activity is predicted for that area.

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.

Cooper Mckim

It’s a sunny day outside Midwest School in northeast Natrona County as mud-swept trucks pull into a gas station across the street. Sue Green serves food inside the Big D convenience store. She’s the mother of three students from the school.

She said, “The one just turned about 15, the other one about ready to turn 12 and the other’s one 5 and a half.”

Tom Koerner/USFWS

Researchers studying mule deer in the Wyoming Range in western Wyoming say that all the fawns they radio-collared last year died in this year's harsh winter and that 40 percent of the female does also perished. University of Wyoming wildlife biologist Kevin Montieth said usually only 15 percent of does die in winterkills. 

University of Wyoming Department of Physics and Astronomy

With the Great American Solar Eclipse coming up in less than three months, Wyomingites should find a good viewing site now. The population of the state is expected to double in size, but according to University of Wyoming astronomy professor Mike Pierce, they'll all be crowding into what's called the umbra, the 50-mile shadow of the moon that will make a stripe from Jackson to Torrington.

Cooper McKim / Wyoming Public Radio

A Natrona County school that closed last year due to a gas leak is nearly ready to re-open. A new ventilation system has been installed and one round of air sampling tests shows encouraging results.

Staff and students at the Midwest School noticed a gas-like odor at the end of the school year in 2016. It turned out an inactive natural gas well was releasing dangerous contaminants inside the building. 

Rocky Mountains, Wind River Range
Provided by Wikipedia

A flood watch is active in the north central part of Wyoming. Recent warm weather combined with a spring snow storm is speeding up the already high levels of runoff in the state’s mountains.  

Streams in the eastern and central part of the state are also beginning to run high: in the Shoshone, Big Horn, Wind, and Powder River Basins.  

In the Wind River Mountains, snow pack is 237-percent higher than usual according to the emergency management agency in Fremont County. 

©The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc./Artists Rights Society (ARS) New York/Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York.

The National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson Hole is 30 years old this month. The museum is celebrating the occasion by curating two new exhibits from its permanent collection, both with a sharp eye towards conservation. 

Since its arrival in 1987, the museum has moved to a new location and grown its permanent collection to include pieces by Picasso, Georgia O’Keefe, and Andy Warhol, and one of the exhibits opening for the anniversary is Warhol’s Endangered Wildlife portfolio. 

Julie Meachen

Over a thousand fossils collected from the bottom of the 82-foot-deep Natural Trap Cave in northern Wyoming will soon be stored at the University of Wyoming. The collection will likely triple the size of the university’s Pleistocene collection.

Julie Meachen is one of the lead scientists on the project and has spent her last two summers excavating the cave. She said 20,000 years ago, a huge diversity of animals fell into the cavern and were trapped. She says that has allowed scientists a unique opportunity to document the many species of that era.

Oil prices have shot up in the U.S. after Russia and Saudi Arabia announced they would continue limiting supply of petroleum to the global market. They’re the two largest oil exporting nations.

Higher oil prices should increase production temporarily in Wyoming. Right now, production in the state is down 14% compared to last year. 

Tom Koerner/USFWS

In the last legislative session, lawmakers tasked the Wyoming Game and Fish Department with setting up guidelines for how private game bird farms can raise sage grouse. Under the rules, such farms could collect 250 sage grouse eggs to raise and release into the wild. The Sage Grouse Implementation Team appointed by Governor Matt Mead is reviewing those rules over the next couple of weeks. 

pixabay.com, CC0 Public Domain

Wildlife in the far western portion of Wyoming did not fare so well this winter. The harsh weather was especially hard on deer.  

Doug Brimeyer with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department said the combination of heavy snow accumulation and extreme temperatures took a toll on deer and antelope in the western outreaches of the state. Those conditions ultimately kept animals from accessing good forage, and as a result, Brimeyer said, wildlife quickly used up their fat reserves.

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.

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