Natural Resources & Energy

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Melodie Edwards

A bill drafted for the legislature that proposed to revise Wyoming's constitution to allow the state to take over management of federal lands, has died. The idea was intensely controversial and today Senator Eli Bebout withdrew the legislation. 

Droves of hunters, anglers and hikers turned out for anti-land transfer rallies in recent months wearing stickers that read, “Keep It Public, Wyoming!” 

https://pixabay.com/en/chemistry-chemical-flask-glass-155121/

After accepting a $15 million dollar loan from the State of Wyoming, Standard Alcohol Inc. is continuing plans for a new facility at Swan Ranch, outside of Cheyenne. The loan is set to be paid back in twenty years, while the rest of the funding for the $76 million dollar plant will come from private investments.

The company will use natural gas, coal, and CO2 to create a gasoline additive that company vice president Robert Johns says is high value.

Wyoming State Parks, Historic Sites and Trails

The tight economic times have prompted many Wyoming agencies to look at where they can raise more money and Wyoming State Parks is no different.

The legislature’s Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources Committee is proposing to give the parks program more flexibility to set daily pass and campground fees as they see fit, rather than keeping a cap on fees as it is currently.

Jackson Representative Mike Gierau sits on the committee and says Wyoming State Park Fees are cheaper than other states. 

The Wyoming House of Representatives passed a bill Monday that clarifies the scope of Wyoming’s relationship with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in hopes of speeding up the process of approving in situ uranium mining projects.

House Floor Leader David Miller said Wyoming has a long history of uranium mining and much of the current technology used to extract it was developed in the state.

Grizzly bear on Swan Lake Flats, Yellowstone National Park; Jim Peaco

A delisting of the Yellowstone grizzly bear was expected by the first of the year but has been pushed back at least six months after a public comment period brought in thousands of letters of opposition. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Assistant Regional Director Michael Thabault says over 650,000 comments poured in, and it's going to take them longer than expected to respond. 

Wyoming has seen a higher rig count and more coal production in the last few months, but that doesn’t change much for its financial picture, according to the latest Consensus Revenue Estimating Group or CREG report. It shows that the general fund was up by $900,000 but that isn’t nearly enough to fill the gaping $156 million hole in the two year $3 billion budget.

CREG Co-Chairman Don Richards said while there are signs of a rebounding economy, the numbers still aren’t great.

Coal State Considers Carbon Future Under Trump

Jan 13, 2017
Amy Sisk/Inside Energy

The coal industry is breathing a sigh of relief with Donald Trump about to enter the White House.

He campaigned on an energy platform that would strip away Obama administration regulations on the fossil fuel industry. Chief among them: the Clean Power Plan.

OKINAWA INSTITUTE OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

In the University of Wyoming Department of Zoology and Physiology several researchers have been using birds as a means to figure out how to help people communicate better.

Associate Professor Jonathan Prather and graduate students Koedi Lawley, Jeff Dunning, and Karagh Murphy are researching the connection between listening, understanding, and speaking in the brain. Their hope is to gain some insight into human behavior, since birds learn to sing songs the same way people learn to speak – by imitation.

Bureau of Land Management

On Monday night, about 20 legislators met with the Wyoming Wildlife Federation to discuss an alternative to a proposed public land transfer bill. The amendment is scheduled for introduction at the legislature and would allow the state to take over federal land management from agencies like the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management.

Wallpaperslot.com

Last week, both Wyoming’s U.S. Congressman Liz Cheney and the new pick for Interior Secretary, Montana Representative Ryan Zinke, both voted yes on a bill that would make it easier for congress to hand over federal lands to states. The amendment strips public lands of their value by allowing Congress to ignore the potential revenue those lands might get from timber, grazing, mining or drilling.

Photo courtesy of National Archives and Records Administration

It could be a good year for moisture in Wyoming, according to this week’s snow report from the Natural Resource Conservation Service.  

The NRCS has data stations scattered across the state that measure the amount of water in snowpack, and use that to predict how much water will be available in the spring and summer. These measurements are important in a region where most of the water supply comes from snowfall.

National Digital Library of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service

In December, the Northern Arapaho tribe sent a letter to a grizzly bear management subcommittee they sit on, casting their vote against a management plan that would be implemented if the bear is removed from the endangered species list.

By Joe Ravi, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16542775

Prairie dogs can be a source of frustration to livestock producers in Wyoming because they compete with cattle for food. But new research from the University of Wyoming shows that the animals may also improve the quality of grass that is available.

pixabay

An earlier version of this story implied hunting regulations for coyotes are determined by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. This version has been changed to reflect the fact that coyotes are classified as a predatory animal by state law. Therefore, they are managed by the Department of Agriculture. 

The Bureau of Land Management said they will not shut down two upcoming coyote hunting contests in the Rock Springs area. Various conservation groups had asked the agency to halt the hunts, calling them inhumane and dangerous.

Wikimedia Commons

Ski resorts in Wyoming’s western mountains are seeing historic snow depths because of heavy snowfall that first began in early December.

Jackson Hole Mountain Resort spokeswoman Anna Cole said the resort is now 100 percent open after a delayed season because there wasn’t enough snow early on. But Cole said the resort has made up for that delay.

Wyoming has become a flash point in the debate over whether hundreds of millions of acres of federal public lands should be turned over to state hands.

From Buzz Hettick's place on the edge of the windswept college town of Laramie, it's a short drive into the heart of these remote lands, vast tracts run by the federal Bureau of Land Management.

On a recent, blustery morning, Hettick was scouting out an elk hunt in the Laramie range, a patchwork of private and public BLM land north of his home.

"A lot of wildlife uses public lands," he says.

Stephanie Joyce / Wyoming Public Radio

The Obama administration has released five options for making about 10 million acres of federal sagebrush habitat ineligible for new mining leases in the West in hopes of protecting the imperiled greater sage grouse.

Wikimedia Commons

An updated mitigation policy from the Bureau of Land Management will address inconsistent rules that once created problems for companies trying to operate in western states. Mitigation rules, or how companies are required to lessen or offset negative environmental effects they might cause on public land, will now be the same for all public land.

Eric Holst is the Associate Vice President at the Environmental Defense Fund. He said public land should be able to support both wildlife and energy development, and the new policy addresses the need to create such a balance.

Wikimedia Commons

The United States Department of Agriculture will invest $225 million dollars in conservation projects across the country, including two in northeastern Wyoming that will continue efforts in forest health and enhancing sage-grouse environments.

Northwest College Outdoor Program

This month, the Obama administration signed into law an act that will require the government to treat outdoor recreation like it does other industries such as health care or energy. The Recreation’s Economic Contribution Act will require agencies to collect data about outdoor manufacturing, services and nonprofits and include those figures as a factor in the Gross Domestic Product.

Mike Wood

A blizzard in the Beartooth Mountains outside Cody, trapped snow plow drivers and even the tow truck that came to pull them out. An amazing rescue saved one plow truck driver who spent all night in the cab of his plow. He survived deadly cold and wind.

In Cody on Monday morning, just as temperatures rose above freezing for the first time in four days, blinding blowing snow trapped a big backhoe in a drift, and it had to be pulled out with another rig.

Angus Thuermer / WyoFile

In this week’s issue of the online magazine WyoFile, reporter Angus Thuermer talks about his trek to the Dakota Access Pipeline protests. There he met and talked with Native American activists from Wyoming’s tribes. Melodie Edwards talked to him about what it was like to arrive at the camp in extremely harsh winter conditions.

Grizzly bear on Swan Lake Flats, Yellowstone National Park; Jim Peaco

Last week, the Northern Arapaho tribe issued a statement expressing frustration about being left out of a meeting on removing the grizzly bear from the Endangered Species List. The disagreement has left some people wondering if grizzly delisting could be the Dakota Access Pipeline of Wyoming in which local tribes assert themselves as sovereign nations.

 

Yufna Soldier Wolf is the director of the Northern Arapaho Tribal Historic Preservation Office, which might make you wonder, what's so historic about grizzly bears? 

Grand Teton National Park Foundation

At a bipartisan celebration today in Grand Teton National Park, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, serving the Obama administration, and Governor Matt Mead, a Republican, praised a deal to protect park land from commercial development.

Secretary Jewell praised the more than 5,000 private donors who contributed $23 million dollars in just eight months to allow the National Park Service to buy state land.

Melanie Arnett

 

 

Naysayers packed into a legislative meeting Wednesday to express disapproval of a proposed constitutional amendment that would provide guidance to the state in the event that federal lands are transferred to the state. The meeting was meant to clarify language in the amendment and no vote was actually cast.

 

Committee Chairman Tim Stubson said he's voted against such bills in the past, but this one is different.

 

Wikimedia Commons

President Elect Donald Trump has reportedly asked Montana U.S. Representative Ryan Zinke to be the nation’s next Interior Secretary. The Interior Secretary is tasked with the conservation and management of federal lands, national parks, and natural resources in the United States.

Zinke was an early supporter of Trump. As a member of congress, he has supported the Land and Water Conservation Fund and keeping public lands under federal control, but is also a proponent of logging and energy development on those lands.

Public Domain

The Obama Administration announced the approval of two major transmission lines, one that will travel 728 miles across southern Wyoming to Nevada, delivering 3,000 megawatts of energy, enough to power 1.8 million homes. A second 400-mile transmission line called Energy Gateway South has also been approved for Utah.

Some 60 new wind, solar and geothermal projects are slated for development around the West. Bureau of Land Management spokesman Brad Purdy said, the energy grid is in need of such modernization. 

Joshua Doubek / Wikimedia Commons

The Environmental Protection Agency has reversed a previous finding that fracking did not cause “widespread, systemic” harm to drinking water in the United States. In its final report on the issue, the EPA said under certain circumstances hydraulic fracturing poses a risk to drinking water resources.

But because of what the agency calls “data gaps,” it was unable to make a definitive statement on just how risky fracking is.

Associated Press

Former Texas Governor Rick Perry has reportedly been named to lead the Department of Energy under President Elect Donald Trump.  

Opponents express concern that Perry is a climate denier and has ties to the Dakota Access Pipeline. But supporters say Texas enhanced its energy portfolio by becoming the nation’s largest wind producer.

Petroleum Association of Wyoming President Bruce Hinchey says Perry will likely be a plus for states like Wyoming.

Rebecca Huntington / Wyoming Public Radio

The State of Wyoming has reached agreement with the U.S. Department of Interior over the sale of a 640 acre parcel of Wyoming school trust land located inside of Grand Teton National Park.

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