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The Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Days of Dialogue takes place this week at the University of Wyoming. The week-long event features a march, a movie panel, and numerous presentations and discussions.

Organizer Ryan McGarry says this year, there has been a change in who is driving the conversations. "One of the things I am most proud of is the extent to which student voices being showcased but also given space to drive the conversation, and I think it’s a fantastic week of programming because of the level of student involvement," she says.

A group of Republican legislators is sponsoring a bill that would give the final say on a state run refugee resettlement program to the legislature. Wyoming is the only state without a refugee resettlement program and the governor is looking into changing that. 

Republican Senator Ogden Driskill says the bill would put more steps in place to create such a program, and would stop Wyoming Governor Matt Mead from implementing anything on his own. 

The Wyoming Athletics program is fondly remembering three time All American and former national player of the year Kenny Sailors who died in his sleep Saturday at the age of 95. 

Stephanie Joyce

Wyoming regulators have asked for more time to respond to the federal government's concerns about potential lapses in state oversight of coal mine reclamation.

The Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement sent two ten-day notices to the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality on January 21st. The agency believes that two bankrupt coal companies, with hundreds of millions of dollars in outstanding clean up costs, could be in violation of federal mining regulations.  

Thanks to dropping energy prices, Wyoming’s sales tax collections are down 75 million dollars compared to the same time last year. 

The State Economic Analysis Division says after the first six months of the fiscal year, sales and use tax collections have declined by 17 percent compared to the same time period last year. Economist Jim Robinson says it’s been awhile since Wyoming has seen such a downturn.

You know you probably have to go back to the recession of 2008 to see numbers we are looking at right now I think.”

Wyoming’s annual attempt to tally the state’s homeless population took place on Wednesday.

Known as the “Point-in-Time Count,” it's a 24-hour effort to count everyone who is homeless. The count is mandated by the federal department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which uses the data to track the country’s homeless population, and divvy up funds for homeless services. Last year, Wyoming counted 798 people as homeless.

Wyoming Association of Churches

The Wyoming Association of Churches shines a light on racism and diversity in Wyoming in a workshop. “Doing Justice in a Red State” will address recent instances of racism in Wyoming, proposed hate crime legislation, and how churches can become involved in social justice issues.

Chesie Lee, the executive director of the Wyoming Association of Churches, says one of the biggest challenges in stomping out racism in the state is the lack of discussion about the topic.

University of Wyoming

Two University of Wyoming archeologists are co-authors on a new paper in the scientific journal PNAS that challenges the traditional understanding of human population growth.

Human population has soared in the last 200 years or so because of the industrial revolution and advances in medicine. Before that, it was thought that the first significant change in human population growth happened around 12,000 years ago, because of the agricultural revolution.

The latest report from Wyoming’s Consensus Revenue Estimating Group says low oil prices and other factors have increased Wyoming’s current revenue shortfall by 32 million dollars and the shortfall for the next budget cycle by another 46 million. 

nps.gov

An interagency Board of Review released a report of last summer’s fatal grizzly attack in Yellowstone National Park.

Several organizations, including representatives from the national parks, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, and the U.S.G.S. Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team, compiled a report on the death of Lance Crosby. Crosby was hiking alone, off trail, and without bear spray when he was attacked and killed by an adult female grizzly bear in Yellowstone last August.

Bob Beck

The Wyoming Department of Transportation says several two-lane rural highways will see their speed limits increased to 70 miles an hour. 

The three highway sections that have been approved for the higher speed limit are US 85 from I-25 near Cheyenne to Newcastle, Wyoming 120 from Cody to the Montana border, and Wyoming 130 from I-80 to Saratoga. 

The legislature allowed for some two-lane rural highways to have their speeds increased, if WYDOT determined that the increase would be safe for motorists.

Bob Beck

The  Wyoming legislature's management council agrees that more work is needed to reform Title 25 in the state. That deals with people involuntarily detained in a mental health crisis. 

A select committee of legislators recently drafted a bill that gives courts the ability to force people to undergo outpatient treatment, but Wyoming Department of Health Director Tom Forlslund said he and the committee are trying to come up with other reforms as well.

The Wyoming Office of Tourism

The Wyoming Office of Tourism is trying out a new strategy to bring visitors to the cowboy state in 2016. In addition to spot marketing in places like Colorado, Chicago, and Portland the office is launching a nationwide marketing campaign that will feature TV and digital advertisements.

Diane Shober, the executive director at the state’s office of tourism, says the national marketing campaign will launch around the end of February, but it won’t be the only way the office is trying to get the word out about visiting Wyoming.

sdstate.edu

The incoming President of the University of Wyoming said she is busy setting the stage for a fast start when she begins her new job late this spring. 

Laurie Nichols has been working on hiring a new Provost and looking at the best ways to review degree programs on campus. 

National Elk Refuge

A partnership between the National Elk Refuge and the Teton Raptor Center will bring new programming to the refuge starting next month.
“Feathered Fridays” at the refuge’s visitor center will feature live appearances by birds from the Teton Raptor Center, such as hawks, eagles, and owls, and will allow guests to see raptors up close. Lori Iverson with the National Elk Refuge says bringing the two organizations together was a no-brainer.

Wyoming Cowboy ChalleNGe Academy / Facebook

A program that helps at-risk teens could get its state funding extended. The Joint Transportation, Highways, and Military Affairs Committee has drafted a bill that will extend state financial support for the Wyoming Cowboy ChalleNGe Academy.

The academy is part of a National Guard initiative that recruits at-risk teens who have either dropped out of school or are thinking of dropping out of school. At the Cowboy ChalleNGe Academy in Guernsey, about 250 cadets attend the military-style program and earn a high-school equivalency certificate each year.

Miles Bryan

  

  

Bret Colvin says founded the “Stop Islam in Gillette” Facebook group for one reason.

 

“I don’t want Jihadis in my neighborhood.”

 

Colvin is a Catholic, and an ex-Marine. His wife passed away last year, and last month he lost his job as an oil field mechanic. Now he runs a home electronics repair business out of the small Gillette house he shares with a roommate, and a few pet turtles.

 

Flickr user USACE Europe District / Flickr - Creative Commons

Flu activity has yet to pick up in Wyoming this season. The Centers for Disease Control ranks Wyoming’s current level of flu as “sporadic,” similar to the rest of the country. 

Kim Deti with the Wyoming Department of Health says, with 29 flu-related deaths, last year’s flu season was one of the most severe on record. Deti says the best thing you can do to protect yourself is get a flu vaccine.

U.S. National Park Service

Yellowstone National Park is now open for winter tourism. Park guests can purchase guided tours for cross-country skiing, snow-shoeing and snowmobiling. This is also the second year the park will let snowmobilers get permits to enter the park without commercial guides.

Amy Bartlett with Yellowstone National Park says guests visiting the park in the winter time should be prepared.

sdstate.edu

University of Wyoming trustees have chosen South Dakota State University administrator Laurie Nichols to be the next president of UW. She is the first woman to hold the post. 

Wikimedia Commons

The avalanche risk warning for Northwest Wyoming is “Considerable,” right now, or a 3 on a 5 point scale.

Bob Comey  is the director at the Bridger-Teton National Forest Avalanche Center. He says this risk level is associated with the most avalanche deaths, because more people are still willing to take the chance on venturing into the back country, as opposed to when the risk level is “High” or “Extreme”.

Comey cautions skiers, snowboarders, snowmobilers, and snowshoers to check avalanche conditions before heading out, and be more conservative when assessing risks.  

eraprorodeo.com

Next fall, Sheridan will be one of eight cities to host the first-ever Elite Rodeo Athletes nationwide tour, which will televised as part of a multi-million dollar deal with Fox Sports. Sheridan is the only Wyoming city on the schedule.

“This event, especially once it develops a following on television, will draw in an audience way larger than just the Sheridan community,” says Sheridan WYO Rodeo board president Nick Siddle.

He says this kind of exposure not only means a wider audience for rodeo, but a boost to the Sheridan economy as well.

Following the terror attacks in Paris last month, Wyoming Governor Matt Mead joined several other governors in saying that he does not think the state should accept any Syrian refugees until more security checks can be promised by the federal government.

Currently, Wyoming has no refugee resettlement program, and Mead admits that puts the state at a disadvantage.

A new federal transportation bill working its way through congress should provide more money to Wyoming. Interim Wyoming Department of Transportation Director Bill Panos says in highway funding alone the bill provides the state with an increase of 24 million dollars.

“That’s a boon for Wyoming and will help us improve the highway system in our state, preserve what we have invested in over the last few years and make our highways safer.” 

It will also provide the state with additional funding for a variety of other projects said Panos.

Members of a group trying to legalize medical marijuana in Wyoming have set up a political action committee and will buy advertising in an effort to get enough signatures to place the issue on the ballot. 

The former director of the National Organization for the Reform of Medical Marijuana stepped down last week and spokeswoman Amber Sparks said the group is trying to move forward. They need to collect about 20 thousand signatures of registered voters by February, but Sparks says she remains optimistic. But they do need to overcome negative attitudes about marijuana.

Miles Bryan

  

A Wyoming legislative committee recommended approval of a major reform to the state’s system for dealing with people involuntarily detained in a mental health crisis Monday night.

The system is known as “Title 25.” The bill approved by the committee  would give courts the ability to order people to undergo outpatient treatment; right now they can usually only order forced hospitalization, or let the patient go.

Wikipedia Commons

The holiday shopping season is off to an official start in Wyoming, with Black Friday sales now taking place almost the entire weekend.

The deals started Thursday night, with big stores like Target and Walmart opening their doors at 6 pm on Thanksgiving. Wyoming shoppers were ready. Jake Pappas works for the Target in Cheyenne. He says it took about 20 minutes to get everyone who was in line inside, and that was just the beginning.

James Rumminger

Winter weather conditions with snow and strong winds will make Thanksgiving travel difficult.  Most of the snow will fall in central Wyoming, Fremont County could see around 8 inches. 

But Riverton based National Weather Service Meteorologist Paul Skrbac says snow statewide will make driving a challenge.           

Wyoming’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate remains at four percent, but those numbers are being questioned.  

David Bullard is a Senior Economist with the Department of Workforce Services research and planning division. While the latest numbers should that unemployment has increase in energy counties, he says seeing that the overall unemployment rate remains steady is surprising, especially when you consider other economic indicators. 

Wyoming Humanities Council

Last week, Wyoming Governor Matt Mead joined other governors in calling on the U.S. to halt the flow of Syrian refugees to the country. Currently, Wyoming accepts no refugees at all, as it’s the only state without a refugee resettlement program. But that won’t stop the Wyoming Humanities Council from going forward with a campaign to hold discussions about refugee resettlement and what it could mean for Wyoming.

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