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The Northern Arapahoe Tribe and Wind River Casino have donated ten thousand dollars for the Center of Hope in Riverton.

The Center of Hope offers observation, a detox program, and up to 3 months of transitional living to people with substance abuse problems. Clients experience things like morning meditations, group therapy, and skills for coping with loss.

Center of Hope representative Shelley Mbonu says the money donated by the tribe and casino will go toward things like transporting people to treatment programs or getting assessments.

Wyoming Department of Transportation

At least twenty-seven people are being treated for injuries after three massive pile-ups on Interstate 80 between Laramie and Cheyenne Thursday morning.

The Wyoming Highway Patrol estimates 45 vehicles were involved in the crashes. Both directions of I-80 have been closed indefinitely while the crashes are investigated.

Six to ten inches of snow fell overnight in the area according to the National Weather Service and the Highway Patrol reports ongoing blizzard conditions.

Wyoming Department of Health

The Wyoming Department of Health is reporting its deadliest flu season in at least 15 years. Since the current flu season began in October, 26 people have died of flu in the state.

That’s out a total 5,000 cases of the illness, according to the Department.  Cases are still being reported, as the season typically ends in May.

Kim Deti says the Department only has records on flu seasons back to 2000.

University of Wyoming

University of Wyoming President Dick McGinity says he will step down when his contract expires next year, so that the UW Trustees can set its sights on a long term replacement.

“I just said to the board that I think it’s in the University’s interests and really a responsibility of the board to undertake a search for somebody who’s gonna pick up the ball and carry it for the next eight…ten years or so.”

The 71 year old McGinity says with some exciting science and engineering initiatives getting under way this is the perfect time for the University to find a new leader. 

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has donated $30 million to a Sierra Club campaign that aims to close half of the nation’s coal-fired power plants by 2017. There are currently just over 500 coal-fired power plants in the US, including 13 in Wyoming. Those supply 90% of the state's power. 

Connie Wilbert is with the Sierra Club of Wyoming. She says while the campaign hopes to see some of state’s coal power shuttered, there are challenges in Wyoming.

Ryan Hagerty / USFWS

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife is asking people to weigh in on a proposal to designate Wyoming as a special area for the reintroduction of the endangered black-footed ferret.

Fish and Wildlife would work with the Wyoming Department of Game and Fish to release the endangered predator onto the property of landowners who volunteer.

Fish and Wildlife representative Ryan Moehring says that landowners will likely be eager, since the black-footed ferret’s sole diet is prairie dogs.

The University of Wyoming’s annual Shepard Symposium on Social Justice began Wednesday night. The four-day event was named for Matthew Shepard and the activism of his surviving family members. It features panels and presentations focusing on race, sexual orientation, gender, disability, and social justice issues.

Wyoming Highway Patrol Association

A report of a stolen vehicle led the Wyoming Highway Patrol to make a drug bust Tuesday in Casper.

The Highway Patrol says Hertz Rental Company contacted them about a stolen vehicle in the Casper area at nine Tuesday morning.   The Patrol located the vehicle at a Pawn shop in Casper. 

Lieutenant Kleif Guenther with the Highway Patrol says two individuals, Jason Latoskie and Sherry Mehring were arrested and charged with drug possession.

Wyoming Game and Fish

State wildlife officials suspect intentional poisoning after a raccoon, a skunk, a coyote, and three domestic dogs died near the Timber Creek Ranger Station west of Meeteetse last week.

Alan Osterland is the wildlife supervisor at Cody’s regional Game and Fish office. He says there are several signs that point to intentional poisoning

The Laramie City Council gave initial approval to a proposed ordinance that would add employment and housing protections for gay and lesbian residents.

 

This comes after a heavily backed and well funded statewide LGBT anti-discrimination bill died in the state legislature this year.

 

Wyoming has half the snowpack it did at this time that year. That’s according to a report from the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

The state had an average 135% snowpack level in March of 2014, but this March had only a 70% average. The Sweetwater and Belle Fourche saw its lowest levels of snowpack since record-keeping began.  

Daryl Lee Hackleman  is the Water Supply Specialist with the Service’s Wyoming office. He says while the year started out strong, snow just didn’t come.

Willow Belden

The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality will replace a mobile air quality monitoring station in Converse County with a permanent one this month. 

The mobile monitor was installed a couple of years ago after heavy oil and gas development occurred in the area, and residents voiced concerns about emissions. Not every county in Wyoming has a monitor. The DEQ uses mobile monitors to check places that don’t have expensive permanent ones, and evaluate whether they need a permanent monitor.

David Koch

Wyoming’s snowpack is disappearing more than two weeks earlier than it used to. That’s according to NASA, which just wrapped up a study looking at the years 1972 through 2013. The study focused on the Wind River Range and concluded that snowpack is melting 16 days earlier than it did through the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s.

Dorothy Hall is a senior scientist with the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and was one of the authors of the study. She says less snowpack can put a strain on resources in the West.  

The Wyoming Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union is closing permanently, making Wyoming the only state in the nation without an ACLU office.

The ACLU chapter in Wyoming is one of only a few across the country funded entirely by the national organization. It issued a statement saying the organization was cutting seven percent of its total budget, and the closure of the Wyoming office was a result of that “financial realignment”

Senate Energy GOP

U.S. Senator John Barrasso will be chairing a congressional hearing on the Wind River Reservation at the end of March that will bring tribal officials and law enforcement together to testify on drugs use on the reservation and different methods to curb use.

The Wind River Reservation was one of four reservations chosen for a law enforcement surge pilot program in 2010 and 2012 to combat substance abuse and violent crime. Barrasso says the hearing was called to find out if it was the surge or some other factors that helped curb crime.

Flickr user slodocents archive

A Canada goose found near Cheyenne has bird flu.

The strain of the disease is H5N2 and is highly contagious among birds. But so far this version of avian influenza has only been found in the one bird in Wyoming.

State veterinarian Jim Logan says that the disease has never affected humans…but it can be very harmful to domestic poultry. He says up to ninety percent of domestic birds with the disease could die. Logan recommends that people who own domestic fowl, like chickens or falcons, should keep them away from wild waterfowl.

Smith’s Food and Drug Store in Jackson honored firefighters who helped save the store from a propane fire last November.

Jackson Hole Fire put out the blaze which started inside at propane store and was spreading towards an eleven-thousand gallon propane tanker.

More than fifty firefighters were on the scene. Smith’s Grocery Store is donating $5,000 of gift-cards to the Department and  hosted a dinner Thursday.

Kathy Clay is the Jackson Hole Fire Marshall and says the Grocery Store wasn’t the only business in harm’s way.

Wyoming’s first comprehensive plan to tackle homelessness was released on Thursday.

Titled “A Home for Everyone,” the fifty-six page document lays out a strategy for how Wyoming will tackle homelessness over the next ten years.

This year, state officials counted 757 homeless people in Wyoming. Few were counted in the western half of the state, where according to the plan, there are no homeless services outside of Jackson.

The number of people in Wyoming who have purchased health insurance through the federal health insurance marketplace has nearly doubled since last year. More than 21,000 consumers signed up for plans in 2015 as part of the Affordable Care Act. Last year, nearly 12,000 people signed up for a plan.

Monica Jennings is a Marketplace Navigator with Enroll Wyoming. She says despite many Wyomingites enrolling, there are still many in the state without health coverage who would have benefited from Medicaid expansion.

Jordan Giese

The Casper Housing Authority is wrapping up the first year of its Housing First Program. It was designed to give the chronically homeless places to live before tackling other issues like addiction and illness.

The program was started last March with 10 homes and 14 participants. Four of them have dropped out of the program, but nine people now have permanent housing and one has completely graduated from the program, and has moved into housing without assistance from the state.

http://www.antelopebuttefoundation.org

Residents in the Big Horn Mountains are looking to breathe new life into an old ski area.

The Antelope Butte Ski Area was a small community ski hill that opened in the 1960s and closed in 2004. In 2010 local residents banded together in an effort to revive the hill and created the Antelope Butte Foundation - a nonprofit group.

This year the Forest Service completed an appraisal of the area, and new employees were brought on board to help fundraise over 4 million dollars to reopen it.

Associated Press

The Wyoming Cowboys will face Northern Iowa in the NCAA men's basketball tournament on Friday in Seattle. The Pokes received an automatic berth after winning the Mountain West Conference Tournament over the weekend. It’s Wyoming’s first appearance in the tournament since 2002.

It’s been a tough few years for the Cowboys who’ve had to overcome a series of incidents including injuries and illness. Head Coach Larry Shyatt said those incidents have made the team mentally tough.

The Jackson elk herd is not wintering in locations that the Wyoming Game and Fish Department say can support such high numbers. While the overall population of 11,000 is healthy, several locations have more elk than they can support.

The National Elk Refuge and the Snake River Corridor areas are both bursting at the seams with elk this winter. Game and Fish Spokesman Mark Gocke says two issues are to blame animals are migrating down from better range to the north and they have unusually high birth rates this year. He says hunting could help the problem.

Well known Casper businessman and philanthropist Mick McMurry died early Tuesday morning at home. He was 69.

Caroline Ballard

Wyoming Governor Matt Mead, politicians, and energy industry reps gathered at the University of Wyoming Monday to break ground on a state-of-the-art building .

The $53.5 million dollar High-Bay Research Facility was funded mostly by the state government, but over $16 million of that came from energy companies. UW President Dick McGinity says their financial support points to a key partnership between industry, government, and higher education.

A bill headed to the Governor's desk allows the Wyoming Infrastructure Authority to issue up to one billion dollars in bonds to support construction of out-of-state coal ports.  Senator Michael Von Flatern says the bill allows the Authority to borrow money from investors for the bond, which can then be lent to projects elsewhere.

“A great morale booster by the way, so if the state’s showing that it’s willing to put up bonding ability, or allow an authority to have bonding ability it may make a project look more viable than if we weren’t gonna put any skin in the game.”

Rebecca Martinez

The student population at the University of Wyoming has grown slightly over the past year. UW reports that 162 more students attend the University than did last spring.

The College of Engineering and Applied Science has seen most of the recent growth. Its student population is up 9% or about 150 students from last year.

New Engineering Dean Michael Pishko says despite the downturn in the oil industry, companies are still looking to hire new engineers.

University of Wyoming

Five new members will be joining the University of Wyoming’s Board of Trustees. They will take over for members whose terms have expired and the late Warren Lauer who died last year.

Mel Baldwin, John McKinley, Dick Scarlett, Michelle Sullivan and Mike Massie were appointed by the governor and approved by the senate. All will serve until 2021 except for Massie, who is serving Lauer’s term until 2017. The Next Board of Trustees meeting will be at the end of this month.

University President Dick McGinity says the new members will be key in moving the Board forward.

Judge Nancy Freudenthal has ruled on a federal court case concerning a controversial wild horse round-up that took place last year in southwestern Wyoming.

Freudenthal said that the BLM violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in the roundup, which means there was not sufficient study of the potential environmental impacts of the roundup.

Opening arguments were heard Monday in the case.

Star Valley Chamber of Commerce

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will break ground on its first Wyoming temple this April. The new Star Valley Mormon Temple will be built just south of Afton near the Idaho border.

Unlike other church buildings, temples perform special services for members of the Mormon faith, like marriage and baptism ceremonies.

Jerry Hansen is an LDS spokesman for the Afton area. He says the temple is highly anticipated by local members.

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