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Annaliese Wiederspahn

Annaliese Wiederspahn has 6025 articles published.

Nebraska Murder Suspect Killed In Cheyenne By Police On Saturday

in News/Crime
20366

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Nebraska murder suspect was killed by Cheyenne law enforcement officers on Saturday, the Cheyenne Police Department announced the same day.

Davin Darayle Saunders was reported to be in Cheyenne on Tuesday. Further investigation found that he was located at a house on East 11th Street in the city.

On Saturday, the Cheyenne Police Department’s SWAR team was notified to Saunders’ location and responded to the area to conduct surveillance. A warrant was issued for officers to enter the residence.

While on the scene, the team attempted to communicate with Saunders and asked him to leave the residence, but he refused.

Officers deployed gas in an attempt to lure Saunders out of the home, but he pulled out a firearm. Officers saw this and fired on him, killing him.

No further injuries were reported, according to CPD, and no further information was made available as of Saturday afternoon.

Saunders was wanted out of Scottsbluff, Nebraska for multiple homicide-related charges. He had a history of violence, and was considered armed and dangerous.

Saunders’ alleged victim was identified this week Karen Cooper, 63, of Scottsbluff, who died as a result of gunshot wounds early Tuesday evening in a Scottsbluff residential neighborhood.

Saunders fled in his vehicle, which was recovered in Cheyenne after he abandoned it.

Cheyenne police were alerted to Saunders’ presence earlier in the week after he was reported at a Walmart to have been involved in a domestic disturbance with a firearm.

The scene is still active and has been turned over to the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation for further review.

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Cheyenne Gas Station Suing Fed Ex For Driver Damaging Car Wash

in News
20203

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The owners of a Cheyenne gas station are suing Federal Express, alleging a delivery truck’s backup camera got caught in the brushes of a car wash, causing more than $170,000 in damages and forcing the car wash’s closure for more than one month.

Big D Oil Co., which is based in South Dakota, filed a lawsuit against FedEx in state district court in Cheyenne in late April over damages done to a car wash connected to a Big D service station in Cheyenne.

The case was moved to U.S. District Court on Thursday because the amount in dispute is more than $75,000 and the two parties are located in different states.

According to court documents, Fed Ex driver Penny Archibald drove her delivery vehicle through the Big D car wash on Dell Range Boulevard in August 2020.

The lawsuit said Archibald drove into the car wash despite the presence of warning signs that said her vehicle could not safely pass through the car wash.

The lawyers for Big D argued a sign on the car wash also said car wash operators were not responsible for damages to vehicles and warned drivers against going through the car wash if a vehicle had “body damage, loose chrome or non-standard accessories.”

Archibald’s vehicle had a back-up camera on the top of it, which the Big D lawyers argued is a non-standard accessory.

Her vehicle’s camera became entangled in the car wash’s brushes, which led to a collapse of components in the car wash and caused “severe” damage to the structure and equipment.

Archibald fled the scene after causing the damage, the lawsuit said, but returned later and admitted to causing the damage.

Due to the damage caused by Archibald, the car wash was inoperable from Aug. 6 to Sept. 22, 2020, the lawsuit said. The damages caused totaled more than $174,000.

Big D’s lawyers also claimed that by not having the car wash operational, the company lost additional sales, revenue and customer loyalty.

The lawsuit also argued that FedEx has not reimbursed Big D for the damages to the car wash, loss of revenue or the loss of ancillary sales, despite demands for it.

The oil company is asking for FedEx to not only repay the Big D for the damages and economic losses, but also for but attorney fees.

Fed Ex has denied the allegations in a subsequent court filing, saying the signs at the car wash did not make it clear that the FedEx vehicle could not pass safely through the car wash.

The company also denied it took any action that led directly to the damage.

“FedEx Express’s conduct was neither a material element, substantial factor, nor a cause of any of (Big D’s) alleged injuries or damages,” the filing said.

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Embattled Laramie County DA Does Not File; Former City Attorney Sylvia Hackl Enters Race

in elections/News
20219

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

In the final day for Wyoming’s primary election candidate filings, two challengers finally emerged for Laramie County district attorney. However, neither of the candidates is the incumbent.

Former Cheyenne City Attorney Sylvia Hackl and Thomas Callison, with Legal Aid of Wyoming, both filed with the Laramie County clerk’s office on Friday, just hours before the filing period closed, as candidates for the office now held by embattled District Attorney Leigh Anne Manlove.

Hackl told Cowboy State Daily on Friday that she decided to run because no one else had filed for the office and she felt it was important to have someone on the ballot.

“I personally think some other attorneys who might have been interested in running are waiting to see how the situation with the current DA would unfold,” she said. “But when we got to the afternoon of the last filing date, I thought we had to have someone on the ballot.”

Callison did not immediately respond to a Cowboy State Daily request for comment on Friday.

Hackl believes she has the skill set to guide the DA’s office back to a “fully-functioning, efficient” one that is able to work with all stakeholders in the community, including law enforcement, judges and crime victims.

Hackl said she has 22 years of experience in criminal law, along with trial experience gained during her years as a public defender and with the Wyoming Attorney General’s office.

Hackl said she was asked by former Gov. Jim Geringer to solve problems in the state public defender’s office, an experience she said shows she can take control of an office in chaos and get it reorganized and running efficiently.

The Wyoming Supreme Court is deciding whether to bar Manlove from the practice of law as recommended by the Board of Professional Responsibility, a group that oversees the behavior of the state’s lawyers.

The BPR has ruled that Manlove is not competently fulfilling the duties of her office. Among other things, she has been accused of exaggerating budget cuts on her office to justify dismissing hundreds of cases in Laramie County courts.

As a licensed attorney, Manlove could still run for the office. State law requires a person running for the office to have a license to practice law. However, there is no such requirement to hold the office.

Hackl said she wanted to maintain a distance between herself and the Manlove proceedings because she did not feel they should be a part of her campaign.

Establishing a strong, capable staff in the DA office is one of her top priorities, if elected, she said.

“It’s important to find out what the staff’s concerns are and move forward with them appropriately,” Hackl said. “Most of the people I have worked with would say I’m straightforward, open and I communicate well. If somebody wants to know where they stand, they will know in a very polite, professional way.”

However, she jokingly added that her daughter may not quite agree with that sentiment.

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Feds To Build Gigantic 416-Mile Transmission Line To Connect Wyo Wind Farms To Power Western States

in Energy/News
Getty Images
20192

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The federal government on Thursday approved plans by an Oregon-based company to build a 416-mile transmission line that would carry energy from wind farms across Wyoming and other Western states to a power grid in Utah.

PacifiCorp was notified this week that it could proceed with construction on its Gateway South transmission line, which will stretch from Medicine Bow to Mona, Utah, and will cross northwestern Colorado

Company spokeswoman Tiffany Erickson told Cowboy State Daily on Friday that 142 miles of the 416 mile line will be located in Wyoming.

“We started on this Energy Gateway project back in May 2007,” Erickson said. “We’ve had a number of setbacks, including the recession, the pandemic and other things in between. But now, this nod from the (U.S.) Bureau of Land Management was the last thing we needed to move forward, at least on this portion.”

Construction on the Gateway South line will begin June. The line is expected to produce around 2,000 megawatts of renewable energy. The Gateway South is just part of the larger Energy Gateway project.

The goal of the Energy Gateway project is to add approximately 2,000 miles of new transmission lines across the West and will ultimately cost around $2.2 billion. Three major segments of Energy Gateway are complete and in service, but more work continues to be done.

In August, construction will begin on Gateway West, another transmission line project that will also have a portion in Wyoming, 75 miles to be exact, according to Erickson. Gateway West will stretch from eastern Wyoming all the way to the Idaho/Oregon border.

Both Gateway South and Gateway West are expected to be completed by the end of 2024.

“Wyoming has some of the best wind in the country and that’s why Rocky Mountain Power has built wind farms in certain areas of the state,” Erickson said. “Wyoming has, for generations, played a major role in the nation’s energy future, so we’re happy to work with state and local leaders on this project.

“We want to take advantages of the energy opportunities in the state and ensure that Wyoming remains the nation’s leading energy producer and exporter,” she continued.

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No One Has Filed To Run For Laramie County District Attorney, Including The Current One

in elections/News
20166

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

With only one day left in Wyoming’s candidate filing period for the August primary election, not one person had filed to run for Laramie County District Attorney, including the incumbent.

According to Laramie County election filings, no one had filed to run for Laramie County DA as of Thursday afternoon. The filing period ends at 5 p.m. on Friday.

Laramie County Clerk Debra Lee told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday that if no one files to run for the position by the end of the filing period, then voters will have the option of writing in a candidate during the primary.

“So we look at the names and see if any of them have sufficient votes to bring them forward to the general election,” she said.

The current DA, Leigh Anne Manlove, has faced many issues during her one term in office. Earlier this year, she was found to have failed to competently perform the duties of her office by the Wyoming State Bar’s Board of Professional Responsibility, the group that oversees the behavior of attorneys.

The charges against Manlove, elected to office in 2018, included allegations she exaggerated the impact of budget cuts on her office to dismiss hundreds of cases from Laramie County courts.

The Board of Professional Responsibility recommended to the Wyoming Supreme Court that Manlove be barred from the practice of law The Supreme Court will make the final decision on the recommendation.

Manlove cannot be removed from her elected post.

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WYDOT To Politicians: Don’t Put Your Campaign Signs In Illegal Places

in News/Transportation
20156

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By Ellen Fike and Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

As the candidate filing period wraps up Friday for Wyoming’s primary election in August, the Wyoming Department of Transportation is reminding candidates to avoid placing their signs on highways, roads, and public rights-of-way.

Although it could be tempting to place a political sign on the median or the shoulder of Interstate 80 or some other busy roadway for maximum exposure, it’s not a good idea and, more importantly, it’s against the law, the department said.

Signs can pose a serious safety issue, not to mention creating ill will toward candidates who blatantly ignore the law in the pursuit of elected office.

But it’s not just campaigns that are the problem, WYDOT spokesman Doug McGee said. People who advertise for garage sales and real estate are guilty too.

Even declarations of love, no matter how sincere, cannot be placed on a sign and put in a public right-of-way.

“It’s a safety hazard, mainly,” McGee told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday. “The signs we put in the rights-of-way are for directional and informational purposes and are designed to be as safe as possible in the event of a crash, whether it falls forward or goes over it.”

The Lamont Incident

Jonathan Downing, a veteran of many Wyoming campaigns, recalled a scuffle between a candidate he was working for and the Wyoming Department of Transportation over a road sign back in 1994.

WYDOT had announced it was taking down a population sign for the town of Lamont, north of Rawlins, as it was no longer an incorporated community. 

A bed and breakfast owner who lived in the community of three said the road sign was a point of pride and passersby stopped to take a photo next to it and some ended up staying at her business.

Rob Wallace, a candidate for U.S. House in 1994, announced he was going to re-install the road sign as its removal was an example of government overreach.

Downing said Wallace was told if he re-installed the sign he would be arrested.

The campaign jumped on it.

“We thought it would be a great news story if Rob was arrested putting up a new road sign so we went ahead with the strategy,” Downing said.

He said ultimately the planned was foiled, however, as the old sign was never removed by WYDOT.

“I think Rob was relieved, in retrospect, that he wasn’t arrested,” Downing said. “We thought it would be hilarious but, then again, we weren’t the ones who would have been thrown into the hoosegow.”

The campaign ended up making commercials out of the incident anyway, Downing said, which were viewed positively by voters.

“The campaign ads were awesome,” he said. “I still have them on VHS along with some vintage episodes of Beverly Hills 90210.”

Back To The Future

McGee and fellow WYDOT spokeswoman Jordan Achs would not share the names of the biggest campaign culprits so far in 2022 when it came to placing election signs in appropriate places. But both agreed it is common to see signs in the wrong places all over the state during an election season.

If a sign is found to be in an inappropriate place, WYDOT workers will remove it and contact the person on the sign, telling them to come get their sign and take it somewhere else.

“We’re trying to work with them to get it in a better location where they can still show their support, just without it being in the right of way,” Achs said.

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Nebraska Murder Suspect On The Loose, Last Seen In Cheyenne

in News/Crime
20168

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By Ellen Fike and Jennifer Kocher, Cowboy State Daily

A Nebraska man sought in connection with a murder in Scottsbluff, Nebraska, was last spotted in the Cheyenne area this week, Cheyenne Police Department officials said Thursday.

Davin Darayle Saunders was last seen in Cheyenne at the Walmart on Livingston Avenue on Tuesday night, according the Cheyenne Police Department.

Cheyenne police officers were called to the Walmart to respond to a report of a domestic disturbance with a firearm.

During the investigation, officers found that the suspect, Saunders, was wanted in Scottsbluff on multiple homicide-related charges.

Saunders fled the scene on foot prior to officers arriving, however.

Law enforcement officers conducted an extensive search of the area, including adjacent neighborhoods, surrounding businesses and the interstate highways.

Saunders is wanted in Scottsbluff on a charge of second-degree murder, possession of a deadly weapon by a prohibited person and use of a deadly weapon to commit a felony.

Scottsbluff Police Capt. Brian Wasson identified the murder victim as Karen Cooper, 63, of Scottsbluff, who died as a result of gunshot wounds early Tuesday evening in a Scottsbluff residential neighborhood.

The victim was identified as a female relative of Saunders.

Saunders fled in his vehicle, which was recovered in Cheyenne after he abandoned it.

The suspect was still at large Thursday afternoon and had not been arrested on any other charges to Wasson’s knowledge.

Saunders is described as a Black male, who is 5 feet, 11 inches tall, weighs around 200 pounds and has brown eyes and black hair. He has numerous tattoos, including ones on both inner forearms, a script tattoo across his upper chest, a script on the right side of his neck with stars at the beginning and end of the text and a flaming skull tattoo above his navel.

Saunders has an extensive history of violence and should be considered armed and dangerous, Scottsbluff police said.

Anyone seeing Saunders is asked to call the Cheyenne police at 307-637-6525. Anyone with information on the case is encouraged to call the Scottsbluff Police Department at 308-632-7176 or Crime Stoppers at 308-632-7867.

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Casper Abortion Clinic ‘Significantly’ Damaged Due to Smoke Caused By Arson

in News/Crime
20148

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Fire investigators have determined where a fire began Wednesday that damaged the inside of a planned Casper abortion clinic, a Casper Fire Department spokesman told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday.

The fire caused what has been described as extensive damage at the Wellspring Health Access facility on early Wednesday morning and investigators believe that it was intentionally set. While investigators announced they had found the point of origin for the fire, they did not report where it began.

“I don’t think anyone has actually left the scene since yesterday and we are working very closely with the police department on this investigation,” fire department spokesman Dane Anderson said Thursday.

Anderson said that while he had not been to the scene, there was reportedly a “significant” amount of smoke damage inside. He could not say how many minutes investigators believe the fire was burning, but he did say it was “not long.”

He added investigators are now working to determine if accelerants were used to start the fire and if so, what kind.

Wellspring Health Access owner Julie Burkhart told Cowboy State Daily that since law enforcement was still investigating the incident, she did not have much new information as of Thursday morning.

“We hope to be able to assess the damage in the near future,” she said.

She said on Wednesday that the fire would not prevent the clinic from opening.

“This is something I’ve been afraid of happening,” she said at the time. “I’ve worked in this field for a long time and I’ve seen vandalism, flooding, defacing property and buildings, but never arson.”

According to the Casper Police Department, police officers arrived at the clinic just before 4 a.m. Wednesday in response to a report of a business burglary.

When they arrived, they saw smoke rolling out of the clinic’s windows. The Casper Fire Department arrived on the scene and extinguished the fire.

The caller who reported the burglary said a person was seen running away from the building carrying a gas can and a black bag.

Police and fire investigators are now interviewing witnesses and reviewing footage from the clinic’s neighborhood.

Casper Police spokeswoman Rebekah Ladd did not immediately return Cowboy State Daily’s request for comment on Thursday.

The clinic has drawn much controversy since its opening was announced last month and was the subject of online debate after the fire.

Casper City Councilman Bruce Knell on Wednesday got into a series of online arguments about the the issue of abortion.

“I’m quite sure you’re not nearly as devastated as the unborn children who are ripped from the womb,” he wrote on a K2 News post about the fire at the clinic.

His comment started a back-and-forth with Casper citizens who condemned him for his comments.

“Idiots like you act like you care about children,” responded Julie Ann Schure. “But you complain if a woman collects welfare. And funny how I never hear people complain about men not taking care of their children.”

“If you don’t have a womb, you need to shut your damn mouth!!” she told Knell.

Knell went on to disagree with a number of commenters, bringing up what awaits people, he believes, if “God’s law” is broken.

“All I care about is people’s salvation,” he wrote. “And making sure they understand the word of our God because I can promise you hell is a nasty place.”



The new clinic between downtown Casper and the Wyoming Medical Center will be operated by Wellspring, which is incorporated in Washington, D.C., and headed up by founder Burkhart, who is based in Colorado.

The clinic is funded by private donors and has been created and supported by a community advisory board of 15 people, Burkhart previously said, including faith leaders, tribal communities and health care advocates.

Currently, Wyoming has only one abortion provider and 96% of Wyoming women live in a county without an abortion clinic.

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Monkeypox Hits U.S., Wyo State Health Officer Can’t Predict Whether It Will Spread To Wyoming

in News/Health care
Photo via Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images
20144

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A virus similar to smallpox has been detected in the United States, but there is no way to predict whether the illness will spread to Wyoming, according to the state’s public health officer.

Health officer and epidemiologist Dr. Alexia Harrist told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday that it was difficult to say whether the spread of monkeypox was a cause for major concern as of yet.

“It’s too early to say at this point,” she said. “It will probably be a rapid learning process with this, but I think we’ll discover more in the coming days.”

According to the World Health Organization, the United States has from one to five confirmed cases of monkeypox, which typically occurs in central and west Africa.

Harrist explained that the virus typically causes symptoms such as a headache, fever and muscle aches, but also is accompanied by a distinct rash. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the symptoms are similar to, but milder than, smallpox.

Harrist said the illness has been traditionally associated with people who have traveled to Africa and caught it. However, the newest outbreak has seen symptoms popping up among gay and bisexual men.

“In the United States, it has been reported some individuals in these clusters have self-reported as men who have sex with men, but this is not all of the cases,” she said. “It’s not something easily spread as COVID. The main way it spreads is through skin-to-skin contact.”

Harrist said typically, people who have caught the virus will develop symptoms within a week or two, but she said the time can also range anywhere from five to 21 days.

She added that a monkeypox risk to the general public at this time was relatively low in the United States, but recommended that anyone who has recently traveled out of the country or had contact with someone diagnosed with monkeypox should speak with their health care provider.

Monkeypox can kill as many as 1 in 10 people who contract the disease, based on observations in Africa, according to the CDC.

According to WHO officials, the vaccine used to prevent smallpox appears to be about 85% effective in guarding against monkeypox, based on observational research in Africa.

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Trump OK With Billboards Showing Hageman Called Him A Racist; “She Never Met Me,” He Said

in News/politics
Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images
20117

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Former President Donald Trump was not bothered by the billboards bringing up past criticism of him by Harriet Hageman, the congressional candidate who now has endorsement, he said in a radio interview Wednesday.

Trump spoke with “Wake Up Wyoming” host Glenn Woods on Wednesday, addressing a variety of topics during a nearly 14-minute interview, from Hageman and her opponent, U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, to energy and his time in office.

Trump excused the Hageman comments posted on a billboard on the outskirts of Casper in advance of his appearance there at a rally on Saturday.

The comments were made before Hageman knew him, Trump said.

“When you go back to 2016, nobody knew me and at the time, she never met me and I never met her,” Trump said. “If I went by that standard, I could never endorse anybody.”

The billboards were placed there by Cheney campaign. One references a quote Hagemen gave to the New York Times in 2016, when she called Trump “the weakest” candidate in the 2016 Republican presidential primary, as well as labeling him “racist and xenophobic.” 

Trump noted similar remarks were made by author and Ohio congressional candidate J.D. Vance, who Trump also endorsed. Vance recently won the Republican primary in Ohio and will face off in the general election against Democrat U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, who has held the seat since 2013.

Trump said that Hageman stood out to him as the congressional candidate to support because of the uproar he heard from Wyoming citizens about her.

“I just felt that she was really good,” he said. “I had people in Wyoming…pushing much harder for her than anybody else and I have to let that play a role. Her campaign is very strong.”

Hageman announced her campaign against Cheney last fall, with Trump’s endorsement following almost immediately after.

Other candidates for Wyoming’s lone House seat include state Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, veteran and Gillette resident Denton Knapp and Sheridan resident Robyn Belinskey. As of Wednesday afternoon, Bouchard, Knapp and Belinskey were the only candidate to have formally filed for the office.

Trump also did not shy away from bashing his regular critic Cheney, with whom he has been locked in battle since she voted to impeach him following the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

The former president said Cheney was now congressional Democrats’ “biggest asset” and that she is now part of the “radical left.”

“The Republicans in the House, good people, some really tough people, people that you like and support,” Trump said, “they just can’t stand her. She’s just not been good.”

Prior to her vote to impeach Trump last year, Cheney voted with him more than 90% of the time.

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Mexican Restaurant Says Taco John’s Isn’t Real Mexican Food In Trademark Dispute

in News
20110

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Taco John’s does not sell authentic Mexican food, so it cannot be confused for an authentic Mexican restaurant with an arguably similar name, the law firm for a Minnesota restaurant argued in federal court.

The comments were included in a response to a lawsuit in U.S. District Court alleging trademark violations filed by Taco John’s against Minnesota’s Taco Chon.

In April, Taco John’s International, Inc. and Spicy Seasonings LLC sued Taco Chon, accusing owner Juan Ramos of infringing on Taco John’s trademark of its name.

But Ramos’ attorney argued in a response dated May 16 that while Taco John’s does have a federal trademark on its name, it was a “misnomer” that the company could enforce the trademark “with a broad paint brush.”

“Taco Chon Mexican Grill was created through the unique and personal experiences of Juan Ramos by dedicating the entire existence of his restaurants in honor of his father and his life in Jalisco, Mexico,” the response said.

The attorney also claimed Taco John’s was using its financial resources to bully small business owners and using the lawsuit to destroy the American dream.

Taco John’s, in a statement sent to Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday, told Cowboy State Daily that Taco Chon’s response had no factual or legal basis for its arguments when the only issue at hand was the use of a trademark that closely resembles the trademark the Cheyenne-based restaurant has been using for 50 years.

“We have great respect for every person working hard to achieve their version of the American Dream. This includes dozens of Taco John’s franchisees, most of whom are small business owners themselves,” the statement said. “We have an important obligation to them to protect the Taco John’s name and to not allow others to use facsimiles of it. As we have said from the beginning, we take no joy in enforcing our trademark rights against any small business owner and do so only after other options have been exhausted.”

Taco John’s accused Ramos of opening two quick-service Mexican cuisine restaurants similar to Taco John’s under the name “Taco Chon” within 5 miles of Taco John’s restaurants in Minnesota, which is “likely to cause confusion, mistake or deception.”

Taco Chon has locations in St. Cloud, Minnesota, which is just over 1 mile away from a Taco John’s, and Burnsville, Minnesota, which is 4 miles away from a Taco John’s franchise.

Ramos’ attorney argued that Taco John’s “West Mex” could never be confused for authentic Mexican cuisine, which is what Ramos serves at his restaurants. He added that Taco Chon was not a fast food restaurant like Taco John’s, but a Mexican grill that offers sit-down dining experiences and alcoholic beverages.

Ramos’ attorney asked for damages from Taco John’s in a sum of at least $150,000 to compensate Ramos for all monetary and/or economic harm, along with non-monetary harm, resulting from the lawsuit, citing Ramos’ depression and anxiety stemming from the case.

Taco John’s is no stranger to filing lawsuits to protect its trademarks.

The company has sent “cease and desist” letters to other restaurants over their use of the slogan “Taco Tuesday,” which it trademarked in 1989.

In 2006, Taco John International sued Taco Del Mar, alleging one of its restaurants in Colorado used the slogan to advertise its Tuesday specials.

The lawsuit was dismissed at the request of all parties three months after it was filed.

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Johnson County War: The Push To Fill All Elected Seats With “Patriot” Conservatives

in News/politics
20111

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

An organized campaign to elect staunchly conservative individuals at all levels of government is taking place in Johnson County.

David Iverson, a podcaster and founder of the Patriot Conservatives of Johnson County, is recruiting and supporting candidates to run for offices from the legislative level to some of the county’s lowest grassroots seats such as the local fire district board and precinct committee positions within the county GOP party.

“The power that most affects people’s lives is closest to them,” Iverson told Cowboy State Daily in a Monday phone interview.

Patriot Conservatives, also a political action committee, started in July 2021 as a lobbying effort to oppose a tax initiative being proposed to voters in Johnson County last fall. 

In 2021, Patriot Conservatives raised $8,487, according to records from the secretary of state’s office.

During the campaign on the tax initiative, which was defeated, Patriot Conservatives filed a lawsuit against the Buffalo Bulletin newspaper, seeking $36 million in damages. The group alleged it was defamed by an item published in the newspaper that questioned the accuracy of statements made by the group. The lawsuit was dismissed.

Iverson said his PAC was renamed as the Patriot Conservatives of Wyoming last month and is now supporting and recruiting political candidates statewide in areas including Laramie County.

“If we truly want to change how our government is operating, it’s going to take our involvement,” said Iverson on his Wednesday show. “Look through the list of offices and see what you can do, I promise you can find something. Whether it’s on a local county board, or it’s the city council, or it’s the county commissioners, or it’s the precinct level.”

Tass vs Crago

The most prominent race taking place in Johnson County is for House District 40, a contest between incumbent Republican Barry Crago and GOP challenger Richard Tass, a rematch of the 2020 HD 40 race between the two. 

Tass was elected by the voters in 2018, but lost as an incumbent in 2020 to Crago by a margin of nearly 19%.

Tass said he is more conservative than Crago, pointing as examples to what he called Crago’s opposition to a bill that would have prohibited transgender females from competing in women’s sports and support for increasing the state budget.

He also took exception to Crago’s opposition to an investigation into allegations Rep. Dan Zwonitzer lives outside the House district he represents in Laramie County.

WyoRINO.com, a “voting index” that judges Wyoming lawmakers on how consistent they vote with the Republican Party platform, listed Crago as its RINO (Republican In Name Only) of the month in December 2021. The website gave Crago a rating of 60 out of a possible score of 100 for his voting record at the Legislature this past spring.

“The conservative side of Johnson County is not being represented,” Tass said.

However, Crago didn’t actually vote against the transgender bill, a point misstated by Iverson on his show. The legislator voted not to override House rules so the bill could be heard despite the fact it was not considered within the body’s deadline for the introduction of bills.

Crago said there is no precedent for overriding these scheduling rules and said he would have voted for the bill if it had been considered by the House.

Self-described as “very conservative,” Crago is proud of his legislative record and the work he did on ad valorem taxes for minerals, co-sponsoring a successful bill that will allow for regulation of a company’s oil and gas production until the company pays its unpaid taxes. 

Crago also noted the state budget only increased as a result of the massive federal COVID money provided to the State.

Crago also said he did not believe having a private investigative committee look into the residency complaint against Zwonitzer was an effective way to handle the issue. He added he did not think the complaint against Zwonitzer merited removing him from office.

The first-term representative, who is also a deputy county attorney in Johnson County and a rancher, said he is not interested in engaging in negative politics during his campaign. He said if Tass is elected, he will do his best to assist and support him at the Legislature.

“I don’t think we as Republicans should be fighting with each other,” he said. “We should be helping each other. We should have different opinions — that’s what elections are for.”

John DeMatteis, a Tass supporter, is running for county commissioner in Johnson County. Although DeMatteis said he is no longer affiliated with Patriot Conservatives, he is still listed as the PAC’s treasurer on the secretary of state’s website. 

Statewide Effort

DeMatteis said the group’s mission is not unique to Johnson County and instead reflects a statewide effort he sees on every level to expose those GOP members who are deemed not to be adhering to Republican Party principles.

“A lot of Wyomingites are voting conservative thanks to (U.S. Rep.) Liz Cheney showing that a lot of these elected politicians are not real conservative,” he said.

Although Cheney has one of the most conservative voting records in the Congress, she voted for to impeach former President Donald Trump and and spoke out against his attempts to overturn the 2020 election.

DeMatteis is one of three candidates running for two open spots on the board of county commissioners. He said the 22 local boards and special districts in Johnson County manage a $80 million combined budget.

Tass described Patriot Conservatives as “pretty fair” in its recruitment of individuals to run in elections, but said they do hold a bias for conservative candidates. 

Crago expressed concern, however, that if too many people are targeted for criticism, it might be difficult to find candidates for office.

“I’m afraid we’re going to run out really good public servants if they are afraid of being unfairly treated or over-criticized in a radio show, article or podcast,” Crago said, referring to county clerk and other elected positions. “I’m afraid we’re going to run off really good people — we don’t need to be doing that.”

But as a state legislator, Crago clarified that he finds himself a fair target for public criticism.

Assessments

The topic of rising property taxes is quickly becoming a hot button issue for the Legislature’s 2023 session, as drastic increases in property values this spring have elevated concerns from homeowners and assessors alike that changes and possible caps are needed in the state’s tax laws.

“Legislation is needed to change our laws,” said Debra Robinson, Johnson County assessor, who has been a target of Iverson’s criticism. “People need to contact their representative to get something done to stop this.”

Crago said he wants the issue discussed, but is unsure if the Wyoming Constitution needs to be amended first in order to be able to enact real change.

Johnson County GOP Chairman Robert Garrison said mistakes have been made on his own home’s assessment in the past and recently penned an open letter to county residents on the need to alter Wyoming’s property tax laws. He also urged all Johnson County residents to appeal their property assessments to the assessor. 

“Yes, this will probably overwhelm the office, but it is our only alternative to truly protect what we own,” Garrison wrote. 

As of Monday, Robinson said her department had already received a dozen appeals.

Iverson has attacked Robinson on his shows, accusing her of failing to complete required ongoing education as an assessor. 

Robinson has not taken the class “Fundamentals of Real Property Appraisal” since 2013, but she has taken other appraisal-related courses since then. 

The COVID-19 pandemic halted a class she was supposed to take in 2020, and then when she tested positive for the virus in 2021, it stopped her from being able to take a class that year. Robinson, who is not running for reelection, said she is currently signed up to take classes this summer.

“It’s something he’s (Iverson) doing to create sensationalism,” she said. “I’ve got a board of commissioners, a county attorney, the board of equalization — I would be hearing from them if I was doing something wrong. Don’t start just rambling crap off.”

Robinson said Iverson never reached out to her for questions and clarification before criticizing her on his show. 

Iverson said this was true, adding he “didn’t need to because I already got all the information I needed.”

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Cheyenne Mom And Daughter Crafting Beds Out Of Meal Delivery Kits For Rescued Dogs

in News/Good news
20108

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Deborah Dunham said her mom, Alice Pitcher, is consistently trying to find a way to use items more than just once.

For pretty much all of Dunham’s life, her mom has been the type of person who does not like to waste things.

And Dunham has followed in her mom’s footsteps — now reusing packing material to make life for rescued dogs in Colorado a little more comfortable.

Dunham and Pitcher both make beds for an animal rescue operation in Colorado.

“We’re both sewers and we will randomly find things to use scrap fabric for,” Dunham said. “So we volunteer with an animal rescue down in Colorado and we were curious how we could do more for the animals.”

So the two began making dog beds, stuffing them with using scrap fabric.

This way, the dogs at Soul Dog Rescue in Fort Lupton, Colorado, would have fresh, new beds to sleep on as they waited to find their forever homes. Plus, if they tore up the beds, there is less likelihood of them choking on the tiny pieces of fabric, Dunham said.

But after making the beds stuffed with fabric, the mother and daughter discovered another way to make beds while also using what would have been waste.

“I started getting the Home Chef meals and the meal delivery kits come with a lot of packaging,” Dunham said. “There’s this insulation inside and while the company says it’s compostable, the only thing that can really be composted is the inside, the rest would just go into a landfill. But for a pet bed, it’s perfect.”

Now, Dunham and Pitcher are collecting meal delivery kit insulation material from Cheyenne residents in order to make more pet beds for the Colorado shelter, as well as a shelter in Cheyenne.

While Dunham noted that the beds themselves could not be washed due to the insulation material, the idea of getting one more use out of the insulation was attractive.

“It got used once and that was once more than it was intended for and it’s not going to waste. Plus, it will be a nice bed for a dog, even if it’s just to transport them,” she said. “Everything I do revolves around what else can I do for these animals. If we can make them comfortable in a crate, that’s great.”

Dunham put out a call for materials on Facebook and actually received “five or six” responses from people who wanted to help, she said. Pitcher is currently working on making the pet beds and the more material they receive, the more beds they can make.

Dunham said she never really thought about the desire she and her mother share to to keep more items out of landfills, but when she thought about it, she liked the fact that she and Pitcher can extend an item’s usefulness just a little bit.

“My mom is so much more creative in how we can reuse things. I just happened to have the material and she put it into action,” Dunham said.

Soul Dog Rescue works to save animals from suffering and mistreatment due to overpopulation and lack of resources in the Four Corners area of Colorado, Arizona, Utah and New Mexico. The organization works to spay and neuter animals on Native reservations and have rescued more than 15,000 animals to date.

Anyone interested in donating materials to Dunham can reach out to her on Facebook.

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Fire At Abortion Clinic in Casper on Wednesday Morning; Police Believe It Was Intentionally Set

in News/Crime
Photo by Desirée Tinoco
20102

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

An abortion clinic slated to open this summer in Casper was set ablaze Wednesday morning and law enforcement officials believe the fire was intentionally set.

While the clinic’s founder said the damage from the fire appeared to be extensive, it would not prevent the clinic from opening.

“This is something I’ve been afraid of happening,” Julie Burkhart, founder of Wellspring Health Access, told Cowboy State Daily. “I’ve worked in this field for a long time and I’ve seen vandalism, flooding, defacing property and buildings, but never arson.”

According to the Casper Police Department, police officers arrived to the clinic just before 4 a.m. Wednesday in response to a report of a business burglary.

When they arrived, they saw smoke rolling out of the clinic’s windows. The Casper Fire Department arrived on the scene and extinguished the fire.

The caller who reported the burglary said a person was seen running away from the building carrying a gas can and a black bag.

Investigators believe the fire to be intentional at this time. They are currently reviewing footage from the area to provide a description of the suspect.

Burkhart said from the outside, it appears there is “extensive” damage done to the inside of the building.

However, the fire will not stop her from opening the clinic, she said. She added that increased security measures will be added to the clinic once the damages are assessed.



Burkhart pointed to increasing violence across the country, such as the mass shootings in Buffalo, New York last week and the one at an elementary school in Texas on Tuesday, as examples of why she was not surprised the clinic was attacked.

“This is, unfortunately, a field fraught with trauma,” she said. “My former boss was murdered. So I’m just living through another traumatic moment. Violence against providers is not going to stop abortions. It’s a universal known that people have abortions and this isn’t going to stop anything.”

No injuries were reported as a result of the fire.

Casper Police spokeswoman Rebekah Ladd and Casper Fire spokesman Dane Anderson did not immediately return Cowboy State Daily’s request for comment on Wednesday.

The clinic has drawn much controversy since its opening was announced last month.

The new clinic between downtown Casper and the Wyoming Medical Center will be operated by Wellspring, which is incorporated in Washington, D.C., and headed up by founder Burkhart, who is based in Colorado.

The clinic is funded by private donors and has been created and supported by a community advisory board of 15 people, Burkhart previously said, including faith leaders, tribal communities and health care advocates.

Currently, Wyoming has only one abortion provider and 96% of Wyoming women live in a county without an abortion clinic.

Right to Life of Wyoming President Marti Halverson previously told Cowboy State Daily that the clinic is an “abomination” and that her organization was already looking at several avenues to thwart its completion and opening.

Sheila Leach, president of the Park County chapter of Right to Life of Wyoming, also expressed dismay at the news of a clinic in Casper and said that there is an ongoing grassroots effort involving pro-life activists across the state who are galvanizing in opposition to new clinic.

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Casper Humane Society Rescues 13 Dogs Scheduled To Be Killed In Texas

in News/Good news
20061

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The Casper Humane Society on Sunday took in 13 dogs that were scheduled to be killed due to overcrowding at an animal shelter in Texas, the president of the shelter’s board said Tuesday.

CHS board President Sally Reinhart told Cowboy State Daily the 13 puppies were doing well at the shelter, although they are all being quarantined for the next 10 to 14 days to monitor them for any signs of illness.

“We’re a no-kill shelter and we believe there is a home for every dog,” Reinhart said. “Texas has a terrible euthanasia rate, around 85% to 90% of animals have to killed because they don’t have the space. We try to do our part to help and get these dogs into good homes.”

The puppies are all mixed breeds and Reinhart expects them to weigh anywhere from 25 to 50 pounds once they reach adulthood.

All of the puppies were given vaccination shots before leaving Texas. They will likely be available for adoption around the first week of June and will be available for a meeting through appointments only.

Reinhart said this is not the first time, and likely won’t be the last, the Humane Society has taken in animals from Texas who were at risk of being killed due to overcrowding.

“We work with San Antonio Pets Alive, which takes animals out of kill shelters and put them in foster homes, if they’re available, and then lines them up to go to no-kill shelters like ours,” she said. “They’re all vetted before they come here, with all their shots and spayed or neutered, if they’re old enough. It’s a win-win, because we can save them and they usually get adopted out within a week.”

The Humane Society does not see many puppies in such large groups, so Reinhart expects the dogs will have no issue finding loving homes.

The dogs were actually flown into Wyoming by another nonprofit group, Dog Is My Co-Pilot, which transports animals from overcrowded shelters to adoption centers in other geographic locations.

Reinhart praised the work of the group, which provides services free of charge to the Humane Society.

“They’re just really incredible,” she said. “We’ve been working with these groups for about five years and we just want to save as many lives as we can by having these partnerships.”

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Campbell County Woman Scammed Out Of $30K Through Bitcoin Con

in News/Crime
20068

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Campbell County woman was swindled out of around $30,000, sending the money to her scammer through Bitcoin transfers, the Campbell County undersheriff told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday.

Undersheriff Quentin Reynolds said a 56-year-old woman on Monday reported to police that she had been scammed out of around $30,000 after a man identified as “Stephen Weiner” contacted her in March, telling her she was being awarded a grant.

“He claimed he was with the Bush Foundation and that the victim had been approved for a grant program, which required a small investment for a much larger payout,” Reynolds said Tuesday.

The two communicated from around late March until Sunday. Reynolds said since the case was still in the early part of investigation, he was unsure of why the woman stopped communicating with Weiner.

During the two months, the victim made several transactions, converting cash into Bitcoin through an ATM at a local convenience store. The transactions are still being compiled, but the total losses are estimated to be around $30,000.

Reynolds said that criminals like to use Bitcoin because it is harder to track. Due to this, he said it could be difficult to recover all of the victim’s money.

“Whether we can do anything about this or help them out in any way, I’m not sure,” he said.

The Bush Foundation awards $40 million per year to various philanthropic organizations. The foundation actually warned in 2020 of scammers using the organization’s name to try to swindle funds from unsuspecting victims.

“There are different scams, but many promise grant money if the user pays a shipping or processing fee, sends money or a gift card, or shares personal information,” the foundation said. “In some cases, scammers create fake accounts to pose as a staff member, even using names and photos of our staff. They may also hack into accounts of a friend or relative to send messages claiming they received grant money from the Bush Foundation.”

This is not the first social media-related scam that has occurred in Campbell County in recent months. In March, a woman lost $800 in a puppy scam through Facebook when a person posing as someone selling a puppy requested funds for an animal that did not exist. The buyer sent the money, believing the animal to be real.

That same month, a Gillette man reported being scammed out of $15,000 by a woman he had never met face-to-face.

Reynolds reiterated that if a message sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

“With this case, they told her she’d been approved for a grant program, but she needed to send money, which is suspicious in and of itself,” he said.

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Lander TV Star Josh Kirk Of “Mountain Men” To Host Bison Hunts

in News/wildlife
20057

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Josh Kirk might be a television star, but there’s no Hollywood glamour about him.

The “Mountain Men” star spends his days managing more than 400 head of bison in Fremont County and has a homestead with his family near the Wind River Range. He has a love for all things outdoors and wants to pass on his passion to other interested conservationists.

“This is my opinion, but in the last 150 years, the world has sold its soul for supply, demand and a house on Main Street,” Kirk told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday. “We’re trading our freedom for convenience. When you look at our existence, going to a grocery store or a butcher shop is a relatively new thing.”

To give people an idea of what life on the range used to be like, Kirk wants others to experience the beauty of hunting and harvesting their own food, so he is offering the opportunity to hunt bison with him this year.

Prices for bison hunts with Kirk began at $2,500 and go up from there and the hunts can last anywhere from one to three days. The hunts will take place likely in the late summer and early fall, but Kirk will work out details with interested hunters.

Be forewarned, though: this is not a “glamping” style hunting trip. Kirk believes in getting in touch with nature and has offered hunters the opportunity to fully harvest their bison, using everything from the meat all the way down to the sinew in the muscles.

“It’s about connecting back with the land and connecting with the animal,” Kirk said. “Instead of buying a ribeye from the store, you can harvest this animal in an ethical way. Then you have more respect when you walk back into the grocery store to buy a piece of meat, because you know what it takes to harvest that animal.”

Kirk said by hunting in this manner, he allows his guests to be go back to the time of their forefathers and ancestors, who were hunters and gatherers many generations ago.

He can also teach his hunters how to find shelter, make a fire and procure food and water while out in the wild, if they so choose.

Kirk said there is nothing more beautiful than learning to take care of yourself in nature, without the help of modern luxuries and technology.

“For me, you’re paying homage to the animal, showing it the utmost respect by harvesting the animal yourself and processing it yourself and utilizing all of the resources from it yourself,” he said. “And if you choose to do it and then make clothing out of that animal, it’s even more badass. You’re really touching the earth and a manifestation that most people never get.”

Kirk will soon be featured in his third season, the 11th overall, of the History Channel series “Mountain Men,” which will begin airing on June 3. The series focuses on the lives of various homesteaders across the country, from Wyoming and Idaho to Alaska.

Anyone interested in bison hunting with Kirk can contact him at: Joshkirkmountainmen@gmail.com.

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Florida Man Faces Life In Prison After Kidnapping Utah Teen, Being Discovered In Cheyenne

in News/Crime
20054

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Florida man is facing life in prison on allegations he took a 13-year-old teenager from her home in Utah and brought her to Wyoming with the intent of having sex with her.

Christopher S. Evans, 25, faces anywhere from 10 years to life in prison and a $250,000 fine for transporting a minor across state lines “with intent to commit sexual contact and commit sexual intrusion.” Evans was arrested in Cheyenne in March indicted on the charge by a federal grand jury last week.

According to court documents, the 13-year-girl was reported missing from her Roosevelt, Utah, home by her parents on the morning of March 8. The girl’s phone was discovered in her bedroom, along with her Oculus virtual reality gaming headset.

It was reported that the girl had been in contact with Evans through the video game platform and a message that said “Waiting,” sent by him, was discovered on the headset, indicating that he was the one who picked up the girl.

The two had been communicating for more than a month.

Using his online accounts, police were able to track Evans’ location through his cell phone. Around 3 p.m. on March 10, he and the girl were found to be at a Love’s truck stop in Cheyenne inside of his semi-truck.

Evans was taken to the Laramie County Detention Center after his arrest, where he admitted to police that he was aware the girl was 13. He also said they were boyfriend and girlfriend and that their plan was to go to Florida to live together and pursue a relationship.

The girl told police she and Evans communicated these plans to friends on the Oculus platform.

During their two nights in the truck, the two slept in the bottom bunk of Evans’ semi-truck. He admitted to touching her bare breast and over the clothes in her vaginal area. The girl said Evans asked to have sex with her, but it was not clear from court documents whether they had.

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Grizzly Bear Attacked By Mother, Mate In Yellowstone; National Park Service Euthanize

in News/Grizzly Bears
20033

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A young female grizzly bear was attacked and mortally wounded by its mother and the mother’s mate over the weekend in Yellowstone National Park, a Utah photographer told Cowboy State Daily on Monday.

Julie Argyle said bear 815 and her male mate attacked the 3-year-old bear after the sub-adult wouldn’t leave an area.

“This is the first time I’ve heard of 815 being aggressive like this,” Argyle said. “But the situation is that it’s mating season, food sources are scarce and it’s her territory.”

She believed that the mother bear was attempting to frighten the bear away from the area, but when the male bear entered the altercation, things became deadly.

Argyle noted that the two older bears actually did not kill the younger one, but left it injured to the point she was euthanized by the National Park Service.

“Her injuries were too much for her to handle and she was suffering in an awful way so the National Park Service put her down in an effort to end her suffering,” she said.

She added that the young bear had been kicked out of its den by bear 815 last summer, so it has been on its own for a year.

Wyoming Game and Fish Department large carnivore specialist Dan Thompson told Cowboy State Daily that it is not uncommon for mother bears and their mates to attack their young.

“As the overall density of grizzly bears has increased within the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, we see more instances of what we call ‘intraspecific strife’ such as this,” he said. “These natural occurrences are another indicator of density dependence that is exhibited when a population is at carrying capacity.”

Argyle posted about the bear’s death on her wildlife photography page in order to bring awareness to the fact that the wildlife people see in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks are exactly that – wild.

“This is a natural thing, it just happened to occur close to a road where people saw it,” she said. “I think this is a great wake up call for people who try to get too close to these animals. We’re viewing them as something that isn’t a wild animal and they definitely are.”

According to the Yellowstone Grizzly Project, bear 815 was collared by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team in 2015. At the time of her capture, there were no cubs present, but she was seen with three in 2016.

Yellowstone officials did not respond to Cowboy State Daily’s request for comment by publication time on Monday.

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Carbon County GOP Chair Joey Correnti Pleads Guilty In Reckless Endangerment Case

in News/Crime
20025

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The chairman of the Carbon County Republican Party has pleaded guilty to a charge of reckless endangering after a judge denied his request to dismiss the charge, a Carbon County circuit court official told Cowboy State Daily on Monday.

Joey Correnti IV on Friday changed his plea after Circuit Judge Sustan Stipe denied his request to dismiss the charge stemming from an incident in October.

Stipe denied Correnti’s request because she said he had not proven that any person in the trajectory of the bullet he fired in October acted in such a way that would require him to employ deadly force against them.

Correnti represented himself in the case and initially argued that Wyoming’s “Stand Your Ground” law, allowing the use of force in self-defense, applied in this case.

Correnti did not immediately respond to Cowboy State Daily’s request for comment on Monday.

Correnti is accused of pointing a 9-mm pistol at Nicholas Chadwick in October during an altercation in Saratoga and later firing a shot into the air. He was charged with reckless endangering, a misdemeanor.

The prosecution has argued that Correnti used excessive force in the encounter with Chadwick, while Correnti said he pointed his handgun at Chadwick only after Chadwick hit him in the head.

According to a police report from the incident, Correnti was helping a woman move into a home when Chadwick, the woman’s husband, arrived and confronted the woman, alleging she was in a relationship with Correnti.

The report said Chadwick tried three times to grab the woman’s phone, grabbing her wrist at one point.

Correnti inserted himself between the woman and Chadwick, the report said, and the two argued briefly before Chadwick hit Correnti near the right temple.

Correnti then brandished a pistol, the report said, pointing it at Chadwick and telling Chadwick not to hit him again or he would “put (Chadwick) down.”

After Correnti fired a shot into the air, Chadwick left the scene, the report said.

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Wyo Wildlife Taskforce Recommends Splitting Hunting Licenses For Mule, White-Tailed Deer

in News/wildlife
20029

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The Wyoming Wildlife Taskforce has unanimously recommended that the Wyoming Legislature split hunting licenses for white-tailed and mule deer to allow for improved management of the separate species.

Currently, white-tailed and mule deer are just considered as “deer” when it comes to issuing Wyoming hunting licenses, but the task force believes this should change. When a hunter receives a deer license, the choice should be made whether the hunt will be for white-tailed or mule deer, the task force said.

Task force Co-Chair Josh Coursey told Cowboy State Daily on Monday that the recommendation was “long overdue.”

“This is something that wasn’t needed at the onset, until our white-tailed deer population has grown as robust as it has statewide,” he said. “But mule deer and white-tailed deer are completely different species, two different ungulates on the landscape.”

By changing the current statute, Coursey noted that this would also allow the Game and Fish Department to manage the two deer populations separately and accordingly.

The Legislature’s joint Travel, Recreation and Wildlife committee will take this recommendation up as an interim topic, but Coursey was not sure when the committee would study the issue.

Committee chairs Sen. Affie Ellis, R-Cheyenne, and Rep. Jamie Flitner, R-Greybull, did not respond to Cowboy State Daily’s request for comment by publication time.

Coursey said he did not see this topic being a “heavy lift” for the Legislature, either during the interim or legislative session next year.

“I really don’t think this is going to be a difficult statute change,” he said. “We were mindful of this when making the recommendation and the Game and Fish Department has assured us that this won’t be difficult to implement if it does pass.”

Rick King, chief of the Game and Fish Department’s Wildlife Division, told Cowboy State Daily on Monday that splitting the deer into two populations for management has been discussed in some form for decades.

“The concept has been discussed internally and with the Wyoming Legislature for a long time,” King said. “Game and Fish has taken a look at this internally several times, going back to the late 1980s. A bill was introduced during the 2015 legislative session, but died in the TRW committee.”

Neither King nor Coursey could say how much the state would benefit, financially, if the licenses were to be split. Resident hunting license fees for Wyoming residents is $42, while non-resident fees are $374.

King did note that the process to apply for and obtain a hunting license for either mule or white-tailed deer would be the same as it is now.

In 2020, 21,370 mule deer and 19,904 white-tailed deer were harvested, according to the Game and Fish Department.

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Gillette Woman Who Defrauded People Hundreds Of Thousands Of Dollars From Cheyenne Hotel Room Gets Prison

in News/Crime
20016

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Gillette woman convicted of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from various individuals and the Internal Revenue Service through three separate schemes, including one run while she was staying at Cheyenne’s Fairfield Inn, has been sentenced to almost three years in prison.

Alexa Kinney was sentenced to 33 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, for wire fraud, using an unauthorized access device and making false claims to the Internal Revenue Service. She was also ordered to pay restitution in total of $172,400 to her victims.

“Alexa Kinney’s sentence shows attempts to defraud individuals and the federal government for one’s own personal gain will not be tolerated,” said Andy Tsui, IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge for Wyoming.  “IRS:CI will continue to investigate and bring to justice those who try to take from others what they are not rightfully entitled to.”

She initially faced 45 years in prison for on charges filed in connection with allegations she scammed one Cheyenne woman of $165,000, used a man’s credit card to pay for a rental car and lodging and improperly applied for a coronavirus stimulus payment with the IRS.

She pleaded guilty to the charges in January.

Kinney was accused of living in various hotels across Wyoming, often using money raised fraudulently to pay her bills.

According to court documents, Kinney, while staying at Cheyenne’s Fairfield Inn in 2019, defrauded a Cheyenne woman of $165,000. Kinney told the woman she would invest the money, but she kept it for herself, documents said.

An investigation revealed Kinney used the money for her personal expenses and to pay off creditors.

M.F. was not Kinney’s only victim in 2019, however, according to court documents.

In March 2019, Kinney met T.S. on a dating website, where she claimed she was a legal consultant. In May 2019, T.S. contacted Kinney regarding a legal matter and agreed to pay her $1,800 to act as his legal consultant.

T.S. provided Kinney with his credit card to make the payment, the only time he authorized her to use his card. A few weeks later, Kinney began charging food and hotel expenses to the card.

Text messages between the two showed Kinney claimed there was a merchant mix-up and that whenever she used her company credit card, T.S.’s card was mistakenly charged.

Additionally, in April 2020, Kinney applied to receive a stimulus check for $1,200 through the IRS’ website. She had not filed a 2019 tax return and was required to submit tax return and income information.

However, Kinney claimed that she was not required to file a 2019 tax return form because her gross income for the year was less than $12,200, which was a false statement, since she’d received at least $165,000 in taxable income from M.F. in 2019.

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Archeologists Thrilled With Confirmation That Wyoming Has Continent’s Oldest Mine

in News
19971

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Most archeologists go their entire career without making the kind of discovery Wyoming State Archeologist Spender Pelton and his team did over the last few years in Platte County, when they confirmed the existence of the oldest mine on the continent.

As detailed in a scientific article published last week, Pelton and his team have confirmed that the Powars II red ocher mine near Sunrise in eastern Wyoming is the oldest mining operation in North America, with mining work at the site dating back about 13,000 years.

“Archeologists had found some amazing things inside and it was interspersed with hematite (red ocher), so they were questioning if it might be the oldest,” Pelton told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday. “So we excavated at the site, documented things really carefully and were able to confirm it was as old as we thought it might be.”

Pelton, authored the paper with researchers Erin Kelley, University of Wyoming PhD students Sarah Allaun, Alexander Craib, Chase Mahan and Charles Koenig. Additionally, principal investigators and archeologists George Frison, who died in September 2020, and George Zeimans contributed to the report.

The investigation and excavation took place from 2014 to 2020.

Former Sunrise resident Wayne Powars first discovered the site in 1939 or 1940, but didn’t report his discovery until 1986, right before the mine was scheduled to razed as part of an effort to reclaim the nearby Colorado Fuel and Iron Mine. The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality was not aware the mine even existed until Powars revealed it.

Red ocher, also known as hematite, fulfilled a wide range of functions in Paleoindian societies, including being used as a pigment in rituals. It has been found at ancient graves, caches, campsites and kill sites in the Great Plains, the Rocky Mountains and beyond.

It comes in a variety of natural colors, but the ocher in Sunrise is red.

The Powars II site is the only red ocher quarry identified in the North American archaeological record north of southern Mexico and one of only five such quarries identified in all of the Americas.

Zeimans told Cowboy State Daily on Friday that one exciting aspect of the mine was the discovery of pointed projectiles which were unique from “Clovis points” usually associated with Paleoindian cultures in the area.

“We don’t know if they’re previous Clovis, contemporary Clovis or slightly later than Clovis, but they’re definitely not Clovis,” he said. “But these points we’ve found, we’re calling them the ‘Sunrise point’ and referring to the people here as the ‘Sunrise people.'”

Zeimans said the “Sunrise people” were using these projectile points to hunt big game such as bison and mammoths.

He noted there was some type of ritualism associated with the red ocher mine and that the Sunrise people used the ocher for various purposes, such as making jewelry or even using it as a sunscreen.

As a longtime colleague and friend of Frison, Zeimans said the late archeologist and professor had called the mine the most exciting he had ever worked on and the highlight of his career.

“It’s really exciting to learn something new, because we’re brand new to learn about these people,” he said.

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Showtime Asks Judge To Dismiss ‘UFO’ Lawsuit Filed By Cody Magazine Owners

in News
19979

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A television network is asking a federal judge to dismiss a trademark lawsuit brought against it by the owners of a Cody magazine, arguing its use of the term “UFO” in the title of a program is protected by the First Amendment.

The owners of UFO Magazine, in the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court, claimed that Showtime infringed on the magazine’s trademark of the term “UFO,” an acronym for “unidentified flying object.”

The magazine trademarked “UFO” in 2007 for entertainment purposes and renewed the trademark in 2017, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit stems from Showtime’s docu-series “UFO” in 2021, which dealt with unidentified flying objects. According to the Showtime website, the series “explores our fascination with UFOs and the influence government, private companies and the military may have in shielding the truth.”

On Thursday, Showtime’s attorneys asked a judge to dismiss UFO Magazine’s lawsuit, arguing that the series was protected under the First Amendment.

“Despite the relevance of the ‘UFO’ title to the content of the series, despite the fact that the title uses ‘UFO’ in its commonly understood descriptive sense and despite the fact that UFO Magazine Inc. does not assert that it has released any television series with a ‘UFO’ title or that Showtime explicitly misled viewers about the source of the series, [the magazine owners] claims its ‘UFO’ trademark prevents Showtime from using ‘UFO’ as the title of its series,” Showtime’s attorneys wrote in court filings.

“Plaintiff is wrong,” they continued.

The attorneys also argued that the use of the term was relevant as the series title, since it is a documentary about UFOs.

The magazine’s first commercial use of the term occurred in 1998, the same year the company was formed, and the owners’ attorneys argued that the magazine has been in talks as recently as last year about developing either a television show or movie, according to the initial lawsuit filings.

The magazine owners are asking for Showtime to be barred from using the “UFO” term in any materials and also for the channel to pay for punitive damages, attorney fees and any other costs the court deem rightful.

According to the Wyoming Secretary of State’s office, the magazine’s president is Peter Kuyper of Cody. Its legal representative or “registered agent” is Lisa M. Price of Jackson.

The magazine’s initial filing to be registered as a business in Wyoming was done in 2018. It was founded in California in the 1990s.

The term “U.F.O.” first appeared in military accounts about unidentified flying objects in the 1950s, according to the Oxford English Dictionary.

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Green River Man Honored For Saving Woman, Boy From Burning House

in News/Good news
19937

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Green River man was honored this week for his heroism after he saved a woman and her young son from a burning house in Sweetwater County earlier this year.

Ryan Pasborg saved Stephanie Wadsworth and her son, Weston Wadsworth, from their burning home in early February after he stopped when he saw their house was on fire. Despite being late for work, Pasborg felt compelled to stop when he saw the smoke and flames, he told Cowboy State Daily earlier this year.

Sweetwater County Sheriff’s Deputy Jason Mower told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday that the recognition ceremony held in Pasborg’s honor on Tuesday was an amazing event.

“I’ve been in law enforcement almost 15 years and this is just one of those stories you see on television,” he said. “Really, this is just a small token of our appreciation and admiration for Ryan.”

Pasborg was recognized during the Sweetwater County Board of Commissioners’ second meeting of the month on Tuesday. His family and the Wadsworth family, along with a number of friends, were in attendance.

Having the Wadsworths attend the ceremony made it that much more special, Mower said. Shortly after the rescue, there was questions of whether Stephanie would survive the ordeal.

“As time went on and we heard through the grapevine about how she was hanging in there and beginning to improve and how she was likely to survive, we wanted to wait and hold this ceremony until they could all be in attendance, too,” Mower said.

Mower said the ceremony was emotional for everyone in attendance, from Sweetwater County Sheriff John Grossnickle to Pasborg himself and even the commissioners.

Pasborg has repeatedly insisted that he was not seeking recognition for rescue but Mower said it was important for Pasborg to be honored for his heroism.

“His motivation was that he hopes someone would do the same thing for him,” Mower said.

After saving the Wadsworths from the fire, he ensured the children were reunited with their grandmother and taken to a warm, safe place.

Following that, he went home, grabbed some money and went to Walmart to buy clothing and toys for the children who had just lost everything.

“What strikes me is that we can see the impact Ryan had on the Wadsworth family, but maybe Ryan needed to be there for Ryan, too,” Mower said. “This is something that may not only have saved the Wadsworths’ lives, but possibly, Ryan’s too.”

Pasborg did not immediately return Cowboy State Daily’s request for comment on Thursday.

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Forest Service Warns Not To Destroy Trails By Going Around Mud & Snow

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19986

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

In the wake of a late spring snowstorm that hit the state on Friday, the U.S. Forest Service issued a warning of the dangers that can be caused by driving around mud and snow while out in snowy or wet areas.

The U.S. Forest Service in particular called on people planning to visit Bighorn National Forest over the weekend to be sure they stay on roads and trails, since going around snow drifts or mud puddles can cause damage to the route and surrounding vegetation.

“Walking or driving around a snow drift or mud puddle can cause the route to widen,” National Forest spokeswoman Sara Kirol told Cowboy State Daily on Friday. “It damages vegetation, can cause soil displacement and widen the puddle or create one. The best choice is to travel single file through the mud puddle or snow drift to protect the integrity of the soil and plant life along the edge.”

Wet trails are more fragile and every tire track or footprint left in the mud can cause more and more erosion, Kirol said.

Noted Wyoming outdoorsman Paul Ulrich said by hiking or biking around the trail, real damage is being done and is ultimately “selfish behavior.”

“Yes, if you are getting chased by a grizzly and you can make faster time by going around a snowy or mud-packed trail to avoid getting eaten, then by all means do it,” Ulrich said.

“If worse comes to worse, trip your friend in the mud puddle and then get out of there,” he continued. “That way you aren’t hurting the trail and you survive. As for your friend, vaya con dios. No harm, no foul.

“But that’s the only exception to the rule. Otherwise, be considerate and either save your excursion for a better day or go through it,” he said.

If a person on the trail cannot how deep a puddle is or how deep a snow drift is, he or she should likely wait until another time to finish the journey, the Forest Service said.

Wyoming Department of Transportation spokeswoman Jordan Achs agreed, particularly about the snow drifts, since she said it is a common occurrence for people to get stuck in them during the snowy season.

“If they get stuck in a drift, it can delay road reopening times because we’re having to get the person unstuck,” Achs said. “Then we have to stick by them for a bit, because sometimes, a car stuck in a drift can make one of its own.”

Even if a drift does not look deep, Achs noted it is surprising how quickly someone can come to be stuck in one.

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Don Day: “This Ain’t The Last Snowstorm This Season In Wyoming”

in News/weather/Don Day
19946

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A snowstorm and cold front expected to hit southeastern Wyoming this weekend probably will not be the final blast of wintry weather for the season, according to Cowboy State Daily Meteorologist Don Day.

Day said Memorial Day weekend would have to come and go before Wyoming residents would be out of the woods when it comes to wintry weather, at least until the fall.

“If you’d asked me a week ago, I’d have said we were probably done with the hard freezes, but there’s another cold front coming in eight or nine days from now too,” Day said. “We’re near the end, but I’m not calling it done after this weekend.”

Thankfully, the snow won’t be too terrible this weekend, although Laramie and Rawlins will likely be hit the hardest by the storm, Day said.

Saratoga, Rawlins and Laramie will likely see “several” inches of snow over the next 36 hours, which will make travel on Interstate 80 difficult given slushy and icy conditions mixed with poor visibility. The mountainous areas in southeastern Wyoming will see anywhere from 6 to 12 inches of snow in the next few days Day said.

Day noted that Cheyenne is on a “precipice” of the snowstorm, meaning that if the storm shifts either north or south just a bit, there will be a difference in what the city sees in terms of snow.

However, Day did say the city likely will not be affected by snow as to cities like Laramie and Saratoga. Worst-case scenarios called for Cheyenne to receive 3 to 4 inches of snow.

“It’ll be a nice, wet storm in terms of bringing us water,” Day said.

There will be freezing temperatures on Thursday night through Friday, so Day warned anyone who might have gotten excited and planted tomatoes or flowers recently to get them covered to avoid death by frost.

“I’m going to have to go into witness protection after all of this,” Day joked.

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Cheyenne Hit Hard By National Garbage Truck Driver Shortage

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19948

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Even though a shortage of garbage truck operators has drivers for Cheyenne’s Public Works Department struggling to make up for the lack of workers, longtime driver Carl Munoz keeps a good attitude about things.

Munoz has been working in the city’s public works department for 26 years and he said when the pandemic hit two years ago, drivers for the department had to begin putting in extra hours and taking on more responsibility in response to declining driver numbers.

“About a year ago, it started getting even worse,” Munoz told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday.

Munoz pointed to one main reason behind the driver shortage, at least in Cheyenne: low pay.

“A lot of people are saying that they have a (commercial driver’s license) and a job like this has a lot of responsibility,” he said. “I think they’re thinking they can go somewhere else for more money instead of putting up with something like that.

“I mean, when I started here 26 years ago, my pay was $6.35 (per hour). Now, it’s $6.36,” he continued, joking.

City Public Works Director Vicki Nemecek agreed that the city cannot compete with some wages being offered to drivers with CDLs.

She added that new federal guidelines for CDL drivers that went into place in February has also made it more difficult to get drivers in a timely manner.

The city’s Public Works Department has 112 positions that require employees to have a CDL, from solid waste transport to transit buses.

The Sanitation Division was short 10 drivers as of Wednesday, Nemecek said.

Years ago, the city helped sanitation employees like Munoz obtain a CDL with various assistance programs. Now, a person who does not have a CDL must attend an eight-week course at Laramie County Community College at a cost of almost $5,000.

Nemecek said city is in the process of bringing on a person who can train potential CDL drivers in-house rather than sending them to LCCC.

“It’s possible for the city to pay for the course, but then we’d have to set up an agreement where we pay LCCC, but we’d also have to figure out if we pay the employee too,” she said. “It’s a big taxpayer expense in order to do that, so we’ve decided the best option is to hire a trainer.”

However, the trainer can’t come onboard until at least July, after the fiscal year begins on July 1.

Munoz pointed out that the training period does not end once a person obtains a CDL. The driver has to learn the ins and outs of working in the Sanitation Division and how to operate the costly equipment while also avoiding expensive accidents at the homes of city residents.

“If this job were easy, everybody would be doing it,” he said. “The drivers who have been doing it a long time may make it look easy, because we’ve done it for a long time and know what we’re doing. I think this job can just be overwhelming to people starting out.”

But Cheyenne is not the only city, by far, seeing an issue with finding CDL drivers. The National Waste and Recycling Association said the waste and recycling industry has been experiencing a growing labor shortage over the past several years, particularly when it comes to hiring people with CDLs.

For the time being, Nemecek said the city’s Public Works Department will continue to make do with what it has, but she also asked residents to be patient with employees during this time.

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Every Wyo County Averaging Over $4 Per Gallon; AAA Predicts $6 Nationwide

in News
19941

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Gas prices in all of Wyoming’s 23 counties have reached an average of more than $4 per gallon in a trend that likely to not stop any time soon, according to a University of Wyoming professor.

While UW economics professor Rob Godby told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday he does not necessarily think the state’s gas prices will reach an average of $5 per gallon of gas by the end of the summer, he does think it possible for prices to inch closer toward $4.50 or more.

“Typically what happens in the summer is prices rise due to the increased demand for gasoline in any normal year,” he said. “Certainly, the supply conditions internationally have, if anything, only worsened.”

Despite oil prices dropping from the historically high levels seen earlier this year, gasoline and diesel prices have continued to climb, reflecting the pressure caused by shortages in the market, particularly in Europe due to the war between Russia and Ukraine.

This, Godby said, is the biggest reason for the internationally tight market for refined oil products such as diesel and gasoline.

“Oil is definitely more scarce on the market,” he said. “And not only does Russia sell unrefined crude oil, but they’re also a major seller of refined oil products like diesel fuel and gasoline, especially to Europe. So Europe’s decision to stop buying Russian oil has really tightened the market for diesel and to a lesser extent, gasoline.”

There is not sufficient oil refining capacity to fill the hole caused by the Russian war, Godby said. He added if the war were to end tomorrow, the market would still be tight for a while after.

As of Thursday, the national gas price average is $4.59, while Wyoming’s average gas price was $4.27, according to GasBuddy.com, which tracks gasoline prices across the country.

The AAA, which maintains similar records, is predicting prices nationally will hit $6 per gallon by the end of the summer.

Godby said that some areas of Wyoming, such as Teton County, could see $5 gas prices or higher by the end of the summer, but he did not believe the state as a whole would see prices that high.

“They don’t call economics a dismal science for no reason,” he said.

Congressional conservatives are blaming the policies of President Joe Biden for the gas price explosion. 

U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Missouri, told Energy Secretary Janet Granholm on Thursday that as soon as the president assumed office, he “…re-entered the Paris Climate Accord, he canceled the Keystone Pipeline, he halted leasing programs in ANWAR, he issued a 60-day halt on all new oil & gas leases and drilling permits on federal lands and waters, and he imposed new regulations.”

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Father Of Slain Marine Rylee McCollum Runs For Legislature

in News/Legislature
19913

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The father of a fallen U.S. Marine from Wyoming has filed to run for the state House of Representatives seat representing House District 16 in Teton County, according to the Wyoming Secretary of State’s office.

Jim McCollum, father of the late Lance Cpl. Rylee McCollum, filed to run for the House as a Republican. Democrat Mike Yin currently holds the seat and has filed to run again.

McCollum told KHOL radio in Jackson that running for office was never a lifelong ambition or part of any plan.

“I didn’t seek this. I wasn’t looking for this. It’s not like [I thought], ‘This what I need to do.’ It just found me,” McCollum said. “It’s like, ‘You know what? This kind of makes sense. Maybe I can make a difference.’”

Unlike the rest of the state, Teton County is blue and a Republican candidate is not necessarily the safe bet to be winner. To that end, McCollum played down his party affiliation.

“The ‘R’ behind my name, don’t let that scare you,” McCollum told the radio station. “Respect and responsibility. Think of it that way.”

How does McCollum describe himself? What you see is what you get.

“I’m unfiltered. I’m very raw. Sometimes, I’m abrasive. But you know where I stand. I don’t ride the fence. You know what I say is what I mean,” McCollum said. “But I’m also intelligent enough to know, ‘Hey, you know, my view can change.’ We can have this conversation.”

Meanwhile, Yin, who has served in the Legislature since 2018, didn’t address his competitor directly but told Cowboy State Daily that he looks forward to talking with his community during the campaign about how to best serve Wyoming.

“I’ll continue to focus on how we work to ensure Wyoming is a place we can raise a family and that our kids can live and work in Wyoming and raise their own families in the future,” he said.

McCollum’s son Lance Cpl. Rylee McCollum was killed last August as the United States prepared to pull out of Afghanistan after 20 years of occupying the country. McCollum, 20, was one of 12 soldiers killed in a terrorist attack.

He was married and expecting a child, a daughter who was born weeks after his death.

More than $1 million was raised in support of the McCollum family through various GoFundMe campaigns. Actor Alec Baldwin even donated $5,000, although this would later be at the root of a conflict between Baldwin and the McCollum family that spawned a lawsuit in federal court. The lawsuit was dismissed by a federal judge.

The McCollum family declined to meet with President Joe Biden after the Rylee’s death because they said they held him responsible for the young Marine’s untimely death.

Jiennah McCollum, Rylee’s widow, did meet with Biden briefly but reportedly left disappointed because she said she felt he was following a script.

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90-Year-Old Gillette Woman Charged Again; This Time For Using A Whip On Son & Wife Over Chickens

in News/Crime
19915

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

An elderly Gillette woman who was ticketed last week for smearing honey on her son’s door was cited again just two days later for hitting her son and his wife with a buggy whip.

Lt. Paul Pownall with the Campbell County Sheriff’s Department told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday that the unidentified 90-year-old woman was ticketed on Friday evening for unlawful touching after her son reported her hitting him and his wife with the whip.

“It appears this was over a dispute about a gate that leads to the common property they share,” Pownall said. “The son and his wife opened the gate to drive out to leave the property and the 90-year-old female got upset, because she closes the gate to keep her chickens in.”

An altercation resulted, which led to her hitting her son and daughter-in-law with the whip.

The woman and son live in separate houses on the same property.

Pownall said he believed the victims were only hit once apiece and the whip left “faint” imprints on them both. There was cell phone video of the altercation, which officers viewed while on the scene.

No chickens escaped during the altercation.

The woman will have to go to court for the unlawful touching charge, which is a misdemeanor.

Pownall said her court appearance is not slated until late June, when she will also have to answer for the destruction of property charge she received last week for smearing honey on her son’s door.

On May 11, the woman was cited after her son discovered a substance slathered on his doorknob.

When a sheriff’s deputy arrived, he observed a honey-like substance on the doorknob. After speaking with the mother, she confirmed she had smeared honey on the doorknob in attempt to “sweeten her son up,” Pownall said at the time.

He added that the sheriff’s department was hesitant to ticket the elderly woman for any crime, but her son was “adamant” that something be done about her action.

While the mother and son are relatively familiar to sheriff’s deputies, Pownall said this is the first time either of them have ever been ticketed for crimes in the same week.

There had been no calls about either the mother or son as of Wednesday, though, Pownall said.

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Sweetwater County Hunters Banned From Hunting After Multiple Counts Of Poaching

in News/wildlife
19907

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The president of a hunting advocacy group on Wednesday welcomed the news that two Sweetwater County hunters have been convicted of multiple wildlife violations and barred from hunting.

According to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Justin Chewning and Steven Macy were convicted of a series of charges filed in connection with numerous hunting violations committed in 2019 and 2020 and fined a combined amount of nearly $15,000. In addition, Chewning lost his hunting and fishing privileges for 15 years, while Macy lost his for two years.

Muley Fanatics president and CEO Josh Coursey told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday that he was glad to see both men convicted of charges including hunting elk out of season, but expressed concern that if they were willing to break the law before, they could be willing to do so again.

“We have law and order for a reason and we have rules and those that violate the rules are held accountable,” Coursey said. “It’s unfortunate, because wildlife is a public trust.”

Coursey said that Chewning and Macy were cheating the state’s hunting system by illegally tagging wildlife they also illegally killed, taking something of value from the Wyoming residents who own the wildlife.

He added that people do not have to be hunters in order to appreciate the wildlife in Wyoming.

“Yellowstone has beautiful landscapes, but I’ve said several times that if you remove the wildlife from the park, I imagine that the number of visitors would plummet to next to nothing,” Coursey said. “You don’t have to be a hunter to appreciate the beauty and seeing free ranging wild animals that are plentiful on our landscape.”

According to the Game and Fish Department, during an investigation into game bird violations, its wardens learned that between Oct. 1 and Oct. 6, 2019, both Chewning and Macy illegally killed mature bull elk during the closed season, which they then tagged with general elk licenses. 

Game wardens were able to determine the locations of where the elk were killed. They also found the carcass of a bull elk illegally killed by Chewning on Oct. 1, 2019.

Using DNA analysis, the Game and Fish Department a skull and antlers Chewning had in his possession were from the bull elk.

Investigators also determined that on Oct. 4, 2020, Chewning and Macy were hunting deer in Sublette County when Macy illegally killed a buck mule deer and Chewning illegally tagged it. 

Later that same day, while returning from the Pinedale area to Rock Springs, the two men hunted in an area using the wrong license and before the area had officially opened for hunting.

Macy shot and killed two mature bull elk, and Chewning tagged one of the two illegally killed bull elk with his general elk license. 

Chewning was charged with violations including five counts of intentionally taking antlered big game without a license or during a closed season; two of transferring a license and two of intentionally wasting edible portions of game bird and big game back straps.

Chewning pleaded guilty to three counts of intentionally taking antlered bull elk without a proper license, one count of taking a buck mule deer without a license and one count of transferring a license.

Chewning’s hunting and fishing privileges were suspended for 15 years and he was ordered to pay fines of $1,585 and restitution of $7,000. All wildlife seized was forfeited to the state of Wyoming. All other charges were dismissed.

Macy was charged with five counts of intentionally taking antlered big game without a license or during a closed season and two counts of transferring a license.

He pleaded no contest to one count of taking a buck mule deer without a license and two counts of intentionally taking a bull elk without the proper license.

Macy’s hunting and fishing privileges were suspended for two years and he was ordered to pay $5,640 in fines, restitution of $1,500 and to forfeit the Browning .338-caliber rifle used in the commission of these crimes to the state of Wyoming. All other charges were dismissed. 

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Barrasso: Putin’s Actions Are Proof Of The Need For Energy Independence

in News/John Barrasso
Photo by Alex Brandon-Pool/Getty Images
19908

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

A recent trip to Ukraine has reinforced U.S. Sen. John Barrasso’s opinion that the United States needs a secure source of energy, he said Wednesday.

Barrasso, speaking during a virtual roundtable with U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, R-North Dakota, said his visit with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has convinced him that a stable domestic energy source goes hand-in-hand with national security.

Barrasso said Russian President Vladimir Putin, instigator in the current war with Ukraine, is using energy as a weapon to get his way.

“Putin, for years, financed the environmental movement of Europe because he didn’t want fracking going on,” Barrasso said. “It had nothing to do with geology, he knew (European countries) would become more energy dependent on him. He’s very shrewd when it comes to energy.”

Barrasso said European leaders have realized they became too dependent on Russian oil and added he found it telling that Sweden, a country long known for its neutrality, is now making plans to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. 

Barrasso and Hoeven are blaming President Joe Biden for damaging America’s energy security by cutting down on federal oil and gas leases and enacting other regulatory measures viewed as harmful to the fossil fuel industry.

Their comments came on the heels of testimony offered to the U.S. Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources by Jason Kennedy, the premier of Alberta, that if the Keystone XL Pipeline had not been canceled, Canada could have delivered 800,000 barrels of oil a day to replace losses caused by sanctions on Russian oil deliveries.

The U.S. imported about 209,000 barrels of crude oil each day from Russia in 2021, according to the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers trade association. 

Barrasso said he found it ironic that Biden supported the Nord Stream 2 project to funnel natural gas directly from Russia to Western Europe but denied Keystone XL.

During a U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee meeting on Tuesday, Jason Kenney, the premier of Alberta, told U.S. legislators that if Biden had not canceled the Keystone XL Pipeline project, Canada could have replaced Russian oil with 800,000 barrels of oil a day. The U.S. imported about 209,000 barrels of crude oil each day from Russia in 2021, according to the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers trade association. 

Barrasso pointed to rising gasoline prices as evidence of what can happen without a stable supply of oil.

The national average for gas hit $4.56 on Wednesday, according to AAA, an all-time record. California’s statewide average for a gallon of gas has surged to $6, while Wyoming’s average price was $4.25.  

The last day former President Donald Trump was in office the average national gas price was $2.39. 

Barrasso finds Biden’s decision to pull oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to be “a gimmick” and a move that will further threaten America’s energy security. 

Barrasso also noted that on the day Biden gave a speech blaming the gasoline price hike on Putin, his administration canceled three major federal oil leases in Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico. 

“Energy dominance — we were there,” Barrasso said. “Now we have dependence. We’re more beholden to climate extremists than we are to the people of this country.”

An April ABC poll showed many Americans believe either oil companies or  Putin were responsible for the skyrocketing gas prices. On Feb. 22, two days before Russia invaded Ukraine, the U.S. average gas price was $3.52.

In March, U.S. officials traveled to Venezuela to discuss lifting sanctions so that country can deliver more crude oil to the market, a move Chevron has lobbied for.

Barrasso and Hoeven said by seeking out energy alternatives with Venezuela, the U.S. is hurting its own environmental interests, as oil from this country burns much cleaner than oil from South America.

Barrasso also criticized the people Biden has chosen to head government agencies, pointing as an example to the Democrat-majority leadership of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. 

This agency is charged with approving large energy projects, such as interstate natural gas pipelines and hydroelectric dams and overseeing the bulk power system. Barrasso and Hoeven did mention Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), an energy-friendly lawmaker, as an ally.

On other issues stemming from his trip to Ukraine, Barrasso said he has been impressed with the courage shown by the Ukrainian people.

“Putin overestimated everything,” Barrasso said. “He overestimated his own power; he underestimated the willpower of the people of Ukraine. There has been devastation across Ukraine, but they still have the willpower and desire to unite.”

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Wyo Ag Groups Say Supreme Court Was Right In Denying Rancher $350K For Grizzly Bear Cattle Killings

in News/wildlife
19863

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The Wyoming Stock Growers Association felt the Wyoming Supreme Court made the right decision when it ruled against a Hot Springs County rancher who requested more than $300,000 in compensation for his calves killed by grizzlies.

In late April, the Supreme Court ruled against cattle and sheep rancher Josh Longwell, who in 2018 requested nearly $350,000 in compensation from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department after finding a number of his calves had been killed by grizzly bears.

The Supreme Court denied this, ruling that the more than $61,000 the rancher received in compensation was fair.

Jim Magagna, executive vice president of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday that the Supreme Court made the right decision in the ruling, even if Longwell did not get the amount of money requested.

“I feel for Mr. Longwell and he has suffered severe losses,” Magagna said. “But at the same time, the law is what it is.”

Ken Hamilton, executive director of the Wyoming Farm Bureau, told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday that the issue was more than the ruling for money, but rather about hunting grizzly bears.

“By protecting the grizzly bear under the federal Endangered Species Act, it shifts these costs back to the rancher and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department,” he said. “We’ve run into this before where the federal government is anxious to protect an animal, but they’re not anxious to accept the responsibility of that.”

Hamilton said that until animals such as the grizzly bear or gray wolf can be removed from the endangered species list, states will not be able to manage them the way they should properly be.

A Game and Fish Department investigation determined 20 of Longwell’s calves had been killed by the bears. But in the compensation request, Longwell noted that 294 calves were unaccounted for by the end of the 2018 grazing season.

“Mr. Longwell based his claim on an assumption that for every calf confirmed as killed by a grizzly bear, 19 others had been killed and their remains could not be found,” the ruling said.

The Game and Fish Department rejected this claim, but officials agreed to compensate Longwell for the loss of 70 calves, an amount that totaled $61,202.79.

However, the case went into arbitration and Longwell was awarded $266,695.32. The Game and Fish Department appealed the decision, which ultimately reached the Supreme Court.

“We are sympathetic to Mr. Longwell’s plight. His frustration with the grizzly bear predation occurring on his ranch is obvious…,” the ruling said. “However, as the court also recognized, Mr. Longwell’s remedy lies with the [Game and Fish] Commission or the legislature, not this court.”

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Wyo Health Experts Discount Claim That More Vaccines Could Have Saved 70% Of Covid Deaths

in News/Coronavirus
19866

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

An analysis reporting that the deaths of nearly 940 Wyoming residents from COVID-19 could have been prevented if they had been vaccinated is being questioned by some state health experts.

On Friday, researchers at researchers at Brown School of Public Health, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health released an analysis that estimated the number of coronavirus deaths that could have been prevented in each state by vaccination since the COVID vaccine became available at the start of 2021.

According to the report, Wyoming could have experienced 938 fewer deaths — a reduction of almost 70% from the total of 1,376 deaths coronavirus-related deaths the report said the state saw between January of 2021 and April of this year.

The state Department of Health reported the number of deaths between January of 2021 and April at 1,222.

The report raises some quesitons, as there are several factors it does not take into consideration, according to Wyoming Department of Health spokeswoman Kim Deti and Cheyenne-Laramie County Health Department director Kathy Emmons.

“There were more than 1,000 COVID-19 related deaths confirmed in 2021 and around 200 so far this year,” Deti said. “We absolutely believe than many of those deaths could have likely been prevented had more people in Wyoming made the choice to get vaccinated against COVID-19, but don’t have a specific estimate.”

Emmons agreed some deaths could have been prevented by the vaccine. But the issue with COVID, she said, is that it can set off other health issues.

“Say I have COPD and then I get COVID,” Emmons said. “The COVID exacerbates the COPD and I die, but my system is weakened due to both the COVID and the COPD.”

She added it is possible 938 people could have been saved if they had received the vaccine, it was still hard to confirm the figure, which assumes that everyone who could take the vaccine would get it.

Emmons added that no health official in the state expected Wyoming to be at a 100% vaccination rate, so another challenge with the analysis is that it is based on vaccination rates that state officials knew would never happen.

“There are all of these other conditions that come into place,” she said. “We are still, 100 years later, trying to figure out how many people died from the Spanish flu in 1917. I just don’t think we have the time behind us yet to know the actual numbers.”

The first COVID vaccine dose in Wyoming was administered in December 2020 and the vaccines became widely available in the state in March 2021.

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Wyoming Author C.J. Box’s “Big Sky” TV Show Renewed For Third Season; Reba McEntire To Join Cast

in News/C.J. Box
19858

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Country music superstar Reba McEntire will join the cast of “Big Sky,” which was just renewed for a third season on Tuesday, author C.J. Box told Cowboy State Daily.

McEntire is going to be one of two major guest stars next season, alongside former “Supernatural” lead Jensen Ackles, who guest starred in the finale of season two as Beau Arlen, who will step in as a temporary sheriff in season three.

“We’re thrilled that ‘Big Sky’ got picked by ABC for a third season and that both Reba and Jensen have been added to the cast,” Box told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday.

McEntire will portray Sunny Brick, who is described by Deadline as “the mercurial matriarch of the Brick family, a successful backcountry outfitter with a secret history of missing customers.”

“Big Sky” is adapted from Box’s Cassie Dewell series of novels, the latest of which, “Treasure Hunt,” is due out in September, the author said.

“I’m not sure about the storylines for next season, since they’ve used most of them from the previous books already,” Box said.

In season two, private detectives Cassie Dewell (Kylie Bunbury) and Jenny Hoyt (Katheryn Winnick) reunite to investigate a car wreck outside of Helena, Montana, and they soon discover that the case might not be as straightforward as it seems.

While the series is set in Montana, it has been filmed in Vancouver, Canada, and New Mexico.

The show has received both popular and critical acclaim, with even horror author Stephen King praising it as one of the best series on television right now.

It has also attracted a litany of guest stars in addition to Ackles and McEntire, including “The Sopranos” star Jamie-Lynn Sigler and film actors Logan Marshall-Green and Ryan Phillippe.

Despite being a country legend, McEntire is no stranger to acting. She had a long-running series, “Reba,” during the 2000s and has appeared in films such as “Tremors,” “Spies in Disguise” and “Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar.”

Ackles is best known for his longtime role on “Supernatural” as Dean Winchester and will soon appear in the third season of the critically acclaimed series “The Boys” as Soldier Boy, a dementedly satirical take on Captain America.

In addition to “Big Sky” being renewed for a third season, Box’s other adapted series, “Joe Pickett,” is now streaming on Paramount+, although it originally debuted on the Spectrum Network.

Interested viewers can use the code “PICKETT” to view the streaming service for one month free.

Pickett has been renewed for a second season.

“‘Joe Pickett’ has gotten very good reviews, which is great,” Box said. “And it was the number one show on Spectrum where it debuted, which is even more exciting.”

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Settlement Reached In Wrongful Death Case Involving Former Laramie Cop

in News/Crime
19855

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A settlement has been reached in the wrongful death lawsuit filed by the mother of a Laramie man shot to death in 2018 by an Albany County Sheriff’s deputy.

Court documents showed that the federal court was notified on May 2 that a settlement was reached between in the lawsuit filed by Debra Hinkel, the mother of Robert “Robbie” Ramirez, who was shot and killed by Deputy Derek Colling, who has since resigned as a deputy, in November 2018.

No details were given about the settlement, but in her complaint against Colling, the Albany County Sheriff’s Office and Albany County Commissioners, Hinkel was seeking up to $20 million for her son’s death, as she called it a “miscarriage of justice.”

Albany County for Proper Policing, a nonprofit organization headed by state Rep. Karlee Provenza, R-Laramie, praised the news of the settlement on Tuesday.

“We don’t know the terms of the settlement, but we know that it is an important step on the way to justice for Robbie,” the organization wrote on Facebook. “Justice for Robbie is transparency and accountability of law enforcement. Justice for Robbie is mental health professionals responding to calls involving people in crisis. Justice for Robbie is a federal indictment and investigation of Derek Colling and the good ol’ boys who protected him by destroying evidence.”

Colling previously argued that he was exempt from the wrongful death lawsuit due to “qualified immunity,” meaning that government officials cannot be sued for performing their jobs.

Colling shot Ramirez three times after a traffic stop in Laramie in November of 2018. Ramirez was shot after being tasered by Colling, who argued that Ramirez attacked him.

Colling was ultimately cleared of wrongdoing by a grand jury, but resigned from his position at the sheriff’s department in 2021 after almost nine years with the department. He is a Laramie native and his father is a Wyoming Highway Patrol trooper.

Colling had previously shot and killed a 15-year-old boy while working as a police officer in Las Vegas, a shooting that led to a lengthy lawsuit. He was later fired from the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department for an alleged assault of a videographer trying to film police work. 

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Bighorn National Forest To Convert Historic Lookout Cabins Into Rentals

in News
19830

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Officials at Bighorn National Forest are in the process of converting a handful of historic unused cabins and facilities into recreation rentals, allowing people a step back in time, at least for a few nights, and experience the halcyon days before indoor plumbing.

Bighorn National Forest will convert five of its properties for use as rentals, giving forest visitors a unique opportunity to stay in the forest in a building erected in the 1930s or before, spokeswoman Sara Kirol told Cowboy State Daily on Monday.

“These are all pretty old and historical buildings and they have a lot of character,” Kirol said. “I think there is a lot of nostalgia driving people to stay here, because you get to kind of step back in time and interface with history a bit.”

The facilities will likely be available to rent in the summer of 2024.

The USDA, which manages the forest, already has three rentals currently available, but Evans said that it is difficult to book a stay of one night or longer. The three properties are Sheep Mountain Lookout, Pole Creek Cabin and Muddy Guard Cabin and reservations can be available up to six months in advance.

The cabins to be turned into rentals within the next two years include two buildings in the Big Goose area, one in the Penrose area and one in the Woodrock area. The final building, the River Cabin at Tyrrell, will require a little more work, since it is being converted into an Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant facility.

The newest buildings are in the Big Goose area and were built in the 1930s, Kirol said.

None buildings have modern luxuries such as indoor plumbing or potable water.

Kirol said the buildings already available typically rent for $35 to $50 per night and she said she expected the five new facilities to rent for a similar price.

The income generated from the rentals goes immediately back into the forest, allowing for staff to maintain the forest’s facilities.

“This experience is definitely not available everywhere and it just has a different feel when you stay here,” Kirol said. “If you are patient, this is going to be really exciting. I’ve personally stayed at forest cabins across the country even before I worked for the Forest Service and it’s a pretty great experience.”

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Former Saratoga Cop Pleads Guilty After Threatening Officers Who Tried To Take Dog

in News/Crime
19836

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A former Saratoga police officer accused of threatening Carbon County Sheriff’s officers who tried to take his dog pleaded guilty to a charge of interfering with a peace officer last week.

Documents filed in Carbon County Circuit Court showed that three other charges against Justin Brown filed in connection with a New Year’s Eve incident were dropped.

Justin Brown pleaded guilty on May 10 to one count of interfering with a peace officer, a misdemeanor charge. He will have to pay a $420 fine and received a suspended 180-day jail sentence.

Three other charges, one of influencing, intimidating or impeding jurors, witnesses and officers and two of allowing a large dog to attack a person, were dropped by the Carbon County District Attorney.

Brown was arrested and charged in February in connection with an incident that occurred on New Year’s Eve, when sheriff’s officers tried to seize one of Brown’s dogs, Shaw, that Brown said he was training as a K9 officer.

Shaw was accused last year of biting individuals including Brown’s wife and young daughter.

When police attempted to seize the dog, Brown said that would not be happening and claimed the dog had been taken to Colorado.

Brown then threatened all of the law enforcement personnel on scene, telling them that if they attempted to take his dog, he would “break [their] necks.” He also claimed no one in Carbon County could “take” him.

Police left Brown’s residence following the threat of violence.

Brown was fired in early March from his position at a Saratoga police officer, one of three full-time people in the department.

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399 Cub Hazed On Friday After Family Breaks Up

in News/Grizzly Bears
19829

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

One of famed grizzly bear 399’s cubs was hazed away from a Jackson residential area last week, just days after the bear family split up for good.

The cub, one of the two that were collared back in November, was frightened out of a Jackson subdivision on Friday morning by a vehicle and “cracker shells,” shotgun shells that explode and shoot sparks in the air, Wyoming Game and Fish grizzly biologist Dan Thompson told Cowboy State Daily on Monday.

“The bear left the area and crossed the river, heading back north,” Thompson said. “This is nothing new or unique, as hazing and aversive conditioning have been part of grizzly bear conservation for over four decades.”

Thompson added that the Game and Fish Department staff is repeating its plea for the public to give the 399 cubs, along with all other bears and wildlife, plenty of space.

“Pressuring bears is a detriment to them and people and can result in very negative circumstances for both species,” Thompson said.

Jack Bayles, co-founder of the Team 399 website, told Cowboy State Daily on Monday that while hazing can be hard for humans to watch, it is also a necessity at times.

“The sooner the cubs learn to stay out of the neighborhoods, the longer they will live,” he said.

Last week, Team 399 reported that 399 and her four youngest cubs were in the process of separating as the yearlings begin to age into adulthood. Additionally, 399 seems to have a new male suitor, which Team 399 has affectionally nicknamed “Bruno.”

Thompson told Cowboy State Daily on Friday that this was a pretty common occurrence among bears, with the elder ones courting and the younger ones leaving the den to make a life as an independent bear.

“Sometimes the movement away from the maternal female takes a little more ‘coaxing’ to leave, but it is natural for two-year-old-offspring to leave the mother,” he said. “With a large litter like this, some of the siblings may travel together for a bit or separate, depending on sex and food availability”

Thompson added that male bears tend to naturally disperse from their natal area, while females usually try to develop a home range near their mothers.

“There may be some commingling and reunions in the next few days or weeks, but those young should be independent from her the majority of the summer and rest of their lives,” Thompson said.

Thompson previously said that he did not necessarily expect 399 to breed again since she is relatively old for a bear at 26, but also noted that she continues to surprise both staff at the Game and Fish Department and Grand Teton National Park.

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WYDOT, Game And Fish Begin Work On $15M Wildlife Crossing Project

in News/wildlife
19787

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A 17-mile wildlife crossing project in southwestern Wyoming will make a significant difference for mule deer in the region, according to an official with the Muley Fanatic Foundation.

Josh Coursey, president and CEO of the foundation, told Cowboy State Daily he was excited about this week’s start of work on the Dry Piney Wildlife Crossing Project near LaBarge.

“It’s a very expensive project at $15 million, but it’s truly the flavor of the day for how conservation in the 21st century works,” Coursey said. “The one thing about overpasses and underpasses, you can quantify their success instantaneously.”

The project includes fencing about 17 miles of U.S. Highway 189 and building nine underpasses beneath the highway.

The project should be complete by fall of 2023, Coursey said, but likely, at least a few of the underpasses will be open by the end of the year.

According to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, there are an average of 6,000 collisions between vehicles and big game in Wyoming every year, which result in $20 million to $23 million in wildlife losses and $24 million to $29 million in personal injury costs.

Eighty-five percent of the wildlife collisions in the state involve mule deer. Fifteen percent of all Wyoming crashes involve wildlife.

The Dry Piney area is the third “hottest” spot in the state for wildlife collisions, according to MFF.

“This (project) is going to help the mule deer population exponentially, while in turn enhancing motorists’ safety,” Coursey said. “The connectivity of mule deer migration is so important to their overall sustainability of the herd’s health. That’s what these underpasses will allow for.”

MFF has donated a little more than $100,000 to the project, which Coursey called a “drop in the bucket” compared to its $15 million price tag, but the organization was also integral in the creation of the Wyoming Wildlife Conservation license plates, which raise money for the Wildlife Conservation Fund.

The funds raised from the license plate sales are used for wildlife projects related to roadways, such as wildlife-friendly fencing modification, signage, overpasses and underpasses.

Besides the Dry Piney project, Keith Fulton, assistant chief engineer of planning and engineering for the Wyoming Department of Transportation, told Cowboy State Daily that there are a couple of other wildlife crossing projects the department is hoping to get off the ground in the next three to five years.

“When we did the traverse point crossing down by Pinedale, we saw a decrease in animal/vehicle collisions by about 80%,” Fulton said Friday. “I don’t think we had a number in mind for a goal, but we started looking back at crash data and carcass counts and we saw very good improvement.”

Earlier this year, the construction of a $3.8 million crossing path between Buffalo and Kaycee was announced.

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Wyoming Wolf, Cubs Keep Killing Colorado Rancher’s Cows

in News/wildlife
19784

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

For nearly six months, Don Gittleson of Steamboat Springs, Colorado, has had a wolf problem. Which came to him all the way from Wyoming

Gittleson is one of a handful of ranchers who has seen firsthand the destruction wolves can cause to the agriculture industry if left unchecked. He has been fighting to keep a former Wyoming wolf and her pack from killing off his livestock.

“We have a yearling and two bred cows that have been confirmed killed by the wolves,” Gittleson told Cowboy State Daily on Friday. “One cow was injured, but it’s recovering. We have two dead calves that Colorado Parks and Wildlife haven’t yet confirmed were killed by the wolves and I had some CPW folks out today to check out another calf that’s been injured.”

A former member of a Wyoming wolf pack identified as F1084 broke away its pack about two years ago, according to wildlife officials. She, along with her mate and litter, have been preying on the cows since before Christmas.

F1084 and her mate M2101 had six pups in 2021 and when the pack of eight traveled south out of Colorado, it became the first wolf pack in Colorado since the 1940s.

“[Colorado Gov. Jared Polis] thinks they’re just the greatest things ever,” Gittleson said. “The first couple cows they killed, we weren’t even allowed to chase them off or haze them. After three cows and the neighbor’s dog were found dead, they said we could haze them, but it’s a little late for that now.”

Gittleson could not estimate how much he has lost since the wolves began preying on his cows, but some of his livestock can be worth more than $3,500 per animal. It is safe to say he has lost thousands in just the few cows that have been killed, he said.

The wolves cannot be killed or injured due to federal wildlife guidelines. Gray wolves are also considered endangered in Colorado.

Gittleson has been taking certain precautions around his ranch to prevent the wolves from continuing to prey on his cattle, but so far, not much has worked.

He has placed several miles of fladry, brightly colored plastic streamers that are a preventative measure, around his property. He has used cracker shells, which are like shotgun shells that can be fired into the air to shoot sparks and frighten predatory animals.

He, his wife and his employees have even tried staying with the cows at night, when the wolves like to prey on them, to try and scare them off.

While these fixes have worked temporarily, nothing has been a permanent solution.

“The reason most of these tools work is because the wolves are afraid of you doing them harm or killing them,” Gittleson said. “Here in Colorado, that doesn’t happen. We’ve got a governor that goes out and kisses them, so we don’t do anything to make them afraid of people and slowly get them used to us.”

Since his hands are tied, he has to wait until the federal or state government decide livestock producers can take some sort of action over preying wolves, a move that likely won’t happen for at least a year.

“If you look at other states like Wyoming, for example, and look at the difference between what they paid before allowing wolf hunting and after and there’s definitely a difference,” he said. “But I don’t know how soon, if ever, Colorado is going to be hunting wolves.

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Spotify’s Biggest Female Artist To Perform In Cheyenne This Summer

in News
Photo by Matt Jelonek/Wire Image
19776

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The woman behind Spotify’s most-streamed single by a female artist will headline Cheyenne’s popular summer festival Edge Fest in August, the event’s organizer told Cowboy State Daily on Friday.

Tones and I, whose hit “Dance Monkey” is also the most Shazamed song ever, will headline Edge Fest in Cheyenne on Aug. 27. The event is free and open to the public.

Marketing company Warehouse 21 organizes the event and CEO Dave Teubner regularly scouts up-and-coming artists who would be a good fit for the Cheyenne crowd. He told Cowboy State Daily that Tones and I, real name Toni Watson, has been on his radar for a couple of years.

“She’s really our biggest name so far and we were able to do that because of our sponsors,” Teubner said. “We’ve talked about turning Edge Fest into a multi-day event, but right now, we’ve focused on raising more money to put into the artists, quality over quantity.”

“Dance Monkey” was released in 2019, but still regularly receives airplay. In 2020, it was declared the most Shazamed song ever, with nearly 37 million searches for the Australian singer’s big hit.

Tones and I released her debut album in July 2021, but she has reportedly been working on a new record expected to be released in August.

“She’s going on a world tour, which is huge and she’s playing a lot of bigger venues than (Edge Fest) all across the U.S.,” Teubner said. “We’re pretty lucky to have snagged her while she’s going to be in the states.”

Edge Fest has been a Cheyenne summer staple for nearly a decade and has grown exponentially over the last five years.

Teubner has put a focus in bringing higher-tier independent artists to the festival and some of the recent headliners at Edge Fest include Bishop Briggs, K.Flay and LP, all women.

“The fact that we continue having women headliners is semi-intentional,” Teubner said. “We’re not exclusive to having women. We just really admire these artists’ live performances and their ability in which to electrify a crowd.”

In addition to the performance by Tones and I, artists to appear at Edge Fest will include Claire Rosinkranz and Joe P. The event will also feature around a dozen of the region’s “finest” food trucks, beer sales and vendors.

“It just continues to grow in size and numbers,” Teubner said.

Management for Tones and I did not immediately respond to Cowboy State Daily’s request for comment on Friday.

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90-Year-Old Gillette Woman Charged $5 For Destruction Of Property After Smearing Honey On Doorknob

in News/Crime
19775

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Gillette woman was ticketed this week after she smeared honey on her son’s front doorknob in an attempt to “sweeten him up,” a Campbell County sheriff’s lieutenant told Cowboy State Daily on Friday.

The unidentified 90-year-old woman and her 59-year-old son have regularly been in conflict in recent years, according to Sheriff’s Lt. Paul Pownall. The two live in different houses on the same property.

“We were called on Wednesday by the son, who wanted to report his mother had come onto his part of the property and slathered something on his doorknob,” he said. “He has cameras on portions of the property, so he could identify that it was his mother.”

When a sheriff’s deputy arrived, he observed a honey-like substance on the doorknob. After speaking with the mother, she confirmed she had smeared honey on the doorknob in attempt to “sweeten her son up,” Pownall said.

He added that the sheriff’s department was hesitant to ticket the elderly woman for any crime, but her son was “adamant” that something be done about her action.

“She was issued a citation for destruction of property and the value was $5 for the clean-up,” Pownall said. “He was insistent that she be cited.”

The son cleaned the honey off of the doorknob.

While the sheriff’s office is familiar with both the mother and son, Pownall declined to address the potential root cause of their conlict.

“I believe that like any family dynamics, there’s always going to be the potential for conflict,” he said. “I think a lot of it is they’re in such close proximity to each other that if one does something that agitates or irritates the other, then it just goes from there.”

Pownall added that in his 21 years in law enforcement, this is the first-ever honey-related situation he has seen.

“I would hope that folks would be able to figure out a way to interact with one another in a peaceful manner,” he said. “That would be the best case scenario for everyone involved.”

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More Horses Die Of Strangles At Wheatland Facility, More Than Half Of Population ‘Impacted’

in wild horses/News
wild horses
19742

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Another six wild horses horses at a Wheatland facility have died of a contagious equine disease commonly known as “strangles” and at least half of the 2,750 horses at the facility are showing signs of the illness, according to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

The agency announced that the deaths at the facility it maintains to hold wild horses collected from the plans of Wyoming brings to 11 the number of horses killed by the upper respiratory illness known as streptococcus equi or “strangles.”

In addition, about half of the 2,750 animals at the facility are showing some observable signs of strangles, the agency said.

“It’s possible that it could spread further just due to contagiousness of strangles,” BLM spokesman Tyson Finnicum told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday. “It’s also possible that more horses either have been infected and recovered without showing visible signs of the infection or they were unaffected because of immunity.

“All of the animals at the facility have received the vaccine and we are starting to give annual boosters,” he continued. “We’re mitigating the infection by treating affected horses, segregating animals, and are also implementing biosecurity measures, like bleaching equipment and work areas, to stop or reduce transmission.”

The mortality rate of strangles is typically under 10% but can be as high as 40%. In comparison, 0.8% of the horses affected by strangles at the Wheatland facility have died.

BLM has again stopped a wild horse and burro adoption event due to the strangles outbreak, which has been going on since late March. The cause of the infection has not yet been determined.

“The primary reason why we’ve closed the facility and are pausing adoptions is to keep the disease from spreading outside of the facility,” Finnicum said. “Holding off on adoptions also helps the horses recover. Not until we are confident that horses can leave the facility without risk of transmission will we lift the closure and resume adoptions.”

The horses are currently under quarantine and being treated for the disease.

“Strangles” is the most common infectious illness found in horses between 6 and 10 years old. Horses can catch the disease through inhalation or ingestion of the bacteria, such as through horse-to-horse contact, drinking contaminated water or making contact with infected material.

According to the Equine Disease Communication Center, most horses will be exposed to or infected with strangles at a young age.

No animals, including domestic saddle horses, have been shipped or received at the facility since the last load of horses gathered last fall were delivered in January.

No foals have died due to the infection.

Foaling mares and newborn foals have shown to be the least impacted by the infection, according to BLM. Additionally, all of the mares at the facility have been vaccinated for strangles, which means their foals are born with some immunity.

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Laramie Defense Attorney Explains Washington Man’s 6-Year Sentence For $150M Fentanyl Bust

in News/Crime
19746

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A lack of criminal history and for sentencing guidelines for possessing fentanyl were the two main factors behind a Washington man’s relatively light prison sentence for carrying $150 million in fentanyl, his Laramie defense attorney told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday.

Diego Aguilar-Valdovinos was sentenced late last month to just over six years in prison for possession with intent to distribute fentanyl, with around three years of supervised release to follow. He could have been sentenced to a maximum of life in prison and a fine of up to $10 million.

His defense attorney, Tom Fleener, told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday that federal sentencing guidelines for fentanyl, coupled with Aguilar-Valdovinos’ lack of criminal history, led to a lower sentence than his client could have faced.

“The court also took into consideration my client’s background, since his parents were deported when he was a child,” Fleener said. “He’s a U.S. citizen, but they were taken away and he bounced around some foster homes before his grandmother took him in and raised him.”

Fleener added that his client was not aware that he was hauling fentanyl last summer when he arrested just outside of Cheyenne with the drugs.

“There is no evidence to suggest he was aware of it, either,” the attorney said. “But frankly, he received a sentence of 65 months because that’s what the sentencing guidelines call for.”

Aguilar-Valdovinos was arrested last July when a Wyoming Highway Patrol trooper stopped him for speeding east of Cheyenne on Interstate 80.

The trooper became suspicious of Aguilar-Valdovinos, who was driving a 2021 Hyundai Kona, when the man provided inconsistent and implausible travel plans.

The trooper detained the driver and deployed a drug-sniffing dog around the exterior of the car. The dog indicated it smelled drugs inside the vehicle.

A search of the car revealed approximately 24 pounds of suspected fentanyl, a highly potent opioid, inside the vehicle, according to court records.

Aguilar-Valdovinos was arrested and charged with felony transportation, distribution and possession of narcotics at the time.

According to the U.S. Sentencing Commission, the average sentence for fentanyl trafficking offenders was 75 months as of 2018. More than half of the offenders, 55%, were sentenced under federal guidelines.

Sentences were usually increased when the offender was in possession of a weapon or for having demonstrated a leadership role in trafficking operations.

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K9s For Mobility CEO ‘Outraged’ At Dubois Motel For Denying Army Vet, Service Dog A Room

in News
Col. Victoria Miralda, (Ret.)
19732

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A Dubois motel had no reason to refuse a room to a U.S. veteran because of her service dog, according to the leader of a Cheyenne group that helps train such dogs.

Michelle Woerner, CEO of K9s 4 Mobility, said she was outraged at allegations the Chinook Winds Motel refused to let Col. Victoria Miralda stay at the hotel with her service dog Luna.

“People need to realize that denying the service dog access is like telling the person to leave their cane, walker or wheelchair outside,” Woerner told Cowboy State Daily. “The service dog allows that person to complete daily tasks, so without them someone or something would need to take the dog’s place. There is no reason to deny the person with the service dog before observing the behavior.”

Miralda is suing Chinook winds on allegations it violated her rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Wyoming law when it refused to allow her to stay at the motel with her dog, which she relies on for help with physical disabilities and mental health issues.

In particular, Luna helps Miralda going up and down stairs and dealing with anxiety stemming from PTSD.

Miralda’s lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court alleged that the motel owner would not allow her and a fellow veteran to stay at the business due to Miralda’s service dog.

The women attempted to stay at the hotel in September 2021 when returning from an event in Montana, the lawsuit said. Miralda reserved a room for one night through the Expedia travel website, paying around $120 in advance.

When checking in, Miralda informed the motel employee, who identified herself as the owner, that she had a service animal. The owner said Luna could not stay in the room, as the motel did not allow pets.

When Miralda explained Luna was not a pet, but a service animal, the owner reiterated the policy of no pets and no exceptions.

Woerner told Cowboy State Daily that ADA does not require any certification or registration for a service dog, but the animal must perform physical skill tasks that directly address its owner’s disability.

“The motel cannot deny anyone with a service dog or even ask for any type of “paperwork” that shows the dog is a trained service dog,” she said. “They can only ask if the dog is a service dog needed for a disability and then what tasks the dog is trained to do.”

Miralda offered to show documentation proving that Luna was trained and certified as a service animal and to bring in her own bedsheet to ensure the room remained clean, despite Luna being housebroken and well-behaved, the lawsuit said.

The owner refused this offer and told Miralda that if she brought the dog into the motel room, she would be charged an additional $200.

Woerner said that the motel cannot charge an extra fee for the service dog being in the room, but can charge for damage done by the dog or for extra cleaning needed because of the dog, excluding dog hair.

“At K9s 4 Mobility, we encourage all of our clients to inform the motel they are making reservations with that they will have a service dog with them and request that it be included as a note on the reservation so anyone checking them in is aware of it,” she said. “We also encourage clients to carry the ADA law about public access and specifically hotels/motels, so they can show anyone asking.”

Since the owner would not allow Miralda to stay with Luna, she asked for a refund of her advance payment, but was denied.

A person claiming to be the owner then posted remarks about Miralda to Expedia following the encounter, stating there was nothing in the reservation about a service animal accompanying Miralda, that the motel did not allow dogs and that Luna did not have any documentation proving Luna was a service dog, the lawsuit said.

According to court documents, since the encounter with Miralda, the Chinook Winds is now allowing dogs in two rooms, which are apparently also the most expensive rooms at the motel. Guests are also required to pay a surcharge for their dogs.

Woerner said that she was amazed people were still so ignorant about service dogs and ADA, even in 2022.

“The public gets confused on what is legit and what is not,” she said. “Then there are those people that are basically faking a disability by calling their pet dog a ‘service dog’ to bring them into a public place and many times that is a hotel/motel. The motel/hotel owners should observe the behavior of the service dog and if that dog is behaving poorly, the ADA gives them the right to refuse lodging or services with the dog.”

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Cody Animal Shelter Brings In 35 Cats From Hoarding Case

in News/animal shelter
19748

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The Park County Animal Shelter has been inundated this week with more than 30 cats rescued from a recent hoarding case, an official told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday.

Shelter Outreach Manager Jackie Hinther said 35 cats were brought to the shelter over several days this week as they were recovered from the home involved in the case. She added the owner of the cats surrendered the animals.

“(Cody Animal Control) Officer (Jennifer) Morris and I went into the home to assess the situation on Monday and determined the living environment was not healthy for cats,” Hinther said. “The owner was very cooperative in signing the cats over to us.”

On Monday, animal shelter employees were able to catch 12 cats — four adults and eight kittens. On Tuesday, 17 cats of all ages were caught.

“We left two live traps and two cat carriers with the owner (who) brought us in six more cats,” Hinther said. “After that, we are now unable to take any more. There are still 10 cats in the house.”

Animal shelter employees are currently working with the cats’ owner to get the final 10 spayed or neutered.

The cats taken to the shelter from the home range in age from a few days to adults.

Hinther said that despite the condition of the home, the cats are in relatively good condition, although four cats have a genetic condition where their eyes are too small for their heads.

She added that a number of the cats have minor upper respiratory symptoms, such as sneezing or “goopy” eyes.” All will need to be vaccinated, dewormed and spayed or neutered.

All of the cats are now available for adoption, save for one mother cat and her newborn kittens.

The cats will be unable to leave the shelter until they have been spayed or neutered, although prospective new owners can still come meet them at the shelter now and put down money to adopt them.

With the sharp increase of cats in the shelter, Hinther asked anyone who is willing to give to help in one of several ways.

“We are in desperate need of monetary donations, supplies, and volunteers,” she said. “For monetary donations, they can go to our website, stop in or give us a call to donate. We need volunteers to help us clean our cat area in the mornings.” 

The case is similar to hoarding incidents reported recently in Lovell, where 12 dogs were seized, and in Cheyenne, where 60 large dogs were taken to the Cheyenne Animal Shelter.

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Former House Speaker Tom Lubnau Resigns From GOP Leadership

in News/politics
19690

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

A former speaker of Wyoming’s House is resigning as a member of the state Republican Party’s leadership, citing differences with the actions and ethics of the state party.

Tom Lubnau, a 10-year legislator, is resigning his position as state committeeman with Campbell County Republican Party, a position that makes him a member of the state GOP’s central committee.

“The lack of integrity, toxicity and the move toward secrecy have convinced me to resign from this position,” he wrote in his resignation letter. 

Lubnau declined to make any further comment to Cowboy State Daily.

Lubnau’s letter of resignation was submitted to Heather Herr, chairman of the Campbell County Republican Party, on Saturday afternoon, while the state GOP convention was ongoing.

Herr did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

In his letter, Lubnau said he was convinced to leave the central committee by the party’s adoption of a new “alternate dispute resolution process” which he compared to a secret court or “star chamber.”

“The system provides for secret proceedings, without notice or rules, standards of conduct which may be enforced, and unappealable legal judgments rendered in secret by a panel which cannot be challenged for bias,” Lubnau wrote. “The program is an affront to our legal system and reminds me of the Star Chamber proceedings under King Charles I.”

The process approved by the more than 250 delegates to the party’s convention last weekend is designed to resolve in-party disputes. Its work will be overseen by an Investigative Committee and Dispute Resolution Committee. No members outside the party or attorneys are allowed to represent parties in these conflicts. 

Members of the Dispute Resolution Committee will be hand-picked by the state party’s chairman, currently Frank Eathorne of Douglas.

Eathorne and Brian Schuck, the party’s attorney, did not respond to Cowboy State Daily’s request for comment. 

Lubnau said although he has vocally criticized the state party’s leadership in the past, the “triggering” event for him was the passage of the dispute resolution process.

“The willingness of constitution-loving Republicans to subjugate themselves to the whims of the Party Chairman is frightening,” Lubnau wrote. “The willingness to give up constitutionally protected rights in the name of expediency and quashing dissent is appalling.”

The bylaw addition was considered by the Bylaws Committee and then passed by the state’s delegates on Saturday with no input from the state central committee.

This bylaw was originally proposed by the Weston County Republican Party.

Kari Drost, Weston County GOP chairman, defended the bylaw in a phone interview Wednesday morning.

“It was a grassroots effort out of Weston County with the goal to settle disputes within the party rather than with a lawsuit,” she said. “I think it’s a great policy that had wonderful support in Weston and the state GOP.”

Another bylaw approved on Saturday addressed lawsuits filed against the party, specifying that anyone who files lawsuits against the state or county parties without going first to the new Dispute Resolution Committee will have to pay the legal fees of the group being sued.

Lubnau said these new bylaws infringe on the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh and 14th amendments of the U.S. Constitution. 

Lubnau in January was named as a plaintiff in a lawsuit against Eathorne and the state Republican Party central committee, challenging the way three nominees for the vacant office of superintendent of public instruction were selected.

At the time Lubnau said the process used to select nominees for submission to Gov. Mark Gordon was unconstitutional because it violated the “one man-one vote” principle of the Equal Protection Clause in both the Wyoming and U.S. constitutions.

The Natrona County Republican Party is also involved in a lawsuit against the Wyoming Republican Party over dues.

In his letter, Lubnau said the party has “drifted away from” him. After serving as a state committeeman in the late 1980s, he was elected to the state House five times and Republican House Caucus leadership three times. 

Lubnau said he had hoped that he could help the party alter its course but has now lost this faith and wants the Campbell County party represented on the state central committee by someone who doesn’t share his “trepidation and distrust.”

“It’s very unfortunate,” said Randy Okray, a Campbell County GOP precinct committeeman who has been friends with Lubnau for a number of years. “He’s one of the most intelligent and upstanding people that we have.”

Lubnau was elected by the county party’s voters in 2020 for a term as state committeeman that started in January 2021. However, he will not finish out the rest of his two-year term. 

The Campbell County GOP central committee will be responsible for filling his position within 30 days of his notice.

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New Law Means 90% of Hunting Licenses For “Big Five” Animals Will Go To Wyoming Residents

in News/Hunting
19688

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Beginning in the fall of 2023, more Wyoming residents will have the opportunity to chance to win big game hunting tags, thanks to a new limiting the licenses available to out-of-state hunters.

Next fall, 90% of the licenses for the “big five” wild game animals – bighorn sheep, moose, mountain goat, grizzly bears and wild bison – will be allocated for Wyoming residents, leaving only 10% of the licenses for non-resident hunters, according to the state Game and Fish Department.

“These are some of the most highly sought-after licenses that we offer in Wyoming and throughout the West, so the demand is incredibly high for them,” said department spokeswoman Sara DiRienzo said. “People wait decades in order to draw one of these tags, both resident and non-resident hunters.”

The change is outlined in a new law that increased the number of big game licenses available for Wyoming residents from 80% of all licenses to 90%.

The Wyoming Wildlife Taskforce made the suggestion to the Legislature last year to change the allocation numbers. The Legislature adopted the change during its budget session earlier in 2022.

DiRienzo said the department will lose about $200,000 because of the change in allocation because hunting tags sold to non-resident hunters can be significantly more expensive than those sold to resident hunters. For example, a non-resident hunting tag for any wild bison is $4,402, while the resident rate is $414.

“The decrease (in revenue) to (the) Game and Fish (Department) was so small, it wasn’t much of a concern,” she said.

She added there will be an estimated 100 fewer licenses available for non-residents next year, but the number does fluctuate, depending on the populations of animals.

It should be noted that although grizzly bears are included on the “big five” wild game list, they are currently not allowed to be hunted due to their endangered status. However, they were included in the legislation, in case the hunts are one day allowed.

Since the reallocation law will not go into effect until July 1, the Game and Fish Department will have until Jan. 1, 2023 to implement the new rules, so hunters this fall will not be affected by the change.

Last month, the department made the decision to offer 11,000 fewer mule deer and pronghorn hunting licenses due to the continuing drought across the West.

The department estimated the 2021 post-hunt populations at 363,200 for pronghorns and 291,700 for mule deer.

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Cheyenne Man Spots UFOs Over City; Don Day Says Wyoming Not Under Alien Attack

in News
19699

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming meteorologist Don Day crushed dreams of close encounters on Wednesday when he explained that a reported UFO sighting in Cheyenne was probably not a glimpse of alien craft, but rather a set of Starlink satellites.

Cowboy State Daily reader Will Lincoln on Wednesday told the outlet he saw a string of lights traveling in a line going from the west to the east directly over Cheyenne at about 4:45 a.m.

“I counted at least eight of them,” Lincoln said. “I Googled this sort of thing and SpaceX released some satellites in the past that seem to match the flight pattern I witnessed. Maybe it was something similar.”

Lincoln was correct, Day said. Starlink is a satellite internet network owned by SpaceX (which is owned by South African billionaire Elon Musk) that provides internet access to 33 countries.

“This is not the first time people have seen these satellites and thought they were UFOs or something else,” Day told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday. “There was a launch last week and when these satellites first go into orbit, they line up. It’s pretty amazing to see, because they’re so aligned and well-organized.”

When Lincoln checked back to Cowboy State Daily to see if the mystery was solved, he said he was “pretty sure the flying lights were headed to Devils Tower,” likely referring to the science fiction movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”

That was not the case. Opposite direction, in fact.



Day sent a graphic showing the satellite movements on radar.

“These are the new Starlink satellites. They line up like this soon after they are launched. They’re now in Texas,” Day said.

There have been several instances of Starlink satellites being confused for UFOs or alien spacecraft, with reports submitted from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Sydney, Australia and other places within the last year.

Unlike typical internet service providers, which only send up one satellite at a time, Starlink sends up several satellites at once, since its satellites are smaller in size.

“They show up as these little lines of moving objects that can be quite bright,” Day said.

As someone who watches the night sky regularly, Day said that it was actually quite exciting to see the Starlink satellites after a launch.

“They go around the Earth several times before they disperse, so there are more opportunities for people to see them in the sky,” he said.

But he recommended those with their eyes on the skies check out websites or apps that track what satellites are in orbit before panicking about potential alien invaders.

Day would not say whether has seen a UFO himself, though, but did refer to the famous tagline of “The X-Files” series: “The truth is out there.”

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Wyoming Highway Patrol Reminds Drivers Not To Move Vehicles In U-Haul Trucks

in News
19692

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The Wyoming Highway Patrol is warning drivers that if they attempt to haul a vehicle by putting it inside of a larger U-Haul truck like some kind of automotive nesting doll, they could end up with a ticket — or even charged with a crime.

A set of photos from Washington state shows a U-Haul truck, its rear door open, carrying a vehicle that extends past the end of the U-Haul. The vehicle being carried is held in place with a packing strap.

As the photos went viral this week on Twitter, WHP Sgt. Jeremy Beck tried to discourage springtime movers in Wyoming from trying anything similar.

“I don’t know the circumstances behind the photos, but I will say that just because you can fit a vehicle on a trailer or in the back of a truck doesn’t mean that you should,” Beck told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday.

According to KKTV in Washington, the driver was pulled over this week in central Washington after several others reported a car hanging out of the back of a U-Haul moving truck.

The driver apparently had a suspended license and the U-Haul truck was “long” overdue for return, according to KKTV. The driver was given a $139 ticket for the unsafe load.

Beck noted that if a person was doing the same thing on Wyoming roads, they could also be charged for having an unsecured load.

“It becomes a hazard for you, because if the vehicle is not made to haul that much weight, it can cause you to lose control of the vehicle on interstates or highways,” he said. “Also, it could come loose and end up in the lanes of travel, which could cause a collision. You could be charged for that, as well.”

The sergeant added that Wyoming troopers see unsafe situations on the highway every day and if they see an unsecured load, they will make contact with the driver in order to ensure everyone’s safety.

“Just make sure before you head out and are towing a vehicle that the trailer or vehicle you’re using to tow something is equipped to do that and make sure it’s securely fastened so it doesn’t become a hazard for anyone else on the road,” Beck said.

U-Haul did not immediately return Cowboy State Daily’s request for comment on Wednesday.

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Forrest Fenn’s Treasure Was Likely Buried In Yellowstone, Court Docs Reveal

in Yellowstone/News
19682

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A new batch of court documents filed in a New Mexico court have revealed that Forrest Fenn’s famed treasure was likely buried in Yellowstone National Park.

While not specifically naming Yellowstone, a document filed by the federal government in the New Mexico probate of Fenn’s will indicates the chief ranger for Yellowstone National Park went to an undisclosed location described by both Fenn and the finder of his treasure as the spot where it was buried.

In 2010, Fenn filled a chest with gold, jewels and other valuables and buried it somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. A poem in Fenn’s 2010 book “The Thrill of the Chase: A Memoir” included nine clues on where to find the treasure. Thousands of treasure hunters took part in searches for the treasure and five died in the process.

A Michigan man, Jack Stuef, discovered the treasure in June 2020, but has never revealed its exact location. However, Fenn, before his death a few months later in 2020, confirmed the treasure was found in Wyoming.

One of the people who searched unsuccessfully for the treasure, Jamie McCracken, filed a claim against Fenn’s estate.

The claim accused Fenn of moving the treasure on four separate occasions, each time as McCracken got closer and closer to finding it, according to the magazine “Outside.”

As part of the claim process, Stuef could be compelled in court to share the location of the chest when he dug it up, which the federal government wishes to avoid, according to a request it filed with the New Mexico court asking to get involved with the case.

“The (U.S.) Department of Interior is concerned that if specific information regarding the location were divulged, it would result in a significant increase to this area by persons still looking for the treasure site or otherwise seeking to visit the site for other reasons related to the Fenn treasure,” said the motion.

The motion said Stuef and Fenn, in separate interviews, revealed the location of the treasure chest to “government officials.” After that, Yellowstone Chief Ranger Sarah Davis visited the described scene, according to the filing and an accompanying declaration from her.

Davis described the area as not having any trails or infrastructure that could support increased visitation to the area that could result from the identification of the site.

“”Resource damage such as the creation of ‘social trails,’ littering and improper disposal of waste are a few of the expected consequences of increased visitation,” her declaration said.

Increased visitation could also threaten or damage bodies of water that are home to native fish species, Davis said.

Before his death, Fenn asserted he never disturbed the treasure after originally burying it and Stuef has reiterated that he found the treasure fairly by using clues provided by Fenn’s poem.

According to the National Park Service, any found property in a national park is supposed to be turned over to the park supervisor.

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Greybull Man Charged With Pretending To Be Dead Man For 50 Years

in News/Crime
Photo by Ian Waldie/Getty Images
19633

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Greybull man is facing 20 years in prison and a fine of nearly $1 million for posing as a dead Idaho man for the last 50 years in a ruse that was uncovered only when he was unable to answer questions about himself.

Peter Jeremy Martin is accused of assuming the identity of James Delbert Libbey in 1970, who died in Idaho in 1964.

Martin is charged in U.S. District Court with making false statements, aggravated identity theft and making false statements in a passport application.

According to court documents, Martin applied for a passport in January 2021 under Libbey’s name. He previously was issued a passport under the same name in 2007.

But an investigation into Martin revealed that he had assumed the identity of Libbey, who was born in 1941 and died in 1964. It was also discovered that Martin had a driver’s license under Libbey’s name.

In November 2021, two Diplomatic Security Service special agents interviewed Martin at his home in Greybull. His wife, Heather Libbey, was present during the discussion.

Upon initial contact, Martin appeared at the door armed with a large revolver in a sling holster on his hip. He complained to the agents about the long delay in receiving his passport.

One agent told Martin that in order to complete his passport application, he needed to confirm the information on his application and answer some biographical questions. Martin said this was unusual, as he had received two other passports in the past.

Martin was presented a copy of his application, which he verified was an accurate copy. He was asked what his parents’ names were, but took some time answering. He also hesitated when giving his birthdate and could not tell the agents what high school he went to.

One of the agents observed Heather Libbey quietly attempting to coach her husband on the answers.

Martin again asked why the agent was questioning him and the agent responded that it was because his two previous passports and current application were issued under a dead man’s name.

Martin asked if he had to continue answering questions and again said he had already been issued two passports. He also asked what kind of trouble he was in and whether he should talk to an attorney.

The agent said if Martin lied on his passport application, then he would have committed fraud. Martin asked how long he could go to prison for, but the agent said he could not provide legal advice.

“Well, I think this interview is over,” Martin said. “I shouldn’t answer any other questions.”

The investigation revealed Martin was actually born in 1937 and had been convicted of and incarcerated for numerous crimes between 1956 and 1967, including theft, armed robbery, burglary, attempted murder and prison escape in Arkansas and Wyoming.

Martin was paroled from the Idaho State Penitentiary in 1967 but disappeared from public record around 1970. That same year, the Social Security Administration issued a new social security number for the deceased Libbey.

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Hunting Group Asks To Join Corner Crossing Lawsuit In Support Of Missouri Hunters

in News
19619

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A new group is trying to join the lawsuit filed against four Missouri hunters accused of violating the airspace of a private ranch in Carbon County while moving from one parcel of public land to another.

The Backcountry Hunters and Anglers organization on Friday asked U.S. District Judge Scott Skavdahl for permission to support the hunters being sued by North Carolina businessman Fred Eschelman with a “friend of the court” brief.

Such briefs offer arguments in support of one side or another of a lawsuit and are offered by a third party which has no direct connection to the case. Permission must be given by a judge before BHA can file its 11-page brief with the court.

In the brief it wants to submit, BHA argues that to maintain access to public land, some provision must be reached to allow people to cross the common corners between private and public property.

“Corners where federal public land intersects with private land are the keys to unlocking access to millions of acres of land owned by every American,” BHA said in the brief. “This case exemplifies the national interest in deciding the fate of those millions of acres of corner-locked public land.”

The lawsuit filed by Iron Bar Ranch is the last legal action facing the four hunters — Bradley Cape, Philip Yeomans, Zachary Smith and John Sloensky — of three actions stemming from allegations they trespassed on private property while moving from one parcel of public land to another.

First, Carbon County officials charged them with criminal trespass in connection with a 2021 incident on the Iron Bar Ranch. A six-member jury found the hunters innocent of the charges in April.

Another set of charges was filed in circuit court against Cape, Yeomans and Smith accusing them of criminal trespass in a 2020 incident on the Elk Mountain Ranch, but Carbon County’s prosecutor asked Friday that those charges be dismissed.

Iron Bar and Elk Mountain ranch are both owned by Eschelman.

Iron Bar Ranch, in a separate action, sued the four hunters, alleging that by using a ladder-like device to cross from one public land parcel to another, they violated Iron Bar’s airspace. That lawsuit is the action Backcountry Hunters and Anglers wants to join.

Wyoming has a “checkerboard” land pattern that mixes public and private land. Those parcels often share common corners, with one piece of public land resting diagonally from another. To cross from one public parcel to the other, people must step or climb across the corners.

In its brief, BHA argued that by blocking people from reaching public land, private landowners can essentially control access to all public lands.

“If a private landowner can prohibit access to public land through simple claims of state law trespass based on the momentary passage of a person through the common, mixed-corner airspace of private and public land, his claim essentially wipes out the public’s rights as to that public land and effectively grants the landowner dominion over public land he does not own and that he has not paid for,” BHA wrote in its brief.

“A private landowner with half the ownership of a corner should not have a veto over access by the owner of the other half of the corner – namely the government, and by extension, its citizens,” BHA said it added.

Backcountry Hunters and Anglers had created a “GoFundMe” campaign to raise money for the hunters’ defense.

The federal case could ultimately be precedent-setting, Cape’s attorney Katye Ames told Cowboy State Daily last week, and could do away with criminal prosecution of similar trespass cases.

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Wyoming Internet Provider To Give $30 Discount For Low-Income Residents

in News/Internet
19631

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Wyoming broadband provider will be one of many across the nation that will soon begin providing Internet access at a reduced cost for low-income residents due to a move by President Joe Biden’s administration.

On Monday, the White House announced that the Biden administration will partner with internet providers to reduce the cost of high-speed internet plans for low-income Americans. Under the “Affordable Connectivity Program,” eligible residents will see the cost of internet service providing speeds of at least 100 megabits per second reduced by $30 per month.

An estimated 48 million Americans will qualify, but it was unclear how many Wyoming residents will qualify for the program.

Gillette-based Visionary Broadband will be one of the internet service providers to reduce its fees under the plan, as it has been working on the Affordable Connectivity Program since last year, according to company spokeswoman Stacie McDonald.

“It’s exciting to see a program emerge in response to COVID which offers a meaningful discount to eligible participants,” McDonald said. “The program is managed through the (Federal Communications Commission) and interested persons can visit the site to assess their eligibility and sign up. Once they are awarded the benefit, the offset cost shows as a credit on their bill, in this instance $30.”

Americans will soon be able to visit www.getinternet.gov to determine their eligibility and sign up for the program. People who receive certain benefits, such as the Pell Grant, Medicaid or SNAP, may qualify.

Other internet providers, such as AT&T, Comcast and Verizon, have also committed to the program.

McDonald did note that since internet service capabilities look different in rural settings, every internet user will not necessarily have the ability to get connected at the 100 megabits per second speed.

“While ideal, it just doesn’t exist for every household, and not just in Wyoming,” she said. “Availability of technology as well as where a home is located impact speed offerings. Landscape and terrain add another layer to the mixture, such as being blocked from a signal by a tree or hill. Rurally, while a tower in the area may offer 100Mbps service, a family’s distance to that tower may only allow for 50Mbps.”

While the speeds are increasing from the previous federal requirement of 25 megabits per second, the change will not affect everyone immediately. While ACP will address some of these issues, topography and mileage will still have an impact on some families, McDonald said.

She said that while the ACP was a great idea in theory, it was a bit “out of touch” for rural providers serving rural customers.

“For the ‘big box providers’, who normally serve inside a city or town, this probably works for them,” McDonald said. “For rural providers in rural areas, it’s problematic, due to speed issues I mentioned above and the cost offset for a lesser volume. One concern could be that this might prevent some of the potential builds to areas, especially with future proof fiber, since the economic business case for that area will have shifted.”

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