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111 New Coronavirus Cases In Wyoming Monday; 216, Recoveries, 437 Active

in News/Coronavirus
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By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily.

Wyoming’s active coronavirus cases decreased by 96 to start the week. 

Wyoming Department of Health figures showed that the department received reports of 216 new recoveries among those with confirmed or probable cases between Friday and Monday.

At the same time, the state reported 111 new laboratory-confirmed and nine new probable cases, leaving Wyoming with 437 active cases.

Laramie County continues to have the highest number of active cases at 178; Sweetwater had 55; Campbell had 41; Natrona 34; Uinta 25; Albany 21; Park 15; Fremont 14; Sheridan 11; Teton eight; Goshen seven; Johnson six; Converse and Platte five;  Carbon, Crook, Hot Springs, Sublette and Weston two, and  Lincoln and Niobrara had one case each.

Big Horn and Washakie counties had no active cases as of Monday.

Active cases are determined by adding the total confirmed and probable coronavirus cases diagnosed since the illness first surfaced in Wyoming on March 12, 2020, subtracting the number of recoveries during the same period among patients with both confirmed and probable cases and taking into account the number of deaths attributed to the illness.

The new confirmed and probable cases brought to 61,234 the number of people diagnosed with coronavirus since the first case was detected in Wyoming in March 2020.

Of those, 60,072 have recovered.

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Bouchard Didn’t Attend Candidate Forum Because He’s “Way Out In The Lead”

in News/politics
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Most of the Republican candidates for Wyoming’s congressional seat appeared at a forum in Casper over the weekend, but incumbent U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney and challenger state Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, were not among them.

A spokeswoman for Bouchard’s campaign said there was “no way” he would attend because he leads all of Cheney’s challengers.

The forum was hosted by the conservative political action committee America First, which is led by politician K.W. Miller, and the Cowboy State Politics podcast on Saturday at the Ramkota hotel in Casper. Candidates were questioned about their stances on various policies and issues affecting both Wyoming and the United States.

Six of the eight candidates appeared at the forum, with Cheney and Bouchard being invited but choosing not to participate.

“Mark my words: any candidate that is not in the room tonight is not getting elected in 2022,” Miller said during the forum.

According to Bouchard’s spokeswoman, April Poley, there was no need for the senator to appear at the forum.

“Anthony is way out in the lead. He has no reason to attend a forum right now or any other event that involves his opponents,” Poley wrote on social media over the weekend.

She called Miller a conspiracy theorist and failed politician who only got 2.2% of the vote in the general Florida election last fall when he ran for Congress.

“He has repeatedly attacked Anthony Bouchard and the campaign, but Anthony was expected to say, ‘yes sir, right away sir’ when K.W. the narcissist told him he needed to attend his forum?” Poley said. “You can call Anthony many things but ‘butt kisser’ is not one of them. There was absolutely no way Anthony was going to show up for something involving K.W. Miller.”

Miller made headlines last year for a conspiracy theory he floated about the singer Beyonce Knowles, claiming she is not Black.

Bouchard said he has now raised more than $500,000 for his campaign against Cheney. His last official Federal Election Commission filing on March 31 put his fundraising at $334,541. According to Cheney’s FEC filing, she had raised $1.5 million by March 31.

Cheney made no mention of the forum on any of her social media accounts this weekend.

Many of Cheney’s opponents at the forum noted they were running against her due to her being “out of touch” with Wyoming voters.

This was also the reason stated by Bouchard and state Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, earlier this year for their decisions to run against Cheney. Cheney’s vote to impeach former President Donald Trump also figured into thier decisions, they said.

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Men Planning to Climb Devils Tower to Raise Awareness for ALS

in News/Good news/Devils Tower
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

More than five years after the ALS “ice bucket” challenge took over the Internet, two men are planning to climb Devils Tower to continue raising awareness about the disease.

Eric Gamble of New Orleans and his friend Chris Nolan are planning to climb Devils Tower in mid-July to raise awareness for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as “Lou Gehrig’s disease,” a nervous system disease that weakens muscles and impacts physical function.

Gamble wants to climb the monument as a part of his “bucket list,” a concept taken from the film of the same name in which the main characters make a list of things to do before they die. But he also wants to use the opportunity to raise money for an ALS charity.

“We have chosen to support 2 organizations that help people living with ALS and countless others through advocacy, support and ultimately bringing an end to the disease,” Gamble wrote on the GoFundMe page he launched to raise $2,500 for two ALS charities.

The two chose the cause of fighting ALS due to the diagnosis of a relative with the disease in 2016.

“Of course this could have crushed him. But it didn’t,” Gamble wrote about the relative, Sean Nolan, on his website. “Instead, the United States Army Veteran took control by becoming an ALS Research Ambassador so he could educate others with ALS. Plus he wanted to teach the public about the importance of clinical trials and ALS research.”

Gamble and Nolan have raised $1,000 toward their goal.

Chris Nolan has climbed the tower before, but this will be Gamble’s first attempt. None of the money raised will go toward their climb, just the charities they designated.

Their climb will take place on July 17.

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Gordon Details Plan for Spending Federal COVID Funds

in News/Mark Gordon/Coronavirus
11415

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Gov. Mark Gordon has broken the framework of spending federal coronavirus-related funds into two categories: survive and drive.

Gordon wants to ensure the federal funds are spent in a strategic manner in order to maximize benefits to the state.

“We have the opportunity to use these funds to help shape the Wyoming of the future and make our state an even more desirable place to live, work and visit,” Gordon said. “We have identified some critical areas where we should focus our efforts, and which will maximize the opportunity that we have before us. Since it is our great-grandchildren who will be paying for this government funding, it is that generation that deserves to benefit from it.”

In the “survive” phase, several immediate problems were identified that will be addressed with the remaining CARES Act dollars or other available federal funds, which include funding to address increased needs for mental health and substance abuse services; tax relief for businesses; identifying underserved areas needing improved broadband connectivity; expanding camping at Wyoming State Parks to address overcrowding and increasing employment opportunities in the oil and gas industry through the Energy Rebound program. 

In the “drive” phase, several goals were identified for further study and planning. These included:

  • Strengthen Wyoming’s economy by activating new economic sectors and creating new jobs, as well as identifying ways to add value to Wyoming’s current businesses and core industries.
  • Create better alignment among workforce, economic development, and educational opportunities to achieve balance between available workforce and available employment opportunities.
  • Expand outdoor recreation and enhance wildlife populations.
  • Focused efforts to retain and attract working families and young adults to permanently live and raise families in Wyoming.
  • Promote and enhance Wyoming food supply, distribution, and markets.
  • Identify and complete necessary and beneficial infrastructure projects.

Gordon will continue working with his cabinet, policy staff and the strike team on planning and study efforts for each of the second phase’s goals.

Some areas are so complex and robust that the study/planning period may last well into next year.

In addition to this plan, the governor asked the Wyoming Department of Health to prepare its plan for continued COVID-19 response.

Gordon asked a team of key individuals to develop this strategy and they worked with the governor’s policy team, cabinet, and many stakeholders to develop a plan to best maximize the COVID-19-related federal funds in the near-term, mid-term and long-term.

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Grand Teton National Park Officials Looking For Missing Hiker

in News
11402

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Grand Teton National Park officials continued their search Monday for a missing man whose vehicle was found in the park over the weekend.

Cian McLaughlin, 27, was reported missing late Saturday night after he failed to show up at his place of employment on Thursday.

It was believed McLaughlin intended to go hiking earlier in the week. Park staff surveyed trailhead locations within the park early Sunday morning and located McLaughlin’s vehicle at the Lupine Meadows Trailhead.

Information provided Monday afternoon noted that McLaughlin was last seen around 2:30 p.m. on June 8 about a half mile from the Lupine Meadows Trailhead, where his vehicle was found on Sunday, and was hiking to an unknown destination.

McLaughlin’s plans for his hike were not known, so a ground and aerial search was immediately initiated in areas where he may have been hiking.

Anyone who has traveled in the Teton backcountry since June 8 may have seen McLaughlin. He could have been hiking in the Garnet, Surprise, Amphitheater, Delta or Taggart Lakes areas.

McLaughlin is 6 feet tall and weighs 180 pounds. He has brown hair and eyes. He has an Irish accent and would be considered thin or fit.

Updated information provided by park staff noted that McLaughlin was wearing a cutoff tank top and shorts, both of an unknown color, a bucket hat and round sunglasses. He wasn’t wearing a backpack.

Anyone with information about McLaughlin should contact the National Park Service’s investigative services branch at 888-653-0009 (call or text) or visits www.nps.gov/ISB and click “submit a tip.”

Over 40 park staff were conducting ground searches in the backcountry as of Monday, along with four local search and rescue dog teams and members of the Teton County Search and Rescue team.

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Rock Springs Accountant Sentenced to Jail For Filing Fake Tax Returns

in News/Crime
Wyoming taxes
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Rock Springs accountant has been sentenced to four months in jail for filing fake tax returns on behalf of Sweetwater County restaurant owners with the Internal Revenue Service.

Paul Edman, 53, was sentenced on June 7 in U.S. District Court, and his jail time will be followed by one year of supervised release. He pleaded guilty in March to aiding and assisting in the preparation of false tax returns.

In February 2017, agents from the Internal Revenue Service, Homeland Security and the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigations interviewed Edman about several of his clients, Sweetwater County restaurant owners who were believed to be hiding cas sales.

After a thorough investigation, including the use of a grand jury and interviews, the government determined Edman had willfully counseled the restaurant owners in the preparation of a false 1040 form for calendar year 2014, knowing that the form was false.

Edman made significant adjustments to both personal and business expenses related to the family-owned restaurants to reduce their tax bill, which totaled nearly $645,000.

In emails, he recommended ways they could deduct expenses in a fashion that would not stand out in an audit. This communication was easily traced and proved that Edman willfully provided the advice in an effort to defraud the United States government, the U.S. Attorney’s office said.

“All certified public accountants must be held to a higher standard when working with the taxpaying public in preparing income tax returns,” said IRS Special Agent in Charge Andy Tsui. “By disregarding this duty and preparing a client’s tax return knowing it contained false deductions, Paul Edman is now a convicted felon and will spend time in prison for his criminal actions.”

Ultimately, Edman reduced the amount of his client’s tax bill by $72,000, signed and filed the tax return electronically.

“Some may argue that tax evasion is a victimless crime, but that could not be further from the truth. We all end up paying when someone unlawfully evades our tax system,” said Acting U.S Attorney Bob Murray. “Edman’s aiding and assisting certain clients file false tax returns is an outright theft of the American taxpayer.”

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Grizzly Hazing To Occur on Togwotee Pass Because Of Irresponsible Human Behavior

in News/Grizzly Bears
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By staff reports, Cowboy State Daily

As a result of continued harassment by wildlife viewers creating unsafe conditions on Togwotee Pass in Wyoming, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) and partners plan to conduct targeted hazing operations on grizzly bear 863. 

The Service and partners ask the public to avoid the area if possible and not interfere with these management operations, currently planned for the remainder of June 2021. Allowing wildlife experts to address this issue uninterrupted will increase the chances of this management tactic being successful.

People and cars dangerously close to a grizzly bear on U.S. Highway 26/287, creating unsafe conditions for people and wildlife. Credit: Todd Stiles/U.S. Forest Service

This operation will be conducted alongside partners at the U.S. Forest Service, Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming Highway Patrol, and Wyoming Game & Fish Department. 

Approaching, disturbing, or feeding bears – as is occurring on Togwotee Pass – is extremely dangerous to both humans and bears. 

These actions habituate animals to human development and can lead to dangerous human conditioned behavior. When this happens, bears may become aggressive and threaten human safety. 

If hazing does not resolve conflicts on Togwotee Pass, escalating management options include relocation and possibly euthanasia. By avoiding approaching or feeding bears, the public can help ensure that the need for such significant management options is unnecessary.

A female grizzly bear, known as “863” by wildlife managers and “Felicia” by public observers, and her two cubs have become habituated to the roadside along Highway 26/287. 

As more people become aware of these bears and stop to approach them, it creates unsafe conditions for people and wildlife. The public’s help is needed to ensure the continued safety of these bears and people passing through the area.

The Service and our partners continue to raise calls to the public to stay safe and help keep grizzly bears wild (see: USFWS and Partners Urge Responsible Grizzly Bear Viewing in Togwotee Pass Area, As Grizzly Bears Emerge from Dens, USFWS Urges Public to Stay Safe and Keep Bears Wild, and Multi-agency Effort to Maintain Safety of Grizzly Bears and People). 

The Service again reminds residents and visitors that approaching, feeding, or otherwise disturbing grizzly bears poses a significant threat to humans and bears, in addition to being a federal offense under the Endangered Species Act.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, Wyoming Highway Patrol, Wyoming Game & Fish Department, and other partners are unified in our approach and committed to ensuring safe conditions for people and wildlife. To achieve this goal, we need your help. Please remember to:

Never approach bears; always remain at least 100 yards (300 feet) away, or about the length of a football field

Practice ethical wildlife viewing by remaining a safe distance and never disturbing natural behaviors – if an animal notices you and/or changes their behavior or actions, you are too close

Never feed, leave food for, or make food accessible to bears

Obey traffic signs, laws, and regulations – stop only in designated pull-off areas

Follow the direction of wildlife management officials, do not interfere with or approach hazing operations

Additional grizzly bear safety information is available from the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee for residents, hunters, hikers/campers, farmers/ranchers, and wildlife watchers.

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Bill Sniffin: As Foster Friess Was Laid To Rest, Well-Known Folks Attended His Final Services

in Foster Friess/News
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By Bill Sniffin, publisher

Nearly a thousand people from all over the world gathered last weekend at four sites to celebrate the life of their good friend.

 The late Foster Friess was well known for a great many things. First and foremost was his generosity as he and his wife Lynn gave away $500 million in their lifetimes.

Foster was also well-known as a high profile Republican donor and a supporter of conservative causes. 

He spoke well and was a frequent guest on TV news shows including the Fox News programs of Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham, Charles Payne, Neil Cavuto, and Maria Bartiroma.

Hundreds of the most famous people in America gathered in Jackson on June 6 to celebrate his life.

Carlson gave a rousing speech to the huge crowd at the Diamond Cross Ranch big barn near Moran.

The event was attended by special guests including former Vice President Mike Pence, former Vice-President Dan Quayle,  and former Trump cabinet member Dr. Ben Carson.  Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyoming, was there along with South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem. Gov. Mark Gordon and his wife Jennie were present along with Wyoming Secretary of State Ed Buchanan, Treasurer Curt Meier, Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow and Auditor Kristin Racines, the top elected state officials in Wyoming. 

Former Wyoming House Speaker and Senate President Eli Bebout of Riverton was there along with a slew of Jackson friends such as Hank McKinnell, Dick Scarlett, Jerry Blann, Steve Duerr, Paul Von Gontard, and Steve Meadows, among many others.   

The day before, a funeral service was held in Scottsdale, Arizona. Earlier in the day, a funeral service was held at the Presbyterian Church in Jackson. The next day, a service was held in Foster’s hometown of Rice Lake, Wisconsin, where he was laid to rest.

At one point during the Jackson funeral, former Veep Pence and Gordon presented Foster’s wife Lynn with United States  and Wyoming flags.  Foster Friess was a veteran and a flag was draped over his casket during the entire service. He and Lynn have four children who were all in attendance, along with a big gathering of grandchildren, many of whom spoke during the service.

The crowds were huge at the Diamond Cross and it took a while to get everyone to the site and located for the celebratory dinner.

The music was wonderful and the food was tasty.  The weather was spectacular with the Tetons looking down over the crowd.

It was a near-perfect day for a send-off for a near-perfect guy.

Photos by Bill Sniffin and Peter Lobozzo

A funeral attendee holds the brochure for the Foster Friess funeral in Jackson June 5.

Lynn Friess is greeted by an old friend of the family, former Vice President Mike Pence.

Fox News’ Laura Ingraham was sitting with former Trump Cabinet member Dr. Ben Carson.

Charlie Kirk, the founder of Turning Point USA and Conservative Political talk show host Candace Owens toasted Foster Friess during the celebration of life.

Ross Perot Jr. of Dallas was sitting with Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota.

Gov. Mark Gordon and former Vice President Mike Pence presented flags to the family in honor of Foster Friess.

Attending were  Wyoming First Lady Jennie Gordon and her husband Gov. Mark Gordon (right).  State Supt. of Public Instruction Jillian Balow and State Auditor Kristi Racines were also in attendance.

Jackson friends of the Friess family were enjoying the sunshine prior to the celebration of life service. (L-r) Hank McKinnell, Joanna Slonecka, Olson Fenwick, and Paul Von Gontard.

Sen. John Barrasso and his wife Bobbie were chatting with South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem.

Former Senate President Eli Bebout was chatting with Hank True of Casper.

Tucker Carlson of Fox News posed for a photo with Lynn Friess, the wife of the late Foster Friess. They were married 58 years.

Former U. S. Sen. Rick Santorum paused by his friend’s casket at the Jackson funeral.

Friess grandchildren were solemn after the funeral as they stood next to their grandfather’s casket. Son Michael Friess is standing in the background.

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Visitor Spending In Wyoming’s National Parks Down $65 Million Last Year

in Wyoming outdoors/News
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By Robert Davis, The Center Square

Wyoming’s national park sites saw a $65 million decline in visitor spending last year, according to data released Thursday by the National Park Service (NPS).

The agency’s annual report found that NPS-managed lands in Wyoming welcomed over 7 million visitors who spent $859 million on things like lodging and recreational activities.

Visitors spent $924 million in 2019, according to NPS data.

Lodging accounted for nearly 37% of tourism spending while restaurants and retail accounted for 18% and 10%, respectively.

Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks were the most visited parks, attracting over $1 billion in visitor spending. Both parks straddle Wyoming’s borders with Montana and Idaho, so those states also benefit economically from the parks.

Devil’s Tower National Monument attracted $27.9 million in visitor spending and generated $35.7 million in economic output.

Even with the significant decline in visitation, Wyoming moved up two spots in the state-by-state rankings based on revenue. The state ranked fifth, just ahead of Arizona and Tennessee, but just $20 million behind Utah.

Nationwide, NPS said park visits reached a 40-year low as visits dipped by 28%. The nation’s 389 locations generated an economic impact of over $28.6 billion in 2020, and supported 234,000 jobs, $9.7 billion in labor income, and $16.7 billion in value added to the nation’s economy.

In 2019, NPS brought in over $41 billion in economic impact and grew its presence in the U.S. economy by over $1.6 billion when compared to 2018.

“The decrease is attributed largely to temporary park closures and restrictions implemented in response to the coronavirus pandemic,” the report said.

Judge Blocks Development of 400,000 Acres of Oil/Gas Leases Due to Sage Grouse

in News/wildlife
11371

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

A federal judge is blocking the development of more than 400,000 acres of oil and gas leases in Wyoming and Montana, ruling the U.S. Bureau of Land Management did not adequately consider the impact of development on the region’s sage grouse.

U.S. District Judge Ronald Bush, in an order from his Idaho court issued Wednesday, ruled that the Western Watersheds Project was correct in its assertion that the BLM did not fulfill its obligations under the National Environmental Protection Act in approving development of the leases.

“BLM … failed to consider the reasonable alternative of deferring priority sage grouse habitat … failed to take a hard look at the direct and indirect impacts to greater sage grouse, and … failed to take a hard look at the cumulative impacts on greater sage grouse,” he wrote.

However, Bush also declined to vacate the leases themselves, as requested by Western Watersheds, because he found the BLM could solve the problems identified without nullifying the leases.

The ruling stems from oil and gas leases covering 334,000 acres in Wyoming offered in February, June and September of 2017 in Wyoming and covering about 69,000 acres in Montana offered in June of 2017.

Some of the parcels of land offered for sale included sage grouse habitat and as a result, some parcels were removed from the sale offering.

When preparing an environmental assessment to judge the impact of development of the lands, the BLM examined two options — one for full development of all the remaining land and one for no development. It found the development could proceed.

But Western Watersheds sued, saying the BLM violated the NEPA by failing to examine an option that would have removed more sage grouse habitat from development and failed to examine the direct and indirect effects of development on sage grouse habitat.

Western Watersheds offered alternatives to the BLM’s two options that proposed removing parcels from lease sales that contained priority sage grouse habitat, the decision said, but they were rejected.

Bush wrote that the BLM did not adequately explain why it rejected Western Watersheds’ proposed alternative.

“BLM violated NEPA by failing to provide an adequate explanation of why it failed to consider the reasonable alternative of deferring priority greater sage grouse habitat,” he wrote.

Bush blocked development of any of the lease parcels until the BLM can resolve the issues identified in the ruling.

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