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Books In Wyoming School Library ‘Groom’ Children, Says Sex Crimes Investigator

in News/Education
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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily
Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com

Graphic scenes in children’s books make minors more vulnerable to sex crimes, according to a longtime investigator who now runs a nonprofit organization aimed at preventing and combating child sexual abuse.   

Thomas Hampson, of Illinois, has voiced concerns to Cowboy State Daily regarding two books that survived challenges Sept. 1 and remain in the Kelly Walsh High School library in Casper.   

The books are “Gender Queer” by Maia Kobabe and “Trans Bodies, Trans Selves” by Laura Erickson-Schroth with other contributors. Cowboy State Daily reviewed and roughly summarized both books on Thursday.

Hampson called them pornographic.   

“(These books) destroy childhood innocence,” said Hampson. “Parents, churches and government should be in the business of protecting childhood innocence, not destroying it.”   

Now retired, Hampson was selected in 1973 to serve on the Illinois Legislative Investigating Commission, a specialized intelligence enforcement operation through which he conducted multiple investigations into child sex predator operations. He now runs truthalliancefoundation.org.  

“When children are exposed to sexual activity, it piques their curiosity, reduces their inhibitions and makes them more vulnerable to be exploited by more aggressive peers – and also slick predators who are older than them,” he said.    

Hampson said early exposure to sexual images and literature normalizes sex acts, which makes it less alarming to children when predators “groom” them. Grooming can start with a sexual joke, exposure to “soft porn,” sexual touching and other gradual advances designed to accustom the child to sex acts against them, said Hampson.   

“This is a problem that’s going to come back and haunt us for years to come,” he said.   

Hampson theorized there are many people in the United States who believe children have a right to experience sexual pleasure.   

“I’ve seen the damage (that philosophy) does to people over time,” he said, citing early sexualization, promiscuity, drug abuse and relational problems.   

He noted that in nearly all criminal cases, the law does not acknowledge the possibility of “consent” by child victims of sexual abuse. That premise holds true generally in Wyoming’s courts as well.  

“(Graphic book advocates) are ignoring the law, ignoring the laws against sexual activity for children and basically are encouraging children to engage in sexual activity,” he said. “The consequences are that kids are going to be sexually exploited more.”   

Librarians And Educators Exempt  

Disseminating obscene materials to minors is a misdemeanor in Wyoming punishable by up to one year in jail and $6,000 in fines.   

But educators and librarians are exempt from the obscenity statute if they’re disseminating obscene materials in the course of “bona fide” school or library activities.   

Hampson said he would like to see that exemption removed from the law.   

But Wyoming legislators may not be as eager to cement censorship solutions in the law. Two legislators Tuesday expressed concerns with turning to statute to settle a controversy that has in the past been controlled locally.   

Inclusion, Diversity  

What is pornography to some may be educational to others, said a Wyoming state employee who consults with school librarians.   

Paige Bredenkamp, Wyoming State Library school library consultant, told Cowboy State Daily on Monday that librarians try to represent everyone through the literature on their shelves.   

“Librarians typically try to keep in mind everybody in the community,” said Bredenkamp. “(To make) sure everyone is included in the types of materials that are acquired.”   

Bredenkamp said the Kelly Walsh High School librarian would be the best authority on why “Gender Queer” and “Trans Bodies, Trans Selves” were included in the school’s collection.   

Kelly Walsh High School librarian Tabitha Smith-Herron, who was identified as the school’s librarian in Natrona County School Board meeting minutes from April, did not respond to an email requesting comment.   

Despite multiple inquiries, Natrona County School District No. 1 has not identified Smith-Herron or any other individual as the person who ordered the two controversial books.   

Bredenkamp said multiple school districts in Wyoming are facing book challenges now or have recently, including in Campbell, Park, Sheridan and Laramie counties. 

“Pretty much every county has had to deal with (challenges),” she said. 

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Heavy Metal Ban: Feds Propose Banning Lead Ammunition

in Wyoming outdoors/News/Hunting
25107

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By Mark Heinz, outdoors reporter
Mark@CowboyStateDaily.com

Banning the use of lead ammunition on federal lands would be terrible for Wyoming’s hunters and shooters, says a Wyoming gun rights activist in response to proposed federal action.

“There’s no science to support this ban,” Mark Jones of Buffalo told Cowboy State Daily. “This will result in ammunition becoming cost-prohibitive. Honestly, I think the intent of some of these folks is to reduce shooting and hunting opportunities.”

Jones is director of hunter programs for Gun Owners of America and a wildlife biologist who worked for 30 years with the North Carolina Wildlife Research Commission.

GOA has come out in opposition of the latest round of proposed lead ammunition bans. The group’s chief concern is that forcing ammunition manufactures to switch to lead alternatives – such as all-copper bullets – would drive ammunition prices up.

Many rifle bullets in modern hunting ammunition have an outer jacket made of copper or some other metal, but still have a lead core. Switching to lead alternatives could double ammunition prices, Jones said, making hunting and target shooting simply unaffordable for many.

“I think studies done in Europe showed that when they switched from lead bullets, prices rose so much that 25-30% of European hunters either cut back on their hunting or quit altogether,” he said.

It Could Start Small

So far, lead ammunition – as well as lead fishing tackle – is set to be banned by 2026 on several national wildlife refuges in the Eastern United States, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services (USFWS) spokeswoman Vanessa Kauffman said Wednesday in an email to Cowboy State Daily.

A USFWS ruling states in part that, “We annually review hunting and sport fishing programs to determine whether to include additional stations or whether individual station regulations governing existing programs need modifications.” 

The move is linked to concerns that lead from spent bullets could poison wildlife or people who eat meat from game animals killed with lead bullets, according to USFWS and proponents of the ban.

Wyomingites should watch the developments, particularly since so much of the state is federal land, Jones said.

“What we all know is, everything the federal government does they do incrementally,” he said. “Just because it isn’t happening here now doesn’t mean that it won’t.”

Human And Wildlife Health Concerns

Lead poisoning in people and wildlife is a serious concern, according to a petition sent in June to the USFWS and Department of the Interior by the Center for Biological Diversity. The petition calls for a lead ban on all national wildlife refuges.

“Lead exposure affects many biological functions, including reproduction, growth, development, behavior and survival,” the petition says. “Even low levels of exposure to lead can cause neurological damage, and there may be no safe level of lead in the body tissues of the young.”

Those effects are widely documented in wildlife and bird species, the petition claims, so banning lead ammunition would be environmentally sound and good wildlife conservation.

Previously Banned For Waterfowl

Lead shot was banned for waterfowl hunting in 1991. That ban was prompted by concerns that bald eagles consuming the carcasses of waterfowl that hunters had shot, but lost, was poisoning them. There also was concern that ducks and geese were swallowing spent lead shot as they foraged in fields or shallow water where hunters had been shooting.

Since then, waterfowl hunters have used shotgun shells loaded with pellets made from other metals, such as steel or bismuth.

“That ban wasn’t instituted because ducks were getting lead poisoning,” Jones said. “It was instituted because of the bald eagles, which at that time were endangered.”

Even so, GOA doesn’t support rolling back the waterfowl hunting lead shot ban.

“Nobody is saying we want to go back to before 1991 when it comes to ducks,” he said. “We’re saying no more new lead bans.”

Unfounded Claims?

GOA questions the claims the current lead ban proposals make, he said. They’re similar to claims made to back pervious proposed bans on lead rifle bullets.

“The language used is that lead may cause an effect,” he said. “The key word there is ‘may.’ They don’t have the data to show that lead poisoning from big game bullets is impacting people or animals on a population-wide level, instead of just an individual level.”

That means individual examples of animals or birds being sickened or dying after eating the leftovers of big game killed by lead bullets doesn’t add up to a threat to those species, he said, adding that the situation is similar with people.

“Obviously, if you swallowed a lead bullet, that wouldn’t be good for you,” he said. “But most people have the good common sense to cut around those parts with the bullet fragments in them and keep the rest of the animal for food.”

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Eastern Elk Herds Are Now Thriving, But Wyoming Is Still King For Hunting

in Wyoming outdoors/Hunting
Bull and cow elk in a meadow, ALT=Unable to eliminate brucellosis, officials focus on containment in elk and cattle
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By Mark Heinz, outdoors reporter
Mark@CowboyStateDaily.com

As Wyoming elk hunters enjoy a fruitful fall, a handful of lucky hunters in Virginia will get a chance at elk during that state’s first hunting season.

They will join Eastern elk hunters in several states as they take advantage of growing herds there. Most Eastern elk descended from transplants taken from Western states outside of Wyoming. However, Pennsylvania’s elk herds are the direct descendants of elk from Yellowstone Park. 

Despite its growing popularity, Eastern elk hunting will probably never get to the level where it could impact the number of hunters seeking nonresident tags in Wyoming and the West, said Mark Holyoak, director of communications at the Missoula, Montana, headquarters of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

“Those (Eastern elk hunts) are all draw tags, and typically very few are issued per state,” he said, adding Eastern hunters will still be drawn to adventures in the West. 

“Wyoming is Wyoming,” he said. “It’s still a unique place for people to come out and experience a hunt.”

A decade after elk were reintroduced to Virginia, the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources ruled that herds had grown large enough to allow hunting, according to the RMEF. Only five tags were issued for the 2022 season. 

One of the more generous Eastern states, Pennsylvania, issued 178 elk tags for the 2022 hunting seasons, according to the Pennsylvania Game Commission. 

A Native Species Returns

The word “elk” usually conjures images of large herds scattered across vast, rugged mountain landscapes in Wyoming and elsewhere in the Rocky Mountain West. 

But the lands east of the Mississippi River once had thriving native herds of elk that ranged from the flatlands of Wisconsin to the hardwood forests of the Appalachian Mountains, said Steven Dobey of Kentucky, RMEF conservation program manager for the Eastern United States. 

“There was an Eastern elk subspecies,” he said. “Physically, it wasn’t much different from the Rocky Mountain elk, but the Eastern elk were adapted to different habitats and behaviors.”

Habitat loss and unregulated killing had wiped out the Eastern elk by about the 1880s, he said. 

The earliest attempts to restore Eastern elk were in the 1910s. Elk from Yellowstone Park were transplanted in Pennsylvania. The herds living there now are direct descendants of those Wyoming elk, according the Pennsylvania Wilds website. 

Elk reintroduction began in Kentucky in 1997, and spread to other Eastern states, Dobey said. None of the elk involved in those later efforts came from Wyoming. 

Reclaimed Coal Mines Make Good Habitat

Kentucky elk herds did so well, they became the source for transplanting the species to several other states, including Virginia, Dobey said. 

“The reclaimed sites of old Kentucky coal mines created open grasslands that the elk loved,” he said. 

Elk also seemed to favor whatever meadows and open spaces they could find across the East, Dobey said. But they’ve also learned to adapt to thick hardwood forests. 

“Whenever there’s good acorn production in the woods, the elk take advantage of that,” he said. “People usually think that elk hunting involves a lot of glassing in open spaces, like you do out West, and our hunters here were trying that same approach. 

“But when there’s a good acorn crop, the elk are right in those woods with the deer and squirrels, enjoying that calorie-rich food source.”

Dobey has yet to draw an elk tag back East but looks forward to the opportunity.

“I have been able to ‘hunt’ these elk with my telemetry devices and my camera for hundreds of miles all over southern Appalachia,” he said.

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Eagle Kill Permits May Get Easier For Wyoming Wind Farms

in Energy/News
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By Kevin Killough, energy reporter
Kevin@CowboyStateDaily.com

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing changes to the way permitting for eagle deaths is handled on wind farms, transmission lines and other projects with a goal to expedite permitting while still maintaining or increasing eagle populations. 

Wind farms in Wyoming have faced high-profile fines for killing eagles. In April, NextEra Energy pleaded guilty to violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and was ordered to pay more than $8 million. Duke Energy, which operates a few wind farms in Wyoming, was fined $1 million in 2014 for the deaths of 14 golden eagles; and PacifiCorp received $2.5 million in fines for 38 eagles killed by its turbines.

The way the federal agency now handles the permitting of eagle kills, called “takes,” is the service reviews applications for eagle take permits. If the agency issues a permit, it will include conditions specific to that project. 

The proposed changes would create a faster alternative route to permitting of activities that have low impacts for eagles and well-established measures to minimize impacts by allowing authorization without site-specific analysis. 

Finishing Eagles Off

Erik Molvar, executive director of the Western Watersheds Project, said that because of the eagle population in southern Wyoming, which is where most Cowboy State wind projects are sited, most Wyoming wind farms wouldn’t be eligible for the alternative permitting route — with one caveat. 

“One of the unintended consequences of this general permitting process is, once the existing projects take down golden eagle numbers to the point where they’re below the thresholds, then general permits can be issued to finish them off,” Molvar said. 

Molvar said the proposed changes would “be a step forward” for permitting electrical transmission lines. The general permit requires that lines be constructed in a way that prevents eagle electrocutions and has a mechanism for retrofitting existing power lines where wires are close together and electrocutions are more frequent. 

He also noted that it might incentivize wind companies to site their projects outside areas of high eagle density.

Molvar called southern Wyoming one of the last eagle strongholds, and the wildlife service has said there’s no acceptable number higher than zero for golden eagle losses. 

“We can’t afford to lose any more of these golden eagles even as it is, and yet the wind farms keep going up,” Molvar said. 

Molvar said siting solar projects in urban areas would require less transmission and not kill eagles. 

Learning Curve 

Susan Ahalt, founder of Ironside Bird Rescue, said wind companies are doing a lot to mitigate impacts to eagle populations. 

“They’re really conscientious about trying to save the birds,” Ahalt said. 

Ironside is in Cody where there are few wind farms or eagles, but Ahalt said there’s little chance eagles colliding with turbine blades survive. 

“I’ve never received a bird that was hit by a turbine,” she said. “Although I’m sure if they’re hit, they’re dead.”

The bird rescuer said that there’s a learning curve with everything, and wind energy companies are gradually learning ways to mitigate the impacts. 

Duke Energy’s IdentiFlight bird detection technology is one example, she said. The system, which is installed at the company’s Top of the World wind farm in Converse County, identifies birds near wind blades, calculates their flight path and can stop the wind turbines to prevent a collision. A study published in the Journal of Applied Ecology found that eagle deaths decreased 85% at Top of the World after the system was installed. 

“The system uses AI [artificial intelligence] and therefore gets smarter the more images it collects. Additionally, the technology has improved since the study was conducted,” said Shelley Vierra, marketing a business development for Boulder Imaging and IdentiFlight.

David Eskelsen, spokesperson for PacifiCorp, said the company also is incorporating the technology into its wind projects and will shut down individual turbines as needed. 

Before the company sites a wind project, Eskelsen said it collects a large amount of data on avian wildlife in the wind farm location, as well as other wildlife. Species behavior can change over time, so after the wind farm is operating, they have staff of wildlife biologists that help manage wildlife impacts. 

“One of the things particularly with the raptors is they move according to prey species,” Eskelsen said. “So, we have to be cognizant of those natural tendencies. So an area that may not be active in one season.”

Key Responsibility 

According to the Sierra Club, about one million birds are killed by wind turbines every year, but the organization notes that transmission lines, windows, communication towers, and cats kill far more. 

Once endangered, the populations of bald eagles have increased four-fold since 2009. There are now about 350,000 of the birds in the U.S. populations of bald eagles. On the other hand, there are about 40,000 golden eagles in the U.S., and the species requires a much larger area to survive. 

The service said the proposed changes to eagle take permitting won’t undermine its commitment to conservation of the species. 

“Preservation of bald and golden eagles is a key responsibility for the service,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Martha Williams in a press release about the proposed changes. 

Williams said the agency will continue to collaborate with the public to conserve bald and golden eagles while creating more pathways for companies to obtain permits. 

The proposed rule has a 60-day public comment period that runs through Nov. 29.

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California’s Sanctuary Rule For Child Sex Changes Doesn’t Impact Wyoming Because Wyoming Has No Laws Against It

in News/Health care/Crime
Getty Images
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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily
clair@cowboystatedaily.com

California has enacted a sanctuary law for out-of-state minors seeking transgender medical care and procedures, but it may not interfere with Wyoming’s laws – because Wyoming has no law against transgender medical procedures for minors.   

Numerous attorneys declined to comment to Cowboy State Daily on the issue. Following is an in-house analysis.   

‘Sanctuary’  

California’s new law Senate Bill 107, enacted Sept. 29, makes it illegal for California health care establishments to release medical information on children receiving “gender-affirming” health care or mental health care, even when subpoenaed by authorities in other states.   

There are 15 states with enacted or proposed laws limiting medical treatments for transgender minors, usafacts.org reported last October. These included Montana, Kentucky, Utah, Kansas, Arkansas, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, New Hampshire and Utah – but not Wyoming.   

Wyoming lawmakers are in their interim season between sessions and may be drafting new laws on the issue, though none were formally introduced as of Wednesday.   

The terms “transgender” and “gender-affirming” do not appear in Wyoming’s statutes.   

Wyoming therefore has no specific law designed to penalize parents or surgeons who enable transgender surgeries or chemical treatments for minors – in the state or out of it.   

Child Abuse – Or Health Care  

County prosecutors in the mostly-Republican state of Wyoming may be inclined to charge doctors or parents for child abuse for performing or facilitating cross-sex treatments on children, such as double-mastectomies, castration, or administering hormone blockers.  

Child abuse in Wyoming is defined as intentionally or recklessly inflicting physical or mental injury, torture or confinement upon a child under 16 years of age and at least six years younger than the perpetrator.   

Whether some cross-sex treatments could fall under child abuse definitions likely would have to be decided in court since the issue isn’t defined in Wyoming’s laws.   

Prosecutors hoping to charge child gender-care surgeons or parents with child abuse also may run into the Wyoming Constitution, Article 1, Section 38 (a). The clause guarantees parents the right to make “health care” decisions for their children.   

“Health care” is defined in Wyoming statute 35-22-401 (a) viii as “any care, treatment, service or procedure to maintain, diagnose or otherwise affect an individual’s physical or mental condition.”   

In California, “gender-affirming” health care is defined as a treatment for the affliction of gender dysphoria, which is a disorder causing extreme discomfort with one’s biological sex.   

California considers puberty hormone-blockers, appearance-changing “interventions” and other “interventions to alleviate … gender dysphoria” as “medically necessary health care that respects the gender identity of the patient.”   

But in Wyoming, any distinction or similarity between transgender treatment for minors and child abuse is undefined.   

The Wyoming Legislature convenes its next lawmaking session in January.   

Feds Claim ‘Discrimination’  

The U.S. Department of Justice on March 31 sent a letter to all state attorneys general saying that states with laws that limit transgender treatment are “intentionally erecting discriminatory barriers.”   

The letter threatens legal action against those states.   

“When a state or recipient of federal funds criminalizes or even restricts a type of medical care predominantly sought by transgender persons, an intent to disfavor that class can ‘readily be presumed,’” says the letter. “A ban on gender-affirming procedures, therapy or medication may be a form of discrimination against transgender persons, which is impermissible unless it is ‘substantially related’ to a sufficiently important governmental interest.”   

The letter urges states to be ready to justify such restrictions and calls transgender treatment “not only appropriate but often necessary for (minors’) physical and mental health.”   

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Ghost Stories: Wyoming’s Cigar-Making Prison Poltergeist

in Wyoming Life/Wyoming ghosts
25077

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By Greg Johnson, Cowboy State Daily
greg@cowboystatedaily.com

Creepy creaks, unexplained footsteps, whistles and even capturing a full-body apparition on night vision video are all signs some believe bolster claims the historic Wyoming Territorial Prison in Laramie is haunted.

For many, though, the clincher is the smell of cigar smoke.

“People say there are footsteps, creaks and whistles – you know, you hear someone whistling when there’s no one there,” said Renee Slider, curator at the state historic site and herself part of a paranormal investigation team.

“We’ve experienced some interesting things,” Slider said about what was once home for some of the most notorious and genuinely evil men in the West. “We’ve heard a female laugh, almost like a singing, when there’s nobody there.”

People who visit the popular tourist draw also have reported hearing noises coming from the prison’s second floor, which housed the mess hall and areas where much of the at-times harsh discipline was meted out, Slider said.

Those who smell the cigar have perhaps come closest to meeting the prison’s only ghost.

The Murderous Cigar Maker

History knows him as Julius Greenwald, a 38-year-old cigar maker from Poland who found a brisk market around the region for his high-quality cheroots. As an unwilling resident of the Wyoming Territorial Prison, he was simply prisoner No. 338.

He’s also one of only two of the estimated 1,000 prisoners kept there during the facility’s time as a penitentiary from 1873-1901 who died while incarcerated, Slider said. The other was a convict who came to the prison suffering from leprosy and died a short time later of pneumonia.

Now known as its lone ghost, Slider says she doesn’t disbelieve Greenwald’s spirit haunts the halls of the prison. But she’s also not a believer. 

She wonders why he would haunt the prison, referencing Greenwald died of natural causes (a heart attack) and his body was sent to his sister in Utah, so his spirit shouldn’t be tied to his remains.

Maybe he still has some unfinished business with what landed him in one of the frontier West’s most infamous prisons, Slider said.

One day in 1897 while on a sales trip selling cigars, Greenwald visited his favorite brothel in Evanston and was shocked to find his wife, Jennie, working there. Enraged, he shot her on the spot.

Convicted of second-degree murder Sept. 25, 1897, he was sentenced to life doing hard labor. In prison, he persuaded the warden and guards to allow him to continue making cigars.

In 1989, his was one of a number of cells that were removed during a major renovation of the historic site, and one theory is the noise and elimination of his cell riled up Greenwald’s spirit.



Harsh Punishments

Built in 1872 and taking in prisoners the next year, the Wyoming Territorial Prison quickly became known as a hard place for Western outlaws to do time. 

From the start, prisoners were held to a restrictive behavior code where they weren’t allowed to talk, had to wear black-and-white-striped uniforms and were called by numbers, not their names. 

And the punishments for violating the rules were equally stiff, Slider said.

Speaking while working would get a prisoner put in isolation and on bread and water, while anything that rubbed the warden or guards the wrong way could mean cuffing someone to his cell door for days.

Perhaps the most-punished prisoner was Kinch McKinney, the charismatic leader of a crew of cattle rustlers who continually ran afoul of authorities, Slider said. He also may have been one of the first American bad boys to have groupies.

“He was just a cocky guy,” she said. “He was a cattle rustler and a very confident guy. One of the newspapers at the time reported how if his jury had been all women, he would’ve been acquitted. Women were lining up for his trial.”

Sentenced to eight years in 1892, McKinney spent much of his time behind bars in trouble. 

• He was cuffed to his cell door for eight days for threatening guards.

• He was cuffed to his cell door for 10 days when he brutally beat a guard and participated in a prison riot, then was forced to wear a ball and chain for 14 weeks.

• After an escape and recapture, he was locked in “the dungeon” for 16 days and wore a ball and chain for 12 weeks.

• Twice he was put in isolation on bread and water for stealing food and talking while working.

• And for another escape attempt, perhaps his most brutal punishment was five days in the dark cell (completely blacked out) cuffed to the ceiling. 

“Yeah, they could be pretty bad,” Slider said of the punishments prisoners were put through.



But Is It Haunted?

As a former prison from a time before there were many laws protecting prisoners from cruel and unusual punishments, there are plenty of other incidents that could lead someone to believe the Wyoming Territorial Prison would be haunted.

One recounts how a prisoner once smuggled a large rock in with him, then one day put the rock in one of his socks and assaulted a guard with it, Slider said.

Then there was the prisoner who was allowed to be a barber and took advantage of a guard’s inattentiveness. When the guard turned his back on the prisoner, he slashed the guard’s neck.

“Luckily, he missed his jugular and the guard survived,” Slider said.

In fact, during its active prison years, there were plenty of assaults on guards but none killed, she said. And two natural deaths were the only inmates who didn’t finish their sentences alive.

Whether the prison site actually is haunted remains a mystery, Slider said, but not for lack of trying. A number of paranormal investigative teams have scoured the grounds over the years, including one Slider’s a member of, ParaFPI.



“Stuff has happened here while we were here, for sure,” Slider said.

The most convincing evidence is a grainy image captured on a night vision camera that shows what may be a shadowy male figure in the prison when nobody was there.

“It’s a pretty definite apparition,” Slider said. “Full body of someone standing behind one of the glass doors upstairs. The door is open, and behind it you can see it, and there’s nobody (physically) there at the time.

“There’s a pretty good outline of a person, you can see a head and shoulders.”

While reports of unsettling things happening at the prison “have all been pretty consistent,” Slider won’t go so far as to say the prison definitely is haunted.

She also won’t say it’s not.

“It’s up to you to decide if it’s haunted or not,” she said. “I don’t want to be pushing my opinions about whether it’s haunted or not. I think there’s a possibility, but I don’t want to say for sure. But we have certainly found some things scientifically.

“Can we say it’s haunted or it’s not? We’re not sure.”


This image from a night vision camera shows what some believe is a full-body apparition behind the open door. Photo Courtesy Renee Slider.

Decide For Yourself

The historic site is open for tours year-round and has a gift shop, but those who want to explore the spookier side of the prison can try to find a place in one of two annual Dark Cell Tours at the prison.

Conducted at night by lantern light, the most graphic and often untold stories of the prison are shared as people explore the prison’s dark cells, reserved for the harshest punishments. This year’s Dark Cell Tours are this weekend and sold out.

But there’s plenty of time to get in on one of the more family friendly Ghost Tours on Oct. 27, 28 and 29.

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Chinese Company Looks To Sell Four Seasons Resort In Jackson

in News/Business
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By Kevin Killough, energy reporter
Kevin@CowboyStateDaily.com

The high-priced Four Seasons Resort and Residences in Jackson Hole is among the assets a Chinese company is looking to divest itself of. 

The sale by Dajia Insurance Group Co. also includes luxury properties in Laguna Beach, California, and Scottsdale, Arizona, according to Fox Business. The asking price for the three properties is a combined is $1.3 billion.

In Jackson, the Four Seasons is a luxury destination where guests will pay anywhere from $1,010 a night for the least expensive suite to nearly $13,500 a night for its 4,355-square-foot five-bedroom penthouse resort “residence,” according to the Four Seasons website.

Chinese companies have hundreds of millions of dollars invested in Wyoming. A 2015 report by the Rhodium Group and the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations estimates the state’s direct investment from Chinese companies at about $770 million.

Lawmakers Concerned

Chinese-ownership of U.S. properties has prompted some lawmakers to attempt to reign in those investments. 

In June, Republican members of Congress introduced legislation to curb China’s investment in U.S. agriculture. The Promoting Agriculture Safeguards and Security Act would ban China, Russia, Iran and North Korea from buying U.S. agricultural companies.  

In Wyoming, Republican U.S. House candidate Harriet Hageman has circulated a petition targeting Chinese companies and restricting them from investing in farmland in Wyoming and the United States. 

“Chinese corporations are buying up American farmland at an alarming rate,” read Hageman’s petition. “This is a threat to Wyoming, to America, and on our way of life.”

‘A Real Threat To The Nation’ 

On Wednesday, Hageman campaign manager Carly Miller told Cowboy State Daily that China’s real estate investments pose a real threat to the nation. 

“No American should think it’s OK that China owns real estate investments in America because it means a real foothold in this country by the Communist Party of China,” Miller said. “It represents a threat to our economy and to our agriculture industry when they own farmland as well.”

Miller said that should Hageman be elected, she will work to block investments by “countries who seek to destroy us.” 

Why Wyoming?

Chinese investors have been interested in the Jackson area for some time. In 2014, the Jackson Hole News & Guide reported on efforts by area realtors to court Chinese investment. 

Jackson Hole Realtor Bruce Simon organized a tour of Wyoming and Idaho for Adam Wu, COO of China Business Network. Wu was reportedly impressed with the area’s resorts and farmland in Idaho. 

The Wall Street Journal also reported on the trend, citing data from MSCI Real Assets that Chinese companies bought nearly $52 billion in U.S. commercial properties from 2013-19. Since the start of 2019, these companies have divested a net $23.6 billion worth of their U.S. real estate.

Daija Divests

Daija has 15 luxury U.S. resorts and hotels in its portfolio, Fox Business reports, and had nearly sold them to a South Korean company in 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic destroyed tourism and lodging revenues. 

According to the Jackson Chamber of Commerce’s economic insight data, lodging in Jackson in August 2019 was at 86%. That declined in August 2020 to 71%, then was up again in August 2021 to 86.7%. This past August, the lodging occupancy rate was 93.4%. 

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Wyoming Ghost Stories: ‘Sophie’ Haunts Ivinson Home For Ladies in Laramie

in Wyoming Life/Wyoming ghosts
25098

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily
wendy@cowboystatedaily.com

Since the 1930s, when Edward Ivinson and his wife first provided the ladies of Laramie a home-like atmosphere with hotel-like amenities, the independent living facility’s Victorian-style house has been home for hundreds of lively personalities.

But perhaps none so lively as “Sophie,” whose shenanigans are cause for puzzlement – but not alarm – for the staff and residents of the historic house on East Grand Avenue.

“The Ivinson home for aged ladies is currently home to 19 residents,” said Justine Castelli, executive assistant at the Ivinson Home for Ladies. “But the staff here are more than certain there’s one more resident who’s been lingering in the halls of this historic home, and her name is Sophie.” 

Castelli said doors on the second floor of the home open and shut on their own, and items in the butler pantry in the kitchen are found in unexpected places. 

“There have been multiple occasions when the dishwasher in the kitchen has been run when no one has been around,” she told Cowboy State Daily. “The laundry lights go off and on, as well as the washer and dryers being opened when the laundry isn’t quite finished.”

Ivinson Home for Aged Ladies

Dana Gaster has worked at the Ivinson Home for more than 20 years, most recently as its executive director. The house is not a nursing home, Gaster stresses, but rather a light assisted living residence.

“We actually have a couple of gals that still work outside the home,” said Gaster. “We provide three meals a day, once-a-week housekeeping and once-a-week laundry services. It’s that little niche that the elderly can use.”

And while the residents are free to come and go, there is one presence that stays close to home.

“Whenever we can’t explain something, we just say, ‘Well, Sophie’s been here,’” said Gaster. “We just call our mysteries ‘Sophie.’”



Unexplained Phenomena

Gaster said unexplained goings-on have been happening as long as she’s been there. And there have been many odd occurrences that defy explanation.

“We’d come in and the ovens are turned up to 500 degrees, a temperature that we don’t even use,” she said. “So, it’s kind of mysterious how it got that way.” 

Another time, Gaster recalled sitting in a room off the butler pantry, where a coffee machine was in use.

“I heard some noise out in the butler pantry,” she said. “And I went to see what that noise was, because I didn’t see anybody moving around that area. The coffee filter basket was pulled out and sitting on the counter. But if you see this layout, our coffee machine sits really close to the edge of the counter.

“How could it have come out of there and not spilled on to the floor? Why would it be taken out and not emptied?”

Castelli recounted a particularly peculiar instance in which a broom left by an employee was found standing up by itself in the middle of the kitchen. 

“It’s almost as if it was waiting patiently to finish the sweeping,” she said. 

A Female Specter

Sophie is not a harmful apparition, but she may have a thing against men, Gaster said.

“When we’ve had men here, that seems to be when it happens more,” she said. “So maybe Sophie doesn’t like men.”

And Castelli said the staff is quite sure the unexplained occurrences are the work of a female ghost.

“Have you ever seen a man care so much about dishes, sweeping or laundry?” she asked.

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Traveling Wyoming: Wyoming Has Always Had The ‘Perfect Conditions’ for Fossils

in Wyoming Life/Wyoming Dinosaurs/News
25048

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily
wendy@cowboystatedaily.com

A plesiosaur named “Harold” made international news last week as the only member of its species to have been unearthed. Its discovery near Glenrock raises the question: Why are so many fossils found here in Wyoming?

For decades, fossils have been found on Wyoming lands. In 1877, employees of the Union Pacific Railroad found large bones peeking out of the hills at Como Bluff near Medicine Bow. Since then, thousands of fossils have been unearthed across the state.

Two fossil experts – one a paleontologist who has spent decades researching discoveries in Wyoming, and the other a lifelong Wyoming resident whose family owns a fossil quarry near Kemmerer – explained that Wyoming’s geological history created the perfect conditions for preservation millions of years ago.



Fossil Beds Abound

“Badlands around Glenrock are not a single bone bed,” said paleontologist Dr. Scott Persons, whose research identified the Serpentisuchops pfisterae as the only animal of its kind to have been discovered in the world. “It’s not just a single graveyard; rather, it is sequential layer after layer after layer of rock, usually sandstone.”

Persons told Cowboy State Daily that skeletons of dinosaurs can be found in the different layers throughout the badlands near Glenrock.

“Not dinosaurs that all died together in one mass event or something like that,” he clarified. “Rather, dinosaurs that died out gradually over the long course of their lives, living in the area for many millions of years.”

In the Green River Formation in southwest Wyoming, which is where Ulrich’s Fossil Gallery is located, the bluffs contain rich deposits of fossils throughout the entire Kemmerer area.

“The Green River Formation was an inland freshwater lake that was deposited roughly 50 to 55 million years ago,” said Paul Ulrich, whose family owns a quarry rich with fossilized fish.

“Lots of fish – freshwater stingrays, garfish – if you’re lucky the occasional bird or fossilized palm frond or turtle,” he told Cowboy State Daily. “A great variety.”



Perfect Conditions

Persons said that 70 million years ago, the earth was experiencing prehistoric global warming. High sea levels flooded North America’s inland regions, which is why sea creatures are often found in Wyoming’s sandstone formations.

He said in the case of the Serpentisuchops pfisterae, which was discovered in the badlands near Glenrock, when the animal died, its body sank down to the bottom of the sea floor and was covered by fine grain sediments.

“(Those) did a wonderful job of beautifully preserving the specimen,” he said. “This is ultimately sediment that was probably being washed down into the environment from the early Rocky Mountains, as the Rocky Mountains were beginning to form to the west. It’s just a great place for fossils to be preserved.”

Persons explained that fossilization only happens in the right environmental conditions, in which bones can sink down and are buried quickly.

“There must have been dinosaurs living on the tops of mountains, there must have been dinosaurs living in very, very dense forests,” he said. “But those are not environments where you can get fossilization occurring, because if you die on the mountain, your skeleton erodes away, along with everything else. 

“Die in a dense forest, and there’s no loose sediment there to bury you. And there are all sorts of microbes and little organisms that eat your body up really, really quickly, including the bones, before you’ve got a chance to be preserved.”

Ulrich pointed out that Wyoming’s winds play a large part in fossil discoveries.

“The incredible exposure to the elements that we have – in particular wind, rain and snow – conditions are ripe for exposure of a wide variety of sedimentary rock that is fossil bearing,” he said.



Dinosaur Digs Around the State

There are locations all around Wyoming where amateurs can try their hands at uncovering mysteries that have been buried underneath millions of tons of sediment over millions of years.

From the Dinosaur Center in Thermopolis to the Paleon Museum in Glenrock to Fossil Butte National Monument near Kemmerer, remnants of eons past can be unearthed by regular folk, not just scientists.

At the Dinosaur Center, visitors can “dig for a day” at active excavation sites that are within driving distance of the center. Staff and visitors have removed more than 14,000 bones from the excavation sites, mostly from long-necked sauropods, but an abundance of allosaurus teeth have been found at all of the nearby quarries. 

Ulrich’s Fossil Gallery, which was founded in the 1940s by Ulrich’s grandparents, offers professionally guided fossil digging tours in the Green River Formation.

“Throughout the summer, we take guests up to experience the glory of finding your own fossil fish,” he said. 

But because the Ulrich quarry is on state land, visitors can’t always keep what they dig up.

“Anything rare and unusual we find, we turn over to the state of Wyoming for further scientific studies,” said Ulrich.

Persons said a dig led by the Glenrock Paleon Museum is where he found his first dinosaur bone, and was hooked.

“That was way back when I was in elementary school,” he said. “The Paleon at the time, and they still do, offer the opportunities for families to contact them and to arrange to be taken out on some of the local digs.”

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Wyoming Daily Gas Map: Wednesday, October 5, 2022

in Gas Map
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By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming’s average price per gallon of $3.86 is up 3 cents from our last report of $3.83 on Tuesday. 

The website GasBuddy.com, which tracks national gas prices, reported Wyoming’s average gas price is unchanged from a week ago and is up 33 cents per gallon from one year ago.

Wyoming’s average price for a gallon of gas remained above the national average of $3.83

High and Low Prices:

The highest reported gasoline price in Wyoming on Wednesday was in Moose at the Conoco on 12170 Dornan Rd., reporting $4.98 per gallon. The lowest price in Wyoming was in Cheyenne at the Flying J at 2250 Etchpare Dr. at $3.26 per gallon.

The highest county average is in Teton County with an average of $4.53 per gallon. The county with the lowest average is Laramie County at $3.43 per gallon. These are the highest and lowest reported prices among those stations surveyed.

*The average price, reported by AAA, in each Wyoming county:

Albany $3.54; Big Horn $4.05; Campbell $3.55; Carbon $3.96; Converse $3.86; Crook $3.79; Fremont $3.98; Goshen $3.70; Hot Springs $4.03; Johnson $3.79; Laramie $3.49; Lincoln $4.19; Natrona $3.61; Niobrara $3.60; Park $4.30; Platte $4.02; Sheridan $3.74; Sublette $3.93; Sweetwater $3.91; Teton $4.53; Uinta $4.11; Washakie $3.96; Weston: $3.76

*The lowest Price, reported by GasBuddy, in selected Wyoming cities:

Basin $4.09; Buffalo $3.76; Casper $3.45; Cheyenne $3.26; Cody $3.94; Douglas $3.78; Evanston $4.06; Gillette $3.49; Jackson $4.34; Kemmerer $4.07; Laramie $3.39; Lusk $3.59; Newcastle $3.68; Pinedale $3.99; Rawlins $3.87; Riverton $3.75; Rock Springs $3.76; Sheridan $3.35; Sundance $3.89; Thermopolis $3.97; Wheatland $3.71; Worland $3.77

*Note: We use AAA.com for the county and state averages and GasBuddy.com for the low prices in our selected cities. Prices in this report are for reference only. They are gathered just prior to posting, and may not reflect prices that have changed since last posted.

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Legislators Disagree How To Address ‘Pornography’ In Schools If School Boards Won’t

in News/Education
24965

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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily
Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com

Local school boards should control the themes of material available to students in Wyoming school libraries, but legislators will get involved if they have to, a state lawmaker said Tuesday.   

Rep. Art Washut, R-Casper, told Cowboy State Daily that two sexually graphic books in the Kelly Walsh High School Library should not be there, and that the school should focus instead on the fundamentals of education.   

Washut is a former police officer and an educator at Casper College who now serves on the Wyoming Legislature’s Joint Judiciary Committee, which oversees changes in criminal law.   

He expressed disapproval of the books “Gender Queer” and “Trans Bodies, Trans Selves,” both of which survived challenges Sept. 1 and will remain in the Kelly Walsh High School library unless the Natrona County School Board considers an appeal against them.   

Cowboy State Daily reviewed both books and roughly summarized them Thursday. They contain images and wording describing sex acts in detail; “Trans Bodies, Trans Selves” offers a list of transgender pornography websites and instructions on how to make trans porn, and advice on hiring or dating sex workers. They also act as informative resources for transgender and gender-expansive individuals.  



No Sex Questions On The Test 

“I can’t imagine why a school board would want this type of material available in the school library,” said Washut. “I don’t see the value of it in terms of education.”  

Washut noted there are no questions on the state’s uniform public school tests about how to perform sex acts, “So why is that included in a high school library?”   

And yet, Washut said making statewide law changes isn’t an ideal solution because local governments are closest to the communities they represent. 

But if the controversy doesn’t abate, legislators will get involved, he said. 

“I’d expect that if the school boards across the state don’t address these types of issues, there probably will be a push within the Legislature to address the matter,” said Washut, adding that it would not surprise him to see the issue addressed in the upcoming lawmaking session in January.   

“I’d expect that if the school boards across the state don’t address these types of issues, there probably will be a push within the Legislature to address the matter.”

State Rep. Art Washut, R-casper

First Amendment Concerns 

Rep. Karlee Provenza, D-Laramie, said Wyoming has large, diverse communities with varying opinions about what is pornography and what is educational literature.   

Provenza, who is a research scientist and serves on the Judiciary Committee with Washut, told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday that she does not think the controversy over the books is an appropriate cause for law changes.  

“If (parents) want to monitor what their children are reading and censor, that’s their prerogative, but it’s not their right to have that influence on other people’s households, or other people’s children,” said Provenza.   

Parents may contact the Kelly Walsh High School Library and forbid their students from checking out the two books, a Natrona County School Board trustee said last month. 

Parents at recent school board meetings countered, saying the books are a poor use of public money.   

What Is Pornography? Casper Residents Clash At School Board Meeting Over Library Books | Cowboy State Daily  



Provenza also disagrees with that argument.   

“Some of the value of public education is that we’re trying to educate a broad base of people,” she said. “And while someone may hold views other people don’t like, sometimes there are lessons to be learned about those things. What you may deem pornographic material, others may consider educational.”   

Provenza said it is “problematic” to begin censoring books because there are so many differing viewpoints in any one community.   

“Mostly in this state we’ve taken the attitude of ‘live and let live,’” she said.   

Obscenity, A Misdemeanor  

Promoting obscenity is a misdemeanor in Wyoming punishable by up to a year in jail and $6,000 in fines, if the obscene materials are offered to minors. It’s potentially $1,000 in fines and a year in jail if  the materials are offered to adults.  

“Obscene” is a relative term in the law that uses contemporary community standards taken as a whole to determine if the materials appeal to the prurient interest, describe sexual conduct in a “patently offensive” way and lack serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.   

However, Wyoming exempts librarians, educators and police from the statute if they are acting in the course of “bona fide” activities. For example, police investigators often need to review child pornography as crime evidence.   

Washut said he hasn’t yet formed an opinion on whether the exemption for librarians and educators should be revised to address the controversy.   

Provenza said she would not support efforts to repeal or weaken the exemption.

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Hunter: Elk Took Hours To Die Because Wyoming Rancher Wouldn’t Grant Trespass

in Wyoming outdoors/News/Hunting
24992

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By Mark Heinz, outdoors reporter
Mark@CowboyStateDaily.com

Joshua Sunberg said he had to live every hunter’s worst nightmare as he watched a bull elk he’d shot in Wyoming on Monday slowly die. 

“He was sitting there wounded, suffering,” Sunberg, of Iowa, told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday. “I couldn’t shoot him again, because that would have made me a poacher.”

To make matters worse, he crashed his truck earlier during his trip to Wyoming.

“This is the worst hunt of my life,” Sunberg said. 

It took the bull, which was 20 yards inside private ranch property, about two hours to die, he said. But Sunberg couldn’t get permission to go onto the property, finish the bull off and retrieve it.

Sunberg frequently hunts in Wyoming and other Western states. He declined to identify the rancher who denied him permission or the exact location in Southeast Wyoming where he shot the bull.

“I was on the phone with (the rancher) while the bull was suffering,” Sunberg said. “And the rancher said it was my fault, that I’m a terrible hunter.”

“I asked if he could come put it down, and he said ‘no’ because he didn’t have an elk tag.” Sunberg said. “So, I asked if he could at least have the highway patrol or somebody else come put it down, but he said ‘no.’”

Hunt Started Normally

Sunberg was raised in Iowa, but has a cousin in Cheyenne and relatives in Colorado. He learned to hunt at a young age and started hunting in the West as a teenager. He attended the University of Wyoming and worked for game agencies in Montana and Colorado. He now works as a wildlife researcher for Southern Illinois University and also guides hunters in the Midwest. 

His latest Wyoming venture began as an archery elk hunt Sept. 18. Rifle season opened in his hunt area Oct. 1. 

He was hunting in open sagebrush country on public land parcels interspersed with private property. He said he’d passed up chances at some smaller bull elk early on in his hunt. He was determined that Monday would be his day.  

“That morning I decided I wanted to kill a bull, and a I wanted to kill a good one,” he said. “So, I ended up working my ass off, hiking 16 miles across these parcels of public land.”

He finally spotted a herd of about 85-90 elk on some private land. So, he set up nearby on the hope that the elk might cross over onto the public ground. 

The Bull He’d Been Waiting For

Sunberg said he set up about 200 yards off the ranch property line. 

“I try to always sit at least 100 yards back from the property lines, just out of respect for the ranchers,” he said. 

The elk finally started crossing onto the public land, and Sunberg said he spotted a huge “6-by-7” point bull. He got a clean shot from about 120 yards. 

“I’m shooting a .28 Nosler,” he said. “The bullet blew though both shoulders and both lungs. But what happened was, my bullet was blowing through so fast because the shot was close, it just made a tiny hole.”

No Trespassing

The bull made it about 20 yards back onto the private ranch property before it couldn’t move any farther, he said. 

Trespassing wasn’t an option he’d consider. 

“I’m a legal beagle. I do everything by the letter of the law,” Sunberg said. “A million people would have just dragged that bull back over. But I can’t do that because I’d lose my job, and I love my job.”

Sunberg said he called a Wyoming Game and Fish Department warden, but was told he’d be better off just saving his tag for another bull. He didn’t want to do that.

 “I have a cow elk tag I still need to fill while I’m here,” he said, but he considers his bull hunt to be over.  

No Other Option

In the Midwest, some states allow hunters to cross onto private land to pursue hit game, even without a landowner’s permission, Sunberg said. 

That’s not the case here, said Wyoming Game and Fish Department spokesperson Sara DiRienzo in an email to Cowboy State Daily.

“Hunters can only retrieve game on private land with the landowner’s permission,” she said. “Game and Fish can help in certain instances seek permission, but we respect the rights of private landowners, and that is truly up to them to grant access.”

Hunters also are required to make every reasonable effort to track down game animals they wound, she said. 

“Hunters are required to notch their carcass coupon at the site of the kill, so if they can’t retrieve the game, the license remains unfilled,” she said. 

Regarding Sunberg’s incident, “Game and Fish can verify we spoke with the hunter and provided him with the same information on game retrieval on private property,” DiRienzo said. 

Sunberg said he understands why Wyoming landowners want to control access to their property. 

“I get it. It’s private property and they want to protect the integrity of that private property,” he said. “They don’t want people shooting stuff and then running after it all over their land.”

‘The Worst Hunt Of My Life’

A few days before his predicament with the bull elk, Sunberg was scouting in another hunt area for a friend,= and ended up flipping his truck on loose, wet gravel. 

“I started to slide, and I had the option of going through a rancher’s fence or trying to correct and risk flipping the truck,” he said. “So, I tried to correct, and ended up flipping the truck onto its side.” 

The truck suffered some cosmetic damage, and the engine “hydro-locked,” Sunberg said. 

He rode with friends while his truck sat in a dealership shop as he tried to untangle red tape with his insurance company. 

Wyoming Not Hospitable

Sunberg said that, in his experience at least, Wyoming isn’t a friendly place for out-of-state hunters.  

“In all the time I’ve hunted here, I’ve only had a resident help me out once,” he said. “When I crashed my truck, it happened to be other people from Iowa who ended up helping me.”

He said he’s also had ranchers “come out and scream at me” even when he was clearly on public land. 

Even so, he said he still loves the Wyoming outdoors and wants to continue hunting here, but the loss of the bull will haunt him. 

“The ecosystem side of me looks at this way – it (the bull’s carcass) will feed the ravens, it will feed the coyotes and foxes, it will even feed the mice with the bones,” he said. “But the sad thing is, it will never be used for a barbeque for friends and family.”

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Wyoming Democratic Legislator Upset With Allred Secretary of State Appointment

in News/Legislature/politics
25030

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By Leo Wolfson, State Political Reporter
Leo@Cowboystatedaily.com

Karl Allred was sworn in as interim Secretary of State of Wyoming on Monday, but Gov. Mark Gordon’s choice of Allred for the role doesn’t sit well with state Rep. Mike Yin.

The Democrat from Jackson had some strong words about the appointment after the announcement was made last week.

“None of the choices given to the governor by the WY Republican Party were reasonable options when there were former county clerks that applied for the appointment,” Yin says in a short press release.

The Wyoming Republican Party selected Allred, Marti Halverson and Bryan Miller as finalists for the interim role. None of the finalists have directly worked in an election and all three lost their most recent races for the Wyoming Legislature. 

Yin said Allred has shown he will not remain impartial toward his race because of comments Allred made at a state GOP Central Committee meeting in mid-September. At that meeting, Allred commented on Yin’s race for a third term against Republican challenger Jim McCollum, saying, “If any of you have met him (Yin) or dealt with him in any committee meetings, the guy is a flippin’ idiot, and we need to get rid of him.”

As secretary of state, Allred will oversee the upcoming general election in Wyoming. 

No Impartiality

In an interview with Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday afternoon, Yin said he doesn’t want to posit what Allred “could, might or might not do,” with his new responsibility and power. He clarified further that he has confidence in the security of Wyoming’s elections and the staff in the Secretary of State’s office.

“It was irresponsible for him to be selected,” Yin said. “He weighed in on an election before selected as the interim. It was unbecoming to make a statement like that.”

Allred did not immediately respond to a Cowboy State Daily request for comment for this story.

Allred had not publicly announced his candidacy for interim secretary of state by the time he made his statement about Yin, but it was well-known at that time the party would be accepting applications for the role and deciding interim candidates the next weekend. 

Former Secretary of State Ed Buchanan announced in early September that Sept. 15 would be his last day in office.

No Experience

Yin said he would have much rather seen Mary Lankford, a former Sublette County clerk of 32 years, chosen for the interim role. Lankford finished fifth in the GOP’s voting for candidates.

The role of the secretary of state is an important one in Wyoming as the office also is in charge of the state’s business filings and a member of the State Loan and Investments Board, Board of Land Commissioners and the State Building Commission.

The secretary of state also takes over the governor’s duties if the sitting governor leaves the state at any time and is the immediate interim replacement if the governor steps down or dies while in office.

Allred & Yin

Allred is a Uinta County GOP committeeman. He unsuccessfully ran for the Legislature and county precinct committeeman in the August primary. Allred also lost bids for the Legislature in 2020, 2018 and 2014. Although he also failed to be elected as a precinct committee member in 2020, Allred was voted in by the Uinta County GOP as a state committeeman in 2021.

That election, which also resulted in the selection of Biffy Jackson as county GOP chairman and Jana Williams as state committeewoman, sparked a lawsuit from Jon Conrad and other plaintiffs like Sen. Wendy Schuler, R-Evanston, and Rep. Danny Eyre, R-Evanston. This case is being considered by the Wyoming Supreme Court.

Conrad beat Allred in this year’s primary election.

“I wish Karl the best as secretary of state,” Conrad said Monday.

In 2020, Allred participated in a Stop the Steal rally on the front steps of the Wyoming Capitol building. 

During the state GOP’s selection meeting for interim Secretary of State candidates Sept. 24, Allred pledged that he will facilitate a smooth transition for the permanent secretary of state, who will take over in January. He was vague when asked by Cowboy State Daily at that meeting if he would refrain from talking to Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, largely expected to be the next person in the role, until after the general election.

“I talk to everybody,” he said.

Yin is the House minority caucus chairman and a member of both the Judiciary and Revenue committees, two of the Legislature’s preeminent committees. He also is one of the leading voices on cryptocurrency within the Legislature.

Yin faced no opponents during the 2020 election and beat his Republican opponent in the 2018 election by 19 percentage points.

“I don’t take any election lying down,” Yin said. “I look at my elections as a review process by the voters.”

Yin said he would support an almost complete removal of political parties from the state’s Title 22 election code, which would make them private entities under state law and likely strip their power to directly select appointment candidates. During the 2022 Legislative session he sponsored a bill that would have initiated open primaries in the state, allowing voters to vote for any candidate they like in the primary election no matter their party affiliation. This legislation would thereby remove a significant part of the political parties’ role in elections. 

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A 12-Pack Of Wyoming Wolverines? Seems Unlikely, Biologists Say

in Wyoming outdoors/News/wildlife
25015

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By Mark Heinz, outdoors reporter
Mark@CowboyStateDaily.com

Seeing even one wolverine in the wild is a rarity that few Wyoming outdoor enthusiasts can claim.

But seeing a dozen all at once? That’s a near-impossibility, wildlife biologists told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday. 

Even so, some backcountry guides claim to have seen 12, and possibly even 13, wolverines together in Wyoming’s Teton Wilderness this summer. 

“That’s not something we’d expect to see. Wolverines are more solitary animals,” said Zack Walker, nongame wildlife supervisor for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

“To see a dozen, all in one area, would be a very rare event, and I definitely would need some good documentation to verify it,” added Nathan Kluge, furbearer coordinator for the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Department.

‘We Couldn’t Believe What We Had Just Witnessed’

Three explorers in the Teton counted 12, possibly 13, wolverines chasing a female grizzly with two cubs on a rocky, partly snow-covered mountainside Aug. 8, according to an account posted on the Facebook Page of Yellowstone Insight, a backcountry guide company. It includes photos and a recollection of the sighting by wilderness guide Doug MacCartney. 

“It was very hard for us to keep track of all of the wolverines and the bears as they fled the area,” MacCartney said in the post. “I counted, for sure, a total of TWELVE wolverine at one time! Steve said he counted THIRTEEN which I don’t doubt (especially after looking at the photos).”

The wolverines included at least one female with kits (young wolverines), he said.

“We couldn’t believe what we had just seen. We were all pumped up and in awe by what we had just witnessed,” he said.

Wildlife experts cited in the post said that the wolverines could have been drawn by animal carcasses or Army cutworm moths. Grizzlies are known to feast on the moths at high altitudes.

Calls, text and emails to Yellowstone Insight were not returned Tuesday. 



Food Could Have Been The Draw

A plentiful food source could have set up such a near-impossible sighting, said Walker and Kluge. 

“That area is known to have some pretty good food sources,” Kluge said. “It could mean that food sources were really low in other areas for all those wolverines to congregate like that.”

Tempting wolverine treats such as carcasses have on extremely rare occasions been known to draw groups of wolverines, Walker said. 

“If there was some kind of food source that was so abundant that they weren’t having to compete for it, they might come together,” he said, adding that also could explain the aggression toward the grizzlies. 

“If they were defending something, if there was a food source up there, they could have been chasing away anything that wasn’t a wolverine,” Walker said. 

Rare Creatures Indeed

Under normal circumstances, wolverines each have a huge home range, so they tend to be scattered thinly across their habitat, Walker said. 

There were 52 stations set up in some of Wyoming’s mountains to detect wolverines, he said. Those stations could include motion-activated trail cameras, bait – such as parts of deer carcasses and fur-catching brushes. 

If a wolverine went for bait hung up in a tree, the trail camera could snap its picture, while the bush snagged a fur sample, he said. 

Five years ago, wolverines were detected at six of those stations, he said. During the winter of 2021-2022, they were detected at 15 of the stations.

“We did detect more last winter than we did five years ago,” Walker said. “That might indicate our wolverine population in Wyoming is growing.”

All of the stations that detected wolverines were in remote areas of western and northwestern Wyoming, he said. None were detected at stations set up in the Big Horn and Snowy Range mountains. 

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Whatever Happened To Natural Gas-Powered Vehicles?

in Energy/News
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By Kevin Killough, energy reporter
Kevin@CowboyStateDaily.com

Alternative fuel vehicle programs keep trying to get a foothold in Wyoming, but whether they’re electric or compressed natural gas vehicles, they keep running into the same challenge — insufficient infrastructure to support them. 

Over the years, the state and some local governments have experimented with CNG vehicles with varying degrees of success. 

In 2011, Rep. Jim Roscoe, I-Jackson, sponsored a bill that requested $1 million to fund a CNG filling station near Rawlins, buy new CNG vehicles or retrofit vehicles in the state and Wyoming Department of Transportation fleets to run on natural gas. The Wyoming Legislature ultimately agreed to $200,000, which went to retrofitting gas-powered vehicles in the state fleet. 

Roscoe said that, at the time, he was trying to use the abundant natural gas resources in Sublette County. Natural gas then was much cheaper than gasoline and engines running on CNG lasted longer, he said. 

“I thought it would be a good transition fuel,” Roscoe said. 

Natural gas vehicles also produce 20% to 30% less greenhouse gas emissions than gasoline or diesel vehicles. 

‘No Difference In Performance’

The departments retrofitted some of their vehicles, including then-Gov. Matt Mead’s vehicle. 

“In terms of drivability, and in terms of just moving around, I noticed no difference in performance,” Gov. Mead told Cowboy State Daily.

These types of vehicles can run on natural gas and switch to gasoline when the CNG runs out. 

Mead said the main problem was that most of the time, it had to run on gasoline because the CNG filling stations were few and far between. 

“I think it still is a problem,” Mead said. 

The Wyoming Department of Transportation still has some of the bi-fuel vehicles, but Jordan Achs, a spokesperson for the department, said that because of the long stretches between stations they most often run on gas. 


Getty Images

CNG Hubs

The U.S. Alternatives Fuels Data Center reports there are nine CNG filling stations in Wyoming, two of which are government facilities that aren’t open to the public.

In 2016, the Laramie County Board of Commissioners paid more than $500,000 for a facility to be built near the Archer Complex in Cheyenne, which is still in operation. Another government facility is in Rock Springs, and Sublette County School District #1 operates one in Pinedale, which also is available to the public. 

That leaves five other public facilities in Cheyenne, Rock Springs, Evanston, Afton and Jackson. Cheyenne is the only one in the eastern half of the state. 

More Local Use

Local governments have some of the CNG vehicles in their fleet. If a vehicle needs only to drive around a town or county, the closest stations function as a hub. 

This was the idea for the Sublette County School District station, which was built in 2012 as part of a pilot project for natural gas-powered school buses. The station was built for $200,000, and since it has a public refueling option, it generates revenues for the district. Tapping into the resources of the gas fields in the area was part of the interest in the facility.

Alicia Cox, executive director for the Yellowstone-Teton Clean Cities, was at the ribbon cutting when the station opened. 

“We were standing there and you could just look over and see where the fuel was coming from,” Cox said.  

A 2012 study by the state on the potential for CNG buses calculated that buses running in-town routes saved, based on natural gas and diesel prices at the time, $48 per week in fuel costs, and the buses on out-of-town routes saved $154 per week. The buses themselves cost about $32,000 more than diesel-powered buses.

The study concluded the buses would pay for themselves in five to eight years.

Running Out Of Gas?

Natural gas prices are particularly high right now, so it’s far less competitive with gasoline and diesel than it was a decade ago, something that can fluctuate over time as energy markets dictate. 

Cox said that some utility companies around the Jackson area have natural gas vehicles, as well as a linen company. 

YTCC is mainly focused on creating a CNG “ecosystem” for the gateway communities, Cox said. With stations in Jackson and Afton, CNG-powered traffic can head right into Yellowstone and then refuel on the way out. 

“There’s this kind of niche group that has an interest in making it work,” Cox said. 

In addition to producing less greenhouse gas emissions, Cox said that as a local fuel there’s a lot less energy and emissions produced in transport. 

The organization still meets regularly, Cox said, but a lot of attention now is on hydrogen and EVs. 

The federal government last month approved a plan by the Wyoming Department of Transportation that will provide $26 million for EV charging stations throughout the state. 

Roscoe hasn’t done a lot for CNG support since the 2012 bill, but he said if there were interest, he might take up the cause of CNG again. 

“Since we have an abundance of gas, it’s still not a bad idea. Though, I think electric vehicles are what’s coming. And so that’s what’s getting all the federal, even state support,” Roscoe said. 

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Colorado Attorney Submits Second Request To Investigate Hageman

in Harriet Hageman/politics
Photo by Natalie Behring/Getty Images
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By Leo Wolfson, State Political Reporter
Leo@Cowboystatedaily.com

A Fort Collins, Colorado, attorney has made a second request to the Wyoming State Bar that it publicly investigate Wyoming Republican and U.S. Congress candidate Harriet Hageman in response to her public questioning the results of the 2020 presidential election.

“The Wyoming State Bar is in a unique position to properly inform the people of Wyoming about the truth by forcing Ms. Hageman to appear before it,” Darby Hoggatt says in his letter to the State Bar sent Monday. The letter was addressed to Sharon Wilkinson, director of the Wyoming State Bar.

Hoggatt was born in Newcastle and earned his Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Wyoming. He has expressed frustration that the State Bar hasn’t investigated Hageman for reiterating the claims of former President Donald Trump that the 2020 election was stolen.

Most of his three-page letter expresses frustration that the State Bar didn’t spend much time investigating his first letter, which was rejected in early July. 

Attorney Mark Gifford, who represents the organization, spent less than one business day considering the first letter, where Hoggatt requested the agency initiate a disciplinary investigation of Hageman.



‘Extreme Disappointment’

“I want to express my extreme disappointment that your organization invested so little time and critical legal and ethical analysis into whether disciplining Ms. Hageman was warranted, especially considering the threat to our democracy that Ms. Hageman posed,” Hoggatt says in Monday’s letter.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Hoggatt said he had not received a response to his second letter.

Wilkinson told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday afternoon it is the policy of the State Bar to not comment on complaints.

If Gifford were to determine that the complaint should be considered, he would then present the case to the Board of Professional Responsibility. The board then determines if a case will be forwarded to the Wyoming Supreme Court, handled within its own body or by the bar’s Review and Oversight Committee. 

Wilkinson said cases where only private reprimand or discipline is recommended do not go to the Supreme Court. A disbarment, suspension or public censure are the only actions taken against an attorney that becomes public and can only be issued by the Supreme Court.

Legality vs. Popularity

Hoggatt said he believes the Wyoming State Bar didn’t want to investigate Hageman because she is popular in the state. Hageman beat U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney by 38 percentage points in the August primary.

“I do not believe that your organization’s standard of review, nor your mandate, is based upon popularity,” Hoggatt writes. “I expected a more legally based critical analysis with the reputation of our Bar in mind.”

Gifford said in his response to Hoggatt’s first letter that there were significant differences between Hageman’s comments and the actions of Rudy Giulani and other Trump-supporting attorneys because they offered their statements before a tribunal, not in a public forum. He did, however, agree with Hoggatt’s assertion that Hageman’s claims were false.

Gifford said the only possible rule that could be applicable to Hageman’s actions is Rule 8.4(c) of the Wyoming Rules of Professional Conduct, which prohibits a lawyer from engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation. 

Hoggatt, who is licensed to practice law in Wyoming, believes the rule extends to an attorney’s actions outside the courtroom as attorneys are held to a higher standard as it relates to free speech and the First Amendment. He provided the example that it is an attorney’s obligation to inform the state bar if he or she pleads guilty or is found guilty to a crime such as driving under the influence of alcohol. He also mentioned how in Giuliani’s case, a New York court ruled that out-of-court conduct is under the jurisdiction of state bar organizations.  

‘Critical Window’ Missed

Hoggatt initiated his first letter in response to Hageman’s comments at a late June debate in Sheridan. At this event, Hageman complained about the Jan. 6 Committee, endorsed a film that relies on questionable evidence to claim drop ballot boxes were stuffed and said questions needed to be asked about election integrity on a national level. She remained vague about whether she believed there was election fraud in Wyoming in 2020. 

Hoggatt said the Bar missed a “critical window” by choosing not to investigate Hageman at this juncture, as many people cast early and absentee ballots before she made more direct comments on this topic at a forum in early August. 

At that event, Hageman clarified and upped the ante on her views about the 2020 election, saying it was “rigged” and a “travesty.”

Hoggatt said the State Bar “enabled” Hageman “to continue to misinform the Wyoming electorate.”

“The State Bar now has an opportunity to redeem its reputation and restore integrity and honor to its membership,” Hoggatt writes.



Power In Numbers

Hoggatt referenced two recent letters sent to Hageman by a group of 41 and 51 attorneys respectively, asking that she cease her rhetoric stating that the 2020 election was fraudulent. 

“They have done the work that Mr. Gifford was not willing to do prior to the Republican primary,” Hoggatt writes. 

Hageman issued a scathing response to the lawyer’s first letter, which she described as “threatening.”

“Make no mistake, this letter is meant as a threat against me simply because I hold a different political opinion – one that is shared by a majority of Wyoming voters,” Hageman said in a September press release. “And this is exactly what Liz Cheney’s allies and the left do to Trump supporters and conservatives at every turn – attempt to threaten, intimidate, and cancel anyone who doesn’t see the world the way they do.”

Hageman supported Cheney during her 2016 campaign and expressed a preference for Ted Cruz over former President Donald Trump in that election. It was not until she announced her campaign in September 2021 that she first spoke out publicly against Cheney. Hoggatt saw this as an example of opportunism on Hageman’s part for the purpose of gaining a position of power in government.

Hoggatt wants the State Bar to ask Hageman:

• Do you have any evidence that would be admissible in a court of law supporting your position that there was widespread voter fraud that would have changed the outcome of the 2020 presidential election?

• Were you aware of the outcome of 60-plus lawsuits filed by then President Trump alleging that the 2020 U.S. presidential was illegitimate?

• Did you knowingly mislead the people of Wyoming when you spread the “big lie” in public forums?

• Did you spread the “big lie” for your political gain?

Hoggatt said if Wilkinson and Gifford still choose not to investigate Hageman, he asks they appoint outside legal counsel that will, or resign their jobs so the matter can be handled before the November election.

“History will judge Mr. Gifford and yourself as courageous Wyomingites, like Representative Liz Cheney; or as complicit in the disgraceful spread of propaganda,” Hoggatt writes. 

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Wyoming Musicians Remember ‘Coal Miner’s Daughter’ On Learning Of Loretta Lynn’s Death

in Wyoming Life/entertainment
Photo by Terry Wyatt/Getty Images for Americana Music
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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily
wendy@cowboystatedaily.com

Wyoming musicians are remembering country music legend Loretta Lynn as a trailblazer, inspiration and “just such a down-to-earth gal.”

Lynn was 90 when she died Tuesday at her home in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee, leaving behind decades of hits and legions of fans.

From her poverty-stricken upbringing in Butcher Hollow, Kentucky, she became the reigning queen of country music in the late 1960s and inspired singers around the country.

“She was a pioneer,” said Annie (Smith) Jackson of Cheyenne who, with her twin sister Amy (Smith) Meier, performed as a duo on the Grand Ole Opry in the 1980s. “There was no messing around with her.”

The “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” as Lynn became known based on her autobiographical hit song, broke barriers in country music. As a singer-songwriter, she stood up for women without being labeled a feminist with songs like “Rated X” in 1972 and “The Pill” in 1975.

She continued recording until recently, releasing a music video in 2018 for her song “Ain’t No Time To Go.” Her 46th and final solo studio album, “Still Woman Enough,” was released in March 2021.

Loretta Lynn – Ain’t No Time To Go (Official Music Video)

Setting the Bar for Female Singers

Lynn was Nashville’s first prominent female singer-songwriter, generating her own hit songs.

“When we heard the songs that Loretta was singing, we just were flabbergasted,” said Meier, “because she just said (what she thought) so directly.”

In 1972, Lynn became the first woman to be named entertainer of the year by the Country Music Association; from 1962 through 1990, 77 of Lynn’s singles made the country music charts. More than 50 of them reached the Top 10, and 16 were No. 1 hits.

“She blazed the trail for a lot of the young women in country music today,” said Jackson.

Opry Memories

The Smith twins hold a fond memory of meeting Lynn backstage at the Grand Ole Opry.

“It was our first time singing on the Grand Ole Opry,” said Jackson. “We were backstage and we were guests of the king of country music, Roy Acuff.” 

Just 18 at the time, the twins were getting ready to go onstage when they spotted Lynn sitting in the wings.

“Loretta was almost like a statue,” Jackson recalled. “She was dressed in this gorgeous, like an antebellum dress, but it had a big petticoat underneath her dress, and she just sat there so regally and so quiet.”

But when Lynn saw the girls, she approached them, Meier said.

“She said she wanted to meet us because she, of course, had twin daughters, Patsy and Peggy, who sing,” said Meier, who took the opportunity to ask a question of her own.

“I just remember asking Loretta, I said, ‘You have five children – how were you able to do that and do this amazing career?’” Meier said. “She said, ‘You just do it, dear.’”

An Original

Dan Miller, a country music entertainer who has lived in Cody for more than 20 years, had many opportunities to cross paths with Lynn when he was a television host in Nashville in the 1980s and 1990s.

“There are few people in the entertainment business who are exactly as they seem,” Miller told Cowboy State Daily. “Everybody has some kind of public persona – but not Loretta Lynn. She was exactly who you saw on television and movies – a country music original.”

Miller recalled a story told to him by his management team in the 1980s.

“I think they were staying at the MGM, and they were going up to check into the room,” said Miller. “And she came walking down the hall in a bathrobe and barefooted, and didn’t know them from Adam, but she had locked herself out of her room and could they help her get a room key?

“She was just that way, just such a down-to-earth gal.”

Blazing A Trail For Women In Country Music

Before they came to Nashville, the Smith twins said they really didn’t know what country music was.

“And then we heard Loretta Lynn’s song, ‘You Ain’t Woman Enough To Take My Man,’” said Jackson.

The direct nature of her songs, and her perseverance, was what made the greatest impression on Jackson.

“Being the woman that she was, and just persevering, I would say that probably influenced us (most) at that age,” she said. “You just keep persevering, no matter what.”

“Without Loretta Lynn, so many people, their careers, their lives would have been different,” said Miller.

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Wyoming Daily Gas Map: Tuesday, October 4, 2022

in Gas Map
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By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily

The highest reported gasoline price in Wyoming on Tuesday was in Moose at $4.98 per gallon. The lowest price in Wyoming was in Laramie at $3.19 per gallon.

Wyoming Daily Gas Map: Tuesday, October 4, 2022

By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily 

Wyoming’s average price per gallon of $3.83 is unchanged from our last report of $3.83 on Monday. 

The website GasBuddy.com, which tracks national gas prices, reported Wyoming’s average gas price is down 4 cent from a week ago, and is up 34 cents per gallon from a year ago.

Wyoming’s average price for a gallon of gas remained above the national average of $3.81

High and Low Prices:

The highest reported gasoline price in Wyoming on Tuesday was in Moose at the Conoco on 12170 Dornan Road, reporting $4.98 per gallon. The lowest price in Wyoming was in Laramie at the Tumbleweed Express on 4700 Bluebird Land at $3.19 per gallon.

The highest county average is Teton County with an average of $4.53 per gallon. The county with the lowest average is in Laramie County at $3.43 per gallon. These are the highest and lowest reported prices among stations surveyed.

*The average price, reported by AAA, in each Wyoming county:

Albany $3.49; Big Horn $4.06; Campbell $3.51; Carbon $4.00; Converse $3.90; Crook $3.79; Fremont $3.98; Goshen $3.70; Hot Springs $3.99; Johnson $3.79; Laramie $3.43; Lincoln $4.18; Natrona $3.59; Niobrara $3.60; Park $4.27; Platte $4.02; Sheridan $3.68; Sublette $3.93; Sweetwater $3.88; Teton $4.53; Uinta $4.11; Washakie $3.93; Weston: $3.77

*The lowest Price, reported by GasBuddy, in selected Wyoming cities:

Basin $4.09; Buffalo $3.76; Casper $3.41; Cheyenne $3.26; Cody $3.94; Douglas $3.78; Evanston $4.07; Gillette $3.43; Jackson $4.34; Kemmerer $4.07; Laramie $3.19; Lusk $3.59; Newcastle $3.68; Pinedale $3.89; Rawlins $3.79; Riverton $3.81; Rock Springs $3.62; Sheridan $3.35; Sundance $3.89; Thermopolis $3.97; Wheatland $3.71; Worland $3.77

*Note: We use AAA.com for the county and state averages and GasBuddy.com for the low prices in our selected cities. Prices in this report are for reference only. They are gathered just prior to posting, and may not reflect prices that have changed since last posted.

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First Army Ranger To Return To Battle With Prosthetic Limb To Speak In Casper

in News/military
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By Leo Wolfson, State Political Reporter
Leo@Cowboystatedaily.com

The first U.S. Army Ranger to return to battle with a prosthetic limb will speak in Casper on Friday.

Master Sgt. Joseph Kapacziewski, a Special Operations member of the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, will help the Natrona County Republican Women honor fallen veterans at their Wreaths Across America Gala.

Kapacziewski, who goes by “Joe Kap,” will be the keynote speaker of the evening. Kap has been deployed 11 times in Afghanistan and Iraq, six of which were in Afghanistan with his artificial limb.

He’s chronicled his journey as a soldier and amputee in a book titled “Back in the Fight.”

“We’re so blessed that we have him coming,” said Kim Walker, president of the Natrona County Republican Women.



Grenade Blast

The Challenged Athletes Foundation reports that while in Iraq on his fifth combat tour, Kap was severely injured when a grenade blast severed the median nerve and brachial artery in his right arm, left him with deep tissue wounds on his hip and shattered bones in his right leg. 

After 42 surgeries to the leg, Kap decided to have it amputated in 2007 so he could continue living the lifestyle he wanted and serve his country. 

Kap has earned a Bronze Star Medal with a “V” device (two Oak Leaf Clusters) and a Meritorious Service Medal, Purple Heart, among many other awards and commendations. He is still in active service as a squad leader for his Ranger Battalion.

Walker said Kap isn’t accepting payment to speak at the event.

“He was just honored to have us ask him to come speak,” she said.

A Cowboy State Hunt

Walker said Kap, a Georgia resident, spent last week hunting in Wyoming with friends. She said he’s friends with Colten Sasser, a Casper Army veteran and amputee who co-founded Hunting with Heroes, an organization that provides hunting, fishing and other outdoor experiences for disabled veterans.

Also speaking at the event will be Wyoming Air National Guardsman Tech. Sgt. Shyloh Buchholz. Buchholz is a Casper resident and member of the Natrona County Republican Women who recently returned from a deployment in New York City. Walker said while there, Buchholz helped deliver a baby for a foreign couple.

“She’ll be talking about her experience,” Walker said. “It will be neat to have someone from Casper.”

Former K2 Radio host Bob Price will announce the event.



Wreaths For Remembrance

The purpose of the Wreaths Across America program is to remember, honor and teach about the value of fallen veterans.

“They say a person dies twice, once when their heart stops beating, and then a second time when somebody says their name for the last time,” Walker said.

The Natrona County wreath laying began in 2016.

In 2018 and 2019, the gala raised enough money to place 4,300 wreaths at veterans’ graves at cemeteries in central Wyoming. Volunteers laid 3,000 wreaths at the Oregon Trail Veterans Cemetery in Evansville, 1,000 at the Highland Cemetery in Casper, 200 at the Memorial Gardens Cemetery in Casper and 100 wreaths at a cemetery in Kaycee. 

Although no galas were held in 2020 and 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization still laid wreaths.

Walker discovered through the wreath laying that there is a Spanish American War veteran and Civil War veteran resting at Highland Cemetery.

There will be wreath laying ceremonies held Dec. 17 at the Oregon Trail Cemetery, Highland Cemetery and Memorial Gardens Cemetery. Walker said they have had 700-900 volunteers help in the past. 

“This just makes your Christmas. It’s incredible, just absolutely incredible,” Walker said. “It’s just so humbling when you walk through the cemeteries, especially Highland, and see how many veterans are there.”

Their organization will offer a free dinner on Friday to about 100 veterans at the event.

“It’s how we honor the living vets,” Walker said.

The gala will start at 5:30 p.m. at the Ramkota Hotel and will feature a chicken dinner, silent and live auctions. Walker said some of the items being auctioned off include a one-of-a-kind beer stein memorializing veterans, a free growler of beer each month for a year from a local brewery, a guided pheasant hunt and many other items.

Individual tickets are $60 and $500 for a table of eight. For more information or tickets, call 307-277-1748 or 703-362-0264.

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Police Officer And Former UW Soccer Player Killed In Off-Duty Crash

in News/University of Wyoming
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By Greg Johnson, Cowboy State Daily
greg@cowboystatedaily.com

A former University of Wyoming women’s soccer player and police officer with the Oklahoma City Police Department died in an off-duty crash Thursday.

Sgt. Meagan Burke, 31, was driving north on Interstate 44 through Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, when a southbound vehicle swerved, jumped the guardrail and hit Burke head-on, the OCPD reports. She died at the scene.

Before pursuing a career in law enforcement, Burke was a three-year member of the UW women’s soccer program from 2009-11. She was one of seven standout high school players who signed national letters of intent to play for the Cowboys in February 2009.

Road to UW

A 2009 graduate of Green Mountain High School in Lakewood, Colorado, Burke was a member of a pair of Puerto Rico national teams prior to attending UW, according to a Feb. 2, 2005, university press release announcing her signing.

She was a goalkeeper for the Cowboys for her first three years of college soccer, then transferred and started between the pipes for the University of Central Oklahoma as a senior in 2012.

“We are deeply saddened about the passing of former Cowgirl soccer player, Meagan Burke,” the UW Cowgirl soccer program tweeted in response to the fatal crash. “She played for Wyoming from 2009-11 before pursuing a career in law enforcement.

“Her and her family are in our thoughts and prayers.”

After UW

Mike Cook has been the University of Central Oklahoma women’s soccer coach for 25 years and said he and the program are saddened by the news of Burke’s death.

“It’s not the kind of news you want to hear. It’s obviously tough losing someone you coached and because of the quality person she was,” Cook told Cowboy State Daily, adding she was an “example of what a true student-athlete is.”


From Oklahoma City Police Department Twitter feed.

Officer Burke

Cook said it “was definitely no surprise” Burke chose to make law enforcement her career.

“She was always driven, very disciplined,” he said. “Even if we were up four or five goals, she never wanted to come out of a game.”

A tribute for Officer Burke has been growing at the Oklahoma City Police Department’s Santa Fe Division, where Burke was stationed. Her patrol car has been covered with messages of sympathy and flowers. 

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U.S. Supreme Court Doesn’t Hear Wyoming’s Case Against COVID Vax Mandates

in U.S. Supreme Court/News
Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images
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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily
Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear Wyoming’s case against COVID-19 vaccine mandates for healthcare workers.  

Wyoming and nine other Republican-led states in late November, 2021, won preliminary injunctions from two appeals courts, against President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate for healthcare workers in establishments funded by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid.  

The federal government then petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for a stay of the preliminary injunction, so that the vaccine mandate could go into effect while the court reviewed its legality.  

The Supreme Court issued the stay in January, saying that Congress gave the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid the authority to dictate their terms of funding.  

At that time, however, the high court stayed the federal government’s vaccine mandate for employees in businesses with 100 or more workers, calling it a breach of authority.  

The Volley 

Wyoming and the other states on May 12 petitioned the court for further review, saying the mandate “is now devastating small, rural, and community-based healthcare facilities and systems throughout the States.”  

Biden volleyed in June, pointing to the hundreds of billions of dollars the federal government spends on Medicare and Medicaid.  

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear further argument, cementing its earlier order upholding the mandate.  

About 10.3 million healthcare workers are affected by the mandate, according to court documents. Some religious and medical exemptions are available.  

The other states who argued against the mandate with Wyoming are Missouri, Nebraska, Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, New Hampshire, North Dakota, and South Dakota. The case is titled Missouri vs. Biden.  

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Wyoming Video Of The Day

in Wyoming outdoors/News
24949

Feds Threaten To Pull More Than $9 Million In Special Education Funding From Wyoming

in News/Education
24946

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By Leo Wolfson, State Political Reporter
Leo@Cowboystatedaily.com

The U.S. Department of Education is threatening to revoke more than $9 million of the money it gives to Wyoming’s special education programs.

The revocation comes in response to the way the Wyoming Department of Education apportioned funds to schools during the 2019 and 2020 fiscal years. 

“In my view, this matter is simply a misunderstanding on behalf of the U.S. Dept. of Education,” Wyoming Deputy Superintendent Chad Auer told Cowboy State Daily in an email Monday afternoon. “Understanding the unique intricacies of Wyoming’s school funding process requires deeper consideration by our friends in Washington, D.C.”

The department sent a notice to Brian Schroeder, Wyoming superintendent of public instruction, on June 1, informing him it plans to pull the money.

‘Something To Be Concerned About’

Federal laws require that a state fund its special education programs at the same or greater level of funding each year. The rule is in place to ensure that state funds are available for local educational agencies to meet their obligations to make public education free and available to any child with a disability.

It is the federal government’s perspective that Wyoming did not adequately fund its special education programs in 2019 and 2020, a situation that happened under former Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow.

State Rep. Landon Brown, R-Cheyenne, said although the federal government is unlikely to pull the funding due to the poor optics related to such a move, he said the threat is “something to be concerned about.”

A roughly $9 million cut to special education funding makes up about 3% of the annual special education expenditures in Wyoming. Including federal dollars, during the 2020-21 school year, $278.1 million was spent on special education in Wyoming. A total of $27.4 million came from federal grants through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act program that year.

Education was funded on a nearly $400 million budget from the state of Wyoming last year, with federal money covering the rest of the roughly $1.7 billion cost.

The Wyoming Way

Prior to the 2019/2020 school year, special education was funded in Wyoming using a 100% reimbursement system, with the state government fully reimbursing all expenditures made by schools for their special education programs. Following action taken by the Legislature to put a cap on special education funding, schools now have to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to support their programs.

This legislative change brought questions from the federal Office of Special Education Programs about the way WDE calculates its funding under the IDEA programs rule, which requires states to maintain a never-declining level of financial support. The IDEA program requires state, rather than local, money be at least maintained from one year to the next. 

Wyoming uses a foundation, or “base budget,” school funding formula, capturing the total amount of funding it deems necessary to educate a particular student, and then dividing that total between the state and local educational agencies. LEAs that generate more revenue than the “base budget” amount must return money to the state through a process known as recapture.

Recapture

The state uses some of these recapture funds to offset the cost of low-revenue generating LEAs, while using the other portion of funds for other educational purposes.

Under current state law, the cost to run LEAs in Wyoming is reimbursed through the state and recaptured and not recaptured local funding – money that is paid for directly by schools.

WDE determined that recaptured and non-recaptured funds could be used for all education programs or to carry over funds to the next year, not just immediate reimbursement to local special education. 

In a September 2020 letter, OSEP, the special education federal agency, determined that local funds that are not recaptured and remain local cannot be counted toward the state’s allotment of special education funding. Because of this decision, OSEP determined the state underspent on special education by $2.5 million in fiscal year 2019 and $6.5 million in fiscal year 2020, decreasing overall funding from $163 million in 2018 to $157 million in 2020.

‘Exceptional Or Uncontrollable’

A state is allowed to waive the requirement that it maintain its funding if it can demonstrate “exceptional or uncontrollable circumstances such as a natural disaster or a precipitous and unforeseen decline in the financial resources of the state.” Whether a waiver is granted or not, a state must maintain free education for all children with disabilities.

In September 2021, WDE submitted waiver requests for both 2019 and 2020. The department argued it faced exceptional or uncontrollable circumstances due to positive fluctuations in “local revenue” that resulted in districts requiring less funding from the state. 

The state of Wyoming’s school funding and entire budget is highly dependent on mineral revenue. 

During the 2019 and 2020 fiscal years (ending in July), mineral revenue was generally productive in Wyoming. According to the U.S. Department of Education, WDE “conceded” the state did not experience a negative impact to its financial resources in those years. 

WDE countered that it did not decrease overall special education funding or availability because it relied on an increased portion of local revenue through non-recaptured funds. Wyoming argued it is under a constant state of exceptional or uncontrollable circumstances because of the instability in state and local funding sources spurred by the volatile nature of fossil fuel markets. 

OSEP determined it will not accept the WDE’s waiver request. In the June letter, the U.S. Department of Education explained that it is the amount of state financial support provided that determines whether it has met federal standards, not the total amount of special education available to LEAs from all sources.

“The state was aware that the ratio of ‘local revenue’ to ‘state support’ may shift each year due to some school districts collecting more local revenue than in previous years and consequently requiring less funding being distributed to districts,” the letter reads. “Because these variations are inherently part of the state’s own funding system, the Department cannot consider local revenue fluctuation to be “exceptional or uncontrollable circumstances.”

Will They Pull Money?

The U.S. Department of Education has determined Wyoming will not be eligible for $9,072,121 in IDEA funding in the future because of the way it spent money in 2019 and 2020.

Brown said he is skeptical the federal government will actually withhold money from Wyoming. He said typically in scenarios like these, the government works with state governments to alleviate problems for the future rather than take a more heavy-handed approach and issue a formal punishment.

WDE was instructed it could request a hearing to dispute the cuts within 30 days of the letter being sent. Auer said WDE is working with the Attorney General’s office to help advocate for Wyoming on the matter.

“I am confident that once all of the interested parties sit down and fully understand Wyoming’s process, the U.S. Dept. of Education will realize that we fully support ALL of our students, even though our funding process may look differently than other states,” Auer wrote.

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Wyoming Attorneys Send Second Letter To Hageman Condemning Her For Election Denials

in Harriet Hageman/News/politics
Photo by Michael Smith/Getty Images
24934

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By Leo Wolfson, State Political Reporter
Leo@Cowboystatedaily.com

An ongoing feud between Wyoming Republican U.S. Congress candidate Harriet Hageman and some of the state’s most prominent attorneys continues to evolve.

Fifty-one attorneys have signed a second letter to Hageman addressing her response to their original letter, which she described as “threatening.” 

The original letter and Friday’s response from the attorneys request Hageman stop making comments about the 2020 presidential election being “stolen” and fraudulent, claims they say are blatantly false.

“She has an obligation to tell the truth to people,” said Jack Speight, a Cheyenne attorney and former chairman of the Wyoming GOP. “When you’re an attorney, you have an obligation to support the court’s rulings. You may disagree with them, but you have to follow them.”

The follow-up letter takes a slightly more conciliatory tone than the first, requesting in conclusion that she “respect our views, the oath that we all share as lawyers, and the new oath you will seemingly take as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.”

But Jackson attorney Bill Schwartz said the attorneys felt compelled to double-down on their request after taking offense to Hageman releasing their letter to the public, issuing a press release about the letter and posting it on her campaign website.

“We’re asking her to think about the whole electoral issue and think about it as a lawyer and not think about it as a politician,” Schwartz said.

Schwartz said the first letter, signed by himself and 40 other attorneys, was never meant to be public. 

No Change Of Stance

One of Hageman’s campaign managers, Tim Murtaugh, had a curt response to the newest letter.

“Harriet heard them the first time,” Murtaugh said. “They don’t like her opinion and want her silenced. Same response applies.”

In her original response, Hageman accused the attorneys of trying to curb her First Amendment rights.

Story Behind The Words

Schwartz said he received several emails from people disparaging him for the first letter, telling him those who signed it should be disbarred and/or sent to California.

“These kinds of responses, and worse, are what happens when political leaders peddle misinformation and innuendo in support of their electoral ambitions,” the letter reads.

He said the group of attorneys that have signed the letter are part of a loosely organized contingency known as “Wyoming Lawyers For The Rule Of Law.” He said many revisions are made among the group and not any single person is organizing the effort.

“We have no leadership, no mission,” he said. “When someone can’t sleep at night, this is what it generates.”

The group first came together in response to Republican U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis’ first vote to reject the Pennsylvania slate of electors from the 2020 election.

“We sent a letter saying the rule of law matters,” Schwartz said.

‘Support, Obey And Defend’ The System

The newest letter reiterates many of the points made in the first. It asks Hageman to accept the rulings made by more than 60 courts that the 2020 election was sound, whether she likes it or not. The letter mentions how nearly all attorneys have encountered court decisions they don’t agree with during the course of their careers.

“In all of the cases, as lawyers, we were required by our oath to accept the outcome and to ‘support, obey and defend’ the legal system that was created by the Constitution and laws of the United States and the State of Wyoming – even when we thought, as we often did, that the final result was wrong,” the letter reads.

The second letter asserts that attorneys are not free to publicly attack the courts, judges or the legal process as a result of being on the losing side of a case. This is partially true, but many attorneys on the losing side of cases have spoken against those decisions.

In her response to the first letter, Hageman described the authors as “elitist” and “leftists.”

“While we acknowledge that we are privileged to be Wyoming lawyers, we are no more ‘elitist’ than you are, and we certainly do not identify as ‘leftists,’” the second letter says in response.

Speight said Hageman was able to earn former President Donald Trump’s endorsement by accepting “the big lie,” the claim that the 2020 presidential election was illegitimate. 

Hageman had been relatively vague about her thoughts on the 2020 election until a June debate, where she said questions need to be asked about election integrity on a national level. At a political forum in August, she upped the ante, saying the election was “rigged” and a “travesty.” 

Schwartz said this was where, for many, she crossed the line.

Schwartz and Speight both said they believed Hageman slightly walked back her claims about the 2020 election based on her response to their first letter. In that response, Hageman only mentioned having “concerns about the 2020 election” and that she “holds a different opinion of the 2020 election than” the letter writers do.

Who’s Behind It?

There were 10 more names on Friday’s new letter including Speight, but also a few noteworthy subtractions. Wyoming State Bar President Chris Hawks and Anna Reeves Olsen, president-elect of the state bar, both were signers of the first letter but not the second.

Schwartz said they held back from joining the second letter because they are now officers of the Wyoming State Bar Association and their participation could suggest the State Bar was endorsing the letter.

Darby Hoggatt, a Fort Collins, Colorado, attorney, sent a letter to the Wyoming State Bar in July requesting it investigate Hageman for her comments. Hoggatt recently expressed frustration that the bar quickly rejected his request. 

On Monday, Hoggatt sent a new request asking the organization publicly investigate Hageman or resign its top leadership.

Speight and Schwartz both said they have no interest in having the State Bar take action against Hageman. 

Numerous prominent members of the Wyoming legal community, such as William Hiser, former president of the bar, and Devon O’Connell, past president of the Wyoming Bar Association, both signed the second letter. 

Schwartz said there are many people within the legal community who agree with the sentiment of the letter but were uncomfortable signing it.

“They’re people who have relationships with Harriet or John Sundahl,” Schwartz said about Hageman and her husband, who’s also an attorney.

Schwartz said he’s unsure if Hageman’s reputation among Wyoming attorneys has been damaged beyond repair, but he and Speight both believe she could still redeem herself.

“Let’s see what she does as a public official,” Speight said. “We’ll see if this was an exception to the rule or an exception that proves the rule.”

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Why Are There Giant 70-Foot Concrete Arrows All Across Southern Wyoming?

in Wyoming Life/Wyoming History/News
24888

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily
wendy@cowboystatedaily.com

Across the arid scrubland of southern Wyoming, in seemingly random locations, is what remains of a network of large concrete arrows that point east.

In a wide, desert area just north of Green River and Little America off state Highway 41, one of these concrete arrows can be viewed in near-perfect condition; another is becoming increasingly surrounded by civilization just off Westedt Road in Cheyenne.

These, and 10 others scattered across the state, are remnants of what one expert called “the largest public works project that nobody’s ever heard of.”

These 70-foot arrows were part of an effort by the U.S. Department of Commerce to guide airmail pilots in the 1920s.

“Toward the end of World War 1, aircraft development had basically shifted almost entirely to Europe,” said David Marcum, a retired Airman from Cheyenne who has done extensive research on the country’s aviation history. “And so the United States government decided that they were going to jumpstart the aviation industry in this country by flying the mail.”


Photo Courtesy David Marcum

Transcontinental Airway

Marcum told Cowboy State Daily that in 1920, transcontinental air mail service began between New York City and San Francisco. 

“The pilots flew a route that was called the transcontinental airway that took them through southern Wyoming,” he said. 

Initially, the airway’s infrastructure consisted only of terminals that in the region were located at Omaha and North Platte, Nebraska, Cheyenne, Rawlins, Rock Springs and Salt Lake City. Planes and pilots were based at those terminals, planes were maintained and mail was transferred. 

Marcum noted that airplanes back then didn’t have much in the way of navigation equipment. 

“Terminals were linked by compass routes that, in theory, would guide pilots to their destinations,” he said. “In reality, compasses were very unreliable and pilots navigated by following both natural and manmade landmarks.”

One of the most visible landmarks was the transcontinental railroad tracks, which pilots called “the iron compass” and guided them over southern Wyoming.

But that strategy limited air mail pilots to flying just during the day, which didn’t take full advantage of what the planes could do.


Photo Courtesy David Marcum

Lighting The Airways

In 1924, Marcum said the U.S. Postal Service began constructing beacons that would be illuminated at night.

“The flattest part of the (national) airway was between Chicago and Cheyenne,” he said. “So, it made sense that that was the part of the airway that they’re going to fly at night.”

Marcum said that every 10 miles, rotating beacons were built on top of towers all along the air route between Chicago and Cheyenne. But every 3 miles, a system of acetylene-powered blinker beacons was set up.


Photo Courtesy David Marcum

Air Mail Takes Off

In 1926, the U.S. Department of Commerce was given jurisdiction over the airway through the passage of the Kelly Act, named for the congressman who sponsored the bill.

“It basically forced the post office out of air mail,” said Marcum. “The post office would still set rates, the post office would still actually deliver the mail, but private contractors would fly the mail – and the Department of Commerce was given responsibility for managing the airway.”

Boeing Air Transport was awarded the contract to carry mail between San Francisco and Chicago, while National Air Transport flew the mail between Chicago and New York City, Marcum explained.

“Then the Department of Commerce takes over management of the airway itself,” he said. “And it was the Department of Commerce that built the concrete arrows.”

Guiding The Way Over Wyoming

On May 20, 1926, the Air Commerce Act of 1926 was signed into law. That same year, the Aeronautics Branch of the DOC began rebuilding the Air Mail Service’s navigation system.

“Rotating beacons built on concrete directional arrows were erected every 10 miles along the route of the Transcontinental Airway,” said Marcum, adding that between Salt Lake City and Omaha, the arrows always pointed east. 

Each beacon also was painted with an alpha-numeric designation.

“In Wyoming, they were numbered SL-O 38, etc.,” Marcum said, “with SL-O indicating that the beacon was on the Salt Lake to Omaha segment of the Airway.”  

He explained that most of the beacons were powered by on-site generators since many were in remote areas.

“Some of them were actually built in close proximity to existing power lines, and so they got their electricity from the power lines – although some of them were actually powered by wind generators,” said Marcum.


Photo Courtesy David Marcum

Making Way for the Future

Radio aids eventually superseded the beacons because of the level of maintenance the visual aids required, said Marcum.

“Because beacons are a visual aid that can’t be seen when the weather is bad, the Aeronautics Branch also started developing the more capable system of radio aids to guide pilots,” he said. “If you’re driving around, you might see a strange-looking white structure out in somebody’s pasture. It kind of looks like it’s a small building, with maybe kind of like a funnel.”

Those are the radio beacons, Marcum explained, which themselves will be replaced by GPS.

“This is a continuing effort,” he said.

Preserving History

“There’s twelve arrows in the state that are relatively intact,” said Marcum. “And there are four that you can find bits and pieces of.”

Marcum said that landowners have been supportive of his efforts to document the remaining arrows and preserve what is left of this little-known piece of American history.

“These are going on 100 years old,” he said. “It took a tremendous amount of effort to erect this system and some of these sites are on private property. I would ask people to respect that fact.”

Two of the arrows can be found in a Google Maps search, Marcum said, adding that it’s worth the visit, even if the sites are in relatively remote areas. 

“Out in Sweetwater County, the county and the BLM have actually done a good job of erecting signage and have done a good job of educating the public about the arrow out there,” Marcum said. “It’s a little bit harder to get to; it’s a dirt road so I would advise a high-clearance vehicle, but it’s an impressive arrow to visit.”

Marcum expressed his wish that the historic markers be treated with respect.

“I would ask people don’t vandalize the sites,” he said. “Visit them by all means, respect them, but leave them as you find them.”

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Wyoming Grizzly Hunts Could Hinge On Midterms, Hunt Advocate Says

in Wyoming outdoors/News/Grizzly Bears
24925

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By Mark Heinz, outdoors reporter
Mark@CowboyStateDaily.com

If Republicans prevail in the midterm elections, Wyoming hunters could soon pursue grizzly bears, says a hunting advocate.

But that would be a bad idea, said an attorney for the Humane Society of the United States. 

“The prospects of this legislation passing (to delist grizzly bears) hinge directly on the outcome of the midterm elections,” Mark Jones of Buffalo told Cowboy State Daily. 

Jones is director of hunter programs for Gun Owners of America (GOA) and a wildlife biologist who worked for 30 years with the North Carolina Wildlife Research Commission.

Democrats probably won’t support delisting grizzlies, Jones said about a bill sponsored by U.S. Rep. Matt Rosedale, R-Montana, to have grizzly bears in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho removed from endangered species protection. 

In the meantime, the governors of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho continue to lobby the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to delist grizzlies, Jones said. 

Delisting grizzlies would be a bad idea, said Nicolas Arrivo of Chicago, managing attorney of animal protection litigation for the Humane Society of the United States. 

Grizzlies might seem to be doing well in their core habitat in Yellowstone Park and the surrounding area, but they have yet to establish a regionally connected, genetically diverse population, he said. So, delisting and hunting the bruins now could set back decades of recovery efforts. 



The Griz Season That Almost Was

A Wyoming grizzly hunting season nearly happened in 2018 before it was blocked by a federal judge at the behest of groups that include the Humane Society.  

It would have authorized hunters to kill up to 22 grizzlies that year. The tags would have been $600 each for residents and $6,000 for out-of-state hunters. 

By way of comparison, a nonresident grizzly tag in Alaska is $1,000 for the 2022 hunting season. 

How Many Grizzlies Are Enough?

Arrivo and Jones offered differing views on grizzly bear hunting. 

Jones said that having sport hunters cull grizzly numbers would be preferable to game wardens taking out bears that cause trouble. 

Arrivo said there’s no evidence that hunting mitigates human-bear conflicts, citing a 2020 study by David J. Mattson. Matson is a retired researcher with the U.S. Geological Survey who specialized in studying grizzlies.

Among other things, the study suggests that better behavior by humans – such as not leaving tempting food sources easily accessible to bears – is the best way to prevent conflicts. The study claims there’s no evidence that hunting reduces human-bear conflicts.

However, grizzlies have long since exceeded their supposed recovery numbers in the Greater Yellowstone region, Jones said. The original target number was roughly 500 bears. By 2005, there were an estimated 600 grizzlies in the region, he said. Now, there are more than 1,000. 

In November 2021, there were 1,069 grizzlies in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem demographic monitoring area, a Wyoming Game and Fish Department biologist told Cowboy State Daily.

That was the number cited for the demographic monitoring area by Game and Fish large carnivore specialist Dan Thompson. The monitoring area includes northwest Wyoming and parts of Montana and Idaho. 

The number of grizzlies doesn’t tell the entire conservation story, Arrivo said. There are still plenty of wild areas, such as the Cascade Mountains in Washington and Oregon, that grizzlies could populate. Having an interconnected network of grizzly populations across a wider region would ensure genetic diversity among the bears.

Which Bears To Kill?

One problem with hunting is that hunters tend to target the largest male bears, or “trophy” grizzlies, Arrivo said. Those don’t tend to be the nuisance bears that game wardens kill for causing problems. 

When those large, dominant males are taken out, it destabilizes the bear population, he said. Lesser males might move in, and they are more are apt to kill cubs and push female grizzlies to flee. 

Jones said that while many hunters might want to kill only the largest bears, most won’t achieve that goal. Instead, they’re more likely to find the bears that are already causing trouble. 

Those are usually smaller bears that have been pushed out of the core habitat and “aren’t as afraid around people,” he said. 

In other words, many of the same bears that wardens must kill anyway, he said. 

Conflicting Views About State Management

Wyoming, Montana and Idaho aren’t ready to manage grizzly bears because they aren’t focused on sound, long-term conservation, Arrivo said. Instead, the states are focused on hunting and not letting the bears expand their range.

Grizzlies used to range from Alaska all the way to northern Mexico, Arrivo said. While it’s not realistic to think grizzlies could reclaim all of that habitat, they are still being denied large sections of wild land where they could feasibly thrive.  

The proposed state management “is not addressing the core problem of what’s causing conflict with humans and threating the bears’ long-term conservation,” Arrivo said. “Bears are facing decreasing core food sources, such as trout and white bark pine nuts.”

Until grizzly food source and habitat improvement is addressed, problems with bears won’t go away, and hunting wouldn’t make the situation any better, Arrivo said.   

But state management, and hunting, are the best ways to conserve grizzlies, which continue to expand their range in Wyoming and across the region, Jones said. 

The federal government “keeps moving the bar” regarding how many grizzlies amount to a fully recovered population, he said, adding he doesn’t want to see Wyoming end up like California. 

“They’re taking out 300 mountain lions a year with paid government killers,” he said. “And they’re thinking they accomplished something by closing the mountain lion hunting season.”

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Majority Whip Of Wyoming House Targeted By Anti-Semitic Fliers

in News/politics
24898

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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily
Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com

A Christian, Republican legislator who celebrates his Jewish heritage found antisemitic literature on his lawn Sunday, along with another 30 fliers on lawns of his supporters.   

“This morning my family woke up to this antisemitic flier on our door step, attempting to spread hate and fear, among lies of course,” wrote Rep. Jared Olsen, R-Cheyenne, in a Sunday Facebook post.   

Olsen, who serves as the Majority Whip in the Wyoming State House, told Cowboy State Daily on Monday that he ordered a genealogy test about six years ago and discovered Ashkenazi Jewish heritage in his bloodline. He had always suspected that Jewish heritage was buried in his lineage.   

Ashkenazi Jews are of Eastern European or German descent, according to dictionary.com.   

Olsen, who routinely posts on Facebook about celebrating Jewish customs and displays a mezuzah on the right side of his family doorpost, doesn’t think the flier landed in his yard by coincidence.   

“In our house we take pride in our ancestral roots and heritage,” he said. 

The family also is planning a trip to Europe to explore Olsen’s Jewish roots and to tour the Auschwitz concentration camp of the 20th century Jewish Holocaust.   

The Theories  

The folded antisemitic flier posits many theories, claiming that the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, were a Jewish conspiracy and that American “mass immigration” policies are led by Jewish politicians.   

“EVERY ASPECT OF 911 WAS JEWISH,” reads the flier in all-caps. Another page says that the Anti-Defamation League, a non-governmental Jewish international organization, was established “to protect a Jewish child murdering pedophile Leo Frank.”   

Frank was convicted in 1913 of raping and murdering his 13-year-old employee Mary Phagan in Georgia, according to the Anti-Defamation League’s published origins story. When Frank’s death sentence was commuted in 1915, a group of men kidnapped him from prison and lynched him.    

Frank’s trial and conviction still are replete with doubt and controversy; the Anti-Defamation League said his trial was “defined by antisemitism.”   

‘Oh, How Nice’  

Whoever tossed the angry-worded antisemitic flier onto Olsen’s lawn does not want the literature to be perceived as a threat.   

“These fliers were distributed randomly without malicious intent,” the flier reads.   

“Oh, how nice of them to put a disclaimer,” said Olsen with sarcasm. “They absolutely are not random.”  

Olsen said he has looked at yards displaying his campaign signs and his opponent’s signs and has found the literature in yards with his campaign signs but not his opponent’s. He has collected about 30 fliers so far.   

“I apologize to those of you hosting my sign that have to deal with this,” Olsen told his supporters on Facebook. “Please stay safe. If you need to take down my sign, we understand that your safety is important.”  

Olsen said his wife Dani, who usually brings their children to campaign with him, decided to stay home that day.  

The Blight  

Rep. Andy Schwartz, D-Jackson, announced in February during the Wyoming legislative session that he is Jewish. He told Cowboy State Daily on Monday that he hasn’t experienced antisemitic backlash like Olsen endured this weekend.    

Schwartz said antisemitism is an age-old blight throughout the world but, to him, this event marks its noticeable arrival in Wyoming.   

“I’m appalled, I’m disappointed,” said Schwartz, who has lived in Wyoming for 45 years. “This kind of crap has been going on forever. But I’m just sad to see it in Wyoming.”   

Schwartz texted Olsen on Sunday expressing his concern and sadness, both men told Cowboy State Daily.   

Schwartz theorized that he hasn’t experienced overt antisemitism because “Teton County is different. I’m sure there are people like that (antisemitic) here, but it’s not the nature of the discourse here.”   

He said he hopes it’s not the start of a trend. 

“It didn’t used to be the nature of discourse in Wyoming – but obviously that’s changing,” he said. 

Schwartz called upon the Wyoming Republican Party leadership to condemn the act and antisemitism publicly.  

“I think it is incumbent upon the Wyoming Republican party and party leadership to disavow this,” he said.  

The Getaway  

One of Olsen’s constituents who found antisemitic literature near his campaign sign in their yard checked their home security camera for evidence.   

That person, whom Olsen chose not to identify, saw what looked like a white, four-door sedan slowing near the home at about 16 minutes after midnight shortly after Saturday night turned to Sunday morning.   

Olsen, who was a late riser Sunday morning, discovered his own flier at about 11 a.m.   

In January, a much larger paper blitzkrieg was reported with residents in Denver, San Francisco and Miami discovering literature blaming Jews for “the COVID agenda.” Like Olsen’s fliers, these also were placed in plastic bags and weighed down with small objects, such as pebbles.  

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State Of Wyoming Has No Plans To Switch To Electric Vehicles

in News/Transportation
24918

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By Kevin Killough, energy reporter
Kevin@CowboyStateDaily.com

The Wyoming Department of Transportation and state of Wyoming maintain separate fleets of thousands of vehicles. They have a few hybrids and several natural gas-powered vehicles. 

But because Wyoming lacks the infrastructure to support electric vehicles, the state maintains no EVs in its fleets. 

“There’s not adequate infrastructure out there for us to accomplish our mission right now with that type of equipment. And so, at the current time, we’re running on gas,” said WYDOT Director Luke Reiner. 

The state last week received federal approval for its National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) plan, which will provide about $26 million over the next five years for electric vehicle infrastructure. Owing to the long stretches between towns across the Cowboy State, WYDOT had requested exemptions from the federal requirement that charging stations be placed every 50 miles. Most of the exemption requests were denied. 

“There’s a lot of challenges to running an electric vehicle here in the state, and especially if your highway department (dependent?), you’re going to have a lot of long stretches of road,” Reiner said. 

Jordan Achs, a spokesperson for WYDOT, said the department has about 4,000 vehicles in its fleet including everything from trailer trucks to striping trucks. About a fourth of the fleet is light-duty vehicles, like passenger cars and pickups. 

Natural Gas

In 2011, the Wyoming Legislature appropriated $200,000 for the state to test natural gas-powered vehicles. The money funded a natural gas filling station near Rawlins and support to retrofit existing vehicles. 

Jaye Wacker, a spokesperson for the Wyoming Administration and Information Department, said the Wyoming fleet consists of 1,442 vehicles. The state did try out natural gas vehicles, but the program was discontinued. 

“Over the years it turned out to be a pain,” Wacker said, adding that one of the main problems was getting the vehicles serviced. 

“When the central mail truck broke down, they had to load it on a flatbed and take it to Denver to get it worked on,” Wacker said. “If that were a vehicle in Pinedale or Meeteetse or Lovell, we’d be in big trouble. 

“So basically, it was an increase in downtime and increase in repair costs. All of that connects back to a lack of infrastructure.”

Achs said the highway department has nine vehicles that can run on compressed natural gas, but they are bi-fuel vehicles that also can run on gasoline. 

“If we can find a place to refuel them with compressed natural gas, we do. But a lot of the times we ran off of regular gas on those just because of the large spacing between compressed natural gas fueling,” Achs said. 

Hybrids 

Reiner said the department has “some” hybrids in its fleet.

Wacker said the state also has some hybrid vehicles on order and has an EV on order for central mail delivery, which handles state mail around internal departments. The state may begin to convert its fleet to electric in the next five years, Wacker said, as the NEVI funding builds more charging stations along Wyoming’s interstates and highways. 

“The federally mandated infrastructure has got to be in place or it just doesn’t make sense,” Wacker said about Wyoming phasing out gas-powered vehicles in favor of EVs.

Only about 0.1% of the vehicles registered in Wyoming are electric. The stations constructed from the NEVI program will mainly facilitate out-of-state vehicles and benefit Wyoming’s second largest industry: tourism. 

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Wyoming: Struggling To Provide Mental Health Services In State That Has Highest Suicide Rate In Nation

in News/Health care
24911

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily
wendy@cowboystatedaily.com

Feelings of emotional isolation and aloneness can be barriers for people dealing with mental health issues. Those in Wyoming often can add physical isolation and distancing as hurdles to clear in getting treatment.

In northwest Wyoming, people dealing with mental health issues have few options. Distance between communities, staff shortages and a limited number of residential beds for crisis patients all are barriers for patients and the professionals who treat them.

At the Governor’s Mental Health Summit, which will be held Oct. 11 in Casper, community partners, private providers and state leaders will come together to propose solutions for treating people in Wyoming, which has the highest rate of death by suicide in the nation.



Barriers To Health

Staff shortages impact the ability of providers to help those in need of mental health treatment, said Becky Ransom, executive director of Yellowstone Behavioral Health in Park County.

“As rural communities, it’s hard to recruit mental health professionals,” she told Cowboy State Daily. “And with limited funding that’s available and low reimbursement rates from insurance companies, it’s hard to offer competitive salaries.”  

Access and finances are two of the most prominent barriers to mental health treatment, said Hanna Powers, a psychiatric nurse practitioner who meets with clients via telehealth.

“I think we’re just a really poor state,” she told Cowboy State Daily. “Let’s hypothetically say I need to go see Dr. (Scott) Pollard (a psychiatrist in Cody). I have to drive 40 minutes there, 40 minutes back, so I’m taking off half a day of work. Let’s just say I’m that person – I don’t have that time, I don’t have the funds.”

Yellowstone Behavioral Health, which Powers contracts with, has a sliding scale fee, but she said there are no other agencies in the area that employ that tool.

“To see Dr. Pollard, it’s $400, and a lot of people can’t afford that,” she said. “That’s why I think telehealth is so important. It provides access all across rural Wyoming.”

Telehealth Bridges A Gap

The use of telehealth, in which patients can have remote visits with health professionals via video calls, has grown since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ransom said.

“When we closed our buildings to in-person services, we switched quickly over to the use of video to provide services to our clients,” she said. “And that’s something we’re continuing to do.”

Ransom said telehealth has helped with transportation issues for clients and with staffing.

“We currently have a therapist who lives in Virginia and does telehealth with our clients,” she said. “So that has been a wonderful solution.” 

Law Enforcement ‘One Stop Shop’

Powell Police Chief Roy Eckert, who also is chairman of the board for Yellowstone Behavioral Health, said that law enforcement often is the first on scene for mental health crises. He said he understands the mental health crisis facing Wyomingites.

“Law enforcement has inherited that ‘one-stop shop’ for all calls,” he told Cowboy State Daily. “And it’s not a bad thing that people dial 911 anytime there’s a crisis. We’re often the first intercept of somebody who’s in a mental health crisis.”

Eckert said that Park County law enforcement officers are trained in crisis management, which helps get them through potentially dangerous situations, but added that one of the largest barriers to treatment for those facing mental health issues is a lack of available beds for crisis patients.

“Inpatient beds in the state of Wyoming are rare,” he said. “They’re hard to find and hard to get people into.”

It’s a problem that’s becoming acute, Ransom said.

“We have nowhere near enough residential beds not only for treatment and crisis treatment, but also long-term residential for those with a mental health or substance abuse issue,” she said. “And so that’s a real challenge in the state and barrier to service.”

Partnerships Are Key

Molly Hughes is president of the Hughes Charitable Foundation, which is working with the Governor’s office in support of next week’s summit.

“We’re working with a lot of different nonprofit partners in the state, really just trying to find out where we can help connect the nonprofit, for-profit and governmental agencies that are providing services and hoping to maybe create a network using the existing systems and the existing organizations that are in place,” she said.

When it comes to finding answers to the mental health crisis that’s facing the state and nation, a common solution proposed is partnerships.

“Relationships are huge, not just amongst mental health and law enforcement, but also those with lived experience and families of those with lived experience,” said Eckert, adding that it’s important “to come together as a cohesive unit or a team to be able to address the issues that are out there.” 

In Park County, law enforcement works closely with Yellowstone Behavioral Health. That sort of partnership is key in supporting those who need help, said Ransom.

“That is one of the solutions,” she said. “Working not only in partnership with the whole community – whether it’s schools, law enforcement, other social service agencies – but also in collaboration.”

‘Shred the Stigma’

Next week’s summit will help bring the conversation about mental health more into the open.

“We need to shred the stigma, as they say, and make sure that people know that it’s OK to be sad, to need help and to reach out and find it,” said Hughes.

Ransom held up the Healthy Park County volunteer coalition as an example of how communities can bring the conversation about mental health to more people.

“Healthy Park County here in Park County, they’re making information available to the community, to parents, to students, to professionals on how to recognize symptoms, how to talk to each other, how to ask the questions when you’re seeing somebody that is struggling,” said Ransom. “The more we talk, the less the stigma, and the better chances for treatment, because treatment is successful.”

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‘They Just Wanted To Kill Each Other’: Wyoming Hunters Have Ringside Seats To Bull Elk Throwdown

in Wyoming outdoors/News/Hunting
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By Mark Heinz, outdoors reporter
Mark@CowboyStateDaily.com

Throughout his years of bowhunting elk in Wyoming, Seth Lee of Casper has seen a few fights break out between bulls.

But a brutal brawl that he and a friend witnessed from just a few yards away during a recent hunt was something special.

“I’ve never seen anything like those two bulls fighting,” he told Cowboy State Daily. “They just wanted to kill each other.”



Mating Season Aggression

Bull elk become aggressive during the rut, or mating season. Archery hunters take advantage of that by using tube-like calls to mimic the “bugles” that bull elk make to challenge each other. With luck, a hunter’s bugles will entice a big bull into bowshot range.

On the morning of the September hunt, Lee said the two bulls started challenging each right at sunrise, gradually moving toward each other.

“We heard them bugling, bugling, bugling and then ‘wham!’ They started going at it,” he said. “As soon as we heard the crack together, we started sneaking in closer.”

‘They Could Have Stomped On Us’

It was mid-morning when the hunters found the battling elk. They watched the bulls crash into each other and shove one another around, sometimes coming to within only a few yards of the hunters’ hiding place. At one point in a video Lee took, one of the bulls flips the other and slams his opponent to the ground.

Lee said the contenders were oblivious to the hunters’ presence.

“They could have stomped on us and not even know it,” he said.

A Wyoming Game and Fish Department official agreed that being close to an elk fight is dicey.

“Being near two elk locked in a battle could turn into a dangerous situation at any moment,” said Wyoming Game and Fish Department Deputy Chief of Wildlife Craig Smith in an email to Cowboy State Daily.

“In situations like these, elk are very focused and have been observed going through fences, trees, ponds or other obstructions that they would ordinarily avoid,” Smith said. “If you are in the wrong place, you could be injured or worse.”

Elk and other male antlered or horned big game animals will frequently battle each other during mating season, he said. Injuries are a common result from those tussles.

“Death is less common, but certainly happens on occasion,” he said.

No Shot

Lee said his hunting partner had a bull tag for the area and wanted to take a shot at one of the big, fighting bulls. However, his own bow had broken earlier, and it turned out that his arrows wouldn’t work properly with the bow that he’d borrowed as a replacement.

The fight went on for 20-25 minutes, Lee said. It might have gone on even longer, but some smaller bulls started coming in and distracting the two dominant bruisers. Eventually, all the elk disappeared over a ridge.

Bulls Defeated Their Own Purpose

“The fight was essentially a stalemate,” Lee said. “Those bulls were evenly matched.”

And the bulls undermined their own purposes.

“They had a bunch of cows with them to begin with, but as soon as the fight started those cows started running every which way, and we never saw them again,” Lee said. “They were fighting over the ladies, and they ended up scaring all the ladies away.”

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Report: Wyoming’s Electricity Prices Are Low Because No Renewable Energy Mandates

in Energy/News
Wyoming sign
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By Kevin Killough, energy reporter
Kevin@CowboyStateDaily.com

Wyoming is among states without renewable energy mandates and “cap-and-trade” programs that correlate with high energy costs. 

States with such policies have much higher electricity rates than those without, according to a new study by American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative nonprofit. 

Wyoming, which has neither of the policies, remains among the states with the lowest electricity rates, the report says. 

Unlike its 2021 study, this year’s “Energy Affordability Report” also examines how much consumers pay for gasoline. Wyoming was the highest among the states, owing to high annual miles Wyomingites drive.

The result of such policies is predictable, the report concludes.

“When the government inserts itself into the energy markets, taxpayers foot the bill,” writes Joe Trotter, the report’s author. 

Rates and Regulation

In the report, Trotter, who is ALEC’s Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force Director, analyzes the relationship between states’ electricity prices based on 2020 data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The report then compares the rates and whether or not they had Renewable Portfolio Standards cap-and-trade programs or both. 

The RPS policies mandate a certain amount of energy come from renewable sources. Cap-and-trade programs limit the amount of emissions utilities and businesses are allowed to emit, and then allow businesses to trade excess if they emit less than their cap. 

Wyoming tied with Utah for the fourth lowest rates in the county at 8.27 cents per kilowatt hour averaged out over the sectors of residential, commercial, industrial and transportation rates. Louisiana had the lowest rate at 7.51 cents, followed by Oklahoma and Iowa. 

None of those states – with the exception of Iowa, which does have an RPS — have the two policies the report concludes impact energy prices. 

The highest electricity rates were found in Hawaii at 27.55 cents per kilowatt hour and Alaska at 19.82 cents. The report refers to these states as outliers. Because of their geographical remoteness, they are unable to export and import electricity between neighboring states, which can drive up energy prices. Both have RPS policies but don’t participate in cap-and-trade programs. 

The next highest rates are found in states within the Lower 48. California, Maine, Rhode Island and Connecticut all pay more than twice what Wyoming residents and businesses do — more than $18 per kilowatt hour. All four also have an RPS. 

Energy shortages

The report also examines net metering programs, which allow utility companies to pay individual consumers for excess electricity generated by their rooftop solar panels. No correlation between electricity prices and net metering were found. 

Trotter told Cowboy State Daily that the policies were considered because they’re flexible enough that any state can apply them. So, it’s easy as a policy marker to consider in all states. 

This is the second year ALEC has produced the report, and Trotter said there was little difference between what was found last year. 

Outage By Regulation

The report states that in extreme cases, regulatory issues cause energy shortages. 

Citing an article in Becker’s Hospital Review, the average American spent eight hours without electricity in 2020, the highest since 2013 when the EIA began collecting the data. The Becker’s article looked at extreme weather events such as Hurricane Ida and the 2021 Texas deep-freeze power crisis and found some fatal outcomes as a result of prolonged outages. 

The ALEC report also cites a Forbes article by Michael Shellenberger, author of “Apocalypse Never” and “San Fransicko,” discussing how the 2020 California power outages, which impacted the health of some residents of the state, were caused by the state’s energy policies. 

Deadly Policies

Trotter told Cowboy State Daily that the situation in New England especially stood out in the course of the research. New England isn’t far from the gas-rich shale plays of Pennsylvania, but New York won’t allow pipelines through the state. Maps of pipelines in the United States show them petering out the further north into New England they go, and Maine has almost none. 

This situation, Trotter said, is going to drive up energy prices in those states because they were importing Russian natural gas since they don’t have the infrastructure to bring in natural gas from domestic supplies. Trotter said this winter could be very hard on the residents there. 

“It will be deadly, if they’re not getting their power, if they’re not getting their heating fuels,” Trotter said. 

Energy Independence

Trotter said that ALEC and these energy events and their links to regulation have raised the level of attention the organization is given to energy policy and its impacts on the economy. 

Germany “is basically having to shut down a lot of their industry, especially heavy industry, which relies on natural gas to run their entire operations. We don’t want that to happen here, especially when we have all the resources we need to be fully energy independent,” Trotter said. 

Trotter said future editions of the “Energy Affordability Report” will begin to analyze energy source mix to consider how the composition of wind, solar, coal, natural gas, hydroelectric and other sources impact energy prices. 

He said state lawmakers have been reaching out to ALEC more about energy policy, and he believes the studies are having an impact on policymakers.

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What Is Pornography? Casper Residents Clash At School Board Meeting Over Library Books

in News/Education
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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily
Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com

Casper residents are clashing over the definition of pornography.   

The Natrona County School Board during its regular meeting Monday allowed public comment on a board subcommittee’s Sept. 1 decision, to keep two books containing images of sex and nudity in the Kelly Walsh High School library. The books are “Gender Queer” and “Trans Bodies, Trans Selves.”   

“Gender Queer” also is available in the Natrona County High School library, according to the school’s card catalog.   

Community members who still seek to remove the books by filing an appeal with the school board argued that the books contain pornography and are not a good use of taxpayer money.   

Advocates for the books argued against “censorship” and urged the school board to disregard appeals, saying LGBTQ youth want to be represented on the shelves of their school libraries.   

“Gender Queer” follows a nonbinary person from childhood through sexual experiences, gender confusion and discovery.   

“Trans Bodies, Trans Selves” is a textbook-like guide to facets of transgender and gender-expansive living, and contains multiple nude and sex-act photographs, along with instructions on making pornography and having sex as a trans person. Cowboy State Daily reviewed and roughly summarized both books Thursday.



‘No Parent Has The Right’  

Numerous parents and professionals spoke in favor of keeping the books available at Kelly Walsh High School.   

“A parent has the right to determine reading, viewing or listening matter for his or her own child,” said Pam Brondos, a Casper attorney and parent of three children in the district. “No parent has the right to determine reading matter or listening matter for other students.”   

Brondos said removing books from public school libraries “at the behest of one parent or group” allows that group to determine what other students may read in school. Brondos said she disagrees that the books are obscene.   

“If we ban this book, we’re showing every transgender and nonbinary student they don’t belong in this district,” she said.  

Dr. Brent Pickett, a University of Wyoming political theory professor speaking on his own behalf, told the school board that to ban the books would send a message of “hate.”   

“While those voting in favor of a ban may tell themselves they’re protecting kids, the truth is that access to reliable information protects them,” said Pickett, adding that “Trans Bodies, Trans Selves” is a “great reference for teens and their parents.”  


An image from one of the books in question. Parts of it have been blurred by Cowboy State Daily. Some local residents say the images are pornographic, while others call them a “great reference for teens and their parents.”

‘Come Together In Support Of Democracy’  

Alexis Worthen, a Natrona County High School senior and LGBTQ alliance advocate, told the school board to “come together in support of democracy” and defend the books.   

“These types of literature is exactly representative of what children should be able to experience,” she said, adding that their removal could lead to removal of more books. Worthen said her activities as an LGBTQ ally have led to death threats that compelled her to stay home from school.   

“We are exposing ourselves to a wide range of ideas,” said Worthen. “Ideas that parents might not necessarily agree with, but that’s OK. That expands our critical thinking skills and encourages us to grow.”   

Tanis Lovercheck-Saunders, a history professor at Casper College and a parent of an LGBTQ teen, echoed other advocates, saying removing the books would threaten LGBTQ students’ “sense of wellbeing.”   

State Rep. Patrick Sweeney, R-Casper, likewise urged the board to disregard any appeals challenging the books. Sweeney lost his bid for reelection to his seat Aug. 16 to Bill Allemand, who won the Republican nomination.   



‘People Disagree With Representing My Existence’  

Jayden Wright, a Casper teen using he/him pronouns, said Wright’s early homelife wasn’t conducive to transitioning until “I was able to move into high school and find an environment that did support me in, in a school environment.”  

Wright said that, “I’ve recently been given the opportunity to transition,” which was a long-sought “privilege” despite a childhood lack of exposure to transgender-affirming books.    

Wright did not plan to speak before the board but decided to after “seeing people disagree with representing my existence.”  



‘Stay With Academics’  

Kyle True, a longtime local resident and Natrona County High School graduate, said the schools are out of their lane.   

“For us to rush to adopt (gender expansion) and think we can find a place for it in a system clearly designed for academics – not social activism – is challenging,” said True. “Banning is the wrong terminology. There are materials that are beneath the dignity … of this school district.”   

True pointed to earlier commenters’ concerns over higher suicidality rates among transgender people. He said given the higher suicidality, the school should not lightly embrace pervading the library with expansion-affirming literature.   

Later, Casper family practice Dr. Caroline Kirsch countered, saying suicidality among trans people is caused by society not affirming transgender presentation.   

‘Nothing To Do With LGBTQ’  

Michelle Sabrosky, a homeschool mom and parental-autonomy advocate, said even though she homeschools her children, she doesn’t want her tax money spent on “pornography.”   

Sabrosky said she has gathered a home library for her children that contains books with which she disagrees, such as “On The Origin of Species” and “The Communist Manifesto.”   

“But what my children do not have access to in my home is pornography,” she said. “Why am I forced to buy (for the high school) something that goes against my core beliefs, my values – something I find damaging to children?”  

Sabrosky said society may be in for a surprise, as “no one has actually figured out what the end result (of sexualized children’s literature) is going to be years and years from now.”   

Another community member, Vincent O’Connell, said he was “disgusted and appalled” at the books and their politicization.   

“This has nothing to do with the LGBTQ community at all,” he said. “We’re literally showing our kids sexual content and allowing it. Are we going to allow ‘Hustler’ in the schools and ‘Playboy’ in the schools?”   



‘Read It’  

Renea Redding, who is running for a seat on the Natrona County School Board, read scenes from “Gender Queer.”   

“I can’t wait to have your cock in my mouth,” she read aloud, then said, “I’m appalled. I ask you all to get that book and read it.”  

Redding said she and the other detractors are “not asking (the board) to ban LGBTQ books. We’re asking for books that don’t have what’s called erotica in them.”   

At an earlier meeting of the board Sept. 12, school board chair Raymond Catellier had asked public commenters to “refrain from the vulgar or foul language – nobody wants to hear that.” 

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Wyoming Cowboys Fall to San Jose State 33-16

in News/wyoming cowboys football
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Tim Harkins, University of Wyoming

The Wyoming Cowboys entered Saturday night’s home game versus San Jose State riding a three-game home winning streak, but that came to an end with a 33-16 loss at the hands of the Spartans.  The loss evens Wyoming’s record at 3-3 overall and 1-1 in the Mountain West Conference.  San Jose State improved to 3-1 overall and 1-0 in the Mountain West.

Wyoming took an early lead when the Cowboy defense forced San Jose State into a three-and-out on its first series and the Cowboys took over at their own 39-yard line following a Spartan punt.  Wyoming starting quarterback Andrew Peasley was forced out for a couple plays on the first series after taking a hard hit on his first play of the game.  Back-up quarterback Jayden Clemons came in and completed a 25-yard pass to wide receiver Joshua Cobbs on a third-and-three, moving the ball down to the San Jose State 29-yard line.  After a five-yard run by Swen that took the ball to the 24, place-kicker John Hoyland came in and kicked a 42-yard field goal to give the Pokes a 3-0 lead.

It marked the fifth straight game that Wyoming scored on its first offensive possession of a game.

But the Cowboy offense was challenged throughout the night by a talented San Jose State defense that held the Pokes to 253 yards of total offense (143 rushing and 110 passing), while the Spartan offense was able to generate 456 yards of total offense (142 rushing and 314 passing).

Peasley accounted for 159 yards of total offense (74 rushing and 85 passing) for the Cowboys and threw two touchdown passes of 38 yards to wide receiver Wyatt Wieland and 13 yards to tight end Parker Christensen.  Running back Titus Swen added 61 rushing yards.  On defense, linebacker Easton Gibbs made 11 tackles for his eighth career double-figure tackle game. Nickel back Keonte Glinton had a career high nine tackles, and safety Wyett Ekeler added a career high seven tackles.  The Pokes were able to create pressure on San Jose State quarterback Chevan Cordeiro, with 10 hurries and 2.0 sacks, but in the end it wasn’t enough.

“I think that’s an excellent San Jose State team,” said Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl in his postgame press conference.  “There are certainly things we could have done better tonight.  We could have coached better.  The players could have played better.

“I was concerned coming into this game.  We had a lot of guys that were banged up.  Their defensive front, they were much more impressive than on tape.  There’s a bunch of NFL guys on that front four.

“We had a hard time with some contested balls and that seems to be a broken record. Typically, where we were able to get some movement up front with our offensive line, we got taken to the woodshed.

“It’s a disappointing loss, but that’s a good football team (San Jose State). 

“We got beat on offense.  We got beat on defense.  We came out ahead in the kicking game, but that’s not enough to beat a good football team.  It was a rough night.  As a coach, I have to encourage these guys to stay in the fight.  I don’t think there’s going to be a quit in them.  But we’ve got to bounce back.  There’s a lot to play for.  We have to get ready for New Mexico on the road.”

After Wyoming took its 3-0 lead, the Cowboy defense held the Spartans on their second possession of the game.  SJSU punter Travis Benham then hit a 54-yard punt that was downed at the Wyoming one-yard line.  On the Cowboys’ first play, running back Swen was tackled in the end zone for a safety and the score was 3-2 in favor of Wyoming.

Forced to take a free kick from its own 20-yard line after the safety, Wyoming’s Hoyland hit a huge 76-yard free kick down to the San Jose State four-yard line.  San Jose State returned the kick 27 yards and took over at its own 31-yard line.  The Spartans would proceed to drive 60 yards in 14 plays down to the Wyoming nine-yard line, but SJSU place-kicker Taren Schive would miss a 26-yard field-goal attempt.

The first quarter would end with the score 3-2 in favor of Wyoming.

San Jose State would take its first lead of the game on its first possession of the second quarter, driving 57 yards in nine plays, concluding with a 40-yard field goal by Schive to take a 5-3 lead.

The Cowboys next possession saw them drive 35 yards down to the Spartan 39-yard line, but on a fourth and Swen was tackled for a one-yard loss and the ball went back to San Jose State.

Spartan quarterback Cordeiro connected with wide receiver Elijah Cooks down the middle on a 52-yard completion on first down and the Spartans suddenly had a first and goal from the eight-yard line.  The Cowboy defense stopped a run for no gain on first down followed by a Spartan incompletion on second down.  On third and goal, Cordeiro found tight end Skylar Loving-Black across the middle for an eight-yard touchdown to extend SJSU’s lead to 12-3.

Following the touchdown, a short kickoff by San Jose State was fielded by Wyoming’s Wieland at the Wyoming 14-yard line.  He returned it 22 yards to the 36.  As Wieland was going out of bounds, a Spartan hit him late and a personal foul penalty added 15 yards to the end of the play, giving the Cowboys the ball at the SJSU 49-yard line.  A five-yard run by Swen on first down and a six-yard pass from Peasley to Wieland on third and five gave the Pokes a first down at the San Jose State 38.  Peasley went right back to Wieland on the next play and led him perfectly on a deep ball into the middle of the end zone for a 38-yard TD pass to narrow the Spartan lead to 12-10.

With 5:11 remaining in the first half, San Jose State took possession at its own 25-yard line.  SJSU moved the ball down to the Wyoming 45 and faced a fourth and one.  The Spartans decided to go for it on fourth down and Cordeiro found running back Kairee Robinson on a five-yard completion in the right flat for a first down at the Wyoming 40.  A 16-yard completion on the next play combined with a personal foul penalty on Wyoming moved the ball to the 12-yard line.  Four plays later, Cordeiro would carry the ball into the end zone extending the Spartans’ lead to 19-10 with only 16 seconds remaining in the half.

San Jose State squibbed a kickoff down the middle and Cowboy linebacker Micah Young picked up the ball at the Wyoming 24-yard line and returned it 10 yards to the 34.  Peasley completed a three-yard pass to tight end Parker Christensen and the first half ended with Wyoming trailing 19-10.

As the first half ended, San Jose State had run 44 plays for 253 yards and the Cowboys had 136 yards on 25 plays.  Neither team had committed a turnover.

Wyoming won the opening coin flip and deferred to the second half, so the Cowboys had the ball first to start the second half.  After a four-yard gain by Swen on the first play of the second half, Peasley tried to connect with wide receiver Cobbs on a slant, but Cobbs and the SJSU defender arrived at the ball simultaneously and the ball was popped up in the air.  Spartan defensive end Cade Hall intercepted the tipped ball and San Jose State had the ball at the Wyoming 27-yard line.

Cordeiro connected with wide receiver Cooks for 26 yards on first down, putting the ball at the Wyoming one-yard line.  Running back Robinson carried the ball in on the very next play and with only 1:17 gone in the second half, the Spartans’ lead was 26-10.

Each team failed to score on their next possessions, but Peasley would lead the Cowboys on a four-play, 80-yard drive on its next possession.  Swen carried for nine yards on first down.  After a three-yard loss on second down, Peasley took the snap in shotgun on a third and four.  As the San Jose defense began to close in around the junior quarterback, he broke loose up the middle for a 61-yard run — the longest run of the season by the Cowboys.  Peasley was tackled at the SJSU 13-yard line.  On first down, he arced a pass perfectly over an SJSU defender into the left corner of the end zone for tight end Christensen and the Pokes were back in the game at 26-16 with 8:02 remaining in the third quarter.

Neither team was able to pose a scoring threat the remainder of the third quarter, and the Cowboys entered the fourth period trailing by 10 at 26-16.

Each team would be forced to punt on their first possessions of the fourth quarter.  On the Spartans’ second possession of the fourth quarter, they leaned on their running game.  They threw only two passes for 13 yards on the drive, but they ran eight running plays for 67 yards, capped off by an 18-yard TD run by QB Cordeiro to give the Spartans a 33-16 lead.

Wyoming would get the ball two more times in the game, but was forced to punt on both drives and the Cowboys dropped their first home game of the season after starting the season 3-0 at home.

The overall series between Wyoming and San Jose State now stands at 7-6 in favor of Wyoming, but San Jose State notched their second win against the Cowboys in the last three meetings and have won five of the last six games between the two schools.

Next Up for Wyoming

After Saturday’s game versus San Jose State, Wyoming will travel to Albuquerque, N.M. to face the New Mexico Lobos on Saturday, Oct. 8.  That game will kick off at 5:00 p.m., M.T., from University Stadium in Albuquerque and will be televised by CBS Sports Network.

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Wyoming State Bar Declines To Investigate, Disbar Hageman

in Harriet Hageman/News/politics
(Photo by Michael Smith/Getty Images)
24870

By Leo Wolfson, State Political Reporter
Leo@Cowboystatedaily.com

Although Harriet Hageman had been endorsed and recruited by former President Donald Trump and his staff to run for U.S. Congress in summer 2021, she remained vague for many months about her thoughts of what happened during the Jan. 6 , 2021, U.S. Capitol riot and the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election.

During a debate in late June, her stance on this issue became more defined. 

That night, she said questions needed to be asked about election integrity on a national level, but she was more vague about whether she believes there was election fraud in Wyoming in 2020. 

She endorsed “2000 Mules,” a film that relies on questionable evidence to claim drop ballot boxes were stuffed and mentioned how the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that changes in absentee voting procedures violated that state’s Constitution. 

Hageman also complained about the Jan. 6 Committee that her opponent at the time, U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, is the sitting vice chair on, describing it as “unfair.”

Cheney compared Hageman’s comments to rhetoric used by Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, and other attorneys representing the former president, who have faced disciplinary hearings in their respective state bars.

Request For An Investigation

These comments were enough to convince attorney Darby Hoggatt he needed to file a complaint with the Wyoming State Bar, requesting the body initiate a disciplinary investigation of her.

“As a licensed attorney in the State of Wyoming, I believe it is incumbent upon your agency to investigate Ms. Hageman who appears to advocate and support the Coup that former President Trump attempted on Jan. 6, 2021,” wrote Hoggatt, a Fort Collins, Colorado, attorney in his July 2 letter to the bar. “If a Wyoming attorney supports the overthrow of our democracy, how can she maintain her license to practice law?”

Mark Gifford, counsel for the bar, took less than a single business day to respond to and reject Hoggatt’s complaint. 

Gifford said there was a significant difference between Hageman’s comments and the actions of Giulani and other attorneys because they offered their statements before a tribunal, not in a public forum. He did, however, express concurrence with Hoggatt’s assertion that Hageman’s claims were false.

“The conduct you point to with Hageman could just as easily be cast as the exercise of her right of free speech in voicing an opinion that is held by a large number of people, some of them, regrettably, lawyers,” Gifford wrote to Hoggatt on July 5.

“As a licensed attorney in the State of Wyoming, I believe it is incumbent upon your agency to investigate Ms. Hageman who appears to advocate and support the Coup that former President Trump attempted on Jan. 6, 2021. If a Wyoming attorney supports the overthrow of our democracy, how can she maintain her license to practice law?”

Darby Hoggatt, a Fort Collins, Colorado, attorney in a letter to the Wyoming State bar.

Response To Response

Hoggatt told Cowboy State Daily on Friday that he disagrees with this perspective and finds it a “cop-out” on the part of the state bar for not handling the matter. 

“I don’t think they wanted to get in the middle of that,” Hoggatt said. “They spent no time looking into this. They did not want to look into this at all.

“They didn’t do a damn thing. It was dismissed summarily.” 

He said Wyoming, a state that voted for Trump with a larger margin than any other in 2020, should not look past doing what he believes is right just because it might not be popular. Hoggatt views Hageman, a land and water attorney, as a representative of the state and its lawyers.

“I believe the Cheney v. Haggeman (sic) debate focus you to do something, because now Hageman has been called out nationally, and it is your agency that is charged with dealing with her,” he wrote in his letter.

What The Bar Can Do

It is unknown if any other complaints have been filed with the state bar as the organization does not disclose this type of information publicly unless it is brought before the Wyoming Supreme Court. The state bar can take a variety of steps against an attorney, ranging from private reprimand to public disbarment at the state’s Supreme Court level.

Gifford said the only possible rule that could be applicable to Hageman’s actions is Rule 8.4(c) of the Wyoming Rules of Professional Conduct, which prohibits a lawyer from engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation. 

Hoggatt, who is licensed to practice law in Wyoming, believes the rule extends to an attorney’s actions outside the courtroom and that attorneys are held to a higher standard as it relates to free speech and the First Amendment. He provided the example that it is an attorney’s obligation to inform the state bar if he or she is charged with a crime such as driving under the influence of alcohol.

“Conduct in and outside of court is under oversight of the state bar,” he said.

Raising The Stakes

In early August, Hageman clarified and upped the ante on her views about the 2020 election, saying it was “rigged” and a “travesty.” The statements were made after Hoggatt sent his letter.

“At this point, the state bar knows what’s going on. They don’t need to receive another letter,” Hoggatt said.

On Friday, Hoggatt referenced a letter penned to Hageman by 41 attorneys and retired judges earlier this month, where they expressed a deep concern about Hageman’s views that the 2020 presidential election was rigged and requested that she stop spreading misinformation. 

In the letter, the attorneys mentioned how a lawyer is not allowed to “engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation.” 

Hoggatt was not a signer of this letter, which includes some of the most prominent attorneys in Wyoming like Wyoming State Bar President Chris Hawks and Anna Reeves Olsen, president-elect of the state bar.

The letter also cites a 1975 U.S. Supreme Court case where the court ruled “(t)he interest of the States in regulating lawyers is especially great since lawyers are essential to the primary governmental function of administering justice, and have historically been ‘officers of the court.’”

‘Letter Is Meant As A Threat’

Hageman issued a blistering response to the letter, which she described as “threatening.”

“Make no mistake, this letter is meant as a threat against me simply because I hold a different political opinion – one that is shared by a majority of Wyoming voters,” Hageman said in a press release earlier this month. 

Hoggatt, who grew up in Newcastle and attended law school at the University of Wyoming, believes Hageman’s actions are tantamount to a rejection of the U.S. Constitution and part of an effort to overthrow the government. He said at the very least, the state bar should open an investigation on Hageman and issue a private reprimand.

“As an attorney practicing law, all laws derive from the Constitution,” Hoggatt said. “With the Constitution, if you don’t believe it, you have no right to be practicing law.”

Wyoming Daily Gas Map: Monday, October 3, 2022

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By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming’s average price per gallon of $3.83 is unchanged from our last report of $3.83 on Friday 

The website GasBuddy.com, which tracks national gas prices, reported Wyoming’s average gas price is down 8 cent from a week ago and is up 30 cents per gallon from one year ago.

Wyoming’s average price for a gallon of gas remained above the national average of $3.80

High and Low Prices:

The highest reported gasoline price in Wyoming on Monday was in Moose at the Conoco on 12170 Dornan Road, reporting $4.97 per gallon. The lowest price in Wyoming was in Laramie at the Tumbleweed Express on 4700 Bluebird Lane at $3.19 per gallon.

The highest county average is in Teton County, with an average of $4.57 per gallon. The county with the lowest average, is in Laramie County, with $3.43 per gallon. These are the highest and lowest reported prices among those stations surveyed.

*The average price, reported by AAA, in each Wyoming county:

Albany $3.48; Big Horn $4.05; Campbell $3.52; Carbon $4.00; Converse $3.84; Crook $3.78; Fremont $3.98; Goshen $3.70; Hot Springs $3.99; Johnson $3.88; Laramie $3.43; Lincoln $4.22; Natrona $3.55; Niobrara $3.60; Park $4.26; Platte $4.04; Sheridan $3.62; Sublette $3.93; Sweetwater $3.86; Teton $4.57; Uinta $4.10; Washakie $3.89; Weston: $3.77

*The lowest Price, reported by GasBuddy, in selected Wyoming cities:

Basin $4.08; Buffalo $3.76; Casper $3.41; Cheyenne $3.29; Cody $3.94; Douglas $3.78; Evanston $3.79; Gillette $3.45; Jackson $4.35; Kemmerer $4.07; Laramie $3.19; Lusk $3.59; Newcastle $3.69; Pinedale $3.89; Rawlins $3.79; Riverton $3.81; Rock Springs $3.62; Sheridan $3.35; Sundance $3.84; Thermopolis $3.97; Wheatland $3.71; Worland $3.79

Want to help us gather the most accurate gas prices for this report? Consider downloading the GasBuddy app and submit the gas prices in your area.

*Note: We use AAA.com for the county and state averages and GasBuddy.com for the low prices in our selected cities. Prices in this report are for reference only. They are gathered just prior to posting, and may not reflect prices that have changed since last posted.

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Glenrock Dinosaur Gets National Attention For Being One-Of-A-Kind And “Remarkably Intact”

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily
wendy@cowboystatedaily.com

Serpentisuchops pfisterae is the scientific name for the remarkably intact, 7-meter-long fossil that was found in 1995 and has been at the Paleon Museum in Glenrock for the last 15 years.

But locals just call him “Harold.”

And just this week, Harold’s place in history was set with the publishing of a scientific paper identifying the fossil as a one-of-a-kind polycotylid plesiosaur from the Cretaceous period of about 101 million to 66 million years ago.

The paleontologist who published the paper, Dr. Scott Persons, told Cowboy State Daily he’s not surprised that Harold is drawing national attention. 

“It’s a really, really cool animal,” said Persons. “It’s got a fun appearance to it, and it has this neat evolutionary story to tell.”


An illustration of what the Serpentisuchops pfisterae may have looked like with the fossilized bones superimposed.

Harold and the Glenrock Bone Biddies

In 1995, landowner Anna Pfister contacted the Paleon Museum in Glenrock about a fossil discovered on her land. 

“The Pfister family owned the land where the specimen was found,” said Persons. “And rather than making the decision to try to sell the animal at auction or something like that, she decided to donate it to be studied by science and to go on display for the children of Wyoming.”

Don Smith, executive director of the museum, said Pfister dug the fossil out of the ground herself before bringing it in.

“She actually had it all jacketed up in a field jacket, and she walked through the door wanting to keep Wyoming dinosaurs in Wyoming,” said Smith. “And we got to know her, and she has entrusted us with what turns out to be one of a kind.”

According to Persons, who has studied the unique plesiosaur at the Paleon Museum since childhood, a group of volunteers at the museum did the delicate work of cleaning up the fossil for the display.

“The folks that did the work preparing the specimen, cleaning it up, really chiseling away all the rock that was still encrusted around the bones, that was done by the volunteer team at the Paleon Museum,” he said. “And that team largely consists of a group of elderly ladies from the Glenrock community that are affectionately referred to as the ‘Glenrock Bone Biddies.’”


The prehistoric fossil was found on Anna Pfister’s property in 1995.

The Paleon Connection

Since he was a young boy, Persons has been fascinated by dinosaurs. When he was in elementary school, his parents allowed him to take a trip to Wyoming for his first fossil hunt.

“The Glenrock Paleon Museum at the time – and they still do – offer the opportunities for families to contact them and to arrange to be taken out on some of the local digs,” said Persons. “It’s where I went on my very first dinosaur hunting expedition. It’s where I found my first chunk of dinosaur bone, and that was way back when I was in elementary school.” 

Although he’s known about the uniqueness of the Glenrock plesiosaur, only in the last few years has he had the personal resources and connections to introduce Harold to the rest of the world.

“The challenge with Harold has been getting the specimen to the stage of preparation that it can be scientifically studied – that it can be photographed, that measurements can be taken,” said Persons, who is a professor at the College of Charleston in South Carolina. “And it’s taken a while for me to get to a position where I’m free to pursue my own research interests and to start up my own research program.”

On Sept. 26, the journal iScience published the details of the Serpentisuchops Pfisterae (which Persons said means “serpentine crocodile face,” with the second part of the name a nod to the landowner, Anna Pfister) – and since then, the Paleon Museum has seen a little more activity.

“Last Thursday, we had zero visitors in,” Smith said. “Just this morning, we had seven visitors. We had several in here from Glenrock and Casper that had heard about the find and they showed up to see it.”

What Makes Harold Special

Persons said that the Paleon Museum’s specimen is quite different from other plesiosaurs that have been found in the area.

“It’s got this incredible series of perfectly articulated neck vertebrae,” said Persons. “The bones in the animal’s neck are laid out just as they would have been in life, they’re not all a jumble, they’re not out of position. And of course, the animal also has a beautiful lower jaw that shows off this long, crocodile-like form, and that really is strange.”

Persons said traditionally, plesiosaurs have been divided into specimens that have short necks and long, crocodile-like snouts; and those with small heads, short jaws and long necks. 

“And Harold just straddles both of those categories,” said Persons. “And it defies traditional classification.”


An artist’s rendering of what the Serpentisuchops pfisterae may have looked like.

More In Store For the Paleon

Smith said the number of visitors to the Paleon Museum have been down this year so far, but that might change with the attention Persons is bringing to the small-town natural history museum.

“Just this year alone, we’ve probably had 2,500 different visitors in here,” said Smith. “I’ve had them in here from 14 different countries, and I get to visit with people from literally every state in the union.”

And Persons said the Paleon has more stars in its collection than just the unique plesiosaur. In fact, he’s taking a group of his students to the Geological Society of America’s annual conference in Denver, at which they will present several specimens from the Glenrock museum.

“We will be presenting on the wing of a pterosaur that was found at the same spot (as Harold),” he said. “We will be presenting on some of the horned dinosaur material that’s dug up right there in Glenrock. We will be presenting on a pterosaur trackway. And we will be presenting on a beautiful, beautiful prehistoric turtle shell.”

But a detour to tiny Glenrock, Wyoming, is the only way to see for yourself the one-of-a-kind dinosaur fossil found and dug up by a landowner, and cared for by the Bone Biddies.

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Wyoming Daily Gas Map: Saturday, October 1, 2022

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By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily 

Wyoming’s average price per gallon of $3.86, is unchanged from our last report of $3.86 on Friday. 

The website GasBuddy.com, which tracks national gas prices, reported Wyoming’s average gas price is down 2 cent from a week ago, and is up 27 cents per gallon from one year ago.

Wyoming’s average price for a gallon of gas remained above the national average of $3.78

High and Low Prices:

The highest reported gasoline price in Wyoming on Thursday was in Moose at the Conoco on 12170 Dornan Rd., reporting $4.98 per gallon. The lowest price in Wyoming was in Laramie at the Tumbleweed Express on 4700 Bluebird Ln., reporting $3.19 per gallon.

The highest county average is in Teton County, with an average of $4.59 per gallon. The county with the lowest average, is in Laramie County, with $3.49 per gallon. These are the highest and lowest reported prices among those stations surveyed.

*The average price, reported by AAA, in each Wyoming county:

Albany $3.49; Big Horn $4.07; Campbell $3.54; Carbon $4.02; Converse $3.87; Crook $3.78; Fremont $4.02; Goshen $3.79; Hot Springs $3.97; Johnson $3.84; Laramie $3.46; Lincoln $4.23; Natrona $3.57; Niobrara $3.60; Park $4.23; Platte $4.09; Sheridan $3.64; Sublette $3.94; Sweetwater $3.89; Teton $4.59; Uinta $4.14; Washakie $3.94; Weston: $3.81

*The lowest Price, reported by GasBuddy, in selected Wyoming cities:

Basin $4.09; Buffalo $3.77; Casper $3.41; Cheyenne $3.29; Cody $3.94; Douglas $3.78; Evanston $4.08; Gillette $3.47; Jackson $4.34; Kemmerer $4.08; Laramie $3.19; Lusk $3.59; Newcastle $3.73; Pinedale $3.89; Rawlins $3.79; Riverton $3.87; Rock Springs $3.71; Sheridan $3.35; Sundance $3.99; Thermopolis $3.90; Wheatland $3.73; Worland $3.83

Tim’s Observations:

Our low price leader, the Tumbleweed Express in Laramie, is up 10 cents per gallon, from $3.09, to $3.19. This still remains the lowest reported price in Wyoming. According to AAA spokesperson Andrew Gross hurricane Ian could cause fuel supply problems, which could push up prices in the short term. With hurricane Ian, disrupting offshore oil production in the Gulf of Mexico, could cause an increase in gas prices, albeit temporarily. Nationally, gas prices have risen for the last seven days.

Want to help us gather the most accurate gas prices for this report? Consider downloading the GasBuddy app and submit the gas prices in your area.

*Note: We use AAA.com for the county and state averages and GasBuddy.com for the low prices in our selected cities. Prices in this report are for reference only. They are gathered just prior to posting, and may not reflect prices that have changed since last posted.

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Biden Raids Oil Reserves As Some Decry Energy Vulnerability

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Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
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By Kevin Killough, energy reporter
Kevin@CowboyStateDaily.com

President Joe Biden began dipping into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve last year to curb historically inflated gasoline prices.

Now that gas prices are no longer historically high, the U.S. reserve is at historic lows.

That’s the result of the president playing politics, critics say.

“The intent was to use SPR as a tool of energy security and not political expediency to save consumers a few cents on a gallon of gas,” said Rob Wallace, former staff director for the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks at the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Energy Security

The U.S. government began discussing the need for an oil reserve in World War II when supplies of oil were key to the Allies’ success against the Axis powers. 

During the 1973 Arab Oil Embargo, the U.S. imported one-third of its oil. The disruption the embargo caused brought to the forefront the enormous leverage the Middle East had over legislation signed by President Gerald Ford to create the strategic reserve of oil. The first delivery of 412,000 barrels came July 21, 1977. 

The total amount of petroleum in the reserve peaked out at 726.5 million barrels in May 2011, according to the federal Energy Information Administration. 

When Biden took office, the reserve held about 638 million barrels. 

Drawdown

Biden began drawing from the reserve last November. Since March, Biden issued emergency orders authorizing the release of a combined 190 million barrels. Including exchanges and statutorily required sales, when the most recent authorized Biden releases are complete, will bring the total in reserve down to 360 million barrels, the lowest level since 1983. 

That effort has contributed to declining gas prices. According to the Energy Information Administration, the average price of gasoline in the U.S. peaked out at just over $5 a gallon in June. This month it’s dropped to $3.82 per gallon. 

More Releases?

Earlier this month, U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm told Reuters that the administration wouldn’t rule out further releases from the reserve.

The SPR has been tapped for emergencies during the Persian Gulf War and again during Hurricane Katrina. If a national emergency were to impact oil supplies now, the U.S. would have only a few weeks in reserve to handle it.  

Wallace said that even small disruptions can “create pretty complicated side effects.” This includes panic buying, and the SPR can help ease those disruptions and stabilize America’s delicate energy ecosystem. 

“That’s when you really get in trouble if people believe there’s going to be a shortage and everybody heads to the gas station to over-buy,” said Wallace. 

The pandemic toilet paper shortage is a good illustration of how even the perception of shortages can lead to such behavior, he said.

Besides the energy insecurity low stockpiles creates, the reserve will eventually need to be replenished. Wallace said that ideally, this would be done during times of low energy prices, but that’s when there’s plenty of oil and people aren’t thinking about a crisis. 

“It takes a lot of different political discipline to manage something like SPR, because it’s counterintuitive,” Wallace said. 

Getting it back up to pre-Biden levels will not be cheap. Likewise, oil production is sluggish. 

During his campaign, Biden pledged to greatly restrict oil production in the U.S. While market prices are high, domestic oil production is about 7% below the pre-pandemic peak of 13 million barrels per day. 

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Trouble’s A-Bruin: Hunting Would Help Manage Wyoming’s Aggressive Grizzlies, Say Outdoorsmen

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By Mark Heinz, outdoors reporter
Mark@CowboyStateDaily.com

Wyoming needs a grizzly bear hunting season to promote human safety and bear conservation.

That’s the message from Cowboy State outdoorsmen who say responsible hunting of the bruins is good wildlife management.

Wyoming Grizzly hunting is two decades overdue, said retired forester and longtime sportsman Karl Brauneis of Lander in a Friday email to Cowboy State Daily.

“I testified in front of the Wyoming Wildlife Commission that the grizzly was recovered about 20 years ago and that we should have authorized a hunting season at that time,” he said.

The situation also has led to bears being less wary of encroaching on humans and more populated areas, another outdoorsman said. That can make bears fearless and aggressive toward people.

“The Wyoming grizzly bear is not conditioned to know that there’s anything else out there it needs to be cautious about,” Josh Coursey told Cowboy State Daily on Friday.

Coursey is an experienced hunter who lives about 20 miles north of Kemmerer near the Wyoming Mountain Range. He said he and others have been seeing grizzlies and grizzly sign in those mountains the past couple of years.

That’s an area “well to the south” of the bruins’ established Wyoming habitat, he said.

Coursey is co-founder, president and CEO of Muley Fanatics, a mule deer conservation group. He’s also a member of the Wyoming Wildlife Task Force, a group charged with making recommendations to the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission, which sets Game and Fish Policy.

Earlier this year, the task force voted “unanimously” to recommend that management of grizzlies be handed over to the Game and Fish, which could set hunting seasons for them, Coursey said.

 ‘Unusually Aggressive’ Grizzly

Game and Fish on Thursday sent out an alert that grizzlies and black bears have become more active at lower altitudes in rural areas surrounding Cody. That could increase the chances for conflict with landowners and outdoors enthusiasts.

Wardens have occasionally had to kill grizzlies because of human-bear conflicts, something not unique to Wyoming.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks wardens on Sept. 21 killed an “unusually aggressive” grizzly, according to a report posted online by the agency.

The bear was killed after it charged, struck and bit a landowner’s vehicle on a two-track farm road near Bynum, Montana.

Rifle Shots Are ‘Dinner Bells’ For Grizzlies

Grizzlies in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho remain under the protection of federal Endangered Species Act.

That the species remains classified as endangered is a “travesty,” Coursey said. He said he thinks the state Game and Fish Department is far better qualified to manage the bruins.

Coursey recently returned from a successful elk hunt in the Wind River Mountains. He and his hunting partner saw black bears, but no grizzlies. Even so, whenever in grizzly country hunters need to be aware and cautious, he said.

“When you get back from a hunt, you need to hang your meat up on a meat pole well away from where you’ve set up your camp,” he said.

Especially in northwestern Wyoming, the potential for conflict between grizzlies and hunters is a constant and growing threat, he said.

“When you kill something right at dusk, you might have to leave the carcass hanging overnight,” he said. “When you arrive back in the morning there may be grizzlies feasting on your kill. That gunshot became a dinner bell for them.”

Coursey said he’s optimistic Wyoming will eventually get a grizzly hunting season, and he would “absolutely” like to hunt the bears if and when that happens.

‘Ecological Dead End’

Keeping grizzlies perpetually under ESA protection amounts to “single-species management” instead of considering the entire ecosystem, Brauneis said.

“As a forester I am convinced that single-species management, if prolonged, ends in the detriment of the entire ecosystem that species resides in,” he said. “Aldo Leopold first recognized this fact over a century ago in the management of deer herds. Single species management is an ecological dead end.”

Keeping a recovering species under ESA protection should be a “short stop” along the way to state management, he said. And grizzly recovery has been successful.

Coursey agreed, saying ESA protection has long since accomplished what it needed to for Wyoming’s grizzlies, and it’s time to move on.

“The grizzly bear should be a poster child for the success of the Endangered Species Act,” he said.

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Wyoming To Be Home For World’s Largest Carbon Capture Facility, But Exact Location Is Secret

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By Kevin Killough, energy reporter
Kevin@CowboyStateDaily.com

CarbonCapture Inc. is keeping secret the location of a Wyoming modular facility that’s part of an operation dubbed Project Bison the company touts as being the largest of its kind. The direct air capture facility will suck carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and sequester it underground. 

The project was announced earlier this month, and while the company is continuing to do public outreach, it isn’t discussing where its planned modules will be located. 

Jonas Lee, CarbonCapture Chief Commerical Officer, said the secrecy has to do with the way real estate interest in a specific location can drive up land costs. 

The modules, he explained, are very mobile. So, input from the community might impact where they are placed, but they don’t have to be placed right next to the well sites.

The California-based company is partnering with Texas-based Frontier Carbon Solutions, which will provide the wells where the CO2 is to be pumped underground. Frontier has filed applications for geological sequestration permits with the Wyoming Department of Quality. 

The documentation the company provided to the DEQ shows the wells will be located near the borders of Sweetwater, Unita, and Lincoln counties in southwest Wyoming.

Intentions To Grow

The company’s vice president for business development, Patricia Loria, held a presentation for the Sweetwater County Commission earlier this summer.

“We don’t want to be forcing this upon a community that doesn’t think it’s in their best interest,” Loria said. 

Large companies are showing more of an interest in buying carbon credits or tapping into tax credits, which the Inflation Reduction Act increased from $50 for each metric ton of captured carbon stored underground to $85.

Loria said companies pledging $1.5 billion for credits include Bill Gates’ Microsoft, Airbus, Shopify, Zoom and Meta, owner of Facebook. 

“These are generally large corporations,” Loria said.

Climate Change

She explained that to stay below 1.5 degrees of warming, as laid out in the Paris Agreement treaty on climate change, the world will need to remove 100 gigatons of CO2 by 2050. 

The carbon capture industry, Loria said, could one day be as large as the oil and gas industry. 

The Paris Agreement is an international pledge to limit CO2 emissions. Former President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the Paris Agreement in 2017 over concerns of its impact on the U.S. economy, but on his first day of office, President Joe Biden signed the U.S. back onto it.

Big Plans

CarbonCapture is a technology and project development company with $43 million in financing and 35 employees, Loria said. The $1 trillion infrastructure bill that was passed last November provided $3.5 billion for direct air capture, and the Department of Energy also is providing money for the project. 

Besides corporations looking to buy credits, governments in the future also may buy credits for their CO2 emissions. 

 “We have intentions to grow very large, because we think there’s a huge business opportunity here,” Loria told the Sweetwater County Commission. 

The first phase of the project will begin with two modules and pull 5,000 tons of CO2 out of the atmosphere in its first year of operation. The company hopes to grow Project Bison and sequester 5 million tons of CO2. At that point, Loria said, the operation will employ 2,000 people. 

Lee told Cowboy State Daily that the first phase will likely be closer to 10,000 tons per year, and the number of jobs is likely to be in the hundreds.

Loria said the company has secured letters of interest from companies for the first half of the 5,000 tons of carbon capture credits. CarbonCapture will sell the captured carbon credits at $800 per ton but has plans to reduce that cost over time. 

Environmental Consulting

The company is working with The Nature Conservancy, a global environmental advocacy nonprofit, and the Wyoming Outdoor Council, a public land advocacy nonprofit. 

The first phase of the project will use less than 2 acres of land, but once Project Bison grows to pull 5 million tons of CO2 by 2030, it will encompass 200 acres, Loria said. 

The company is trying to site the location on existing disturbed land that isn’t on any key migratory routes for wildlife. 

To power its CO2-sucking modules, the company is looking to use low- or zero-carbon sources. Natural gas is one option, but it “could be nuclear. It could be wind and solar,” Loria said.

The company plans to set up a manufacturing facility to build its container-sized modules, possibly in Cheyenne, but “somewhere in Wyoming” for sure, she said.  

Incentives

Carbon credits are a method to incentivize companies to reduce greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere. Companies can get a certain number of credits, which decline over time. If the company can’t reduce its emissions, it can continue operating, but pays more for its emissions. It also can sell its unused credits to other companies. 

To incentivize companies to support DAC, companies can sign up with companies like Frontier to receive tax credits per ton of CO2 taken out of the atmosphere. 

One carbon credit grants the bearer the right to emit one ton of CO2. To put this in perspective, a gallon of gas produces roughly 20 pounds of CO2 when burned. A Ford F-150 with a 3.3 liter V6 engine would produce a ton of CO2 after a round-trip drive from Cheyenne to Detroit, Michigan. 

Some states, such as California, have carbon credit programs that apply to large electric power plants and other large-scale industrial operations. 

Loria said her company also is exploring ways to use CO2 as a feedstock for products, such as synthetic aviation fuels. At another operation, Frontier wants to partner with a steel plant that would use energy from its waste heat from the modules, and the CO2 would be used to produce low-carbon concrete. 

Permitting

Wyoming has primacy over the permitting of Class VI wells, like those that will be used by Frontier, meaning permitting is done by the DEQ. 

Loria said this was a prime reason the company is locating its operations in Wyoming. If it had to permit the wells in a state without primacy, the EPA would have authority, which would increase the permitting process from one year to three. 

“That’s an important part of us moving quickly with a new project,” Loria said. 

The company is doing public outreach as Frontier pursues the permit. On Oct. 5, it will hold an open house at Western Wyoming Community College in Rock Springs from 6-8 p.m. 

Lee noted that the project could potentially grow beyond its 5 million ton projection for 2030.

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Rock Climber Stranded On ‘I’ll Tell You What’s Cool’ Cliff West of Cody OK After Rescue

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily
Wendy@cowboystatedaily.com

For rock climbers, there aren’t many places you can drive just a few miles outside of town and find world-class terrain.

In Cody, high-angle opportunities abound just west of town – and on a cliffside known to climbers as “I’ll Tell You What’s Cool” – a climber found himself in a perilous situation this week. But highly trained volunteers with Park County Search and Rescue were ready – and able – to pull off a harrowing nighttime rescue.

A 19-year-old climber’s rope became stuck about 300 feet from the ground Monday, said Bill Brown, coordinator for the PCSAR squad. Brown said the rescue happened at night, which made the task a little more daunting.

It Took Hours

“We were paged out about a quarter to 9,” Brown told Cowboy State Daily. “And we all went home about 2 a.m.”

A local climber familiar with the area was requested to help PCSAR find the top of the route, which is difficult to locate even in daytime. The stranded climber was wearing a headlamp, which helped rescuers find his location.

“He was able to assist in his own rescue,” Brown said. ”We sent one of our people down to check him out and get him a coat and stuff, get him some water, and then they both ascended.”

Brown said that because they were able to climb ropes instead of the rock, the rescue was made a bit easier.

“If we would have had to haul him back up, it would have been a lot more technical,” Brown said. “Thankfully, it worked out very well.”

Brown said by 12:30 a.m. both the climber and the PCSAR member made it back to the top of the route and everyone began walking out. 

Trained For Situations Like This

Because PCSAR is responsible for calls in mostly mountainous terrain (the team’s jurisdiction covers 2,192 square miles, much of it wilderness), Brown said the 34-member volunteer squad’s high-angle rescue team (made up of about seven members) has been professionally trained for situations like Monday’s.

“We’ve trained with a friend of mine from Australia, Rope Lab is his company name,” said Brown. “He came up and did a five-day backcountry rope rescue course a few years ago, and then this spring we did (similar training) with Peak Rescue out of Casper.”

Brown said the training helps volunteers solidify their skills as a team, although the need for their services doesn’t happen frequently.

“It’s pretty rare,” he said. “It’s a low-frequency high-risk (occurrence), so you still have to train for it.”

But it’s a training that the volunteers on the high-angle rescue team enjoy, Brown said.

“We all love to help, and we love what we do,” he said.

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Infighting Cuts Into Wyoming GOP Dominance In Raising Money

in News/Legislature/politics
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By Leo Wolfson, State Political Reporter
Leo@Cowboystatedaily.com

Wyoming’s Democratic and Republican parties are surprisingly competitive when it comes to the money at their disposal entering the homestretch of the general election season.

As of Aug. 31, the Democratic Party had $71,613 in its coffers, according to its Sept. 20 Federal Election Commission filing. In a similar filing, the Wyoming GOP reported $73,006, just $1,393 more than the Dems. 

Bob Ferguson, state GOP treasurer, said his party’s balance was only a portion of the money the party had at that time, as it also files a separate state-level finance report. At the party’s Central Committee meeting Sept. 17, officials reported having $119,000 in the bank. But since that meeting, Ferguson told Cowboy State Daily on Friday morning that the GOP has likely had more expenses than donations.

Although Republicans still have more money at their disposal, it is not by a large margin as many might expect in a state where one party holds an overwhelming majority. In the primary election, 94% of voters registered as Republicans. Most recent state-level and federal general election races in Wyoming have seen Republicans get about 70% to 75% of the vote.

Legal Expenses

The state GOP has been weighed down by a handful of lawsuits over the past few years that have proved costly for its efforts to support candidates in general elections.

At the Sept. 17 GOP meeting in Riverton, the party discussed the lawsuits and their impact on the party’s overall financial picture.

“If you want to figure out where the money for candidates went, that’s $80,000 right there because of that shortfall in revenues and our exorbitant legal expenses,” said Corey Steinmetz, a national committeeman for the state party.

The party spent $42,000 on lawsuits over the past year.

The Natrona County GOP sued the Wyoming GOP for the procedure it used to adopt bylaws in 2020 that require each county party to pay its dues or risk losing delegates at the state party’s convention. Natrona was only allowed to seat the minimum at the party’s convention in Sheridan in May. 

The case was dismissed in District Court but has been appealed to the Wyoming Supreme Court. On Tuesday, the court approved extending the deadline that the Natrona and state GOP can submit their arguments until Nov. 2.

A lawsuit involving the Uinta County GOP also is costing the state party money. 

In this case, a group of constituents that includes state Sen. Wendy Schuler, R-Evanston, Rep. Danny Eyre, R-Lyman, and former Rep. Ron Micheli, argued that the county party is governed exclusively by the state election code and violated it when electing officers in 2021. 

The case was dismissed by the Wyoming Secretary of State’s office and in District Court, but has been appealed to the state Supreme Court.

State Rep. Bob Wharff, R-Evanston, said the county party already spent $22,000 defending itself in the case.

Also draining the party’s coffers is a lawsuit filed in January by former Wyoming House Speaker and Campbell County Committeeman Tom Lubnau over the process the party used to select finalists for an interim superintendent of public instruction. Cody resident Brian Schroeder was ultimately selected for this position.

The party used the same voting process last weekend in its appointment of Karl Allred, delegating equal votes to each county party.

Dues Withheld

The state GOP also lost money because of the Natrona and Laramie county GOP parties withholding annual dues in response to disagreements about the state party’s policies and actions. Natrona and Laramie owe a combined $37,000.

Ferguson said at the mid-September meeting that it costs about $11,000 per month for the party to run operations and pay staff, leaving the belt tight through the end of the fiscal year in summer 2023. 

Money For And By Candidates

Coming out of the Sept. 17 meeting, the state GOP planned to give $19,000 to candidates around the state. This will likely be bolstered by $27,500 the Crook County Republican Party announced raising for official candidates statewide at last weekend’s meeting. The county party’s staff were vague about where the money came from, other than “from the people.” 

To put the $27,500 sum in perspective, the Crook County GOP has paid $3,000 to the state GOP so far this year.

Jeff Burian, a Crook County GOP committeeman, said the new money will not go to write-in candidate Roger Connett, a former chairman of the county party.

Marti Halverson, chairman of the Lincoln County Republican Party, also announced last weekend that her party will give $1,000 to the state GOP. 

Spending Gap

When it comes to actual spending on candidates, there will still be a severe gap between the state Democratic and Republican parties.

David Martin, a spokesperson for Wyoming Democrats, said the party does not plan to give any money to individual candidates this year.

“We offer a variety of services like voter data and canvassing information as well other programs to candidates at heavily subsidized rates through our coordinated campaign,” he said. 

Martin mentioned how the voter data service the party uses would cost a candidate several thousand dollars, but they get access to this service at a much lower one-time fee.

Higher-Level Offices

Democrat candidates for state and federal offices in Wyoming have been grossly outspent so far by their Republican opponents in the upcoming November election. 

U.S. Congress candidate Lynette Grey Bull has raised $11,012 for her campaign through late July, while her Republican opponent Harriet Hageman has raised $4.4 million within her immediate campaign committee alone. In the race for governor, Gov. Mark Gordon raised $541,577, while his Democratic challenger Theresa Livingston raised $1,702.

The only Democratic state Legislature candidate to spend and raise significant sums in the primary was Liz Storer of Jackson, who raised $32,870 and spent $21,415.

Democratic candidates have been giving money to the party rather than the other way around. 

Ted Hanlon, running for Senate District 5 in Cheyenne, gave $1,050 to the party over the course of August. Marguerite Herman, running in House District 11, also in Cheyenne, gave $550. Rep. Karlee Provenza, D-Laramie, gave $500 on Aug. 18. Leesa Kuhlman, running for Senate District 18 in Rock Springs, gave $745. Livingston has given $200 since late July. 

The party also has been bolstered by $22,000 from the Democratic Grassroots Victory Fund political action committee Aug. 25.

State-level finance information for political parties will be released 10 days after the Nov. 8 general election.

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No More Wild Horse Adoptions At Wheatland Corral Because Of Strangles Disease

in wild horses/News
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By Mark Heinz, outdoors reporter
Mark@CowboyStateDaily.com

An extended outbreak of an equine disease commonly called “strangles” has shut down mustang adoptions at a Wheatland corral run by the federal Bureau of Land Management.

But a Colorado wild horse advocate and photographer says she’s skeptical because of the length of the shutdown and what she says has been a lack of information from the BLM.

A wild horse and burro adoption scheduled for Oct. 7 at the BLM’s Wheatland off-range corral was canceled because of lingering strangles infections among some of the 2,700 horses and burros being kept there, BLM spokeswoman Azure Hall told Cowboy State Daily in an email Thursday.

However, the moratorium on adoptions and visits at the corral has gone on too long, said Carol Walker of Longmont, Colorado.

Questions Transparency

After months, Walker said BLM officials “are saying strangles is still in the facility, so I would like to see a veterinarian’s report on the horses.”

Walker said she frequently visits Wyoming to photograph mustang herds here and runs the wild horse advocacy blog “Wild Hoofbeats.”

“I try to report back to public about this,” she said. “I have a very large social media following, almost 2 million followers, and I let people know about these horses.”

Walker has three adopted Wyoming mustangs and doesn’t plan to adopt any more. But she said that she knows many people who want to adopt from the Wheatland corral, and they’re growing frustrated.

Adoptions can’t resume until a veterinarian gives the all-clear that the strangles outbreak has fully subsided, Hall said, adding there’s no estimation of when that might be.



Highly Transmissible Disease

Strangles is a highly transmissible bacterial disease that infects horses and burros, according to information posted online by the BLM. It causes an upper respiratory infection in the animals. Fatality rates are usually less than 10%, but can be as high as 40% in untreated animals.

Strangles can pass between horses and can be passed to them through infected water troughs, horse tack or other gear that humans use.

That’s why the BLM closed the Wheatland corral to the public, Hall said.

It’s not known when the strangles outbreak started there, according to the BLM website. No animals have been accepted at or shipped from the corral since January.

About half of the animals there have been infected and 18 have died, according to the BLM. All of the animals have been vaccinated against strangles and numerous other equine diseases. Horses that have been there the longest, which is since the corral opened in 2021, have received strangles boosters.

The strangles vaccine doesn’t always stop infections, but it can greatly lessen the severity of the disease, according to the BLM.

Feeling Shut Out

Walker said she’s frustrated because the BLM hasn’t been communicating or allowing her to even briefly visit the corral to check on the horses.

“I’m completely willing to submit to whatever biosecurity measures they have,” she said.

“I spend about 10 weeks a year in Wyoming visiting all the horse herds and watching the roundups,” she said. “I am familiar with many of the horses at the Wheatland facility.”

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Cheney Called Out For Missing 34 Votes Since Primary

in News/Liz Cheney/politics
Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images
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By Leo Wolfson, State Political Reporter
Leo@Cowboystatedaily.com

There are far more questions than answers when it comes to U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney’s long-term future and whether she will continue to align with the Republican Party after her congressional term expires.

In the meantime, despite politically-charged accusations she favors the Democratic platform, Cheney’s voting record hasn’t shifted much. But she has missed 34 votes since losing her Aug. 16 Republican primary election.

She was absent on four days in September, including Thursday. 

Cheney missed all seven votes taken Sept. 14 and six of the seven votes taken Sept. 15. 

Cheney’s only vote that day came on an amendment to the Preventing a Patronage System Act, which she was one of seven Republicans to vote against. Later the same day, she didn’t vote on the bill, which passed.

On Sept. 19, she missed three more votes.

Cheney was back with the House members Sept. 20 and voted on four bills. She also was active Sept. 21, 22 and Wednesday.

On Sept. 21, she was the only Republican of 212 members to vote for two amendments to reform the process for the counting of electoral votes under U.S. Code, which passed on otherwise partisan lines. Shortly after, she was one of nine Republicans to vote for her Presidential Electoral Reform Act, which passed.

No-Vote Draws Ire

Cheney missed one vote Sept. 22, a push to approve considering a bundle of law enforcement-focused legislation drew frustration from some, including two of the most conservative Republicans in the House. 

“The House was one vote away from defeating a Democrat anti-police bill, but Liz Cheney couldn’t be bothered to show up to vote,” said Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colorado, on Twitter.

Conservative firebrand Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Georgia, also tweeted about Cheney not voting on the bill.

“@Liz_Cheney is so committed to Joe Biden and the Democrats that she just intentionally skipped an anti-police vote that Republicans could have defeated,” Greene tweeted. “She clearly supports the Democrat war on police. Go ahead and switch parties Liz before you’re out of office.”

The resolution passed by a single vote, although U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Massachusetts, a member of “The Squad,” voted “present” on the resolution. The Squad is the handle used to describe a small group of younger, progressive members of the House.

Cheney later voted against three of the four bills in the bundle. The only vote she supported was for the Invest To Protect Act, which 152 Republicans joined with her on. This measure passed.

She missed 16 more votes Thursday.

Other Options

When not physically present for a vote, members of Congress still have an option to vote by proxy, a holdover of the COVID-19 pandemic rules put in place in 2020.

Cheney is vice chair of the Jan. 6 Committee. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Illinois, the only other Republican on the committee, also missed every vote Thursday. House Minority Leader U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-California, also missed votes that day.

Since losing to Harriet Hageman in the primary, Cheney has voted with the majority of her party 15 times. The three votes mentioned earlier are the only ones in which she voted with a majority of Democrats.

Cheney has vowed to support candidates who oppose former President Donald Trump and the people he has endorsed with her Great Task PAC. She said last week this possibly could include campaigning for Democrats and that she would leave the Republican Party if it endorses Trump for president. 

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Governor Gordon Appoints Karl Allred Interim Secretary of State

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Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon has appointed Karl Allred as interim secretary of state. Allred replaces Ed Buchanan, who resigned Sept. 15 after being appointed a District Court judge for the 8th Judicial District.

State law obliges the governor to choose within five days from three names submitted to him by the Republican Central Committee. The other two candidates were Marti Halverson and Bryan Miller. 

“I have selected Mr. Allred from the candidates forwarded to me by Wyoming Republican Party Chairman Frank Eathorne,” Gordon said in a short and comparatively bland announcement. “We will coordinate with Mr. Allred to arrange for his swearing in as soon as possible.”

Allred Reaction

Allred told Cowboy State Daily shortly after the announcement was made that he was still a little shocked about being chosen for the appointment.

“I just got the call from the governor,” he said. “I’m looking forward to working with him and having a real smooth general election coming up.”

He said he will work to ensure a smooth transition with the elected secretary of state who takes over in January. State Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, is expected to win as he has no opponent in the general election.

Allred said he has already spoken to Gray, who congratulated him on the appointment. He said he interviewed with Gordon for the job Thursday and did not know when he will be sworn-in.

The incoming secretary ran unsuccessfully for state House District 19 in this year’s primary and also was defeated in legislative elections in 2014, 2018 and 2020.

Allred will serve until a new secretary of state is sworn in Jan. 2, 2023.

The governor noted that two of Wyoming’s five elected constitutional officers are now unelected appointees as a result of the existing statutory process for replacing statewide elected officials. 

Brian Schroeder was appointed by Gordon in January as superintendent of public instruction after former officeholder Jillian Balow resigned to take a similar position in Virginia. Schroeder lost in his Republican primary last month to Megan Degenfelder.

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Feds Deny Most Exemptions to Wyoming’s Electric Vehicle Plan

in News/Business
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By Kevin Killough, energy reporter
kevin@cowboystatedaily.com

The Federal Highway Administration has given a green light to Wyoming’s electric vehicle infrastructure plan, which will provide more than $26 million to build charging stations for electric vehicles over the next five years. 

Even so, the feds denied eight of 11 requested exemptions to a federal rule of having charging stations at least every 50 miles.

With about 0.1% of vehicles registered in Wyoming being electric, the stations would mainly serve out-of-state tourists, such as those coming from Colorado, where 16% of all new vehicle sales are EVs.  

Likewise, California has mandated that all new vehicles sold in the state need to be electric by 2035. More than a dozen other states have passed similar zero-emission vehicle programs. 

Open Roads 

The federal guidelines for the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) program didn’t take into account sparse, rural populations. They require stations to be placed every 50 miles with a maximum of 1 mile from an interstate exit. 

The requirements don’t fit well with Wyoming’s highways, where there can be long stretches between towns, state officials have said. So, the plan the Wyoming Department of Transportation submitted requested 11 exemptions from the requirements. The feds approved only three exemptions.

Among the exemptions to the 50-mile rule the WYDOT plan requested is for the stretch of Interstate 80 between Laramie and Rawlins. 

“No infrastructure or amenities exist at the 50-mile point between Laramie and Rawlins,” the plan explains in its justification for requesting the exemption. 

The feds refused the request without explanation.

Luke Reiner, WYDOT director, said the agency is still trying to get more details on the denials, and it “takes a little bit of time to track down the right person to figure that out.” 

“There were other states that had some of these exceptions granted. Others did not,” Reiner said. “And so how to connect those dots, we were still in process trying to figure that out.”

Many of the exemptions WYDOT requested were based on a lack of infrastructure between 50-mile stretches. 

Before the larger plan is implemented, the first phase of construction will install charging stations near Sundance, Buffalo, Douglas, Pine Bluffs, Sheridan, Wheatland and Laramie. The 2022 phase doesn’t require any exemptions. Reiner said that gives Wyoming some time to work with the feds on the denied exemptions to see if solutions can be found. 

The first phase of construction “will take us a couple of years. So that gives us time to work on this exception issue,” Reiner said. 

Goals and Challenges

The WYDOT plan notes that significant increases in EV traffic will need to happen on Wyoming highways to make charging stations viable.

According to the plan, the total non-Tesla EV traffic the state gets will need to increase by 100 times per day for NEVI stations to receive enough visits to cover their costs, if they are constructed every 50 miles of interstate. 

While state mandates, as well as consumer interest, will push sales of EVs, the industry will face a number of challenges that could limit availability. 

Some Roadblocks

Lithium is a key ingredient in EV batteries. There is now a single lithium mine operating in the U.S., and environmental regulations in the permitting process for a mine can take 10 years. Almost all lithium is imported, and the supply has failed to keep up with demand. Bloomberg reported in May that lithium prices had increased 500%. 

While electric vehicle costs have declined, they still remain higher than gas-powered vehicles and are likely to go higher as supply chain issues drive up prices. 

Gas Still King

Ford Motor Co. has stated a goal of reaching complete carbon neutrality and shifting to all-renewable energy by 2035. Yet, this week the company announced its F-Series Super Duty lineup of trucks for the 2023 model year. They all come with gas- and diesel-powered engines. 

“Super Duty also is the preferred choice for essential industries with more than 50% market share in utility, mining, construction and emergency response vehicles, according to S&P Global Mobility,” the company states in an announcement on the models. 

While the company is pushing to go electric, with $50 billion pledged to its EV buildout, Reuters reports that the F-Series generates a third of the Ford’s revenues. 

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Cryogenics & Cloning Are Helping To Save Wyoming’s Black-Footed Ferrets

in Wyoming outdoors/News/wildlife
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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily
wendy@cowboystatedaily.com

Cryogenics and cloning may be the future for endangered species like the black-footed ferret, a critter once thought extinct until it was rediscovered in Wyoming more than 40 years ago.

Scientists were thrilled in 1981 to discover a small den of black-footed ferrets on a ranch near Meeteetse. The species had been thought extinct until a dog named Shep brought one home to his owners on the Hogg Ranch.

Since then, enormous efforts have been made to repopulate the species, and now a company that specializes in groundbreaking technology – specifically cryogenics and cloning – is helping to ensure the animals’ future.

“We’re trying to stop more species from crossing that line into extinction,” said Ryan Phelan, co-founder and executive director of Revive & Restore, a nonprofit agency that has done extensive work with cryogenically preserved genetic material from species on the verge of disappearing.

“We’ve been working on all different types of species from coral to black-footed ferrets to the woolly mammoth,” she said.

‘Nobody Said Anything About Barking Ferrets’

Retired Wyoming Game and Fish biologist Denny Hammer was the first to lay eyes on the presumed-extinct ferrets in 1981 while on an expedition to ensure no endangered species were on land that could be leased for mineral extraction.

“I was on the right side of the vehicle,” he recalled. “Steve Martin was my partner. And all of a sudden with my spotlight, I saw the eye shine that I’ve been trained for four years to look for – really a turquoise, bright green eye shine that you just don’t see in any other animal out there.”

Hammer said when he and Martin realized what they had actually seen, they jumped out of their vehicle and ran to where they had watched the animal disappear.

“So I walked over to the hole and I looked down and just about the time I looked down the ferret came back up and he barked,” Hammer said. “Nobody said anything about barking ferrets!”

Hammer said the moment was one he’ll never forget.

“We both looked at each other and we just started to dance. It was just a fantastic moment,” he said. “It was the start of everything to come – good and bad.”

Hammer said that when they were able to capture the first of what would be 18 ferrets from the Hogg Ranch, he realized that he was holding history – the first black-footed ferret to be seen, let alone handled, in more than 10 years.

“To be the first to be there, to know that we had in our hands – the only live black-footed ferret in the world – at that time was pretty amazing,” said Hammer.



A Fragile Population

At a symposium this week at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, scientists and wildlife experts converged to discuss the future of black-footed ferrets. Curator Corey Anco with the Draper Museum of Natural History said the symposium brings the story full-circle.

“All black-footed ferrets on the landscape today are descended from that population from Meeteetse,” said Anko. “And this is a really exciting event because for the first time in history, scientists have cloned a black-footed ferret that may reintroduce a whole bunch of genetic diversity that is currently absent in the existing population.”

Even though a captive breeding program was successful, the animals’ existence has faced challenges. From their reintroduction into the wild in 1986, the population has grown from those first 18 to several hundred in eight Western states, Mexico and Canada.

But a disease that affects both ferrets and prairie dogs, the ferrets’ primary food source, has impacted the endangered species. Sylvatic plague, a bacterial disease transmitted by fleas, is widespread throughout the Western states and has kept the black-footed ferret population from growing.

That’s where genetic diversity through cloning can make a difference, Phelan said.

“The most important part about genetic diversity is the more diverse it is as an individual, the better for the species,” she said. “It creates more ability to be resilient to disease like sylvatic plague. It increases the chances for fertility and just a healthier, more resilient organism.”

Going Back In Time

Phelan said she was approached by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Division and asked if biotechnology could help create a more robust population of black-footed ferrets by bringing back lost genetic variations.

“We went back in time 40 years by using frozen cell lines,” Phelan said. “By looking at the genomic sequence of the black-footed ferrets that had been cryo-preserved, we could identify that they had three times more genetic variation than any living ferret today.” 

Phelan said scientists used the eggs of a donated domestic ferret, removed the nucleus from the domestic ferret egg and inserted the genome of the black-footed ferret. 

“Through the cloning process, the embryo develops, using all the genome of the black-footed ferret,” Phelan explained.

The first cloned endangered black-footed ferret named Elizabeth Ann was born in December 2020.

“As we continue to breed and develop this line of ferrets, we’re able to introduce that new genetic variation,” Phelan said.

Nearly 10,000 black-footed ferrets have been born both in captivity and in the wild since the species was re-discovered in 1981. And in part thanks to this groundbreaking research, more generations can follow.

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