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Florida Man Who Illegally Walked On Hot Thermals In Yellowstone Turning Himself In To Authorities

in Yellowstone/News
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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

A Florida man who ignored the warning signs and had himself filmed walking on the hot thermals in Yellowstone National Park on Friday said he is turning himself in to authorities.

Matt Manzari, of Clermont, Florida, told Cowboy State Daily on Sunday morning that he was feeling remorse for his actions and subsequent video he posted on his TikTok account and wanted to “own up” for his mistakes.

“My statement is absolute remorse and apologies for everything,” Manzari said from his home in Florida. “Regardless of the backlash, like if I knew that it could be damaging to the ecosystem and if I knew it could be damaging to the park, I wouldn’t have done it. I was 100% not trying to be disrespectful.”


Manzari, a motivational speaker who is well-known in public-speaking circles for telling his story of overcoming injuries suffered by an accidental electrocution, said he saw the signs on the boardwalk telling people not to leave the path but thought the warnings were more cautionary in nature.

To that end, he said he saw an opportunity to create a social media video where he could make light of his burn injuries, to continue to push the message to other burn victims to “not be ashamed of your body.”

“The point of the video was clearly to point out my scars and to clearly raise burn awareness, to clearly poke fun,” he said. “It’s okay to have a sense of humor about yourself and it’s okay to be open about what you’re going through.”

Taking A Dip

The eightsecond video, which went viral on the popular Facebook page “Yellowstone: Invasion of the Idiots” begins with Manzari, standing on the hot thermals and holding his shirt in his hands, while a narrator says “Taking a dip in Yellowstone’s boiling springs.”

While Manzari walks up to the camera, text on the screen appears and says, “Oh man, they said it was hot, but…”

Manzari then says, “Geewiz, do I have a rash?” At that point, the scars on his torso are evident and laughing is heard as he walks off camera.

Manzari then says, “Geewiz, do I have a rash?” At that point, the scars on his torso are evident and laughing is heard as he walks off camera.

He said the whole thing was supposed to be “lighthearted” and not a blatant display of breaking park rules.

“I stepped off the boardwalk thinking it was more of like, you know you could slip and fall,” he said, not knowing that at least 22 people have died from thermal-related deaths. “Obviously the rocks look wet. You know? I didn’t know what the implications were but I never thought it was damaging to the ecosystem.”


Removed Video

After the backlash he received from followers on his TikTok account and other social media channels, including death threats, Manzari took the video down and apologized to many commenters, he said. 

“I took the video down and I truly do care about conservation,” Manzari wrote. “I had no idea of the impact or implications. I wish many of you would’ve approached me a little nicer. I have no problem owning up to my mistakes and apologize a thousand times over.”

Although most commenters did not appear to be forgiving, one man who worked as a heavy equipment operator for the National Park Service told him to use the experience to do good.

“Understand that there are many of us that lived, worked, and gave our heart and soul to telling and teaching others about this park,” Charlie Stilson wrote.

“Now if you are man enough to take the blame for your actions, turn yourself in to the park rangers and spare as much monetary funds as possible. Make every effort to ensure this isn’t copied by others or others trying to top your exploits. Be the man you claim to be!” Stilson said.

Manzari agreed with Stilson and said he would pay whatever fines were levied and then help to spread awareness of his wrongdoing.

Others, however, were not as forgiving as Stilson, and pointed to a comment Manzari made Saturday on his original TikTok post when a follower told him what he was doing was illegal.

“For sure the general public should never do this without permission!” Manzari replied.

Facebook user Jennifer Pierson said, “There’s a screenshot of you saying ‘for sure the general public should not do this without permission.’ What an arrogant thing to say, as I’m 1000% sure you did not have permission.’”



Owning Up

Manzari’s reaction to the incident is different than many Yellowstone visitors who have violated similar rules in that he immediately took to social media channels and apologized where others either joked about the violation or went on the run.

One man who hit golf balls in Yellowstone National Park made light of the incident before realizing he had committed a federal crime. Same for the three men who attempted to boil a chicken “to make dinner” in the hot thermals.

Then there are the people who weren’t that lucky. Like the man whose body dissolved into the hot springs after falling in, in 2016.

Or the woman who suffered burns on 91 percent of her body after trying to rescue her dog last year.

Now that he realizes the seriousness of the situation, Manzari said he will face this challenge head-on.

“How can I make make a difference now? How do I make amends? How do I do what I can to, you know, own up to my mistakes? And that’s what I’m trying to do,” he said.

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Vandalized And Abandoned Flag Pole On Remote Wyoming Highway Gets New Life Just In Time For July 4

in News/Good news
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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

There’s a spot between Cody and Greybull on U.S. Highway 20 where cell service gets sketchy. It’s the highest point, just east of Cody, called Eagle Pass.

There’s a flag that flies there, that has been there as long as many can remember. Or at least, there was, until vandals knocked the pole over a few months ago.

But that act of disrespect for the American flag has motivated a wave of support that saw thousands of dollars raised to replace the flagpole and ensure that the American flag continues to fly at Eagle Pass for years to come.

It all started because Howard Lewis, a Navy veteran, wanted to honor his mother.

“His mother used to take them to Cody once a month,” explained Bobby Werner, post commander at American Legion Post 32 in Greybull. “And when the weather was permissible they’d stop at Eagle Pass and have a picnic lunch. And when his mother passed, in honor of her, he started putting up a flagpole.”

“The flag was on a plastic pole,” said John Arney, who was friends with Lewis in Greybull. “But the wind kept blowing it down. And so he got a hold of my friend Lee Snyder, who’s in the American Legion in Greybull with me, and he talked him into trying to put a better pole up there. So they asked me, and I told them that if they could get a permit, I would help and I would do the work.”

In February of 2010, the American Legion secured a permit from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to put a permanent flagpole at Eagle Pass. But it wasn’t an easy task, according to Arney.

“So Lee got a piece of pipe, and I went to welding and putting the pulley on it and stuff,” Arney said. “And we got cement and an old wheelbarrow. I’ve got a handheld posthole digger, Lee and I tried to drill a hole in that rocky country out there – beat the heck out of us – but we got a hole dug according to the permit, and we put it up. My grandson come down, and he’s a horse – without him, we wouldn’t have got that pole up.”

Arney said that he and Lee took turns replacing the flags when they wore out, which was quite often due to the stiff winds that batter Eagle Pass regularly. 

But Arney said eventually they both “burned out,” and the duty was handed off to volunteers from Greybull’s American Legion and VFW posts.

“But then somebody wanted to knock the pole down with their truck and it really put a nasty taste in my mouth,” Arney said, “because there’s a lot of people that liked that flag up there.”



Werner said when they were notified of the vandalism in February of this year, he and another member of the American Legion went out to the spot to collect the flag. 

“It appeared that somebody pushed the pole over with the bumper of their vehicle, car, truck, whatever,” Werner said. “And it was bent pretty badly.”

That’s when the community rallied to replace the flag that, it turns out, was important to a lot of locals, who were alerted to the damage by an article in the Greybull Standard.

“On Valentine’s Day, the Elks Lodge had a dinner here in Greybull,” Werner said. “And a lady had a coffee can, and she put that article in there, and she walked around and started collecting money. And she collected about $240 that night. Later on, somebody walked up and handed me an envelope, and it was two $100 bills.”

Werner said after the Standard published its story about the vandalism, donations came pouring in.

“The next thing you know, we established an account at that Bank of Greybull,” Werner said. “And since then, we’ve raised (around) $10,000.”

“We raised some money,” Arney said. “There’s people from clear down in Louisiana that sent us this money, I don’t know who they are.” 

Werner said the money – much more than is necessary to replace the flag and flagpole – will be used to enhance the entryways into the community, as well as keep the Eagle Pass flag flying proudly.

“We’ll be putting new flags over there occasionally,” he said. “And then the other plan is, with the approval of the town of Greybull, we want to erect flag poles at each sign coming into Greybull.” 

“They poured the concrete and it’s ready for the pole now,” said Arney of the Eagle Pass flagpole. “They’re going to put it up Friday, and then hopefully they’re going to do the dedication the Fourth of July.”

“Everybody’s so used to seeing it when they go to Cody,” Werner said, “and hopefully it’ll be visible when you come back from Cody now, because we are putting up a taller pole.”

“Howard had a good idea there, to put it up there on top of Eagle Pass,” Arney said. “And when I go past it, I just stop and go in and salute it, and it’s just America to me. And it’s ‘bout the only thing I can do outside of belonging to the American Legion.

“As an American,” Arney continued, “I’m happy to see it up there.”

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Buying A Car In Wyoming Is “Ridiculously More Expensive Now” After The Pandemic

in News/wyoming economy
21655

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By Coy Knobel, Cowboy State Daily

If you travel Wyoming’s “miles and miles of miles and miles” you need an automobile, but if your current one isn’t quite cutting it, don’t expect the car buying experience to be anything like it was way back in 2020.

Vehicle shortages and supply chain disruptions have completely changed the landscape of the automobile business in the last two years, experts told Cowboy State Daily.

“Everything changed in February or March of 2020,” said Scott Cargill, general manager for White’s Frontier Motors in Gillette and past president of the Wyoming Automobile Dealers Association. 

That’s when COVID-19 shut down auto production for months and Cargill said auto makers still haven’t caught up.

“On my lot as far as new vehicles at the end 2019, I had 110. On my lot now for new vehicles, as of today I have nine,” he said. “For three months we got nothing.  Then when we started back up there were shortages of all kinds of different parts.”

“Ridiculously More Expensive”

Jessica Caldwell, works for Edmunds, a company that exists to advise people on car buying.  She said the challenges facing Wyoming car buyers are many.

“It’s pretty daunting out there for consumers,” Caldwell, executive director of insights for Edmunds, told Cowboy State Daily.  “Everything is ridiculously more expensive.”

She said the global shortage of semiconductor microchips, the components needed to make the electronics work in everything from new vehicles to video game consoles, is only the most common problem. 

It’s a global supply chain issue, she said.

One dealer may not be able to get wheels. Another can get wheels, but not something else. China, a primary provider of automobile components, continues to see disruptions in its ability to provide goods with each new resurgence of COVID-19.

When Will It End?

The car market for consumers is unlikely to improve anytime soon, according to Cargill and Caldwell.  

“When we get vehicles from the factory, our allocations, they have continued to be smaller for the last two years than they were pre-COVID,” Cargill said.

He received word from a car maker the day he spoke with Cowboy State Daily that the car maker was shutting down a truck factory for a week because of the chip shortage.

“The factory has been telling us it’s going to get better as 2022 goes on, but I don’t see that,” Cargill said.  “I haven’t seen any signs that it is getting better.”

“At end of 2021, forecasting felt like there was more optimism, that things were going to get better.  We were on the way to recovery, but now as we start the second half of this year, it doesn’t appear to be that way,” Caldwell said.  “It doesn’t feel like anyone has a good handle on when we recover from the chip shortage. It’s hard to get a grip on.” 

Changing Expectations

Because of the severe shortage in supply, the car market experts said factors like high gas prices and high interest rates for car loans are not yet affecting the market like they once would have.

“If we could ever get stock to go up, then it could affect that,” Cargill said. “It just doesn’t matter now when there are no cars to sell.”

“The last couple months, interest rates have gone up.  The gas price spikes continue,” Caldwell said.  There is probably some softening of consumer demand, people who maybe don’t need one right now.  They may wait until they absolutely need one… but dealers are selling whatever they have.” 

She said in the past when faced with high gas prices, consumers might have opted for more fuel-efficient vehicles.  They may have a preference for a certain type of car.  They might always go to the same dealer. 

These things are changing. Car buyers are purchasing what is available wherever they can get it.

The key to car buying today is changing expectations, Cargill and Caldwell said.

“We are still doing business. People are still buying cars,” Cargill said, but being “patient and flexible are what people need to be.”

In Wyoming if you see a truck or a large SUV on a car lot there is a good chance that it is already sold, he said.

“We are selling vehicles to people all over the country,” Cargill said. 

Supply And Demand

“Be flexible.  The more flexible you are, the more likely you find something to suit your needs,” he said.  “If you are coming on my lot now looking for vehicle, I have nine choices.”

Post-2020, a lot of Cargill’s customers have come in to order vehicles. Being patient and flexible helps in this process too.

“Before when you ordered a vehicle, you would tell me what you want. I would put in the sold order and 6 to 8 weeks later the vehicle would show up,” Cargill said.

Now when a customer gives him an order they have to wait until he “earns” inventory from the factory before the customer’s order gets put on the build list.  

Dealers earn inventory or allocation spots based on a national daily supply average.  If they have less than the daily supply average, they earn spots.  If they are at the average or more they don’t earn spots.

“There’s only so much to earn in the pot.  It’s a national pot,” Cargill said.  “It could take up to six months to get a vehicle.  Once the order gets placed the timeline is quicker, but they could wait to get the order placed.”

Caldwell said Wyoming car buyers are not at a buying disadvantage compared to people in higher population areas or who live near ports.  The supply shortage is everywhere.  There are no hidden pools of vehicles waiting for customers to find.

“There isn’t any excess,” she said.  People are searching for cars nationwide, or at least much further away than they would have pre-COVID.  ‘Ho-hum’ makes and model cars are being snapped up just about as fast as popular or “hot” models.

“Supply is low.  It has been, not just for a few months, but for more than a year and it’s significantly lower,” she continued.  “If you see something you like and in the realm of what you can pay, act fast.”

Caldwell heard stories of salespeople at dealerships selling cars while customers of another salesperson were on the way to pick up that same car.

Used Car Market ‘Insane’

In the past buying a used car was an option for people who could not afford a new car.  These days, the used car market is “something we’ve never seen before,” according to Kort Kinney in Riverton. 

He’s seen a lot.  Kinney worked in the car business for decades, starting as a salesman then business manager and eventually general manager for a dealership in Fremont County.  After a brief stint at retirement he opened his own business where he sells used cars and cars on consignment. 

“Since COVID we have seen the market increase exponentially,” Kinney said of the used car market. “I have been in the business 40 years.  I’ve seen prices inflate, but nothing to this magnitude, not even close.” 

He said with the lack of new cars, dealers are buying up used car inventory and that demand has driven used car prices “through the roof”. 

“Two- to three-year-old vehicles are selling for more than their sticker price was brand new,” he said.

That is what the dealer is paying and he said some “sleazy” dealers mark those prices up much higher than they reasonably should.

“Certain vehicles are going for $20,000 to $30,000 above MSRP (Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price).  It’s total insanity,” Kinney said.  

But he predicts it won’t stay that way.

“When you have lived a long time, I’ve lived for 64 years, you see a lot of things happen and it seems to repeat itself,” Kinney said. “People who are younger say it will never end, but it always does.”

Hold Off

In the meantime, Kinney is advising people who don’t absolutely have to buy a car now not to.

“Eventually things are going to come back to roost,” he said. “The shortage will eventually be over.  Inflation will be over.  When that happens, people who have bought a car paying an inflated price will be upside down.”

Caldwell said used car buyers especially should “look at the full finance picture instead of just the asking price.”  

Used car buyers often finance and are generally charged a higher interest rate than for new cars.

“Look at what you are paying for finance,” she said.  “If a used vehicle costs less, but has a higher annual percentage interest rate over the course of years,” it may not be as good a deal as it appears.

Caldwell encouraged people trading in or selling their cars to research how much their car might be worth before they sell it because of the stark changes in the market in the last couple of years.

“The days of not getting very much for a trade-in are over,” she said.  “If it is a relatively new vehicle, you are getting near what you paid, with some exceptions.”

Kinney hoped for changes soon that would make car buying less daunting than it is right now.

“I feel for the people.  I really do,” Kinney said.

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Montana Planned Parenthood To Stop Selling Abortion Pills To Women From Wyoming

in abortion/News
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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily

Fearing possible civil and criminal repercussions, Planned Parenthood of Montana on Thursday announced it will stop supplying abortion pills to Wyoming women once the state’s abortion ban takes effect.  

Martha Fuller, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Montana, said in a staff email Thursday that the implications of providing abortion services to women from states where abortions are outlawed has forced the organization to halt such services, though it will still schedule surgical abortions regardless of state residency.

“The risks around cross-state provision of services are currently less than clear, with the potential for both civil and criminal action for providing abortions in states with bans,” the email said.

Virtually all Wyoming abortions in the past three years have been induced by medication.  

Wyoming is one of 13 states with a “trigger ban” in place, that is, a law outlawing abortion following any decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the landmark abortion rights case Roe vs. Wade. 

The Supreme Court did overturn the case on June 24, putting authority over abortions into the hands of the states rather than guaranteeing it as a fundamental right.  

The Planned Parenthood email focused in on women from South Dakota, where a trigger ban already has taken effect.  

“Patients from South Dakota (and other states with total bans CURRENTLY in effect – we are highlighting SD because we see a significant number of patients from there) will not be able to received (sic) medication abortion services at PPMT,” the email continued, adding that future patients will be required to show proof of residency.  

“This was a hard decision to make, and I want you to know that it is based on protecting our providers and patients,” it said. 

Fuller opined that the change would impact Indigenous women more than others. 

PPMT on Friday did not take further questions, but sent Cowboy State Daily a prepared statement emphasizing that women still can receive in-clinic abortions in Montana. 

Montana does not have a trigger ban in place. 

All Wyo Abortions Chemical 

Though South Dakota is currently contemplating legislation banning abortion pills, Wyoming’s trigger ban will link up with preexisting legal definitions to ban abortions induced by medication outright.  

The pills in question are Mifepristone, which blocks pregnancy-sustaining hormone progesterone, and Misoprostol, which causes uterine contractions and bleeding. Taken together over several hours, the pills cause a woman to miscarry.  

More than half of the abortions in the United States are induced through medication. But in Wyoming, practically all of them are.   

In 2021, there were 98 abortions in Wyoming; all 98 were chemical abortions. In 2020, 88 out of 91 abortions were chemically induced, and in 2019, the figure was 31 out of 31.  

The procedure is approved for women who are less than 11 weeks pregnant and in consequence, all abortions reported in Wyoming for the past three years, except for one “unknown,” occurred before 11 weeks’ gestation.  

Nation’s Top Prosecutor 

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, who oversees all federal prosecutors in the nation, vowed Friday to maintain abortion access as much as he’s able. 

Garland also said that states “may not” ban abortion pill Mifepristone because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) already has approved the drug.  

However, whether states can ban FDA-approved abortion pills completely is not yet settled law, and is yet another post-Roe question in need of judicial review, the Washington Post reported in May.  

“We don’t know how the court would rule. It’s an open question,” Patti Zettler, associate professor of Ohio State University, told the Post.  

The University of Wyoming law school faculty has not been responding to questions relating to new abortion laws, UW spokesman Chad Baldwin told Cowboy State Daily on Friday.  

“Nobody is willing to talk about it,” said Baldwin. “I’ve looked and just nobody seems either able or willing to opine on issues, including the one you’ve just described.”  

The school’s pharmacy also did not immediately respond to a voicemail requesting comment.  

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Evanston Cops Deny Beating Up, Tasing Man In Lawsuit Response

in News
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Two Evansville police officers have denied beating up, tasing and arresting a man without probable cause during a traffic stop in 2018.

In court documents filed Thursday, Evansville Police Officer Bryce Norcross and Sgt. Luke Nelson both denied the allegations lobbed against them by Brandon Wuebker, an Evansville man who filed a lawsuit against the officers and the town earlier this year for what he claims was an unjust arrest.

According to documents filed in U.S. District Court, Wuebker was being driven home by a friend on the evening of May 20, 2018. A woman was in the passenger seat and Wuebker was in the back.

While Nelson and Norcross confirmed they did arrest Wuebker and his friends that night, they denied being aggressive with the passengers of the vehicle and affirmed their training was adequate to handle the situation.

Neither officer was disciplined for their behavior during the stop, they said in the lawsuit.

According to Wuebker’s original complaint against the officers, Norcross pulled the vehicle Wuebker’s friend was driving over and claimed the driver failed to come to a complete stop at a stop sign.

The driver was given a field sobriety test while Wuebker and the woman passenger stayed in the vehicle.

According to Wuebker’s complaint, at the beginning of the encounter, Wuebker informed the officers that he needed to use the bathroom and asked permission to do so at a nearby gas station.

He began to exit the car in attempt to walk to the restroom, the lawsuit said, but two officers who had arrived after the initial stop “aggressively” ordered him to stay in the car and informed him that he was not free to leave.

Later, Wuebker was ordered out of the vehicle and told he was under arrest, he claimed.

The officers then attempted to force Wuebker out of the two-door vehicle. Without warning, one of them pepper-sprayed Wuebker, then grabbed the man and “violently” dragged him out of the car, the complaint said.

The officers also slammed Wuebker headfirst onto the road pavement, the lawsuit said, which caused a “gaping head wound.” The officer again deployed his Taser into Wuebker, this time into his back.

Photos taken from the officers’ body camera footage showed Wuebker bleeding on the ground. According to the court documents, it was later found that Wuebker suffered a concussion due to the encounter and a wound that required stitches.

Wuebker was later taken to the Natrona County Detention Center and charged with obstructing a peace officer.

In February 2019, the charge against Wuebker was dismissed.

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Voice of Wyoming Cowboys Dave Walsh Retiring After 38 Years; Will Continue To Write Columns

in News/University of Wyoming
21647

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

The voice of the Wyoming Cowboys is stepping down.

After 38 years, Dave Walsh’s familiar voice will no longer be heard on Saturday afternoons describing Wyoming Cowboy football games.

The University of Wyoming announced Walsh’s retirement on Friday morning.

Walsh, a columnist at Cowboy State Daily, said he struggled with the decision but in the end, he knew it was appropriate to “hang ‘em up.”

“It was just time,” Walsh said,  “I don’t know if that makes sense but that’s the only way I can put it. It was just time to move on.”

Walsh was also the voice of Wyoming Cowboys basketball up until 2020.  The last two years, he focused solely on football.

University of Wyoming Athletic Director Tom Burman said on-field announcer Reece Monaco will take Walsh’s place in the booth..

“Seeing Dave step away completely is difficult for someone like me who grew up listening to Dave tell the great stories of Wyoming football and basketball,” Burman said.

Walsh took over for the legendary sportscaster Larry Birleffi in 1985. Birleffi was the “voice of the Wyoming Cowboys” beginning in 1947.

Making the decision to retire was tough, Walsh said, adding he knows he’ll miss the broadcast on fall afternoons.

“There’s nothing like calling a Cowboys game,” he said. “This is the best job in America. I’ve always said that.”

Walsh, who coined the phrase ‘The score, oh, the score!’ after a Wyoming win, said he will miss working with his broadcast crew, including longtime friend and color analyst Kevin McKinney.

As for his favorite moments, Walsh said they were hard to identify, but he did mention the nationally broadcast 2004 Las Vegas Bowl, when the University of Wyoming upset UCLA in the last seconds by a score of 24-21.

What’s next for Walsh?

He said he will continue to write columns for Cowboy State Daily and spend more time “doing whatever he wants.”

“I love writing these weekly columns for Cowboy State Daily and it’s a great venue for me to reminisce and discuss these wonderful 38 years,” he said.  “It turns out, I really like writing.”

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Man, Famous For Surviving Electrocution, Cuts Video Walking On Yellowstone Hot Springs

in Yellowstone/News
21693

UPDATE July 3, 2022: The man who illegally walked on the hot thermals said he is turning himself in to authorities.


By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

Everything is hilarious until your body gets dissolved in 459 degree thermal hot springs in Yellowstone.

That’s what happened to one man six years ago in Yellowstone National Park and that’s why the National Park Service continually warns tourists from coming close to the springs. In fact, it’s illegal to even leave the path.

But those warnings didn’t worry one Florida man whose claim to fame is surviving fourth and fifth degree burns from an accidental electrocution.

Matt Manzari, who is now employed as a public speaker discussing his survival of accidents, posted a TikTok video on Friday (which has now been taken down) showing him walking on the fragile hot springs in Yellowstone and joking about the results.

Manzari, who is severely scarred from the electrocution, walked up to the camera and asked, “Geewiz, do I have a rash?”


Courtesy, Matt Manzari

The video, which also appeared on the popular Facebook page “Yellowstone: Invasion of the Idiots” begins by stating “Taking a dip on Yellowstone Boiling Springs.”

While Manzari is walking up to the camera on the thermals, text on the screen reads: “Oh man they said it was hot, but…”

Manzari was chastised by followers on his account. He responded to one who told him it was illegal to be standing there.

“For sure the general public should never do this without permission!” Manzari replied.



Others told him that people have died doing the same thing and many promised to turn him in to the authorities.

The video also caused some confusion because of Manzari’s scars. The results of the accidental electrocution and more than 70 operations took its toll on Manzari’s upper body with severe scarring and his arms, torso, and neck.

Thus, his punchline “Do I have a rash?”

The joke wasn’t well-received by his followers.

“Dude, you’re completely full of yourself and should stay the hell out of our national parks. The disrespect is just unreal,” wrote one commenter.

Although the videographer and Manzari both laughed at the end of the video, they probably won’t be laughing in the end.

People who have done the same thing have gone to jail, been fined thousands of dollars, and have received multi-year suspensions from the park.

Calls to Manzari, his agent, and Yellowstone National Park have not yet been returned.

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Carbon County Prepares For Onslaught Of 10,000 “Rainbow Family” Members This Weekend

in News/wildlife
21665

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By Ike Fredregill, Cowboy State Daily

Carbon County officials are working with the U.S. Forest Service to prepare Wyoming and Colorado for the arrival of thousands of Rainbow Family of Light members attending the group’s 50th annual gathering.

“We found out two weeks ago they were going to be on the Routt National Forest,” said Aaron Voos, a U.S. Forest Service spokesperson. “We’d known they wanted to be somewhere in Colorado, but due to the loose leadership of the group, we didn’t have a lot of lead time to prepare.”

More than 10,000 Rainbow Family attendees are expected to visit the Adams Park area of the Routt National Forest, about 13 miles south of the Wyoming border, during the Independence Day weekend.  

“We went down to Craig, Colorado, with the Carbon County fire warden and a sheriff’s deputy,” Carbon County Emergency Manager Lenny Layman said. “I wanted to see a general layout of Adams Park and get a feel for where they would be coming through.”

The Rainbow Family is “the largest non-organization of non-members in the world,” according to one of its websites, www.welcomehome.org. The group declares it has no leaders and no organization and it promotes intentional community building, non-violence and alternative lifestyles.

The group has been gathering on National Forest land since 1972, when it hosted its first gathering near Strawberry Lake on the Arapaho National Forest in Colorado, the Forest Service reported. 



Because of the group’s lack of leadership, the Rainbow Family does not apply for a special permit the Forest Service would typically require of a gathering this large. 

“This is an unlawful, unauthorized gathering on public land,” said Hilary Markin, a spokesperson for the Forest Service’s National Rainbow Incident Management Team (NRIMT).

Regardless of the gathering’s legality, Layman said it’s incumbent on Wyoming to be prepared in the case of an emergency.

“If a fire started southwest of the event, the egress routes south might be blocked, making an evacuation only viable north into Wyoming,” he said. “If we don’t think of these things before they happen, then we are caught on our heels.”

Unlawful Gathering

As of Monday, more than 2,000 attendees were already on site in the Adams Park area, the NRIMT reported. 

Much like wildfires and other natural disasters, the Rainbow Family gathering is assigned its own incident management team, said Markin, who’s been with the team since 2019. 

“We have about 60 people in the management team,” she said. “We’re here to engage the public, field questions, deal with health and safety risks and reduce the amount of actions that could impact the land.”

Voos said one of those impacts is caused by the number of vehicles that can accompany 10,000 people. Rainbow Family gatherings are typically hosted in vehicle-accessible areas and while the forest has some parking available, the sheer number of vehicles could damage the resource.

“When you start talking about thousands of people, there’s potential for serious impacts,” Voos explained. 



For the family’s part, Markin said group members will try to negate the impact of their vehicles by carpooling in busses and RVs. 

While working with the NRIMT in 2021, Markin said she saw one gathering attract about 7,000 people who traveled to the area in about 2,000 vehicles. 

“Even with the carpooling, it’s still a significant impact,” Markin said. 

The Forest Service has periodically cited Rainbow Family members for failing to obtain a permit, according to NRIMT documents. However, the agency also works with the family to adhere to a resource protection plan in lieu of a special use permit to protect the health and safety of individuals at the incident and in the surrounding community, to ensure sensitive resources are protected, to minimize any environmental damage and to coordinate post-event cleanup and rehabilitation of the event site, the documents state.

“Members of the group typically start showing up at gathering site a week or two in advance,” Markin said. “Then, after the event, the Rainbow Family will have a group come in and rehab the area, which can take weeks.” 

Ever Ready

Officials from Routt County and Colorado are the gathering’s lead responders should anything go awry, but Layman said Carbon County’s communication center stands ready if the need arises. 

The Carbon County Emergency Operations Center (EOC) could dispatch Carbon County resources, such as medical or law enforcement personnel, if requested, he said.



“What I’m asking for from Colorado partners is that all non-911 resource requests go through our EOC,” Layman said. “That way, rather than someone calling up to every firehouse or police department in Carbon County to locate a needed resource, all the calls come into one place, and we can find them the resources they need.” 

County officials are also working with partner agencies to create an evacuation plan. While the most likely evacuation route would take family members further south into Colorado, Layman said he wants Wyoming to be prepared should it prove the only viable means of escape. 

While the gathering is no longer than a few weeks, Voos said the Forest Service’s primary goal is to ensure it does negatively affect the landscape for years to come. 

“Where there are lots of people, there are lots of feet, wheels and infrastructure,” he said. “So there are impacts to the land, wildlife and natural resources.” 

Go to https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/mbr/landmanagement/?cid=FSEPRD1033996 for daily NRIMT reports about the gathering. 

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Flood Waters Reach Lingle; Gordon Sends In National Guard

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Courtesy, Danielle Kinberg
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Flooding caused by a breached irrigation canal inundated Lingle on Friday, forcing its evacuation as Gov. Mark Gordon called out the Wyoming National Guard to help with the situation.

Water from the breached Pathfinder Canal north and west of Lingle reached the community Friday afternoon, less than 12 hours after the breach occurred Friday morning.

The flooding forced the evacuation of the community and the closure of U.S. Highway 26.

Gordon activated the National Guard to help with work to stem the floodwaters.

“At my request, Secretary of State Buchanan is on the ground to personally survey the scope of the damage and to ascertain what resources are needed to help the citizens of Goshen County,” he said in a news release. “Secretary Buchanan has reported the local folks are working together to sandbag the canal. As I have said many times before, I am proud of our Wyoming people who do what they do best: helping neighbors.”


Courtesy, Torrington, Wyoming Police Department

Staff from the Wyoming Office of Homeland Security, the State Engineer’s Office and county officials immediately traveled to the site to assess the situation after the breach was announced.

Water had been diverted from the canal at the Whalen Diversion Dam to reduce floodwaters inundating Lingle. Gordon’s office said on Friday that floodwater levels would begin receding around 2 p.m. on Friday. However, water was expected to continue flowing for the next 12 hours, as the canal was full prior to diversion. 

Goshen County Fire Warden Bill Law told Cowboy State Daily on Friday that the breach occurred just before 6 a.m.

“It’s probably gonna take another six hours or so to stop the water from reaching [Lingle],” Law said. “We are doing a lot of sandbagging, we’re bringing in dirt and firming up every area that we can.”

Around 600 inmates from the Wyoming Medium Correctional Institution were helping to fill bags of sand to ward off any additional flood damage.

Local law enforcement, fire and emergency crews were working to control traffic and assist community members with the flooding. Law noted that emergency responders from Laramie County have also joined in to help.

“Manpower is what’s needed right now,” Law said.



The fire warden said a small number of people were told to leave their homes due to the flooding. They are now being housed at a Lingle church.

While the flooding incident on Friday was a rare event, Law said it was not the first time this has happened. Around three to four years ago, the same canal breached, but it only caused a handful of people to leave home.

“Not since the Lusk episode a good number of years ago has our county or area had to evacuate,” Law said.

A flash flood in June 2015 left downtown Lusk inundated with water and led to a collapsed bridge and damage to some homes.

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Daily Wyoming Gas Map: Friday July 1, 2022

in Gas Map/News
21674

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By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming’s gas prices increased by 2 cents per gallon on Friday over the previous 24 hours to average $4.86, 3 cents per gallon higher than the national average. 

The website GasBuddy.com, which tracks national gas prices, reported Wyoming’s average gas price is up 4.7 cents from a week ago and is up $1.60 per gallon from one year ago.

Wyoming’s average price for gasoline topped the national average, which fell by 1 cent from Thursday to average $4.83.

High and Low Prices:

The highest gasoline price in Wyoming on Friday was in Jackson at $5.68 per gallon. The lowest price continued to be found at Laramie’s Tumbleweed Express, 4700 Bluebird Lane, at $4.24 per gallon.

Teton County had the highest average price of any county in the state at $5.32. The county with the lowest average was Natrona County at $4.59. These are the highest and lowest reported prices among those stationed surveyed.

*The average price per gallon of regular in each Wyoming county: 

Albany $4.59; Big Horn $4.85; Campbell $4.69; Carbon $4.85; Converse $4.73; Crook $4.99; Fremont $4.99; Goshen $4.76; Hot Springs $4.91; Johnson $4.89; Laramie $4.67; Lincoln $4.85; Natrona $4.64; Niobrara $4.85; Park $5.03; Platte $4.85; Sheridan $4.90; Sublette $4.95; Sweetwater $4.89; Teton $5.32; Uinta $5.18; Washakie $4.85; Weston: $4.74. 

*The lowest price per gallon, reported in major Wyoming cities:

Basin $4.77; Buffalo $4.84; Casper $4.56; Cheyenne $4.63; Cody $4.99; Douglas $4.69; Evanston $4.81; Gillette $4.52; Jackson $5.12; Kemmerer $4.92; Laramie $4.24; Lusk $4.89; Newcastle $4.54; Pinedale $4.94; Rawlins $4.72; Riverton $4.76; Rock Springs $4.74; Sheridan $4.79; Sundance $4.89; Thermopolis $4.81; Wheatland $4.87; Worland $4.84.  

Tim’s Observations:

I have seen this convergence coming for weeks, and yesterday I asked, which will come out on top — the Wyoming average price per gallon or the national average? 

Today, Wyoming finally went ahead of the national average by 3 cents per gallon. I don’t like this side of the scale and let’s all hope that it starts going into the other direction soon! 

If you are traveling for the Independence Day weekend, be safe and may the wind be at your back or may you drive mostly down hill.  

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: 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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‘Suspicious’ Package Sent To Liz Cheney Staffer In Riverton Deemed Safe

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

A suspicious package sent to U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney’s staff in Riverton prompted business evacuations and a “bomb-dog” deployment Thursday afternoon, but the package ultimately was deemed safe.  

The Riverton Police Department was notified at 3:52 Thursday afternoon that a Cheney representative had received a package from Montana with “some strange writing on it,” RPD spokesman Officer Wes Barry told Cowboy State Daily.  

“Based on that package coming from out-of-state, we contacted some of our resources, and those resources said ‘Proceed with caution,’” Barry said.  

The package was brought to the parking lot in front of RPD, which abuts a row of downtown businesses. Police cordoned off the area and evacuated the nearest businesses, said Barry.  

“Then (we) called in the bomb dog from Lander, just in case there was an explosive device,” he added.  

The dog did not alert on the package, which, when opened, contained at least one book.  

There was an enormous personnel response to the incident, said Barry, adding that agents from RPD, the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation, the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office and the Highway Patrol were in the parking lot, along with volunteers from the Riverton Volunteer Fire Department.  

Barry wasn’t sure where the package was Friday morning, but said the protocol would be for its original “receiver” to have it back since it was found to be safe. He declined to say who had sent the package. 

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DCI: Sextortion, Revenge Porn Among Wyo Teenagers Big Problem, Teenage Boys Target

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By Jennifer Kocher, Cowboy State Daily

Sexting, sextortion and revenge porn among Wyoming teenagers is on the rise, experts say, with teenage boys rapidly becoming a growing target.

Cybertips involving reports of sexual internet crimes against children are also on the rise, prompting law enforcement agencies to offer parents, at no charge, an app to help them monitor their children’s online activity

In recent months, law enforcement officers have seen an increase in sextortion cases, particular among juvenile boys between the ages of 11 and 13, according to Chris McDonald, special agent and team leader for the Internet Crimes Against Children division at the Wyoming Department of Criminal Investigation.

Sextortion involves tricking someone into sharing explicit photos or videos online with someone else often posing as a peer. Once the perpetrator has those files in hand, they can be used to extort money or demand additional images or videos from the victim while threatening to share the images with their classmates or parents on social media if the teen doesn’t pay up.

Teens are fooled into it, McDonald said, because they believe they’re talking to a peer whom might also share explicit photos of themselves. But in many cases, any photos sent are actually sent by an adult or nefarious actor masquerading as a teen.

Boys are not immune from these crimes.

“It’s a misnomer that girls are exploited more than boys,” McDonald said. “The boys are being exploited just as often.”

Cybercrimes against children, in general, are up throughout the state, with Wyoming on track to have yet another record year, McDonald said.

In one month, ICAC received more than 100 tips alleging sex crimes against children that came from social media platforms, apps and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC).

“It scared the bejesus out of me,” McDonald said, saying this year’s report total could exceed last year’s.

Currently, the division is on target to receive about 750 tips over last year’s 615, McDonald said. In 2021, ICAC made 33 arrests based on the tips it received.

Tips, too, have skyrocketed in recent years. In 2019, the department received 262 versus 531 in 2020.

Although the number of tips received by the division continues to grow, the ICAC team doesn’t, forcing the small division of six to work harder to keep up with increased demand. 

In June, ICAC was awarded the Wyoming Joint Symposium on Children and Youth Compassion in Action: Boots on the Ground Award, which is given to a group that serves child victims.

McDonald said he was proud of his team for its Herculean efforts in keeping up with tips and new cases.

Escalating Problem

The most popular platforms used for exploitation that law enforcement agencies are seeing in Wyoming are Snapchat, Instagram and TikTok, although there are others.

The biggest trigger to watch for when it comes to determining whether a teen is being exploited is the level of attention the potential suspect invests in the initial communications, McDonald said.

“If someone is showing a whole lot of interest early on in the conversation, we would call that a red flag,” he said.

The biggest piece of advice he has for parents is to monitor their children’s online access and use. 

To help parents and guardians, DCI is offering the Offender Watch App free for download for anyone in Wyoming. 

The app allows parents to receive notifications if a child is communicating with a registered sex offender through texts, emails or phone calls. 

It also notifies parents if the teen or child is in the vicinity of a registered sex offender as well as other useful tools and sample questions a parent can ask the teen to help monitor their online activity.

“I’m in awe of the power young people have in using the internet,” McDonald said, who is also a father. “But they’re just little kids in their minds and don’t yet understand the nuances of what they’re being asked to do.”

Uprising Wyoming, a nonprofit organization focused on human trafficking prevention, outreach and education, conducts regular training sessions with youth. 

Executive Director Terri Markham said her organization’s data also suggests an uptick in explicit content sharing among young people in Wyoming.

“One thing we are seeing a lot of, and having increased conversations about with teens lately, is sexting, sextortion, revenge porn and pornography,” Markham said.

Her agency has collected anonymous data from Wyoming youth ages 12 and older that show these teens are taking part in these activities.

“When we bring it up at that age level, they are already dealing with it,” she said, prompting the nonprofit to create programming for younger students in an attempt to get ahead of the problem.

For more information about this issue and opportunities for education and training, contact Markham at Uprising Wyoming. Additional resources include Thorn.org and Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

DCI is offering the Offender Watch App free for download for anyone in Wyoming. 

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Cheney, Hageman Debate Doesn’t Turn Into Jerry Springer Show But It Got Lively

in News/politics
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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney defended her actions against former President Donald Trump on Thursday in the first debate between all five Republican contenders for Wyoming’s lone House seat.

Cheney, in her closing comments during the debate sponsored by WyomingPBS, said the Constitution required her to take a stance against Trump after the 2020 presidential election.

“We need to recognize that if we are not faithful to the Constitution, if we embrace lies, and we embrace the lies of Donald Trump, if we tell the people of Wyoming something that is not true, we will find ourselves without the structure and the basis and the framework of our Constitutional Republic,” she said in her closing remarks.

Thursday’s debate in Sheridan gave Wyoming viewers their first chance to see Cheney and fellow House candidates Harriet Hageman, Robyn Belinskey, state Sen. Anthony Bouchard and Denton Knapp in a debate.

Moments of testy back-and-forth exchange took place between Cheney, seeking her fourth House term, and Hageman, who has Trump’s endorsement for the seat, but for the most part, the candidates stuck to their own policy views.

The topic of former President Donald Trump came up on several occasions. Although Cheney stuck to her mostly conservative views, her opposition to Trump did not waver.

The first two questions asked during the debate pertained to the Republican Party’s relationship with Trump since the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol.

“I think this is an example of how the press and certain people have obsessed over Jan. 6, because we’ve only had two questions in this debate and they’ve both been focused on that,” Hageman said. “The only time that the J-6 situation ever comes up is when people talk about how unfair this entire (House committee investigating the riot) is.”

Hageman has issued a statement in response to almost every session held by the committee.

Cheney implored Hageman to state whether or not the 2020 election was stolen as claimed by Trump.

“I think that she can’t say that it wasn’t stolen because she’s completely beholden to Donald Trump,” Cheney said, drawing a smile from Hageman before she looked down to write a note. “And if she says it wasn’t stolen, he will not support her.”

Hageman said there are questions that need to be asked about election integrity on a national level, but was more vague about whether she believes there was election fraud in Wyoming in 2020. 

She endorsed “2000 Mules,” a film that inaccurately claims that 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 said people should get more involved in elections as judges and poll watchers so they better understand the mechanisms of an election.

Speakers also discussed the lack of civility in Washington politics.

“One thing that’s missing now is the art of negotiation,” Knapp said.

Hageman said she doesn’t see Democrats in Washington making efforts to work in a bipartisan manner. She continued this thought, saying there are too many congressional leaders, on both sides of the aisle, who are solely concerned with getting reelected. 

“The way I look at this is that the last 30 years have been terribly disruptive to the United States, because Congress, our current congressional representatives have abdicated their responsibility of actually legislating and they turn it over to unelected bureaucrats and agencies,” she said. “If I’m elected as our representative for Wyoming, we’re going to have to work to roll back 30 years of really bad policies.”

Belinskey said she would support term limits to address this problem.

Cheney said the way to solve these issues is to treat voters with respect.

“At the end of the day we’re all Americans,” she said.

One of the few items all of the candidates could agree on is their opposition to President Joe Biden. 

Hageman blamed the bipartisan 2021 Infrastructure Bill, legislation providing funding for items such as road work and internet improvements that Biden had significant input on, for causing the record inflation.

“This is the example of what I talked about when I talked about uniparty and the destruction of Washington D.C. does,” Hageman said. “They made some new construction mill and then they put all kinds of goodies in there that have to do with the Green New Deal.”

She said there is “a special place in hell” for people who adopt policies intended to increase the costs of energy, housing and food.

Knapp said he supports carbon capture, mining rare earth minerals and hydrogen production. Hageman wants to see more energy development and criticized Biden’s policies on the matter. 

Bouchard said he sees Biden’s policies as a “planned attack on America.”

“The people that Joe Biden has surrounded himself with know absolutely nothing about No. 1, monetary policy, they know nothing about economics, and they know nothing about how our country really works,” Hageman said, to which Knapp later offered a similar sentiment. 

Hageman brought up a statistic she also mentioned during a May 31 rally she held with Trump in Casper that the country had a 4% surplus in terms of national oil production when Trump left office in January 2020. Now, the country has a roughly 4% deficit. 

Cheney agreed.

“We can continue to be the arsenal of energy for the world,” she said, but added it will require significant policy changes to do so.

Bouchard referred to his experience with the Wyoming Senate to respond to several questions, while Knapp mentioned his three decades of service with the U.S. Army.

Knapp said he supports states’ rights and is concerned about inflation affecting Wyoming ranchers and residents.

Bouchard and Knapp said they both oppose foreign intervention and oppose involvement with the war in Ukraine. Hageman and Belinskey both said the war was allowed to occur because of weak American leadership.

“Putin would not have invaded Ukraine if President Trump was still in office,” Hageman said.

Cheney continued her support for Ukraine in the war, calling the conflict battle for freedom. She also said Biden was right to reject the importat of Russian oil after the war started, but added he erred by not increasing domestic production in response. 

“We need to unleash our energy industry so it is able to produce,” she said.

Hageman said she has traveled more than 30,000 miles during her campaign, while adding Cheney has rarely been seen in the state since announcing her opposition to Trump. 

At a recent debate held in Sheridan that Cheney did not attend, a letter from the congresswoman was read to the audience, drawing a large amount of booing, Sheridan resident Maggie Wisniewski said. 

“If we’re so scary, why does she want to keep running here?” fellow resident Harry Pollack questioned.

Hageman mentioned her experience as a land and water attorney in her closing statement and stressed that she can bring accountable representation for the Wyoming people.

“I’m the only real proven success up here on this stage,” she said. “I have been fighting the issues for Wyoming for over 25 years.”

All the candidates said they support parental rights and school choice.

“It’s important for parents to be the leading authority with respect to the education of their own children,” Cheney said. She also said the teaching of American history needs to be improved. “If you look at what’s happened over the course of the last year and look at what’s happened over the course of the last 18 months, we’ve got a real deficit when it comes to an understanding and recognition of what the Constitution means and what our duties are as American citizens in the Constitution.”

Hageman said she also supports “hardening” schools, getting rid of gun-free zones and added she finds the U.S. Department of Education unnecessary. 

She said “when” she is elected, she plans to talk with former Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos about her plans for homeschooling and school choice.

“I want to sit down with her and talk to her about what that plan was,” she said.

Knapp said COVID-19 was introduced to kill people and Belinskey and Hageman both criticized the severity of the virus and the government’s response. Cheney said the virus was unleashed on purpose by the Chinese Communist Party. 

Cryptocurrency was by far the topic the candidates knew the least about. 

“I would like the government to stay out of it,” Bouchard said. “Our dollar is not even backed by gold anymore. We need to have more conversations about that.”

Bouchard said the government is also not adequately fighting Medicaid fraud. Knapp and Hageman both criticized Obamacare, while Bouchard criticized Cheney multiple times during the debate for failing to act on an opportunity to repeal Obamacare. 

Cheney told Cowboy State Daily after the debate she did not know what he was talking about, and Bouchard was not able to immediately provide an explanation for this statement.

Belinskey stood between Hageman and Cheney on the Whitney Center for the Arts stage at Sheridan College during a debate that featured many smirks between the former allies, but no shouting or direct attacks. Hageman kept a smile on her face as moderator Craig Blumenshine introduced the debate, while Cheney kept a more dour demeanor. The two briefly shook hands after the debate completed

After the debate, Hageman told Cowboy State Daily she thought the debate went well but was unsure if it changed any voters’ minds. She declined to answer any more questions, while Cheney took a handful from the media gaggle.

About 25 people were in the audience, consisting of media and friends and staff of each of the candidates. Around 20 people, canvassing with pro-Hageman signs, protested outside the building. 

“We have a right to see our candidates and see who we want to vote for, hear them talk,” Pollack said. “Not through a Zoom or electronic fashion. We should be able to do it in person.”

Few seemed to be aware they could watch the event on TV or online once it started. The event was played live on CSPAN and PBS, while CNN and Fox News taped the event for later use.

Terry Dugas, Wyoming PBS general manager, said it was the first time he could remember so much national media interest in the debate. 

Dugas claimed responsibility for the decision to close the event to the public, a step he said was taken because of security concerns.

The theater was locked from the outside, with a number of law enforcement officers surveilling the perimeter.

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‘We Matter, We Vote:’ Hundreds Turn Out For Roe Rally In Cheyenne On Thursday

in abortion/News
21643

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A crowd of several hundred gathered in front of the Wyoming’s Capitol on Thursday to protest the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling to overturn the landmark abortion ruling “Roe vs. Wade.”

The crowd began to gather more than one-half hour before the start of the “Rally for Our Reproductive Rights,” with attendees holding signs to protest the ruling, chanting and cheering any cars that drove by and honked in support.

“We matter, we vote,” was one of the chants. Some of the signs included the longstanding “My body, my choice” phrase, while others called on the U.S. Supreme Court to keep its “hands” off of their genitals or accusing U.S. Supreme Court Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Clarence Thomas of being sexual abusers.

Cheyenne resident Rikki Cruz brought her two daughters, Ember and Savvy, along with her husband to the rally on Thursday because she said the overturning of Roe would affect the young girls down the road.

Rikki (left), Savvy (center) and Ember Cruz attended the “Rally For Our Reproductive Rights” in Cheyenne on Thursday.

“Ember, my nine-year-old, has already said she doesn’t want to have kids. She’s like, ‘They’re not interesting,'” Cruz told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday, as her daughter agreed with her mother in the background. “She wanted to be included and she wants to fight for her right when she comes of age.”

Ember Cruz told Cowboy State Daily she was mad about the decision, holding up a sign that said “I’m not in your little book club, stay out of my uterus,” with a hand-drawn picture of a Bible and fire surrounding it.

During the rally, speakers such as Wyoming Equality executive director Sara Burlingame and Wyoming Senate candidates Marcie Kindred and Ted Hanlon spoke. Time was also given to women to share their stories about why abortion rights were so important and need to be protected.

“I have daughters, I have daughters-in-law, I have granddaughters and I’m worried about them,” Hanlon said. “I have wonderful women friends and I’m worried about them. I have precious friends and family in the LGBTQ community and I’m worried about them.

“This is not the time for nuance and ambiguity. It’s a time to be crystal clear. A woman has an absolute right to make her own decisions about her own body,” Hanlon continued.

A majority of the Supreme Court last week ruled that access to abortions is not a constitutionally guaranteed right and that the issue should be decided by the states. In the wake of the decision, Wyoming’s “trigger ban” law will ban most abortions in the state in less than one month.

Cheyenne residents were not the only ones to turn out for the rally, nor were the participants only women.

Cowboy State Daily columnist Rod Miller could be seen in the crowd, along with Rep. Karlee Provenza, D-Laramie, and a number of colorful participants, including a woman dressed as a handmaid from the television show “The Handmaid’s Tale” and a man who donned short shorts and spiked heels who held a sign that said “Walk in her shoes.”

Megan Cragun was among a group of women who drove from Rawlins to attend the rally. All four of the women told Cowboy State Daily that this was the first time any of them had gone to such a protest.

“If they have the right to make the choices, we deserve to have the same rights,” Cragun said. “Wyoming is the Equality State. I think that should stand as a point for the rest of the United States.”

Her friend, Kimberly Morse, who held a sign featuring a coat hanger (imagery often linked to unsafe and sometimes deadly abortions) told Cowboy State Daily she remembers the days when women used to use hangers and that the nation should not go back to that.

“It’s not right,” she said.

Another woman in the group said people should be “pissed” about the ruling and added if they are not, then they are not paying attention to the world around them.

Rock Springs resident Mya Boren told Cowboy State Daily that she also had never protested before Thursday, but felt she needed to attend because the abortion ruling is part of a larger issue.

“Unfortunately, people don’t see that right now, even the ones who are celebrating this ruling,” she said. “This impacts them, too. This is about our right to our body.”

She said that despite Wyoming being the Equality State, women are not equal in the state or nation and never have been.

“It’s beyond morality. It’s about rights. This is about freedom,” Boren said.

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And Another Person Gets Gored By Bison In Yellowstone; Second Person In A Week

in Yellowstone/News/wildlife
Photo credit: Allen Tooley
21597

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Just days after a Colorado man was gored by a bison in Yellowstone National Park, a woman from Pennsylvania was injured in a similar situation, park officials said.

A 71-year-old woman from West Chester, Pennsylvania, was gored by a bull bison near Storm Point at Yellowstone Lake on Wednesday, officials announced on Thursday.

According to reports, the bison charged the woman and her daughter as they inadvertently approached it while returning to their vehicle at the trailhead. The woman suffered non-life threatening injuries in the encounter and was taken by ambulance to West Park Hospital in Cody.

This is the third reported bison goring of the 2022 season and the second to take place this week.

A 34-year-old man from Colorado Springs, Colorado was gored by a bison on Monday near Old Faithful and according to one eyewitness who filmed the incident, the tourist brought it on himself.

“The dad and the kid were just walking up to the bison when the bison took off,” Rob Goodell told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday. 

An Ohio woman was gored by a bison and thrown 10 feet in the air at the park in late May.

As the bison walked near a boardwalk at Black Sand Basin, just north of Old Faithful, the woman approached the animal. The bison gored her and tossed her 10 feet into the air.

The woman sustained a puncture wound and other injuries that were not immediately specified.

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OOPS! Google Maps Is Wrongly Telling People I-80 Is Closed; Reroutes People To Colorado

in News/Transportation
21601

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

It’s a fan favorite scene from “The Office,” where the star of the TV show relies a little too much on GPS and ends up in a lake.

The same thing is happening here in Wyoming, but without the lake. Faulty GPS directions are directing travelers in southern Wyoming to Colorado.

The Wyoming Department of Transportation is warning that Google Maps is wrongly telling people that Interstate 80 near Rock Springs is closed and then rerouting the travelers to Colorado, which would add add many hours on to their drive time.

WYDOT spokesman Doug McGee attributed the faulty information to a construction project on I80.

“There’s a large and lengthy highway construction project in that area, as much as 25 miles or so,” McGee told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday. “I think Google’s Artificial Intelligence looks at the motion on people’s cell phones and because of this, it reads as the road is closed, which it is not.”

McGee and fellow WYDOT spokeswoman Jordan Achs both recommended that anyone traveling across Wyoming check WyoRoad.Info, WYDOT’s website that has the most up-to-date road conditions across Wyoming.

In the meantime, WYDOT is trying to get its message out on social media channels.

“There are no closures at this time, but there is construction in the area, including head-to-head lanes and reduced speed limits. We are working with Google to try to resolve the issue,” the department posted on Facebook on Wednesday.

Making It Clear

McGee emphasized that drivers do not need to reroute into Colorado in order to get to Salt Lake City, adding unnecessary miles and fuel stops to the trip. Wyoming’s interstates, all of them, are still open.

Achs said no one has yet called to complain about being rerouted through Colorado, but the department has received several calls from people asking whether Interstate 80 is closed, which, again, it is not.

Too Bad

Disappointingly, neither McGee nor Achs have received reports of anyone driving into a lake or on a sidewalk because their GPS told them that was the correct route.

While Google Maps and other GPS services usually are reliable, there have been some entertaining instances of drivers relying on computers more than their own eyes.

Like the man who drove on a stairwell in New York City after his GPS took him on a wrong turn.

Or the Japanese tourists in Australia whose GPS told them they could drive to an island in the Pacific Ocean through nine miles of water.

Or even the women visiting Washington who made a U-turn into a lake.

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Wyoming July 4 Celebrations: Why Lander’s Fireworks Show Is Spectacular

in News/Good news
Lander fireworks. Photo courtesy, Scott Copeland
21608

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By Bill Sniffin, Cowboy State Daily

LANDER — Grown-up kids love it. Dogs are terrified by it. Hundreds of people leave town because they hate it. Thousands of people come to town because they love it.

We are talking about the 14-hour pyrotechnic extravaganza known as the Fourth of July in Lander, Wyoming.

There really is nothing like it. Anywhere. And its level of explosiveness just keeps growing. Amazingly high-powered fireworks are set off by neighborhoods all over this town of 7,500 people. Once the sun goes down, it really turns into an experience, akin to the Bombing of Baghdad back in 2003.

Mick Pryor owns a tall building in downtown Lander that was built in 1892. He likes to sit on the balcony and enjoy the visual stimulus all around him of explosions and flashes. 

“If you’ve never stood on the roof of a building on Lander’s Main Street at dusk on the Fourth of July — to have the 360-degree effect of fireworks all around and a brilliant sunset, you are missing out!” he says.

“We always wanted people to be safe and to be responsible,” said former Mayor Mick Wolfe. “But people deserve to enjoy fireworks on the Fourth. It has always been a tradition here, where Independence Day is our biggest holiday of the year.” 


Lander fireworks. Photo courtesy, Scott Copeland

Leaves Town

Kathleen Averill always leaves town on the Fourth and just hates all the noise. 

“I know that some of the people in Lander who live on the taxpayers’ dime spend more on fireworks than they do on food for their family,” Averill said.

“We have to leave on the Fourth. We have not enjoyed a Fourth of July in Lander since 2012, when the City was forced to shut them down due to drought,” she continued.

“A lot of people that I know said that was the last best Fourth Lander ever had. I also know a lot of veterans that take their pets and head to the hills, leaving their spouses behind to watch their property for damage. How wrong is that?”

Averill said veterans cannot enjoy a holiday in their own homes or have their family over and that’s not right.

Loves The Parade

Andy Gramlich, retired administrator of the Lander Valley Hospital — now known as SageWest Health Care, in contrast, loves the Fourth of July in Lander, particularly its parade.

“I will definitely stay in Lander for the Fourth,” he said. “I’ve had the opportunity to attend the Rose Bowl Parade, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, the Doo Dah Parade (he suggests a person Google that one), the Kudzu Parade and the Gasparilla Parade but this one is distinctly different. Others may be more professionally done but here it’s personal. One hundred entries in a town of 7,500.”

“People spend a lot on fireworks,” he continued. “Families on a budget often spend hundreds of dollars on every kind of firework you could imagine. The town looks and smells like a war zone but people are, for the most part, safety conscious.”

“Oh, here you can get close to the action whereas many of the other parades and functions require reservations and/or remote parking,” he said.

Best In The State

John Brown, a relative newcomer to Lander, said he believes Lander’s fireworks show might be the best in the state.

“From my knowledge of other Fourth of July celebrations around the state, my impression was the fireworks show that was in Sheridan could have been the only one that rivaled Lander’s,” he said. “Now that it’s moved to Devils Tower, I’m not so sure it will even approach Lander’s as it will no longer be supplemented by folks in a town of 15,000 people.”

“I’d be willing to bet the amount spent on fireworks by the people in and around Lander dwarfs the amount spent by the city on its fireworks,” he continued. “The overtime the city pays the police and fire departments to direct traffic and be ready for an emergency is probably quite substantial, though. This will be my 11th Fourth of July in Wyoming. Of those 11, I’ve spent 10 of them in Lander. I will stay in Lander for this one.”

Oldest Paid Rodeo

The Independence Day holiday has always been a big deal for Lander since it is the home of the oldest paid rodeo on earth.

But in recent years, this holiday has become a fireworks maniac’s dream.

In this town of 7,500 people (about 12,000 if you count rural subdivisions), you can find at least 40 different locations where neighbors have banded together to light big displays of fireworks.

And this is in addition to the fire department’s official fireworks show on the night of July Fourth.

The folks in the Indian Lookout neighborhood pool their resources and explode perhaps the most serious “amateur” show in town. People are stationed with hoses to extinguish fires that may erupt in the neighboring nature preserve.

It is almost impossible to adequately describe what Lander on the night of July 4 looks like. The sight is incredible. Lander sits in a valley and a lot of folks live in the hills around town. They tell amazing stories of what it looks like, peering down at the siege.

Drone


Lander fireworks. Photo courtesy, Scott Copeland

In recent years, some amazing color time-exposure photos have been made of the explosions. Last year, one enterprising photographer sent a drone up into the middle of the flak to get some of the most amazing images ever.

The July Fourth events are part of Lander’s annual Pioneer Days celebration which begins Saturday and features a big pancake breakfast, lots of distance foot races called the Challenge for Charities, two days of rodeos, a wonderful parade on the morning of the Fourth (watched by 12,000 people), a huge Rotary buffalo barbecue at Lander City Park at noon on that day plus lots of other activities. 

A new addition this year on July 2 will be a fly-in at the local airport featuring pilots from all over the region.

Because the July Fourth holiday is such a big deal, just about all the high school reunions are held during that time, too. It is truly a homecoming for folks to remember.

So, on July Fourth, you will see smaller groups of unhappy residents heading out of town. Along the way, they will be greeted by thousands of happy folks headed to Lander for the craziest and most explosive experience they will ever have.

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Wyoming Energy Industry Applauds Supreme Court Ruling That Diminishes EPA Authority

in Environment/News
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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

A U.S. Supreme Court decision reducing the ability of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to restrict emissions from Wyoming power plants was welcomed Thursday by members of the state’s energy industry.

The 6-3 Supreme Court decision found that the EPA does not have authority to force power producers to switch to power sources other than fossil fuels as a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“We are pleased with the Supreme Court’s decision today simply because it is reining in unelected bureaucrats’ decision-making power that had been abdicated by Congress,” said Ryan McConnaughey, vice president and director of communications for the Petroleum Association of Wyoming. “We believe this reins in regulations made by those who don’t answer to the people.”

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., in the majority opinion, said Congress never intended to give such authority to the EPA.

“Capping carbon dioxide emissions at a level that will force a nationwide transition away from the use of coal to generate electricity may be a sensible ‘solution to the crises of the day,’” he wrote. “(But)  a decision of such magnitude and consequence rests with Congress itself, or an agency acting pursuant to a clear delegation from that representative body.”

The ruling stems from a lawsuit filed by West Virginia and other states challenging EPA rules the agency said gave it the authority to determine the “best system of emission reduction” for pollution reduction. According to the ruling, the EPA based emissions caps for producers on the concept of changing the fuel used by power providers  from coal to natural gas and renewable sources such as wind and solar power.

The court decided it is the role of Congress to address specific regulations when it grants federal agencies the right to address major political and economic issues.

But Bryan Shuman, director of the University of Wyoming-National Park Service Research Center in Grand Teton National Park, said passing such decisions off to Congress is a mistake.

Congress has been largely deadlocked in recent years, Shuman said, so the decision will keep the country at a standstill in its efforts to combat climate change.

“It’s unfortunate to have what seemed to be a straightforward tool in the Clean Air Act, to have that ability restricted,” he said.

The court’s three liberal justices argued the decision strips the EPA of its power to effectively respond to the issue.

“Whatever else this court may know about, it does not have a clue about how to address climate change,” wrote Justice Elena Kagan. “The stakes here are high. Yet the court today prevents congressionally authorized agency action to curb power plants’ carbon dioxide emissions.

CO2 emissions have been on the decline in America since 2007. In 2019, Wyoming ranked 33rd in the nation for total emissions output, a 7.4% decline from the previous year, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. 

McConnaughey said Wyoming producers have been able to increase their production while decreasing overall emissions thanks to technological upgrades.

Wyoming is still the nation’s largest polluter per capita when it comes to carbon emissions and the largest energy producer per capita. Coal burned by the electricity producers is Wyoming’s largest source of pollution, responsible for 61% of the state’s overall emissions. 

Wyoming is also the nation’s largest coal producer, responsible for 39% of the nation’s total supply.

The Supreme Court’s decision preemptively strikes down regulation that does not yet exist. Former President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2016 and then former President Donald Trump’s plan to relax restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions was struck down by a federal appeals court on the last day of his administration. 

The EPA has not issued any new regulations and the Clean Power Plan has never been reinstated, which would have forced utilities to move away from coal and toward renewable energy to reduce emissions. 

The decision was praised by U.S. Sens. John Barrasso and Cynthia Lummis.

“The Supreme Court’s decision today rightfully reins in unreasonable and unlawful attempts to shut down American power plants and energy production,” Barrasso said. “For years, Democrats have used overreaching Environmental Protection Agency regulations to side-step Congress and the American people to enact their extreme climate agenda.”

“Domestic energy production has been under constant attack by both the (President Joe) Biden and (former President Barak) Obama Administrations, and I’m glad the Supreme Court ruled the Clean Air Act does not give the EPA the power to decide unilaterally what fuels power plants can and cannot use,” Lummis said in her own release. “The EPA under those administrations completely overstepped its authority by circumventing Congress to target oil, natural gas, and coal producers.” 

Also supporting the decision was Gov. Mark Gordon, who had directed the state to join West Virginia in the lawsuit.

“Today’s decision recognizes that innovation, not regulation, is a key to a prosperous future and a healthier environment,” he said. “The legal authority to regulate emissions properly lies with Congress and the states, not an overzealous federal bureaucracy insulated from practical accountability.

However, Shuman, who co-authored a climate study attributing critical changes to Wyoming watersheds to declining snowpack and warming temperatures, said the Supreme Court decision moves the country in the wrong direction.

The summer of 2021 was a record-breaking year for wildfires, with several different fires occurring in Wyoming. Shuman said he personally knew people who had their homes burned down.

“My house is literally on fire and the Supreme Court is telling us we can’t reach for the tools at hand to deal with it,” Shuman said.

The EPA will still regulate the energy industry and be able to implement emission controls at individual power plants. 

Shuman said there needs to be more incentive programs initiated on a national and state level to help curb overall carbon emissions.

“We need to release the free market in their ability to respond,” he said. “We shouldn’t be wanting to over prescribe for the solution. We need to provide the market solutions for solving these problems.”

McConnaughey said his industry would be interested in working with state and federal agencies to develop a framework that could provide incentives to companies that decrease their emissions.

In a Thursday afternoon press release, McConnaughey also said the Supreme Court decision directly pertains to the Bureau of Land Management’s second quarter lease sale.

He said Wyoming producers leased 67,628 acres for $12.9 million at this sale – an amount exceeding the federal taxes paid by 840 Amerians.

The average price per acre was $229.95 and the highest priced lease sold at $6,018 per acre – generating more revenue than the entire 2020 second quarter lease sale. 

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Wyoming Uranium Producers Optimistic About Restarting Production

in Energy/News
21625

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By Ike Fredregill, Cowboy State Daily

Production at Wyoming’s uranium mines all but ground to a halt in recent years as prices bottomed out, but business is looking up as global stockpiles wither and America reconsiders purchasing strategic minerals from its enemies. 

The resulting boost in prices has Wyoming producers looking at the possibility of restarting production.

“With the Russian invasion of Ukraine, it all came to light how dependent we are on Russian control of the fuel cycle,” said Travis Deti, Wyoming Mining Association executive director. “Any uranium we mine here in the States has to go to Russia for conversion and enrichment.” 

With 92 of the world’s estimated 435 nuclear reactors located in the U.S., America is the world’s largest supplier of nuclear power — a process fueled by yellowcake uranium. 

When used to fuel a reactor, about 1 pound of uranium can produce the same amount of energy as 20,000 pounds of coal, the WMA reported.

Following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan, however, global uranium stockpiles became inflated, driving down the price of a pound of yellowcake to a low of about $17.

“We have the capability to produce, but that’s dependent on the price per pound,” Deti said. “For the last couple of years, the price has been so depressed, it’s not been economical to mine the resource in Wyoming.” 

‘Decade Of Underproduction’

Scott Melbey, president of Uranium Producers of America, said global uranium stockpiles are dwindling, causing yellowcake prices to rise. 

Melbey also serves as the executive vice president of Uranium Energy Corporation, which owns assets in Wyoming’s Powder Basin and Texas. 

“The price of uranium has jumped to $50-$60 a pound recently,” Melbey said. “We’re comfortable enough with the current market that we’ll be restarting operations in Wyoming and Texas.”

In northeast Wyoming, Peninsula Energy Limited CEO Wayne Heili is eyeing the markets as he and his team consider restarting Strata Energy Incorporated’s uranium mining operations. 

“We certainly saw a spike in prices during the beginning of the war in Ukraine, but I don’t think it’s a blip in the market,” Heili said, explaining prices have leveled in the months since the Russians’ initial push. “And I anticipate prices will continue to rise, because the world has experienced a decade of underproduction.”

Unlike some mineral extraction operations, rebooting a uranium operation is a lengthy process.

Melbey said his company was well-positioned to begin extraction before the end of the year, but Heili said the earliest his operations would be online would be the first quarter of 2023. 

Strategic Uranium Reserve

Uranium prices are only one piece of the puzzle, however. Melbey, Heili and the rest of Wyoming’s producers have reason to believe stateside uranium production could become more common in the next few years. 

In 2019, former President Donald Trump’s administration formed the U.S. Nuclear Fuel Cycle Working Group, which determined the nation’s reliance on foreign uranium production presented a national security risk, Deti said.

As a result, Trump’s administration proposed establishing a Strategic Uranium Reserve (SUR), which could stockpile about 10 years’ worth of uranium. To create the stockpile, Deti said the Trump administration wanted to spend $1.5 billion over a 10-year period to purchase uranium from U.S. producers. 

In 2020, Congress authorized spending $75 million to establish the SUR, but the U.S. has yet to start purchasing American-produced uranium. 

Additionally, Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyoming, introduced legislation in March which could prohibit the U.S. from importing Russian uranium. 

In an email, Barrasso’s deputy communications director, Sarah Durdaller, said the senator was pushing to eliminate American reliance on Russian fuel exports. 

“(Barrasso) stated, ‘The time is now to permanently remove all Russian energy from the American marketplace,’” Durdaller wrote. “‘We know Vladimir Putin uses this money to help fund his brutal and unprovoked war in Ukraine. While banning imports of Russian oil, gas and coal is an important step, it cannot be the last. Banning Russian uranium imports will further defund Russia’s war machine, help revive American uranium production, and increase our national security.’”

As awareness grows of the risks of relying on foreign and sometimes hostile countries for the nation’s fuels, the uranium industry could write a new page in Wyoming’s history book. 

The atrocities of war are no cause for celebration, Melbey said, but one outcome of the Ukrainian conflict could be a secure line of production for U.S. nuclear reactors. Regardless of the war, he said American producers are gearing up to meet rising global demands. 

“My optimism is based on the fundamentals of supply and demand,” Melbey said. “The Russia-Ukraine war is a geopolitical black swan that throws gas on the fire, but the fire was already lit.” 

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Supreme Court Ruling Expands Ability To Prosecute Non-Natives For Reservation Crimes

in Wind River Reservation/News
Photo by Sam Wasson/Getty Images
21621

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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming prosecutors can now charge people who are not American Indians for crimes they commit on a reservation against American Indian victims, according to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Wednesday.

When a tribal reservation such as Wyoming’s Wind River Indian Reservation falls within state borders, crimes committed by Indians generally may only be prosecuted by tribal or federal authorities. 

Crimes by non-native people against other non-native victims, meanwhile, can be prosecuted by the state.  

But in the case of crimes by non-native people against Native Americans, the law has not been entirely clear on how to proceed.   

Until now.  

“(The ruling) allows me to prosecute a non-native, who commits a crime against a native person on the reservation,” said Fremont County Attorney Patrick LeBrun. 

LeBrun said he also believes that because the Supreme Court opinion is merely clarifying a longstanding ambiguity in Indian law, it also may apply retroactively to previous cases where no charges were filed because of uncertainty.  

But LeBrun, who for more than seven years has had the tricky job of prosecuting crimes in a county containing an Indian reservation, said no uncharged cases come to mind.  

Abortion Jurisdiction 

Reflecting on the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade, LeBrun on Wednesday told Cowboy State Daily that he has a clear-cut ability to prosecute non-natives for performing abortions on the reservation if the person receiving the abortion is also non-native.  

Wyoming is slated to outlaw nearly all abortions in less than a month, but the Wind River Indian Reservation has no tribal or federal law against abortion for American Indians.  

“If I have jurisdiction, I’ll prosecute,” LeBrun said Wednesday.   

But LeBrun said Wednesday’s ruling could also mean his jurisdiction would expand to abortionists performing the operation on American Indians.  

In the case of a white doctor aborting a native baby carried by a white mother, LeBrun said he’d look at each case as it comes, considering all facts and details on an individual basis.  

“(The ruling) does open up that option… but I never comment on specific cases,” he said.  

Even given federal jurisdiction over natives, an abortionist hoping to operate on the reservation still faces a series of hurdles,  such as obtaining and keeping a state medical license, as Wyoming lawmakers look to tighten those criteria following the new abortion ban. 

AOC’s Plan To Put Abortion Clinics On Fed Land In Wyoming Not Very Feasible | Cowboy State Daily

Riverton Still Not Tribal Land 

The Supreme Court’s new ruling was given in response to Oklahoma vs. Castro-Huerta, in which a non-native man had argued unsuccessfully that the state could not convict him for severely neglecting his American Indian stepdaughter on the reservation.  

Blind and suffering from cerebral palsy, the 5-year-old girl in 2015 was found dehydrated, weighing just 19 pounds, and covered in lice and excrement. 

But the Castro-Huerta decision also narrows the 2020 court precedent in McGirt vs. Oklahoma.  

In McGirt, the high court gave huge portions of Oklahoma back to the Creek Nation, saying the tribe’s reservation was wrongly diminished by the state.   

Although the federal government in recent years argued that the Wind River Indian Reservation was wrongly diminished in 1905 and the town of Riverton, therefore, should be under tribal and federal control, the Supreme Court in 2018 rejected that argument, saying Congress was clear in its intent to diminish the reservation more than a century ago.  

McGirt didn’t change that, said LeBrun.  

“In McGirt, tribal members were allowed to sell their land to non-natives,” he said. Once non-natives had acquired a significant portion of land formerly owned by tribal members, “frankly, Oklahoma just took jurisdiction.”  

But in Wyoming vs. EPA, the decade-long case affirming Riverton as a town under state jurisdiction, the court upheld the 1905 Act, a specific Congressional statement that diminished the Wind River Indian Reservation.  

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Wyoming GOP Wants To Host Debate After Wyoming PBS Banned Public From Attending

in News/politics
21632

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By Leo Wolfson, political reporter
Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com

The Wyoming Republican Party is giving consideration to hosting its own U.S. House debate in response to a Thursday Wyoming PBS and Wyoming Public Radio debate prohibiting the public from attending.

“There’s no reason a debate like this shouldn’t be open to the public,” said Corey Steinmetz, State GOP national committeeman. 

Many Wyoming residents took to social media to air their frustrations about the closed nature of the event, with some of Wyoming’s most prominent columnists expressing their displeasure.

“Regardless of who decided to bar the doors, the decision has raised the hackles of Wyomingites across the political spectrum,” columnist Rod Miller wrote. “To say that this was a stupid move is to test the boundaries of understatement.”

Terry Dugas, WyomingPBS general manager, claimed sole responsibility for the decision to close the doors at Sheridan College, citing safety concerns for the candidates and Wyoming PBS staff. 

“Even in Wyoming, political figures receive death threats,” Dugas wrote. “One of the candidates even describes such a death threat on his Facebook page.”

In a June 25 Facebook post, candidate and State Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne mentioned how he received a death threat from Laramie man Christopher Podlesnik in early January 2021, but Steinmetz expressed doubt this event intimidated the Second Amendment proponent.

Podlesnik left three voicemails for Sen. Cynthia Lummis, two for Sen. John Barrasso, two for Bouchard and one for Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, who was holding a rally at the Wyoming Capitol that day to denounce Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney’s impeachment vote. Podlesnik was sentenced in November 2021 to 18 months in federal prison.

Cheney spent $58,000 on security in early 2021 after receiving death threats, according to the New York Times.

Typically, it wouldn’t be surprising for a major candidate to take part in a debate hosted by their own party, but Cheney and the State GOP have a frayed relationship due to her speaking out against former President Donald Trump. The party’s leadership has defended Trump and many see the August primary as a barometer to how much support Trump retains throughout Wyoming and how representative the State GOP is of Republican voters in the state.

The debate’s moderator said on Tuesday evening he and PBS both worked to open the debate and that it was Sheridan College’s decision to originally bar the press. 

“The moment I learned this event would be closed to the press, I fought back hard, and my former colleagues at WyomingPBS did as well, ” said Craig Blumenshine, debate moderator and former PBS employee. “It is the right decision to allow a free and independent press to cover the event in person.”

In an earlier statement, Dugas did not specify that it was Sheridan College’s decision to close the event to the media and the public but credited the Sheridan Press newspaper for convincing the college to allow media access. Sheridan College President Walter Tribley would not personally respond to questions about the decision that was made.

“For reasons related to the safety of all in attendance at the event, I am not responding to questions about the event at this time,” he said in a Tuesday morning email.

The application for press credentials includes a stipulation that signees agree event organizers are not liable for any “bodily injury or death” that may come to journalists while covering the event.

Even though the GOP sent an email to its members on Monday speculating about the idea, Steinmetz said it isn’t likely the State GOP will be able to find a venue and host its own debate with less than two months to go before primary election day.

“Right now, it seems kind of remote,” he said. “I’m not holding out a lot of hope.”

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Jackson Hole Airport Reopens With New Eco-Friendly $44 Million Runway

in News/Transportation
21613

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

The busiest international airport in the state is back in business.

After a 78-day closure, the Jackson Hole Airport – with its new, eco-friendly, $44 million runway – resumed service Tuesday.

And the first flight, an American Airlines jet, received a hero’s welcome complete with water cannons christening its arrival.

Meanwhile the staff at the airport picked up pretty much where they left off, according to Kevin Dunnigan, the airport’s communications assistant.

“It was kind of like a normal Tuesday, in terms of enplanements and passengers coming through,” Dunnigan told Cowboy State Daily. “But we’re kind of shifting gears now as a staff, from reopening to getting ready for the July Fourth holiday.”

The midsummer celebration is typically one of the busier travel times of the year for the only airport in the country located in a national park (the airport merged with Grand Teton National Park in 1950). Because of the popularity of Grand Teton and Yellowstone in the summer, air traffic in Jackson peaks in the summer.

“This weekend, and then into July Fourth, we’ll see those numbers tick up a little bit,” Dunnigan said.



The Jackson Hole Airport hosts four major airlines year-round – Alaska, American, Delta and United – and in the summer months, Allegiant, Frontier and Sun Country Airlines offer direct flights between Jackson and Denver.

So the closure of the airport for major renovations did cause a bit of a dent in the local economy, according to Dunnigan.

“It definitely had an impact, but we’ve seen, just anecdotally, that the tourists are still coming,” he said, pointing out that the majority of visitors coming to Jackson choose to drive rather than fly.

For those who do arrive by plane (and that’s a significant number – in 2019, the airport saw around 455,000 passengers), their aircraft will be landing on a state-of-the-art runway made by recycling the material that was torn up from the previous runway.

Airport communications Director Meg Jenkins told Cowboy State Daily earlier this year that by milling the old runway, it would save thousands of dollars in materials and fuel.

“That part is estimated to keep about 8,500 trucks off our local roadways, and save 187,000 gallons of fuel,” Jenkins said.

Additionally, an eco-friendly drainage system was built into the project, filtering runoff from the tarmac through layers of rock and soil.

“This runway, to my knowledge, will be the most environmentally respectful runway with those drain systems and filtration of any runway that I’m aware of in the United States,” said Jim Elwood, Executive Director of the Jackson Hole Airport.

And although the major renovations are complete, Dunnigan said there’s more work to be done.

“During the closure, we started first demolishing and now remodeling the restaurant that we have on site,” he said. “We’re looking at having that completed by November of this year.”

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Yellowstone’s North Loop Reopens Saturday, License Plate System Suspended

in Yellowstone/News
21606

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Yellowstone National Park will reopen its northern loop to visitors on Saturday, almost three weeks after the park closed entirely due to flooding, allowing an end to the “alternating license plate” system that had controlled entry to the park.

With the northern loop reopening, visitors will now be able to access Norris Junction to Mammoth Hot Springs, Mammoth Hot Springs to Tower-Roosevelt and Tower-Roosevelt to Canyon Junction and will be able to access the north and south loops through the east, west and south entrances.

“We’re pleased to reopen the north loop of Yellowstone to the visiting public less than three weeks after this major flood event,” Superintendent Cam Sholly said on Thursday. “We have attempted to balance major recovery efforts while reopening as much of the park as possible.”

Federal Highway Administration engineers have completed final bridge and road safety inspections. Temporary repairs to the wastewater systems have been evaluated and will accommodate day use on the north loop.  

Park officials cautioned the public that high water remains in many waterways and urged visitors to be aware of backcountry closures in the north loop due to hazardous conditions or damaged trails and bridges.

Available services in the north loop will include general stores at Tower and Mammoth Hot Springs and gasoline in both locations. Additional services may open in upcoming weeks.

The North Entrance Road (Gardiner, Montana to Mammoth Hot Springs) and Northeast Entrance Road (Cooke City/Silver Gate, Montana to Tower-Roosevelt) remain closed to visitor vehicle traffic while temporary repairs are completed.

Visitors may access the park on foot through these entrances in order to reach areas not identified as closed.

Park officials will evaluate authorizing bicycle use through these entrances in the near future.  

Park staff are working with commercial guides and outfitters in Gardiner and Cooke City/Silver Gate to further expand park access where possible.

Also reopening this week was a 23-mile segment of the Beartooth Highway.

Reconnecting the park to Gardiner and Cooke City/Silver Gate remains Yellowstone’s highest flood recovery priority. These communities are open with access to the park as described above. 

Alternating License Plate System suspended  

Yellowstone implemented the Alternating License Plate System upon reopening the south loop on June 22 to ensure visitor traffic did not overwhelm the south loop. Park officials said the interim system worked “very effectively” at moderating traffic within the park.

But with the opening of the north loop and 93% of the park’s road system open, the license plate system will be suspended effective Saturday, officials said. Visitor entrances from east, west and south will return to normal entrance procedures.

Park staff will continue monitoring visitor use data, traffic counts and the condition of infrastructure over the upcoming months to ensure visitor usage is not overwhelming capacity. The ALPS system may be reinstituted if this becomes the case.  

Backcountry

Most of Yellowstone’s southern backcountry will open to overnight use on Friday, but some trails and campsites will remain closed for repairs due to flood impacts, high water and bear management closures. 

A large portion of the backcountry in the north remains closed as damage assessments continue. Many northern trails have been severely damaged and bridges washed away.

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Wyo Democratic Legislators Worry About Gay Marriage After Roe vs Wade Ruling

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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily
clair@cowboystatedaily.com

Language contained in U.S. Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe vs. Wade has state Democratic lawmakers worried about the future of other issues, such as gay marriage and the right to obtain contraceptives. 

In his concurring opinion on Friday’s ruling, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas announced that the rationale putting abortion access decisions in the hands of state governments could, in future cases, apply to other court precedents. He specifically mentioned landmark cases guaranteeing the right to engage in private, consensual sex acts; the right to same-sex marriage, and the right of married people to obtain contraceptives.   

“There’s this concern that many individual rights are threatened by this decision,” said Rep. Andy Schwartz, D-Jackson. “And I share those concerns.”  

Rep. Chad Banks, D-Rock Springs, echoed Schwartz.   

“Justice (Thomas) said abortion protection is not outlined specifically in the Constitution. If you take that logically to the next step, neither are LGBTQ rights,” said Banks.   

‘Between a Male and a Female  

Same-sex marriage became legal nationwide following Obergefell vs. Hodges, a 2015 Supreme Court case affirming the practice as a fundamental right. However, Wyoming legalized it earlier, in 2014, at the direction of a federal court that struck down gay-marriage bans in Utah and Oklahoma as well.   

Although currently legal in Wyoming due to court precedent, state law defines marriage as a civil contract between a man and a woman.   

Rep. Cathy Connolly, D-Laramie, attempted three separate times between 2011 and 2014 to change the state’s definition of marriage to a civil contract between two natural persons, and again in 2018 and 2019.   

Substantive Due Process  

Thomas did not say that gay marriage or any other rights are bound to be overturned. But his reasoning opened the possibility the Supreme Court might reconsider rights that were once considered fundamental under the Fourteenth Amendment – such as abortion and gay marriage – and decide if the framers of the Constitution intended those as inherent rights.   

Neither abortion nor gay marriage are listed as rights in the Constitution or its amendments.   

“We could consider whether any of the rights announced in this Court’s substantive due process cases are ‘privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States’ protected by the Fourteenth Amendment,” Thomas wrote. “To answer that question, we would need to decide… whether the Privileges and Immunities Clause protects any rights that are not enumerated in the Constitution and if so, how to identify those rights.”  

The doctrine of substantive due process holds that certain personal rights are protected by the Fifth and Fourteenth amendments to the U.S. Constitution, even if they are not specifically listed in the Constitution as protected rights.   

Thomas, however, said that for Supreme Courts of the past to claim certain rights as fundamental when they aren’t specifically listed in the Constitution is a form of “judicial policymaking,” which in casual political parlance often is called “legislating from the bench.”   

“(The Court) invoked an ethereal ‘right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning,” wrote Thomas.   

He expressed sharp disagreement with the doctrine, especially relating to abortion, calling it a stretch from the Constitution’s intent:  

“That 50 years have passed since Roe, and abortion advocates still cannot coherently articulate the right (or rights) at stake proves the obvious: The right to abortion is ultimately a policy goal in desperate search of a constitutional justification,” he wrote.   

‘The Whole Idea – Just Gone’  

It’s absolutely likely that someone now will bring a court case challenging the various rights placed in limbo, according to Lander-based attorney Jon Gerard.   

“Someone will,” said Gerard after reading the concurrence. “(Thomas) is opening the door… just to get rid of substantive due process entirely. The whole idea – just gone.”   

Gerard quipped that some law school textbooks are in for a complete makeover.    

Different rights have different levels of protection, and for rights attributed to the Constitution and its amendments – as abortion formerly was – the highest level of protection from governmental infringement applies.  

That standard is called strict scrutiny.   

“It’s so important to have strict scrutiny for things like privacy and bodily autonomy, things like this,” said Gerard.   

Similar to Julie Burkart, who is working to open an abortion clinic in Casper, Gerard theorized that the Wyoming Constitution may have more specific language that could be mobilized to preserve abortion access and the other rights formerly protected under substantive due process.   

Codifying abortion as a federal right in a U.S. Constitution amendment, however, “just never will pass,” said Gerard. The nation is so evenly polarized in general, the two-thirds ratification for adding amendments is hard to reach on partisan issues, he added.   

Probably Not Wyoming  

Gerard also said he doubted that the Wyoming Legislature would specifically enact constitutionally uncertain laws, like a ban on gay marriage, in order to make the current Supreme Court change its earlier and less fundamental precedents.   

But other states might.   

“I’m sure other states will start challenging that,” he said. “They could very easily enact a law in any state saying gay marriage is now illegal in our state, or contraceptives are now illegal or whatever. There are a ton of (constitutionally) unenumerated rights.”   

Procreation  

Schwartz said the right to obtain contraceptives, specifically, should be safeguarded following the court’s decision, since overturning Roe vs. Wade means some women may have difficulties obtaining abortion.   

Wyoming is slated to outlaw abortion in less than a month, but Colorado is expected to still offer the procedure.   

Schwartz clarified that he did not know if Wyoming lawmakers would push to outlaw contraceptive use or any other rights that may be relegated to the states in the event of a court challenge.   

A handful of Republican legislators on Wednesday told Cowboy State Daily they absolutely would not outlaw contraceptives; but they were split on the gay marriage issue.  

Caucus  

The Wyoming Democratic Caucus, that is, every Democratic delegate to the state’s Legislature, on Friday dispatched a general statement condemning the overturning Roe vs. Wade.   

But in an apparent reference to Thomas’ constitutional reasoning, the group also bemoaned what it saw as a deterrent to LGBTQ youth looking to settle in Wyoming. 

“(This) signals to… women and LGBTQ youth that you are not welcome here,” said the statement.   

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Blizzard Of Chaos, Part III: Cheyenne Dairy Queen Lobby Reopens After Two Years

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

After more than two years of being closed, the popular Cheyenne Dairy Queen’s lobby has finally reopened, its owner told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday.

While a fast food restaurant reopening its lobby might not be interesting or newsworthy to most people, the Cheyenne Dairy Queen is not a typical burger and ice cream shop.

Because the lobby has been closed, it hasn’t been uncommon to see a line stretching from the restaurant’s drive-thru window and snaking all the way around the building and spilling — sometimes more than 30 cars deep — onto Pershing Boulevard, one of the busiest streets in the city.

As a result, the restaurant and the police department have been hammered by angry citizens demanding something be done about it because of safety concerns.

“Guaranteed that someone will get killed there,” Kayla Parker told Cowboy State Daily.  “No one obeys the speed limit, people are flying down Pershing at 70mph and then a bunch of dumbasses are sitting in the middle of the street waiting for their stupid chili cheese dog.”

Popular memes circulating on local social media channels, chastise drive-thru-goers for clogging a main artery and turning the street into a game of bumper cars.

Fist-fights have reportedly broken out in front of the restaurant too as upset motorists have either slammed into each other or come close.

Like Riding A Bike

Dairy Queen co-owner Randy Filbin told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday that reopening the lobby was like it was like riding a bike — with things running pretty much the way they did before the lobby was closed by COVID-19.

“I’m doing a softer opening right now, because we’ve still got a lot of people training and we don’t want to overwhelm them,” Filbin said. “I’m not fully staffed yet, but we were close enough that I thought we could handle the lobby being opened, as long as we didn’t make a big announcement of it.”

Posts on Cheyenne-centric social media groups announced the lobby’s opening, which Filbin was not surprised by. He does not expect the lobby’s reopening to stay quiet for long.

Dairy Queen employees saw around 75 to 80 people come through the lobby on Wednesday, which is a few more than Filbin was expecting.

“It felt kind of good, having it open again,” he said. “It gives people an opportunity to go work in a different spot after being stuck in the same place and doing the same actions day after day.”

But don’t worry, the drive-thru was still busy the whole day.

Lobby Life

One restaurant-goer told Cowboy State Daily she was relieved the lobby was opened but still had concerns about the volume of traffic the restaurant receives.

“Every day it’s like Target on Thanksgiving Eve,” Rita Mallsen said. “The only difference is no one is trying to steal TVs.”

Pandemic

Filbin has hesitated to reopen the lobby since the COVID-19 pandemic struck two years ago due to low staff numbers. The drive-thru has typically been the more popular option anyway, so he, his father and their business partner decided to keep the lobby closed until they could get their staff up to a higher number.

According to Cheyenne Police Department spokeswoman Alex Farkas, 10 traffic incidents occurred in the Dairy Queen area in the last year. Five of those occurred at the Dairy Queen address itself and five happened near the restaurant between Duff Avenue and Pershing Boulevard.

Of those 10 incidents, one was directly related to the drive-thru. A collision took place as a driver was turning into the location.

There were two rear-enders at the Dairy Queen, one of which involved a single vehicle backing into something and another related to a driver being under the influence.

The police department also received a traffic complaint from the Dairy Queen address on June 2 regarding speeding and reckless driving.

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Daily Wyoming Gas Map: Thursday June 30, 2022

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By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily

The price of gasoline in Wyoming fell by 2 cents per gallon on Thursday over the previous 24 hours to average $4.84. 

The website GasBuddy.com, which tracks national gas prices, reported Wyoming’s average gas price is up 2 cents from one week ago and is up $1.59 per gallon from one year ago.

Wyoming’s average price for gasoline remained the same as the national average of $4.84 for a gallon of regular.

High and Low Prices:

The highest gasoline price in Wyoming on Thursday was in Jackson at $5.68 per gallon. Laramie continued to have the lowest price in the state, $4.24, at the Tumbleweed Express at 4700 Bluebird Lane.

The county with the highest average price of gas was Teton at $5.41. Natrona County had the lowest average at $4.60.

These are the highest and lowest reported prices among those stationed surveyed.

*The average price per gallon of regular in each Wyoming county: 

Albany $4.76; Big Horn $4.81; Campbell $4.83; Carbon $4.82; Converse $4.60; Crook $4.85; Fremont $4.93; Goshen $4.76; Hot Springs $4.92; Johnson $4.90; Laramie $4.68; Lincoln $4.85; Natrona $4.65; Niobrara $4.85; Park $5.03; Platte $4.85; Sheridan $4.94; Sublette $4.95; Sweetwater $4.86; Teton $5.41; Uinta $5.17; Washakie $4.90; Weston: $4.75. 

*The lowest price per gallon, reported in major Wyoming cities:

Basin $4.77; Buffalo $4.84; Casper $4.95; Cheyenne $4.59; Cody $4.99; Douglas $4.54; Evanston $4.92; Gillette $4.65; Jackson $5.12; Kemmerer $4.92; Laramie $4.24; Lusk $4.79; Newcastle $4.54; Pinedale $4.94; Rawlins $4.72; Riverton $4.82; Rock Springs $4.74; Sheridan $4.79; Sundance $4.95; Thermopolis $4.81; Wheatland $4.87; Worland $4.84.  

Tim’s Observations:

Teton County’s average gas price jumped a whopping 58 cents per gallon on Thursday to $5.41, the highest county average in the state.

If you are lucky enough to live in Laramie, you can still find gas for around $4.24 per gallon. Who would have thought that $4.24 would look good? 

The gap between the national average the Wyoming average widened by a fraction today. Briefly Wednesday, the national average and Wyoming’s were in sync at $4.86 per gallon. Until yesterday, the normal spread between the averages has been 10 to 20 cents per gallon. As of this report, the difference is three-tenths of a cent. 

According to GasBuddy, gasoline inventories increased by 2.6 million barrels to a total of 221.6 million barrels on Thursday, still 20 million barrels, 8.3% At 221.6 million barrels, inventories are down 20.0 million barrels or 8.3% lower than a year ago and are 8% below the five-year average for this time of year.

In layman’s terms, we are burning through our supply or oil faster than we can refine it. 

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: 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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GOP Legislators Divided Over Possible Same-Sex Marriage Ban But Oppose Condom Ban

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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming Republican leaders are divided over concerns voiced by Democratic lawmakers that rights to contraceptive access and gay marriage are threatened by the Roe vs. Wade decision.

No Republican state legislator interviewed this week by Cowboy State Daily wanted to outlaw contraceptives. But they gave mixed responses on same-sex marriage.  

“No, I don’t plan on outlawing condoms or even birth control,” said Rep. Landon Brown, R-Cheyenne. 

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, in a concurring opinion to Friday’s landmark case declaring that abortion access is not a constitutionally protected right, wrote that rights now considered fundamental — including gay marriage, contraceptive access and private sex acts — may also face future scrutiny as fundamental rights.  

Wyoming law does not recognize gay marriage in its marital definition, but the state allows same-sex marriage anyway, due to a federal court precedent handed down in 2014.  

Reflecting on gay-marriage legislation specifically, Brown said he wouldn’t work to disallow it but added there are bound to be legislators who would, if it ever becomes a states-rights issue.  

“There certainly would be a fringe that would believe that’s our responsibility as a Legislature, to legislate those types of things, but I will tell you I think there’s a vast, and I mean vast, majority that would come absolutely unglued if that were (disallowed) here in Wyoming,” said Brown.  

Brown, along with former Rep. Tyler Lindholm, tried in the past to “actually get government out of marriage completely,” so that the practice would become only a social or religious construct, not a state civil union.  

‘Protect Existing Marriages’ 

The current Wyoming Legislature probably would not support the idea of outlawing contraceptives, such as condoms and birth control, said Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, agreeing with Brown.  

Case said he predicts that the Legislature would “support laws protecting gay marriage” as well, adding that he’d be among the supporters, and would back legislation to codify same-sex marriage if court precedents protecting it were overturned.  

‘Traditional Family Values’ 

The Wyoming Legislature has a mixed representation from all walks of life, which makes its actions hard to predict, said Rep. John Bear, R-Gillette.  

Like Case and Brown, Bear said he’s not about to outlaw contraceptives. He clarified that he supports criminalization of drugs used to cause abortions, since they are not the same as contraceptives. 

Wyoming’s impending abortion ban also criminalizes the use of drugs to cause an abortion.

However, Bear added, he would decline as a legislator to recognize same-sex marriage in the state’s legal definition.  

“I always promote traditional family values,” he continued. “Those are important for society.”  

‘Can’t Predict the Future’ 

House Majority Floor Leader Rep. Albert Sommers, R-Pinedale, said it’s difficult to predict how he’ll react to any bill in particular, simply because some bills are poorly crafted, no matter how great their intent.  

“Until you see what is decided by the Supreme Court on any of these issues and then what bills come before the Legislature, (you can’t) react to them,” said Sommers. “I can’t predict the future on any of that.  

Sommers noted that he voted twice in the Legislature against recognizing same-sex marriage but said he couldn’t see himself voting to ban contraceptives.  

“What is written in bills matters,” he said. “It’s not an issue until you see it.”  

‘Acknowledged Liberty’ 

The Wyoming Democratic Caucus, that is, every Democratic delegate to the Wyoming Legislature, on Friday dispatched an impassioned statement condemning the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade. The caucus also criticized Thomas’ willingness to review in the future cases dealing with rights that are not listed in the Constitution but which have been considered fundamental by federal courts for years.

“This court has chosen to curtail that freedom that has existed for almost fifty years,” said the statement.

The group said Wyoming’s imminent abortion ban would be “devastating” and will “limit (women’s) ability to choose whether they fully participate in the workforce or are forced to be mothers by the state.”  

In an apparent reference to Thomas’ concurring opinion, the group feared that Friday’s decision would “signal to… LGBTQ youth that you are not welcome here.” 

Multiple Democratic lawmakers told Cowboy State Daily in their own interviews that looking forward, they fear and disagree with the possible impacts of Thomas’ concurring statement.  

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AOC’s Plan To Put Abortion Clinics On Fed Land In Wyoming Not Very Feasible

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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily
clair@cowboystatedaily.com

A plan put forth in a passionate plea by a New York congresswoman to put abortion clinics on federal lands in conservative states would face a series of hurdles in Wyoming, where roughly half the land is federally held.  

“Open abortion clinics on federal lands right now! – right now!” U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, chanted Friday during a protest in Union Square. 

News outlets have since reported that Ocasio-Cortez was trying to persuade President Joe Biden to install abortion clinics on federal lands, which include national parks like Yellowstone and tribal regions like the Wind River Indian Reservation.  

Ocasio-Cortez and numerous Democratic lawmakers were livid Friday when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned landmark abortion case Roe vs. Wade, putting authority over abortions into the hands of the states rather than making the procedure a constitutionally protected right across the country.

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, also raised the idea, telling reporters that “(Biden should) explore just how much we can start using federal lands as a way to protect people who need access to abortions,” in states about to ban the procedure.  

Abortion is slated to become illegal in Wyoming in less than a month.  

Hyde Amendment 

For Biden’s administration to build and fund abortion clinics anywhere – including on federal lands – is generally illegal under the Hyde Amendment, a provision of U.S. law prohibiting federal funding of all abortions except in the case of incest, rape, and severe health crises.  

The law does not forbid an abortion provider from opening a private clinic on federal lands.  

However, privately-funded abortionists can’t work without a state medical license, if they’re working in Wyoming. 

Doctors working in federal facilities can operate under a license from any U.S. jurisdiction, but health care providers working in private facilities within Wyoming’s borders must have a Wyoming medical license.  

‘Closing Any Loopholes’  

State law currently does not list performing abortions as grounds for the Wyoming Medical Board to revoke a doctor’s license, which Rep. Rachel Rodriguez-Williams, R-Cody, said she sees as a “loophole.”  

Rodriguez-Williams was the sponsor of Wyoming’s “trigger ban,” outlawing abortion after the Supreme Court’s decision. She told Cowboy State Daily that she is considering revising Wyoming’s medical licensing laws to prevent abortions on federal property. 

“I will be committed to close any loopholes that we become aware of, whether it’s (by) drafting a bill to codify something in state statute that deals with the board of medicine… or drafting a bill that prevents aiding and abetting (abortions),” she said.

Rep. John Bear, R-Gillette, who co-sponsored the trigger ban, agreed with Rodriguez-Williams, adding that changing medical licensing laws around the new legal landscape shouldn’t be a problem for the Legislature that passed a trigger ban.

“Considering the fact that the current law going into place no later than July 29 has a 14-year prison term for performing an abortion, I don’t think it would be a far stretch to say that we’d remove someone’s license to practice,” said Bear.  

Wind River 

A privately-funded abortionist likewise could operate legally on the Wind River Indian Reservation, especially as the current U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland has pledged to do all in his power to preserve abortion access.  

The reservation falls under tribal jurisdiction for misdemeanor crimes and federal jurisdiction for felony-level crimes. Neither forbids abortion.  

However, non-tribal members on the reservation can still be prosecuted under state law. 

Fremont County Attorney Patrick LeBrun said he would prosecute under the new abortion ban as far as his jurisdiction allows.  

“If have jurisdiction, I’ll prosecute it,” he said.  

As with federal public lands and state parks, doctors operating on the reservation must have medical licenses. 

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BLM Land Purchase Will Cost Natrona, Carbon Counties Thousands In Lost Tax Revenue

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

A $21 million purchase of private land by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management earlier this month will cost Natrona and Carbon counties thousands of dollars per year in lost tax revenue.

Natrona County Commissioner Rob Hendry said the 35,670 acres recently acquired southwest of Casper brought Natrona $17,800 in tax revenue this year alone.

Hendry said the tax revenue from this property goes toward pre-established tax mills to support institutions such as local schools, hospital and fire districts.

“They’re going to be hurting because of this,” Hendry said.

On June 2, the BLM announced it had purchased the Marton family ranch, located east of Alcova Reservoir and bordered to the north by 8.8 miles of North Platte River frontage. More than 93% of the land is in Natrona County.

The purchase, which is the BLM’s largest in state history, will also unlock access to 40,000 acres of existing landlocked BLM and state-owned land. 

Transparency

Hendry said he doesn’t disapprove of the sale on face value, but said he would have liked to seen a more transparent sale process and an exchange take place for an equal amount of public land to go into private hands. He said there are many unused 40-acre BLM tracts in the eastern part of the state that could be sold off for private grazing.

The BLM didn’t publicly announce the sale until it was finalized, a point Gov. Mark Gordon criticized in his formal appeal of the purchase made on June 16 to the U.S. Department of Interior, the agency that oversees the BLM. Members of Wyoming’s congressional delegation also criticized the decision in a letter blasting the BLM. 

Both Gordon and Hendry said they take no issue with the Marton family’s decision to sell their land to the government. 

“No Comment”

Tyson Finnicum, public affairs specialist for the BLM High Plains District, said a non-disclosure agreement was in place prior to the sale that he could not comment on.

“I cannot comment on the non-disclosure agreement that was in place, nor can I provide further comment on the project while the appeal process is ongoing,” he said.

The Marton family did not immediately respond to request for comment.

In recent years, nearly 70,000 acres of Marton property had been listed for sale at a price of $28 million. 

“No Input”

In the governor’s appeal, Travis Jordan, Wyoming senior assistant attorney general, said the BLM failed to seek input from local officials and the public, or analyze the economic impacts of the sale, although Hendry said he and his fellow Natrona County commissioners were informed about the sale about two weeks before it became public. 

“They kind of, sort of, followed protocol,” Hendry said. “I just didn’t like the way it was handled.”

Under the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976, the BLM must notify a state’s governor and congressional delegation before making a land purchase with funds from the LWCF. None of these parties said they received any notification prior to the sale.

While the counties will lose property tax income from the land, the federal Payment In Lieu of Taxes program is designed to cover some of the losses by paying counties for some of the taxes they cannot collect on federal land.

Vague Promises

But Gordon, in his appeal, said the state can’t depend on any vague promises from the BLM regarding the PILT payments.

Hendry said the BLM may consider putting some of its new public land into private hands — generating some property tax income — or increasing PILT payments to Natrona County, but no promises have been made.

“I’ll believe it when I see it,” he said.

Even though counties directly receive these PILT funds, they cannot directly use the money to fund entities like schools and hospitals. Hendry said in contrast, about 76% of the annual Marton tax revenue goes directly to local schools.

Gordon also criticized a “cursory” environmental assessment made by the BLM in preparation for the sale, a study that typically takes years and involves public engagement. Information about the proposed sale was posted publicly online in February.

“This action is not about limiting access for sportspeople or challenging the rights of private property owners rights,” Gordon said in a press release about the appeal. “It is about whether the federal government can increase its land holdings without public scrutiny, or should it adhere to the same transparent process that private landowners are subject to if they sought to purchase or exchange federal land.”

Gains For Sportsmen

But the gains for outdoor enthusiasts are legitimate, Hendry said, with the purchase offering an incredible access point for antelope hunting and world class fishing. 

“It’s really good frontage to the North Platte River,” he said. 

The river offers blue ribbon trout fishing, unobscured views of the Snowy Range Mountains and  abundant wildlife.

Finnicum said in an earlier Cowboy State Daily interview there are no plans to add or alter any infrastructure on the property at this time, but the BLM hopes to engage with the public to discuss possible future changes such as road upgrades and improved fishing access.

BLM staff were studying the purchase as early as September 2021 and received $21 million from the Land and Water Conservation Fund that year to purchase the ranch in its entirety. 

The Fund was established by Congress in 1964 as a way to apply off-shore mineral royalties to conservation, but Hendry said when it was originally established it was not intended for surface land purchases. 

“Most of the West supported it and were told it would not be used for purchasing property,” he said.

The Conservation Fund, a nonprofit, said it had been working with the Marton family for five years to find a conservation solution for the land and purchased the land initially before transferring it to the BLM. That detail is not explained in any BLM document or press release regarding the sale. TCF did not immediately respond to request for comment.

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Democratic Candidate Maldonado Accuses Superintendent Schroeder Of Bigotry

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

The lone Democrat running to take over as the state’s superintendent of schools is accusing incumbent Brian Schroeder of being guilty of bigotry because of his position on federal funding for school lunches.

Sergio Maldonado Sr., a Wind River Reservation resident running for superintendent of public instruction, issued a statement criticizing Schroeder for his position against accepting federal demands that the state update its non-discrimination policies to include protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

“His comments today would be laughable, if it were not for the fact that his brazen display of bigotry is harmful to Wyoming’s children, putting some kids in danger while displaying complete ignorance and lack of respect for marginalized people,” he said.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is calling for Wyoming and all other U.S. states to update their non-discrimination policies to add protections for sexual orientation and gender identity.

State officials have resisted the request, saying past federal court rulings have found that actions such as labeling bathrooms as only available for “boys” and “girls” are a form of discrimination.

Cover The $40 Million

Schroeder, a Republican who was appointed by Gov. Mark Gordon in January, has suggested that Wyoming find its own way to cover the $40 million the USDA provides each year for school lunches to avoid having to comply on the issue. He pledged that children from low-income households will not go unfed in Wyoming and he will not allow boys in girls’ locker rooms. 

“Therefore, I call on all Wyomingites to appeal to their local legislators concerning the liberating prospects of severing our dependence on federal dollars,” Schroeder said in a news release. “Washington has shown its hand, and will never stop at forcing its woke agenda and ever-changing value system on people who refuse to embrace it. Be fully assured, this is not the end – they will be back (i.e. boys in girls sports, forced usage of pronouns, etc.).”

Schroeder did not immediately respond to requests for follow up comments regarding Maldonado’s statement.

Although the USDA school lunch funding does make up a small percentage of Wyoming’s roughly $2 billion biannual K-12 schools budget, the state receives more than 40% its Wyoming Department of Education funding from federal sources.

The state can ill-afford to give up federal funds at a time of falling state tax revenues, Maldonado said.

“Wyoming already struggles to meet the education funding mandates enshrined in our Wyoming Constitution,” he said. “If it weren’t for the infusion of federal dollars in the wake of the COVID pandemic massive cuts in all areas of the budget would have happened.”

“Back to Michigan”

Maldonado said Schroeder has been attempting to politicize education and said he looks forward to beating him in the election and “sending him back to Michigan where he lived until recently.” 

Schroeder hasn’t lived in Michigan since at least 2009. He moved to Wyoming from Wisconsin a few years ago.

Schroeder said he supports “the process of cutting ties with federal funds while upholding the constitutional mandate to financially sustain Wyoming public education,” an effort he considers “completely doable.”

But Maldonado disagreed.

“There is no way the state of Wyoming is going to turn away federal dollars, so his posturing is ridiculous,” Maldonado said.

Maldonado is the only Democratic candidate in the race for superintendent of public instruction. 

Jennifer Zerba, Megan Degenfelder, Robert White III and Thomas Kelly are running against Schroeder in the Republican primary.

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Unlimited Fishing With No Catch Limits Allowed At Saratoga Lake

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Unlimited fishing will be temporarily allowed at Saratoga Lake in advance of plans to kill all of the lake’s fish, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department announced on Wednesday.

The creel and possession limits were lifted Wednesday due to the department’s plans to chemically treat the lake in September, killing any fish left in the water.

Typical Wyoming regulations allow anglers at the lake to keep six trout per day.

Earlier this month, the Game and Fish Department announced it would kill all the fish in Saratoga Lake because of the illegal introduction of yellow perch. The decision forced the cancelation of Saratoga’s annual Ice Fishing Derby because there will be no live fish in the lake by January.

The fish will be poisoned using “rotenone” at the lake in mid-September, so anglers have at least two months to fish for trout and yellow perch to their stomach’s delight. There are rainbow, tiger and brown trout in the lake.

The perch are actually not native to the lake and are the reason the lake’s population must be wiped out.

“Last summer, we discovered [yellow] perch in the lake during routine university sampling,” Alan Osterland, Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s fisheries chief, told Cowboy State Daily this month. “We manage that as a trout fishery, so having perch so high up in the system could be a problem for many reasons.”

Osterland said the plan is to restock the lake with trout next summer.

Although the fish kill has caused the cancellation of the popular and long-running Saratoga Ice Fishing Derby, which was set to celebrate its 40th year in 2023, the event is planned to return in 2024 without yellow perch in the water.

The fishing derby was started in the 1980s by Wyoming author C.J. Box, who has since become a household name for his series of Joe Pickett and Cassie Dewell novels.

This is not the first time the department has had to treat Saratoga Lake, but Osterland said it has been many years since this last occurred.

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Campbell County Ranchers Throw Surprise Wedding At Branding

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

Is there anything more Wyoming than having a wedding at a branding?

Short of having it in the middle of a rodeo, that’s hard to top.

But that’s exactly what two ranchers in northeast Wyoming decided to do last week.

Bonita “Bo” and Drew Persson were getting married anyway and the people who were coming over to their branding were the most important folks in their lives, so why not combine the two?

“It’s kind of killing two birds with one stone,” Drew told Cowboy State Daily.



Drew, a fourth-generation rancher in Crook County, thought it was so practical and “westernly-romantic,” that he proposed the idea to Bo, his girlfriend of six years. 

“People who attend your branding are your ‘ride or die’ people,” Bo said. “So, of course, I liked it.”

“Let’s get everyone together for the branding and then get hitched,” she said.

Best yet, she explained, it would all be a surprise for the guests. No one knew what they were planning.

She said she had never heard of someone throwing a surprise wedding for themselves but throwing in a branding to boot? That’s a one-of-a-kind experience that no one will forget.

Everything looked like business as usual Wednesday morning as a little more than 30 people drove their pickups and SUVs over the hilly dirt roads to the pasture where the cows were already in place on the Persson Ranch.

It wasn’t a weekend branding because they ranch for a living, Bo said, and weekends are for other things — like rodeos.

“We brand during the workweek because we’re ranchers,” she said.  “That’s what we do.”

But by 10 a.m., there was a problem. No Bo. No Drew. And brandings start on time.

That’s when Bo’s brother Tyler Lindholm took command. At 6-foot-7 and thin as a whip, Tyler’s all cowboy.

Guests thought there was something wrong with him though. He was all dressed-up.

“I was walking around in a suit jacket and a tie and everyone was looking at me like I was some kind of Cadillac cowboy,” Tyler said. 

Nobody came up to him though, he said. They just “figured that I was Bo’s brother so I might be a weirdo.”

But once they saw Bo in the distance riding a horse in a long white dress, it didn’t take them long to figure it out.

“You saw that look of surprise in everyone’s eyes and it was ‘Holy cow, this is a thing. We’re doin’ this,’” Tyler said.



It was Bo’s idea to ride the horse in her gown.

“How often do you get to do that?” she said.

It was a nice white dress but it wasn’t exorbitant. Nor were Drew’s clothes. That was a bonus of scheduling nuptials at a branding.

“It kinda helps the female pick a not-quite-so-expensive dress if you’re going to be riding in it,” Drew said.

Same with his clothes too. 

“I bought a nice looking shirt but not an expensive one. And you know, I got covered in dirt and blood,” he said, clarifying that the dirt and blood came from the branding, not the wedding.

The ceremony lasted 15 minutes. Tyler officiated. Nothing new for him, as the former Wyoming legislator is an ordained minister as well.

What impressed his sister was the scripture he picked. Ephesians 4:1.

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”

“Tyler said that this is not only perfect for marriage, but also in working cows and raising children and I thought that was just so perfect how he said that,” Bo said.

After Drew kissed Bo, it was time to work. The branding commenced. And that’s a lot of work.

“It’s long, hot, dusty, and physically strenuous, day,” Bo said, mentioning that she did change her dress for the branding part of the all-day ceremony.

“I would have ruined it had I branded in it,” she said.



Although the wedding was about as rustic as one can get, but it had some modern touches.

Drew cut a TikTok video on his @wyomingrancher account describing the day from his pickup truck in comments where he devoted a bit more time to the branding than the wedding. But who would keep score?

“Everybody that was watching, they all had a big smile on their face,” he said. “And Bo riding in her wedding dress. I’ll remember that forever.”

Bo said their day was proof that it’s not necessary to spend thousands of dollars on a wedding.

“You don’t need to spend that type of money to have a perfect wedding,” she said. “All you need are your friends and family.”

Tyler called it a uniquely Wyoming day. Blue skies, green grass, lots of cattle and horses, the camaraderie of best friends, all out in the plains of northeastern Wyoming.

“It’s about as cow country as you can get,” he said.

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Gillette Mother ‘Disgusted’ That Little League Treasurer Who Stole $30k Only Sentenced To 30 Days In Jail

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Gillette mother and former Gillette Little League board member is “disgusted” with the 30-day jail sentence recommended for the league’s former treasurer after he was caught stealing almost $30,000 from the organization.

Melissa Blankenship told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday that she thinks Rory Geis should serve prison time or be forced to work off his debt in public through community service.

“As soon as we figured out what was going on, we turned it in,” Blankenship said, noting she was speaking as an individual, not as a board member. “We were all really angry, because we trusted him. We were friends.”

Geis pleaded guilty to one count of felony theft as part of a plea agreement on June 16. A second felony theft count was dismissed. The state recommended a suspended sentence of four to six years in prison with five years of supervised probation and a 30-day jail sentence.

The plea agreement also required Geis to pay $2,300.75 in restitution to the Gillette Little League.

In 2020, Geis was found to have stolen nearly $30,000 from the league between 2019 and 2020.

According to court documents, Troy Stevens, the league’s president called local police in June 2020 after discovering suspicious transactions on the organization’s bank account.

At the time, four board members had credit or debit cards tied to the account which were meant to be used for official Little League business and not personal use.

Blankenship said she felt disgusted that Geis would put himself in a situation where he not only ruined his reputation in the community, he put his family through such a stressful situation, as well.

“I feel like the amount of money that was taken, that wasn’t an accident. It was done very decisively, like he had a plan,” she said. “I feel like giving somebody a 30-day sentence, it definitely isn’t teaching them anything. When you take from a nonprofit organization that’s pretty much funded itself for 50 years, you take money from 800 children.”

She added that if Geis was in need of money, the league’s board would have found ways to help him out, either through fundraising or their own personal revenue streams.

Blankenship said Geis’ theft destroyed a little bit of her faith in humanity, but she also noted it set a bad example for a group of children learning integrity, teamwork and a sense of belonging.

However, she added the team’s new treasurer has been great to work with and new checks and balances have been adopted to keep theft from happening again.

“I think, despite the situation, things have turned out great,” Blankenship said. “But I think he should have to work down at the ballfields, keeping score and taking out the trash at night or putting dirt down, all things the board members do on a daily basis. I think that would teach him a better lesson than 30 days in jail.”

Gillette Little League officials declined to comment for this story, citing ongoing litigation.

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Casper Football Coach Praises SCOTUS Ruling Allowing Prayer On Football Fields

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Photo by Matt Idler.
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Casper football coach who is also a member of the Wyoming House of Representatives on Wednesday praised a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Wednesday that allows coaches to pray on the football field.

Rep. Steve Harshman, R-Casper, told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday that the Supreme Court made a good decision and that he felt it reaffirmed the justice system.

“Our system isn’t perfect because it’s man-made, but we did form a more perfect union,” Harshman said. “I think these discussions should keep going. I welcome that. We all have freedom of religion.”

In a ruling written by Justice Neil Gorsuch, the court found that a Washington state school district improperly fired a coach for kneeling at midfield after games to offer a quiet prayer of thanks.

The school district argued his behavior could lead to complaints about the district failing to maintain the separation of church and state.

Harshman said he understood the school district officials’ point of view, because teachers and coaches are not trying to indoctrinate students, no matter their faith or lack thereof.

Supreme Court justices found that by trying to “punish an individual for engaging in a personal religious observance,” the district acted in violation of the coach’s constitutionally guaranteed rights to freedom to exercise religion and freedom of speech.

Harshman said he believes many football coaches across the country do the same thing with their teams, whether on the field or in the locker room.

As a coach, he holds a moment of silence for his team, allowing them to give thanks or reflect, but he does not ask or require them to pray.

“Some of the guys are praying, there’s no doubt,” he said. “We form this bond and brotherhood, so before and after every game, we just take a moment to give thanks, each in our own way, because we’ve got so much to be thankful for.”

Harshman said he and his team put a hand on each other’s shoulder and bask in the moment of silence right before the chaos of the football game begins.

No matter their background, they are a team both on and off the field while under Harshman’s direction, and that is what matters the most, he said.

According to news outlet The Hill, the Washington football coach began kneeling and praying on the football field after school games in 2008, over time being joined by more and more students. The school district eventually told him to stop.

When the coach defied their orders, officials placed him on administrative leave.

He filed a lawsuit, arguing his rights to free speech and religion were violated by the policy. The school district said the coach led a public demonstration of government-endorsed religion and that students were pressured to pray with the coach because they might risk losing playing time.

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Future Of Rape, Incest Exemptions In Wyoming Abortion Law Unsure, Wyo Senator Says

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A state senator from Lander could not speculate Wednesday on whether legislators will revisit the law banning abortions in Wyoming to remove the exemptions for rape and incest.

Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday that when he added the exemptions to the bill creating a “trigger abortion ban” in the case Roe vs. Wade was ever overturned, the vote to adopt it in the Senate was split almost down the middle.

“It passed 15 to 14 in the Senate,” Case said. “With bills, you have to have the majority of those elected, but with amendments, it just has to the majority of those present. One senator was not there, but had she been, the vote would have been divided, 15-15, and my amendment wouldn’t have passed.”

The Legislature, during its budget session earlier this year, approved legislation to outlaw abortions in case the U.S. Supreme Court ever overturned Roe vs. Wade the landmark court ruling from 1973 that declared abortion a protected right across the country. Under the law, abortions must become illegal in Wyoming within 35 days of such a ruling.

When the law was making its way through the Legislature, it did not allow exemptions in the cases of rape. That language was added by Case in the bill’s final Senate review.

Case said he felt strongly about adding the rape and incest exemptions to the abortion bill. While the senator said he understood his colleagues’ moral intent in crafting abortion legislation, he said it was important to have exceptions for rape and incest in the bill.

“Rape and incest exemptions have traditionally existed and there’s good reason,” he said. “If you don’t have it, you’re literally telling women that they will be carrying a child conceived from rape or incest and they have no choice in the matter. I look at the burden that we placed on women and autonomy over their bodies and decisions they can make in their lives.”

Removing the language would require the development of a new bill, which would then have win legislative approval.

However, he said he did not know what future Legislatures will look like and would not speculate on the possibility of removing the exemptions.

The abortion bill’s sponsor, Rep. Rachel Rodriguez-Williams, R-Cody, did not return Cowboy State Daily’s repeated requests for comment this week, nor did several of her bill co-sponsors: Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, Rep. Bo Biteman, R-Ranchester, Sen. Lynn Huchings, R-Cheyenne, Rep. Jamie Flitner, R-Greybull and Rep. Jeremy Haroldson, R-Wheatland.

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Groups Work Together To Save Wildlife By Getting Rid Of Barbed Wire

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

An early-morning ruckus at a home on the Shoshone National Forest boundary made Wapiti residents Mike and Margie Johnson aware that their friendly neighborhood deer were in danger.

“At 5:00 in the morning, we got up and we heard this noise,” Margie said. “When we went outside, it was totally dark. And there’s a big tree that was right on the fence line, and two humongous, mule deer boys – racks as big as you can see – were going at it, but they had this wire wrapped around their antlers. And they were trying to get free, and they were fighting.”

Johnson, visibly upset as she recalled the incident, said she and her husband did their best to free the animals with bolt cutters without putting themselves in danger.

“Finally they got loose, one ran away with a little bit of wire wrapped on his antlers still,” she said. “The other one, he tried to get up and he never made it up. And two hours later he passed.”

“And that’s what got us knowing how bad this stuff is,” Johnson said. 

“This stuff” is barbed wire, which forest managers and landowners have used for years to delineate boundaries between private and public lands. 

But the wire, with its sharp barbs, is a danger to many animals that inhabit the forests and open lands in Wyoming, according to Kerry Murphy, wildlife biologist with the Shoshone National Forest.

“Big game animals (get) caught by their hooves in fence wire, or bird strikes, that kind of thing,” Murphy said.



So on a Friday morning in June, more than a dozen people gathered in a parking area at the boundary of the Shoshone National Forest west of Cody to take down stretches of the dangerous barbed wire that can catch wildlife.

The Absaroka Fence Initiative is a partnership of federal agencies, private landowners and local volunteers with a common goal – to enhance wildlife movement and reduce wildlife mortality, while still meeting the needs of livestock producers.

“The objectives are to enhance wildlife movement, most often big game, but also birds like sage grouse,” said Murphy. “(Also) enhance their migratory movements or their movements on winter ranges and reduce mortality of wildlife associated with fence wire.”

Public-Private

The Absaroka Fence Initiative truly is a public-private partnership in the best sense of the term, according to Murphy, in which volunteers, landowners and federal agencies are working to help the wildlife.

“There are many different folks out here from different federal agencies, state agencies, private landowners, ranch caretakers, private citizens – they all come together to form the Absaroka Fence Initiative, and it’s a great bunch of folks working together,” he said.

On this particular workday, the volunteers and staff from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, the Shoshone National Forest and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management are taking down or replacing five different sections of fence, according to Murphy. 

“On two of them, we’re modifying the fence and replacing barbed wire with smooth wire,” he said. “And on the other sections of fence – and this is all coordinated with the landowners – it’ll be fence wire removal in entirety. And then the Bureau of Land Management folks, they have a skid steer and a wire winder that once the fence wires laying on the ground will stand clear. They’ll hook it up to the winder, and they’ll buzz it in.”

Livestock Producers

Murphy pointed out that the agencies make sure to work with livestock producers to meet their needs as well.

 “We set up these projects and leave fences that are very consistent with livestock production,” he said.

One of the landowners volunteering his time on this Friday morning is Jason Schultz, who with other local landowners has already gathered yards of barbed wire after witnessing animals getting caught up in it.

“In the wintertime, the snow builds up along these fence lines,” Schultz told Cowboy State Daily. “And a lot of the barbed wire is actually loose, and it’s just kind of strewn around where the fence posts are. And what happens is, the animals come down, or go up the mountain, and then they can’t see the fence line, and they get tripped up on it.” 

Johnson pointed out that the work being done today will help wildlife, but won’t affect the humans who rely on the fencing. 

“The fence posts will stay so we know where the forest is, but it’ll be way safer,” said Johnson, who shares a property line with Schultz. “And where they do need to put up fence, they’ve got smooth wire and it goes lower, so that the animals can go over it.” 

Murphy added that the group is always looking for volunteers.

“We’re always interested in having citizen folks come out, and landowners come out and join us on our operation,” he said, encouraging anyone interested to go to the website absarokafenceinitiative.org.

“We have several more fence projects coming up this summer,” Murphy added. “And folks can just join in, contact us on the website.”

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Wyoming Fire Officials Ask Public Not To Be Drunk While Lighting Off Fireworks

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

Fire officials always have a list of things to be careful about around the Fourth of July.

But the simplest tip may be this one from a Park County fire official: “Don’t hold things that go ‘BOOM.’”

Sam Wilde, fire marshal for Park County Fire District No. 2 in Cody, is joining fire officials across the state in urging residents to use common sense this 4th of July weekend, for the safety of the individual and the benefit of the community at large.

“Fireworks should be kept a good distance from any structures or combustible grasses,” Wilde said. “Check the weather conditions. Make sure we’re not under red flag warnings, that we’re not under fire restrictions. If it’s windy, don’t do it.” 

Wilde has been the fire marshal for Park County District 2 for nearly 20 years. In that time, he has experienced a number of fire calls in which fireworks caused property damage.

“A few years back, we changed (Cody fireworks display) vendors,” Wilde said. “And it’s not uncommon for us to have fires across the river, down on the hillside (where the display is shot from, away from private property.) The new vendor wanted to move the firework show closer into town, and I wouldn’t allow it.”

Wilde said the vendor appealed to the City Council, which ultimately took Wilde’s advice and kept the fireworks display set up where it had been for the previous 27 years – which turned out to be a good thing. 

“That year, (a fire) took the whole hillside,” Wilde said.

Busy Weekend

Wilde told Cowboy State Daily he learned quickly that the Fourth of July weekend would be busy for a volunteer firefighter.

“In my rookie year, 1996, we had 27 fire calls in a 3 hour period,” he said. “Almost all caused by fireworks.”

Wilde pointed out people assume that when they call the fire department, somebody will be on the way. But on a busy holiday in which incendiary devices are being set off all over the county, that isn’t always the case.

“I remember one night on the Fourth of July, we had every truck staffed,” Wilde said. “And everybody was going to different calls. And they got to the point where the tones would go off on the pagers to an address, and there was nobody left to respond.” 

Wilde urged residents setting off fireworks to have a garden hose, fire extinguisher and a shovel handy, so if a small fire does start, there’s a chance it could be extinguished while still small.

“Before it burns up the neighbor’s fence or their yard or the field or something,” Wilde said.

Don’t Be Drunk

Adult supervision – sober – is also a must, he added.

“Sometimes, especially on that kind of holiday, people have a tendency to be enjoying libations,” Wilde said, “and so sometimes common sense goes out the window.”

And don’t assume that just because fireworks are pointed up, they will go that way, advised Cheyenne resident Jonathan Downing.

He recalled at a celebration 15 years ago when he was living east of Cheyenne, when a Roman candle misfired and ended up setting a field in the back of his house on fire.

One attendee rushed out to extinguish the flames with a blanket, trying to hurdle a fence in the process.

“He misjudged the height and brought the entire fence down,” Downing said. “But once he recovered, he was pretty effective in snuffing out the flames.”

Downing said the other attendees at his fireworks show were of no help whatsoever due to the celebratory beverages they had consumed.

“They were just out on my deck laughing at the fire and our friend who had ruined my fence and was trying to put the flames out,” he said. “I think they were rooting for the fire.”

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Daily Wyoming Gas Map: Wednesday June 29, 2022

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By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming’s price of gasoline increased by 3 cents per gallon on Wednesday over the previous 24 hours to average $4.86. 

The website GasBuddy.com, which tracks national gas prices, reported Wyoming’s average gas price is up 4 cents from a week ago and is up $1.63 per gallon from one year ago.

Wyoming’s average price for gasoline was the same as the national average of $4.86 for a gallon of regular.

High and Low Prices:

The highest gasoline price in Wyoming on Wednesday was in Jackson at $5.68 per gallon. The lowest price continued to be found at Laramie’s Tumbleweed Express at 4700 Bluebird Lane, at $4.24.

The highest average county price for gasoline was in Lincoln County at $5.12 per gallon, while Natrona County had the lowest county average at $4.61.

These are the highest and lowest reported prices among those stationed surveyed

*The average price per gallon of regular in each Wyoming county: 

Albany $4.76; Big Horn $4.81; Campbell $4.83; Carbon $4.82; Converse $4.61; Crook $4.83; Fremont $4.87; Goshen $4.76; Hot Springs $4.89; Johnson $4.86; Laramie $4.68; Lincoln $5.12; Natrona $4.61; Niobrara $4.75; Park $5.03; Platte $4.83; Sheridan $4.83; Sublette $4.95; Sweetwater $4.85; Teton $4.83; Uinta $4.98; Washakie $4.83; Weston: $4.74. 

*The lowest price per gallon, reported in major Wyoming cities:

Basin $4.77; Buffalo $4.84; Casper $4.55; Cheyenne $4.63; Cody $4.99; Douglas $4.59; Evanston $4.94; Gillette $4.67; Jackson $5.12; Kemmerer $4.94; Laramie $4.24; Lusk $4.79; Newcastle $4.55; Pinedale $4.94; Rawlins $4.72; Riverton $4.76; Rock Springs $4.76; Sheridan $4.85; Sundance $4.95; Thermopolis $4.81; Wheatland $4.88; Worland $4.88.  

Tim’s Observations:

Normally, Wyoming’s average price per gallon has lagged behind the national average by 15 to 20 cents. While prices nationally have dropped a few cents, Wyoming’s have gone up. The only question is, will Wyoming pass the national average at some point?

While writing this report, I double-checked our state and national averages. Wyoming is now equal to the national average of $4.86 per gallon. That didn’t take very long. 

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: 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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Al Simpson To Receive Presidential Medal Of Freedom, Nation’s Highest Civilian Honor

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

Former U.S. Sen. Al Simpson is being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

“It’s the highest honor, I’m very touched,” Simpson said.

President Joe Biden has chosen Simpson as his first recipient of the medal. The award is presented to individuals who are considered to have made “especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”

Simpson, a Cody native and resident, served as a U.S. senator for 18 years, a timespan that included leadership positions as Senate majority and minority whip. He also was the co-chair of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform in 2010. 

Simpson said he found out about the medal a few days ago.

“It’s a very powerful and moving thing for me,” he said. “It’s something that’s cherished.”

The award was started by former President John Kennedy in 1963 and has been continued by every president since. Recipients include musician Duke Ellington, Mother Teresa, Margaret Thatcher, the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Colin Powell, Babe Ruth, Rosa Parks and Tiger Woods. Biden received the medal himself from former President Barack Obama in 2017. 

“You don’t have to agree with them all but it’s a hell of a list,” Simpson said of the award recipients.

Obama issued the award to 132 people while former President Donald Trump only gave it to 24.

Simpson’s childhood friend and former U.S. Rep. Norm Mineta received the honor in 2006. Simpson recently gave a eulogy at Mineta’s funeral.

Simpson said he has known the president for 55 years and worked hand-in-hand with Biden from 1989-1996 while the two were members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. One of their fellow members, Orrin Hatch, received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Trump in 2018. All three oversaw many important hearings together such as the Supreme Court nomination of Clarence Thomas and the associated testimony from Anita Hill. 

“We went through many ups and downs on that committee,” Simpson said. “Most of us thought we were Americans first and then Republicans second.”

Simpson is not optimistic about the future of American politics.

“It’s all based on hatred,” Simpson told Cowboy State Daily. “The parties, they hate Trump, they hate Biden, they hate (U.S. Rep.) Nancy Pelosi, they hate (U.S. Sen.) Mitch McConnell.”

Simpson’s award comes at a time when he finds himself at odds with many in the Republican Party after speaking out against Trump.

He has also criticized other party leaders, such as Wyoming Party Chairman Frank Eathorne for his participation at the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol.

“We don’t have to listen to someone like that and he certainly doesn’t represent Wyoming values,” Simpson.

It’s an interesting position for him to be in, considering his father, former U.S. Sen. Milward Simpson, was called too conservative for supporting presidential candidate Barry Goldwater in 1964.

“It’s the party trend because the party always changes,” Simpson said, explaining that his viewpoints haven’t changed, but the party has.

Simpson has also spoken out against the purity tests used by some Republicans to determine which party members truly deserve to be called “Republicans.” Those who fall short are called “RINOs,” short for “Republicans In Name Only.”

Simpson has his own version of this phrase and applies it to those making such determinations — Republicans Ignorantly Needling Others.

On Tuesday morning, Simpson appeared in a new commercial for U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney in her reelection campaign. Cheney has spoken out against Trump for his attempts to question the results of the 2020 election and his alleged role in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot.

Simpson has missed out on a few ceremonies in recent years due to personal illnesses and injuries, missing the funeral of former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi. Despite recently suffering a small fracture on his pelvic bone, Simpson said he will tough out this injury to receive his award.

“I’m still recovering from that but I’ll be there,” he said. “I’m making it a point to show up.”

Simpson said he will be presented the award at a ceremony at the White House on July 7. He will be accompanied by seven guests, including his wife Ann Simpson, children and grandchildren. 

A man who grew up in rural Northwest Wyoming, Simpson’s career should serve as an example that no matter one’s background, there is no limit to what can be accomplished in America’s highest political sphere.

“If you do what’s right, and you’ve got to have a thick skin,” Simpson said.

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Wyoming PBS To Allow Media To Attend Debate But Not The Public

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

A debate featuring all five Republican candidates for Wyoming’s lone U.S. House seat will be open to the media, the debate’s host has announced.

WyomingPBS, after first announcing Thursday’s debate in Sheridan would be closed to both the media and public, on Tuesday announced that Sheridan College had decided to allow credentialed media to cover the event in person. There was no mention of allowing members of the public to in person.

The debate, which begins at 7 p.m., will be live-streamed.

Terry Dugas, general manager for WyomingPBS, did not specify that it was Sheridan College’s decision to close the event to the media and the public, but he credited the Sheridan Press newspaper for convincing the college to allow media access.

Dugas said the safety of the candidates and WyomingPBS staff was a primary concern in the original closure.  

“Daily, there are news reports of political figures and public servants being assaulted,” he said. “Even in Wyoming, political figures receive death threats.  One of the candidates even describes such a death threat on his Facebook page.”

Sheridan College President Walter Tribley would not personally respond to questions about the decision.

“For reasons related to the safety of all in attendance at the event, I am not responding to questions about the event at this time,” he said in a Tuesday morning email.

Dugas said PBS was also concerned about the possibility of a vocal supporter disrupting the live event.

“The intense passion among supporters of all the candidates led us to close the debate to the public,” Dugas said. “We were not asked to do this by any of the candidates.”

Several of the candidates taking part in the event told Cowboy State Daily they did not ask for the debate to be closed. State Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, blamed incumbent U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, but Cheney’s press manager Tammy Hooper said the Cheney team had no input on the decision and were simply given the same rules and guidelines as the other candidates.

None of the candidates said it was their preference to have the debate closed and Harriet Hageman and Denton Knapp said they wanted it open.

Last week, Dugas said PBS would confer with the “security team” for the event, which he said made the decision to close the event to the public. He did not disclose the identity of the security team.

The debate’s moderator said he and PBS both worked to open the debate.

“As the moderator for Thursday’s upcoming Republican U.S. House Debate, I am very pleased about this announcement,” said Craig Blumenshine, debate moderator. “The moment I learned this event would be closed to the press, I fought back hard, and my former colleagues at WyomingPBS did as well. It is the right decision to allow a free and independent press to cover the event in person.”

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Yellowstone Back To Normal: Bison Attacks Tourist And Little Boy

in Yellowstone/News
21528

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

It’s like Yellowstone National Park never closed down — a bison attack on Monday shows things are back to normal in the nation’s oldest national park.

A 34-year-old man from Colorado Springs, Colorado was gored by a bison on Monday near Old Faithful and according to one eyewitness who filmed the incident, the tourist brought it on himself.

“The dad and the kid were just walking up to the bison when the bison took off,” Rob Goodell told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday. 

“Anyone who says that the bison just attacked that guy or whatever, that’s bullshit. The bison was just protecting his ground,” he said.

The National Park Service confirmed the attack in a press release distributed late Tuesday. They agreed with Goodell’s perspective.

“Family members did not leave the area, and the bull bison continued to charge and gored the male,” the agency said.

Goodell, from Flowery Branch, Georgia, said he was on his first trip to Yellowstone on Monday and was hoping to see something interesting.

“I didn’t get to see a bear but I don’t care now,” he said.

Video courtesy to Cowboy State Daily by Rob Goodell

Goodell said he was watching the family closely because of their proximity to the bison and the fact that they stuck around when the bison came so close to them.

He said he didn’t start filming before it escalated. What the video doesn’t show, he said, is that the family had time to move away from the area. But they just stuck around, he said.

“I didn’t even say anything during the entire video because I just assumed that guy was going to get murdered,” Goodell said.  “It was like holy crap, this is crazy.”

The man, who appeared to be holding his son, was lifted up off the ground with the little boy when the bison hit him.

After both landed, the boy can be seen running with his father close behind.

Although it can’t be seen in the video, Goodell said he believed the man was injured.

“The father literally looked like his shoulder was dislocated,” he said.  “It was just hanging off his body.”

Toward the end of the video, another man could be seen unleashing some bear spray at the bison, which the bison immediately ignored and just walked through.

Goodell said he spoke to a park ranger about the incident and filed an incident report. He also shared the video with the rangers, he said.

The National Park Service acknowledged an incident occurred yesterday but said rangers were still gathering information on it.

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New York Hiker “Severely Mauled” By Grizzly Bear Near Meeteetse On Monday

in News/Grizzly Bear Attacks
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

An hiker from Buffalo, New York, was attacked by a grizzly bear on Monday near Meeteetse, Wyoming Game and Fish Department and Park County sheriff’s officials announced Tuesday.

On Monday, the Park County Sheriff’s Office notified the Game and Fish Department that a 68-year-old man had been injured by a bear while hiking Francs Peak west of Meeteetse. The unidentified man was flown to a hospital in Billings, Montana, where he was receiving treatment.

Cody Wildlife Management Coordinator Corey Class told Cowboy State Daily that this is possibly the second bear encounter that has occurred within a week.

“We are in the process of investigating a report of another bear encounter that occurred late last week and reportedly resulted in minor human injury,” Class said. “No further details are available for this incident and the joint U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/WGFD investigation is ongoing.”

According to sheriff’s officials, the department’s communications division received a report of a possible downed aircraft in the Francs Peak area from the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center, which was was receiving a distress signal.

It was later found that the signal came from the injured man’s personal locator beacon.

The man was on a multi-day backpacking trip and had been “severely” mauled, sheriff’s officials said Tuesday.

The hiker’s medical status was not available as of Tuesday.

“We wish the individual a full and speedy recovery,” Class said.

According to Game and Fish Department officials, based on the initial investigation, the incident appears to have been the result of surprise encounter between the individual and a grizzly bear.

Class would not specify on Tuesday whether this was an encounter that could have been avoided or not, referring back to the initial Game and Fish Department release.

The man, an experienced recreationist, was hiking at high elevation when he encountered the bear at close range. The incident happened too suddenly for him to deploy the bear spray he was carrying, department officials said.  

Based on the information gathered during the initial investigation, the Game and Fish Department plans no management action at this time, but staff will continue to monitor bear activity in the area and make management decisions in the best interest of public safety.

According to the Powell Tribune, only one conflict between grizzly bears and humans has resulted in permanent removal from Wyoming’s ecosystem so far this year. In 2021, 31 grizzlies were removed in management decisions in Wyoming.

In April, the department’s large carnivore biologists removed a grizzly for cattle depredation in a collaborative decision with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The outlet also reported that the department averages about 20 relocations a year in a labor-intensive process involving multiple agencies and boots on the ground. 

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Wyo Republican Leaders Request Special Session For Gas Tax Holiday, Roll Back Property Taxes

in News/Legislature
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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

A group of 17 Wyoming Republican Party members are asking Gov. Mark Gordon to call a special legislative session to roll back state property taxes to 2019 levels and enact a fuel tax holiday.

Fremont County Republican Party Chairwoman Ginger Bennett, who organized the drafting and signing of the letter, said the current inflation and associated supply chain issues require that a special session be called to address the issue.

“The current economic situation is caused by massive bureaucratic overreach — in some cases, that overreach is simply a matter of statutes and regulations that have, over the years, been promulgated, without thought of ever repealing the action,” Bennett said. “Some of them are unwarranted now, as time has changed the circumstances. There is a need to meet from time to time to consider these, and to bring the laws current with on-the-ground situations.”

Property taxes have skyrocketed around Wyoming in recent months, with some counties claiming increases as high as 50%. The letter suggests letting the Legislature once again consider steps proposed in 2021 by Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper to put a 3% cap on yearly property tax growth and to look at a suspension of the state’s fuel tax.

Gray told Cowboy State Daily he supports the idea of having a special session, but said he would take the property tax idea one step further and bring it back to 2017 levels.

Twelve of the 17 people signing the letter sent to Gordon on June 22 are chairmen for their respective county Republican parties.

Bennett said several legislators also suggested to her that a special session be held, although she would not name any. 

Gordon’s communications director Michael Pearlman confirmed the governor has received the letter.


“Many of the issues he is working on are ones that the letter highlights,” Pearlman said. “He is listening to people from around the state and values the opinions that are expressed.”

In May, Gordon promoted a property tax refund program passed in this year’s legislature that gives Wyoming homeowners the chance to qualify for property tax reductions if they meet certain income requirements.

Bennett blames the inflation on policies initiated by President Joe Biden, who Bennett said is “bent on dismantling the American dream.” 

Those policies have negatively affected many families she knows, she said, including her own.

Paul Garbin, a Hot Springs County Republican Party state committeeman, agreed.

“Lots of families can’t afford to buy gas and feed someone in the same week,” he said, although he added he has not spoken with anyone personally who has experienced that dilemma. 

Biden has initiated many policies that have increased regulation and moratoriums on production by Wyoming’s energy industries. These policies have been enacted in keeping with Biden’s goal of reducing greenouse gases and improving the environment.

But Bennett said the policies have also led to inflation.

“Wyoming has resources that, when unfettered by overregulation, can be utilized to effectively decrease inflation,” Bennett said. “These resources include not only our oil and gas industry on state lands, but also other industries on state lands, as well as private industry that depends on state institutions for licensing prior to being able to implement activities.” 

Bennett said she believes the country is in a severe recession. Many leading economists have stated there is a rising likelihood a recession will happen this year but few have said the country is in one currently.

The letter also asks that the state’s fuel tax of 24 cents per gallon on gasoline and diesel be lifted until diesel prices drop to $3 per gallon and at least until Labor Day to assist truck drivers. 

The average price of diesel in Wyoming on Tuesday was $5.70. It has not been below $3 nationally since February 2021.

“The people of Wyoming must travel great distances, and the price being charged at the pump for fuel is a ‘silent’ tax,” Bennett said. 

The letter also demands that Gordon dramatically increase oil and gas drilling on state lands, change oil and gas drilling regulations and statutes so they cannot be used to prevent drilling and work with the refineries in Wyoming and Montana to assure maximum output can be achieved. 

Gordon was also asked to simplify and streamline regulations on meat processing plants, incentivize small sawmill production and increase fertilizer production on state lands.

“We encourage you to work with our legislators to develop additional solutions!” the letter said. “Some of our best resources are the fine minds we have working towards solutions for our people! By working together, we are certain that Wyoming can create sustainable solutions through conservative policy that allow the people of Wyoming to flourish.”

The last special session of the Legislature was called in 2021 to discuss federal vaccine mandates.

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Wyo Supreme Court: Shared Information Between Cops Enough To Justify Drug Stops

in News/Wyoming Supreme Court
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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Police officers can stop a vehicle as part of an investigation into drug trafficking based on information they obtain from other officers, Wyoming’s Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.

The court upheld the conviction of Thow C. Guandong, who pleaded guilty to a felony charge of marijuana possession after the car he was driving was found to be carrying 47 pounds of marijuana.

Justices rejected Guandong’s argument that the Wyoming Highway Patrol trooper who stopped him in Albany County in 2020 had no cause to do so.

Justices agreed that based on information received from other troopers, Trooper Aaron Kirlin acted correctly in stopping Guandong’s car in Albany for the purpose of investigating possible drug trafficking.

“… Trooper Kirlin concluded that the driver … was transporting drugs and, based on the totality of the circumstances, we will defer to his ‘ability to distinguish between innocent and suspicious actions,’” said the ruling, written by Justice Lynne Boomgaarden.

According to the ruling, Kirlin in February 2020 received an advisory from a trooper in Sweetwater County telling troopers to “be on the lookout” for a white Toyota Corolla.

Upon checking, Kirlin learned that troopers in Sweetwater County had stopped another vehicle believed to be traveling with the Corolla in an arrangement referred to as a “decoy vehicle” and a “load vehicle.”

“The decoy vehicle is intended to attract law enforcement’s attention so the load vehicle, which contains drugs, will not be stopped,” the ruling said.

The stop did not result in any arrests, but officers forwarded information collected during the stop to other officers.

Later, Kirlin saw the Corolla in Albany County on Interstate 80 and stopped it because he noticed several air fresheners and an identification badge hanging from the rearview mirror that he believed could obstruct the driver’s vision. 

Kirlin testified he also conducted the stop because he believed the Corolla might be carrying drugs, based on the information he had obtained from the other troopers.

Guandong was arrested after a search of his car yielded about 47 pounds of marijuana and marijuana products.

Guandong argued that the marijuana seized should not be used as evidence against him because it was seized as the result of an improper traffic stop that violated his constitutional rights against unreasonable search and seizure.

“More specifically, he contended the initial stop could not be justified based on the items hanging from his rearview mirror because those items did not materially obstruct his view,” the ruling said.

But the district court said Kirlin’s stop was justified based on the information he had that indicated Guandong’s vehicle could be involved in drug trafficking.

Justices agreed with the lower court, finding that the information Kirlin had obtained was sufficient to create “reasonable suspicion” about the vehicle that would justify a traffic stop.

“Trooper Kirlin had reasonable suspicion to stop the driver of the Corolla for drug trafficking,” the ruling said. “The initial stop was therefore legally justified … and the district court did not err in denying Mr. Guandong’s motion to suppress.”

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Casper Woman Sentenced To Prison For Helping Boyfriend Sexually Abuse Son

in News/Crime
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Casper woman was sentenced last week to a decade in prison for conspiring to help her boyfriend sexually abuse her young son, court records showed.

Zabrina Thornton was sentenced on June 22 to five to 10 years in prison on two counts of third-degree conspiracy to commit sexual abuse of a minor.

Thornton entered an Alford plea in the case, meaning she did not admit wrongdoing in the case, but acknowledged prosecutors have enough evidence to find her guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

According to court documents and the Natrona County Sheriff’s Office, investigators were contacted in late June 2021 regarding a cybertip received by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

The tip was in reference to several videos found online which depicted a man sexually assaulting a prepubescent child. The child at one point asked if the man will be done soon, because the child has to go to the bathroom. An identifiable tattoo could be seen on the man’s arm.

Based on information provided in the cybertip and a local law enforcement database, the videos were believed to have originated from 49-year-old Natrona County resident Samuel Rosamond.

Rosamond was living with Thornton and her two young children, an older girl and younger boy.

On June 25, 2021, Rosamond and Thornton were interviewed at the Natrona County Sheriff’s Office. During the interview, Rosamond confessed to sexually assaulting the boy on at least one occasion and recording several videos on his phone during that time.

He said Thornton did not know about and was not involved in the abuse. Thornton also denied knowledge of any abuse being committed by Rosamond.

Based on the evidence and confession, Rosamond was then placed under arrest.

During the investigation, officers found four cameras disguised to look like clock radios which were placed in four different rooms of the residence, three of which were bedrooms.

On July 15, 2021, sheriff’s investigators were contacted by Homeland Security regarding several images of concern captured by the clock cameras in the house. The images depicted Thornton and Rosamond engaged in sexual acts and intercourse with juveniles present.

The two children in the home were immediately placed into protective custody.

Thornton was again interviewed and confessed to participating in sex acts with Rosamond and juveniles in the home on multiple occasions. She was ultimately arrested.

In November 2021, Rosamond pleaded guilty in Natrona County District Court to one count of first-degree sexual abuse of a minor in accordance with a plea agreement. He was sentenced in March to 38 to 50 years in prison.

Court records also showed Thornton relinquished her parental rights to at least one of her children earlier this year.

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Election Watchdog Group: Wyoming Company Illegally Contributed $50,000 To Hageman PAC

in News/politics
Photo by Matt Idler.
21515

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

A complaint alleging a Wyoming company improperly contributed $50,000 to a political action committee supporting congressional candidate Harriet Hageman has been filed with the Federal Election Commission.

The Campaign Legal Center, an election watchdog group, filed the complaint with the FEC on June 22, alleging that Snow Goose LLC is a “shell company” formed to hide the actual identity of those who donated $50,000 to Wyoming Values.

Wyoming Values is a super PAC formed to support Hageman’s campaign against incumbent U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney.

“Shell companies like Snow Goose, LLC are one of the ways special interests funnel secret spending (also known as dark money) to super PACs and conceal the true contributor’s identity,” said Saurav Ghosh, director of federal reform at Campaign Legal Center. “Voters have a right to know who is spending that money and attempting to rig the system in their favor.”

However, a spokesman for Wyoming Values took exception to the complaint.

“This complaint from Liz Cheney’s liberal friends at CLC doesn’t even allege any wrongdoing by our PAC,” James Blair, one of the Republican strategists who oversees the PAC, told Cowboy State Daily Tuesday morning. “Wyoming Values has always fully complied with the law and will continue to do so.”

No accusations of wrongdoing have been raised against Wyoming Values.

In the complaint, CLC said Snow Goose, which was formed in December by Jackson attorney Matt Kim-Miller, has no known business operations, investments, assets, or commercial ventures.

It also said that Snow Goose donated $50,000 to Wyoming Values in February.

Kim-Miller did not immediately respond to a Cowboy State Daily request for comment.

Records from the secretary of state’s office show the company shares an office with Corporate Creations Network in Casper, which is Snow Goose’s registered agent. CCN is a national company which acts as a registered agent or companies across the country.

Elaine Gonzalez, a spokesperson for CCN, declined to answer questions about Snow Goose and who runs it.

The evidence indicates Snow Goose is a “shell company” created just to send money to a campaign, making it a “straw donor” under FEC rules, according to the CLC.

FEC law states single member LLCs like Snow Goose can make contributions to super PACs, but these contributions must be attributed to the single member, not the LLC.

CLC is requesting an immediate investigation into the allegations and appropriate sanctions. 

Ghosh told Cowboy State Daily it’s not one particular infringement made by Snow Goose that is at the heart of the issue, but rather, the whole cohesive picture of how the contribution was allegedly made in a manner to conceal the identity of the contributor.

He said his nonprofit organization combs through campaign finance documents to find LLCs it suspects of wrongdoing. Although $50,000 is a relatively small sum in a race where the top two candidates have raised millions of dollars, Ghosh said the Snow Goose donation still rose to the level where it was considered deserving of an official complaint.

“$50,000 is $50,000,” he said.

Straw donor investigations have led to criminal indictments and convictions in recent years.

Wyoming Values, the super PAC to receive Snow Goose’s donation, is overseen by Republican strategists Blair and Andy Surabian, with Donald Trump Jr. serving as honorary chairman. 

Trump Jr. has been active in lobbying for Hageman, appearing in a campaign commercial on her behalf and speaking at one of her campaign events in Alpine two weeks ago. 

Ghosh said although he agrees with Blair that Wyoming Values did nothing illegal in accepting the donation from Snow Goose, he said from an ethical standpoint, all super PACs should be vetting who they receive their donations from.

He added the investigation could yield more information the donation.


“There definitely could possibly be a story we don’t know there that the FEC might find,” he said.

According to FEC reports, Wyoming Values had spent $562,224 in support of Hageman’s campaign as of the last FEC filing date of March 31.

Wyoming Values helped organize a rally featuring former President Donald Trump in Casper in May.

Blair also declined to discuss the principals behind Snow Goose.

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AirBnb Lodgings Up 200% For Cheyenne Frontier Days; Houses Going For $1,800 Per Night

in News/Tourism/cheyenne frontier days
21507

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

“There aren’t many places left in Cheyenne, so now’s a good time to book,” the top of the AirBnb website reads on Tuesday morning.

With less than a month to go until the 126th annual “Daddy of ’em All,” hotels and AirBnbs are nearly booked solid for the 10-day rodeo and concert event and bookings have increased dramatically from previous levels.

The 24 available listings on AirBnb from July 22 to July 30 will cost Cheyenne visitors thousands of dollars for a weeklong stay. Even one night could cost up to $500, when taxes and various AirBnb fees are added in.

“Prices, supply and demand are all up across the board when compared to the same time in 2021 and 2019,” Chloé Garlaschi of AirDNA told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday. “It looks like Cheyenne Frontier Days will attract a big crowd in 2022.”

AirDNA tracks short-term rental data analytics for Vrbo and AirBnb.

Most of the available listings on AirBnb in Cheyenne are full homes with anywhere from one to four bedrooms open for visitors. These homes could cost anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 for eight days at Cheyenne Frontier Days.

“Peaceful and centrally-located place. The house has 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, full kitchen, 2 family rooms and laundry. Cheyenne Frontier Days park is just a little over a mile away!” a listing for a house that would cost almost $9,000 for eight days of stay reads.

“Half mile from Frontier Park! This fully furnished and equipped home sleeps 8 with three bedrooms, a queen pullout couch and two full bathrooms. Minutes walk to enjoy Cheyenne Frontier Days without the hassle of parking or getting to and from places. Includes a 2 car garage for parking (with additional front parking), outdoor patio w/ bbq and cornhole. Home will be fully functional to cook and entertain in!” a listing for a house that would cost around $9,300 to stay in for eight days reads.

Cheyenne resident Chris Karajanis told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday that he would be renting his home, which sleeps 10 people, and a condominium out on AirBnb for the first time this year.

“We were thinking, ‘Make hay while the sun shines’ and we may end up doing this every year,” he said. “I haven’t missed a Cheyenne Frontier Days in my life and I’m 53, but also, I’m 53 and I’ve kind of done it.”

The 4,000 square foot home is being rented on AirBnb for $1,800 per night. So far, he has the two weekends booked up at his home, as well as some dates for his condo.

Next year, he may even consider renting his camper out, but he and his family will be using it during the portion of CFD when they’re in town.

“I’m not worried about the liability, because AirBnb takes care of a lot of things, plus my dad lives across the street and my neighbors are all friends,” Karajanis said. “They can’t party any more than we have. We’ll have 125 people over for Christmas, so a group of anywhere from four to 10 people will be fine.”

Garlaschi said that as of Tuesday, bookings are up 188% for the week of July 18 compared to the same time in 2019 and 40% higher than last year. Cheyenne Frontier Days was canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Available AirBnb listings in Cheyenne have been added over the last three years, Garlaschi said, and the supply is up by 155% compared to 2019 and up 47% compared to 2021.

“The average daily rate is also up between 35% and 37% through [the week of July 18] and [the week of July 25] compared to the same time in 2019, with a slightly minor hike when compared to 2021 data, 19% for week 29, 28% for week 30,” she said.

Even staying in a camper through AirBnb could rack up a bill of nearly $4,000, although a $500 discount is available for committing to a week-long stay.

“Come stay on the Prairie! See the Wyoming sunsets! We have our 2020 40 ft 5th wheel all set up for you and your guests to stay in right next to our home,” the listing reads. “Complete with inside privacy. Free parking. Full shower and bath. We welcome pets. The 5th wheel has two full bedrooms and a loft. All cooking and camping supplies provided including outdoor chairs. Large awning. A master bedroom with a king bed. A twin bed bunk room and a queen loft. 3 large TVs. High speed Wi-Fi. Cooler available.”

This year’s Cheyenne Frontier Days will run from July 22 to July 31 and will feature its world-famous rodeo, the carnival, food and retail vendors and concerts featuring some of country’s biggest acts, including Brooks and Dunn, Jason Aldean and Dierks Bentley. Kid Rock and Nelly will also perform at different concerts during the event.

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Fallen Wyoming Marine Seth Rasmuson Gets Last Ride Home To Buffalo

in News/military
21481

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming U.S. Marine Cpl. Seth Rasmuson may have been young when he died, but his sacrifice for his country was valued, nonetheless, those who turned out for a procession in his honor said on Monday.

Shona Armstrong is a Canada native who married an American soldier, so she felt a strong drive to honor Rasmuson when the procession carrying his body, escorted by members of the Wyoming Highway Patrol, drove through Cheyenne on Monday afternoon on its way to Buffalo.

“There’s a sense of patriotism here that you don’t see in Canada,” Armstrong told Cowboy State Daily on Monday, holding a large American flag. “I’m really grateful that we’re proud of our country and our soldiers. They’re not forgotten here like they are in Canada. It’s very different.”

Rasmuson, a 2019 Buffalo High School graduate, was among five Marines killed earlier this month in a training exercise when an Osprey helicopter crashed in the desert near the border between California and Arizona.

The procession carrying Rasmuson’s body followed I25 from Denver to Buffalo and over the weekend, Sheridan Facebook user Kristen King called on Wyoming residents to welcome him back home to Wyoming one final time.


Video shot by Christopher Mulkey

Bill and Miriam Abernathy were sent the information about the procession by their daughter in Kansas, showing how far the call for people had reached.

“My dad was in the service and I just respected everything he did for this country,” Bill Abernathy said. “My uncle is actually still missing in North Korea. I respect what he ultimately sacrificed for this country. But somebody has to carry the torch, and that’s exactly what I’m doing.”

The trio waved flags above I25 at an overpass in Cheyenne, getting a “lot” of honks from passersby, they said.



More people gathered across the state at various overpasses to welcome Rasmuson back to Wyoming and to honor the young man’s sacrifice.

Rasmuson left behind his wife with whom he graduated and a 7-month-old son.

He received many commendations including the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and a Sea Service Deployment Ribbon.

Rasmuson’s funeral services will be held this week in Buffalo.

Donations in Seth’s memory may be made to the Seth Rasmuson Memorial, a fund set up for his son Reed’s education in care of Harness Funeral Home at 351 N. Adams in Buffalo.

Video courtesy, Laura Loughran Redmond

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Daily Wyoming Gas Map: Tuesday June 28, 2022

in Gas Map/News
21521

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By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily

The price of gasoline in Wyoming increased by 3 cents per gallon on Tuesday over the previous 24 hours to average $4.83. 

The website GasBuddy.com, which tracks national gas prices, reported Wyoming’s average gas price is up 2 cents from one week ago and is up $1.60 per gallon from one year ago.

Wyoming’s average price for gasoline remained below the national average of $4.88 for a gallon of regular.

High and Low Prices:

The highest gasoline price in Wyoming on Tuesday was in Jackson at $5.68 per gallon. The lowest surveyed price, $4.24 per gallon, was found at Laramie’s Tumbleweed Express at 4700 Bluebird Lane.

The highest county price average was in Lincoln County $5.12 per gallon. The lowest average was found in Natrona and Converse counties at $4.61. These are the highest and lowest reported prices among those stationed surveyed. 

*The average price per gallon of regular in each Wyoming county: 

Albany $4.76; Big Horn $4.81; Campbell $4.83; Carbon $4.82; Converse $4.61; Crook $4.83; Fremont $4.87; Goshen $4.76; Hot Springs $4.89; Johnson $4.86; Laramie $4.67; Lincoln $5.12; Natrona $4.61; Niobrara $4.75; Park $5.03; Platte $4.83; Sheridan $4.83; Sublette $4.95; Sweetwater $4.85; Teton $4.83; Uinta $4.98; Washakie $4.83; Weston: $4.74. 

*The lowest price per gallon, reported in major Wyoming cities:

Basin $4.79; Buffalo $4.74; Casper $4.51; Cheyenne $4.54; Cody $4.99; Douglas $4.48; Evanston $4.85; Gillette $4.44; Jackson $5.09; Kemmerer $4.67; Laramie $4.24; Lusk $4.69; Newcastle $4.55; Pinedale $4.94; Rawlins $4.74; Riverton $4.76; Rock Springs $4.79; Sheridan $4.79; Sundance $4.94; Thermopolis $4.81; Wheatland $4.88; Worland $4.89.  

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: 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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Cheney Says She Didn’t Ask For A Closed Debate; Wyoming PBS Won’t Talk

in News/politics
Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images
21471

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney had nothing to do with the decision to exclude the media and public from a debate between her and the other Republican candidates for Wyoming’s U.S. House spot, a spokesman said Monday.

“It appears false rumors are spreading as they relate to the upcoming debate in Sheridan,” said Tammy Hooper Cheney’s campaign manager.

Hooper said the debate organizers set the rules for the debate and the Cheney team was given these rules. She said no one from the campaign ever asked or requested the debate be closed to the public or the media.

“PBS organizers decided the rules for the debate without input from campaigns and we respect the decisions they’ve made since it’s their debate,” she said.

The debate is to begin at 7 p.m. Thursday and will be live streamed.

Wyoming PBS, the host for Thursday’s debate at Sheridan College, told Cowboy State Daily on Friday that other than the three panelists selected to question the candidates, no other media would be allowed into the building. Nor would members of the public.

A spokesman for the partially publicly funded institution said the public and the media would be excluded because of “safety concerns.”

“To ensure the safety of the candidates, the debate is closed to the public and the press,” Terry Dugas said.

Dugas said PBS would confer with its “security team” this week, which he said made the decision to close the event to the public. He would not disclose the identity of the security team.

When reached for follow up questions Monday morning, Dugas declined to comment further.

“I can’t answer your questions until after the debate ends,” he said. “If you’re still interested on Friday, I can add a little more light.”

Cheney opponents Harriet Hageman and state Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, said they had nothing to do with the event’s closure to the public.

“We would prefer that the debate be more open, but these were the rules as presented to us. We did not make these demands or any others,” Hageman campaign manager Carly Miller told Cowboy State Daily on Friday.

Meanwhile, Bouchard blamed the closure on Cheney. “Spend millions of out of state grifter money, and it turns into a circus,” he said.

Hooper said PBS organizers decided the rules of the debate without any input from campaigns. She added the Cheney campaign will not oppose the rules “since it’s their debate.”

“These are important points to counter any misleading narratives that are taking hold,” Hooper said.

Another one of Cheney’s opponents, Denton Knapp, said he is very disappointed the event is not open for the public or the press to attend, as he was the one who reached out to PBS to host a debate in the first place.

“I find it really hard to believe with five candidates in this race it’s not allowed to be open to the public,” he said.

Knapp said he won’t boycott the event if it remains closed but is planning to issue a press release imploring PBS to change its rules.

“The public needs to be allowed to read the reactions and emotions taking place,” Knapp said. “It’s important to have open doors. We really need to be asking why this is being closed.”

Longtime political moderator and past host of the popular Wyoming Chronicles television program Craig Blumenshine said despite the format he was looking forward to hosting the discussion on Thursday.

“I was asked to moderate the debate and I believe it is very important to hear what these candidates have to say,” Blumenshine said. “On Thursday, I’ll have more to say about what led up to this debate.”

Three members of the media, Wyoming PBS Producer Steve Peck, Wyoming Public Radio News Director Bob Beck and Sheridan Press reporter Stephen Dow, will be allowed into the event, but they will be operating as panelists for the debate.

In a weekend Facebook post, Beck said he did not become aware the event was closed to the public until Friday, the same day Wyoming PBS put out a press release announcing the event.

“I’m not sure if Wyoming PBS or any of the candidates played a role,” he said in the post. “I’m surprised media members were included and I requested that be changed.”

Peck, Beck and Dow did not immediately respond to requests for follow up comments. 

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