Category archive

News - page 194

UW beer and wine sales go well when teams win

in Food and Beverage/News
UW football beer sales

By Cody Beers, Cowboy State Daily

Saturday marks the start of the third year of beer and wine sales at UW football and basketball games. And if Saturday’s attendance at Wyoming-Missouri football opener nears a predicted sellout, it could be a big day for beer and wine sales inside War Memorial Stadium.

Instituted to create a new revenue source for UW Athletics and a way to enhance the fan experience, beer and wine sales grossed $505,000 in 2017 and $460,000 in 2018. The 2018 sales numbers dropped largely due to fewer fans attending Cowboy football games – 73,076 fans attended football games in 2018, compared to 97,300 in 2017.

Revenue is split between UW Athletics (55 percent) and local pouring rights vendor Roxie’s on Grand (45 percent). UW Athletics transfers the first $30,000 from beer and wine sales each year to the Office of Student Affairs on the UW campus, according to Billy Sparks, UW Senior Associate Athletic Director-Business Operations.

Sparks said Roxie’s on Grand in 2017 was selected as UW’s pouring rights vendor for three years, with an option for two more years.

“As the pouring rights vendor, their responsibilities are to provide manpower and enough beer-wine product to sufficiently serve fans at our football and basketball games,” Sparks said.

Roxie’s responsibilities include adhering to and supporting UW’s rules and regulations regarding ID checks and service limits — serving only 2 beers or glasses of wine per person, with a maximum of 4 total beers per person per game.

While the national average of fans buying beer and wine at sporting events is about 50 percent, Sparks said the figure is lower at UW football and basketball games.

“Anecdotally, stories float around about how much Wyoming fans drink at bowl games and conference basketball tournaments, but the actual numbers at home games have shown about 30 percent to 35 percent are actually buying beer and wine,” Sparks said. “On average, sales numbers show Wyoming fans are drinking two to two and one-half beers per game.”

Sparks said beer and wine sales at UW football and basketball games are adding to the fans’ experience.

“The game atmosphere and entertainment aspect for fans has been enhanced,” he added. “In a time where attendance numbers are lower (around the country), every effort has to be made to give fans reasons to physically attend the games versus staying home and watching games on television or watching portions of games on smartphones, tablets, etc.”

Sparks said beer and wine consumers will see changes beginning Saturday.

“Mostly aluminum bottles will be sold, instead of draft beers,” he said. “We believe this will speed up the lines, eliminate partially used kegs, make it easier on the hawkers and should speed up their transactions, allow flexibility to open some express sales locations for larger crowds, and keep the beer colder for a longer period of time.”

Roxie’s staff will also be more proactive this year in checking IDs and distributing wrist bands outside the stadium prior to games.

Finally a product change for this fall includes increased availability of Budweiser products (Budweiser, Bud Light, Kona, Becks IPA, etc.)

“Roxie’s has also increased staffing for this upcoming year,” Sparks said. “Last year at the Washington State game, Roxie’s staff numbered about 90. This year, the plan for the Missouri game is to have about 150 staff members.”

Law enforcement presence remains strong, vigilant at UW games

UW Police Department Chief Mike Samp is a 22-year UW police veteran (the last eight years as chief). Samp and his officers have seen a bit of everything in his time at UW, but the chief is encouraged by trends in drinking by Wyoming fans.

“Generally, we are seeing fewer attempts by people trying to sneak beer and hard alcohol into the (War Memorial) stadium,” he said. “We are still seeing some underage drinking attempts inside the stadium, but most underage drinkers are consuming outside the stadium and then trying to enter the stadium.”

UW’s arrest and ticket records support this notion, “largely because we aren’t writing large numbers of open container tickets.

“All in all, selling beer at our events has gone rather well,” he said.

One thing that remains consistent, Samp said, is the fact that when the Cowboys are winning, fewer problems are seen.

“We see a lot of correlation between winning and losing,” he said. “As long as UW is winning, things tend to go well. So ultimately, it’s a ‘Go Pokes’ mentality.”

Samp remains optimistic about beer sales and football inside War Memorial Stadium, much like UW fans, boosters, coaches and players.

“By in large, given the population of folks who are attending our games, beer sales themselves haven’t created any larger issue,” Samp said. “We are continuing to monitor overconsumption. We don’t want people drinking and driving when they are leaving the stadium.

“We often see medical issues related to alcohol where we have games with rather high temperatures,” he continued. “Combine that with folks tailgating starting at noon or earlier, the longer time for people to consume alcohol, and the evening start, it’s obvious that actual consuming inside the stadium won’t be much of an issue this week.”

With Saturday’s 5:30 p.m. kickoff, longer-than-normal pregame tailgating is expected. This may lead to more alcohol-related medical issues than during normal midday kickoff time on Saturday.

Saturday’s forecast also calls for a high of 83 degrees in Laramie, and 80 degrees is forecast at kickoff.

Samp credits a team-oriented approach to successful law enforcement on game days, such as Saturday when highly-touted Missouri and its energetic fans of the Southeastern Conference come to Laramie.

“We’ve got a minimum staffing of 42 officers for any game, and that includes officers from UW, Wyoming Highway Patrol, Albany County Sheriff’s Department and the City of Laramie,” Samp said.

Inside War Memorial Stadium, law enforcement presence varies according to attendance, Samp added.

“We are hoping to have 60 officers for Saturday’s game, and those numbers will be augmented by contract security people on site.”

Peterson: How to fix Wyoming’s revenue struggles

in Column/Government spending/Taxes
Wyoming Government spending

By R. Ray Peterson, guest column for Cowboy State Daily

While serving in the Wyoming Senate, I had the privilege of serving on both the Appropriations Committee for six years and as chairman of the Senate Revenue Committee for six years.  These two committees deal with the state budget through expenditures and revenues.

As I served, I was able to attend many state and regional meetings as well as review reports, and studies, all while having direct involvement in directing expenditures and revenue streams of our state.  These experiences allowed me insights and knowledge concerning our states budget along with growing concerns of revenue streams and how we will meet the expectations of funding state and local governments into the future.

The most recent developments of our coal industry in Wyoming should be setting off alarms with every elected official and citizen in our state.  Over the years, our state’s natural resources have subsidized a major portion of our taxes or revenue streams that we use to fund our schools and governments.  Over half of all revenues used to meet these expenses come from our mineral extraction industry. 

Learning from our history of our boom and bust cycles, our legislature has wisely put aside additional revenues from the high years to assist us during the low years.  This philosophy has served us well for the past 50 years in providing a more consistent budget, but the times, “they are a changing.”  The question now is, how long before our reserves are depleted?  Will our natural resources come back as they have in the past to save us yet another time? 

Wyoming, by our state’s constitution, must have a balanced budget.  Some would argue that we do not deficit spend in Wyoming while others would argue that we use the reserves to balance the budget which is, in a sense, deficit spending.  From my own simple understanding, when we spend more in a period than we take in, it is deficit spending. 

Although our budget is balanced in the end, we are still spending more than we take in during our low years.  Thanks to our cash reserves or “rainy day” funds and our investments, we seem to be holding our own while hoping that the revenue streams will return to higher levels. 

Today’s challenges are different

But today’s challenges to the budget are different than our past experiences of our boom and bust cycles.  Today, we face the strong possibility that coal will never come back to contribute to our revenues as it once did for our state.  The market has changed.  The demand has changed.  Unlike natural gas and oil, coal was a more consistent contributor to our states revenues with even slight increases from year to year, as amounts extracted increased with what the market demanded. 

But the demand for coal is decreasing for different reasons.  Although Wyoming has stepped up to produce cleaner burning coal technology to protect our coal’s value, other factors have weighed in that have had a dramatic effect on the value of coal. 

The war on coal was real and certainly had its effect.  More power plants have converted from coal fired to natural gas fired power generation.  But more importantly, consumer states of energy, such as California and others, have required energy supply companies to provide evidence that a majority of their power generation portfolio is derived from renewable sources such as hydro, wind and solar, or they will go elsewhere for their energy purchases.  The market is changing and because of this, Wyoming should be prepared and adapt with those changes.

Action is required

There are two principles used when budgeting in a shortfall.  Increase revenues or reduce expenditures.  Wyoming has done both without raising taxes. And there are other good things the state has done and continues to do.  As I mentioned, it participates with private energy corporations in developing clean coal technology as well as other cleaner burning fossil fuel efforts.  It also participates in the effort to develop new markets for our coal.  It has worked to create more transmission lines to deliver our natural gas and oil to market areas. 

These are things our state has done to try and increase or stabilize our revenues by strengthening the current resources we have.  The state has also used excess revenue of the good years to save and invest.  These investments, at times, provide additional revenues that are used to fill the budget holes left from the decreasing value of our market driven resources.  This effort combined with savings, have provided a long-needed stabilizing influence on our past boom and bust budget cycles.

Our challenge today

Our subsidy by mineral taxation has lightened the tax burden on Wyoming citizens over the years, but it has taken a hit, creating a shortfall.  The savings and investment of those savings are currently filling the shortages, allowing our state and local leaders time to make adjustments to their budgets. 

But reserves shrink and investments don’t always perform consistently.  The investment portfolio that perhaps saved our budget the year before could generate nothing the following year.  Trusting our trust funds is not the long-term solution to our shortfall problems. 

Most will argue that we need to reduce our expenditures.  I certainly agree with this position.  As with our own home budgets, we make less, we should spend less.  It should be no different with our state budget and over the last few years the state budget has been reduced in most areas.  But these are all short-term solutions to our current situation. 

What needs to be brought to the table are long-term solutions.  The solutions need to address the real problem of an inconsistent revenue stream, where nearly 60 percent of current revenues collected are market driven or out of our own control.  Wyoming needs to meet the challenge of reducing that market driven 60 percent, to 50 percent or even 40 percent of total revenue collected by the state. 

Now the question should be; How do we do this?

It’s time

By applying the two principles of budgeting in a shortfall of raising revenue and reducing expenses, I’ll offer one revenue increasing idea and two reducing expenditures ideas. 

A good start to the effort of stabilizing our revenue stream would be to pass a bill increasing the statewide lodging tax.   This increase would have the lowest effect on our tax payers and would be consistent to what surrounding states charge.   

For my ideas of reducing expenditures, I would suggest eliminating the $15 million annual automatic escalator for funding K-12 education.  I would also zero base the Department of Education budget and the Department of Health budget every ten years in the appropriations committee.  Stagger them to spread out the work load, but the two largest budgets in our state need more legislative scrutiny. 

These actions would be a good start in stabilizing our budget in Wyoming.

Pedro Mountain Fire tops 11,000 acres

in News

By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily

A 11,084 acre wildfire burning on Pedro Mountain on Natrona and Carbon counties was 10 percent contained as of Thursday. According to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the fire located in south-central Wyoming was sparked by a lightning strike Sunday afternoon.

Three hotshot crews consisting of more than 250 people and 22 engines are battling the flames, assisted by air tankers.

Evacuation orders are still in effect for Pedro Mountain Estates and for residents living along Pedro Mountain Ranch Road as well as Cardwell Ranch. 

Natrona County Road 291 remains open to the public, with the exception of western travel between Leo/Sage Creek and the Natrona County line, for public safety.

Firefighters are preparing for windy, warm and dry conditions favorable to fire growth in the next few days.

“Crews and air support will strategically allow the fire to slowly approach downhill from the higher, rocky areas in order to establish more ‘back line’ (burned vegetation) adjacent to the grass and sage-covered flats that can quickly carry fire,” fire managers said in a news release. “This will provide for firefighters’ safety and allow crews to better protect structures when the predicted winds shift to out of the southwest in the next few days.”

Damage to property is still under assessment by the Carbon County Sheriff’s Office and fire warden.

A call-back list has been established by the Sheriff’s Office. Those seeking information on a specific property are urged to call (307) 324-2776 to leave contact information for updates and notifications.

Red Cross is also assisting those effected by the fire or anyone needing help.  People needing assistance are advised to contact the Red Cross at (307) 321-1514.

A big dam deal: Buffalo Bill Dam expansion celebrated

in Agriculture/Energy/News/Recreation

By Cowboy State Daily

The anniversary of the completion of one of Wyoming’s most impressive engineering feats was celebrated recently as Cody marked the 25th anniversary of the expansion of Buffalo Bill Dam.

The $132 million expansion project launched in 1985 raised the dam’s height from 325 feet to 350, increasing its storage capacity by 260,000 acre-feet.

The “Great Dam Day” on Aug. 17 celebrated the completion of the project with a number of activities that gave visitors a chance to stop by the dam and its visitor’s center.

Among the attendees was Bill McCormick, who served as the project manager for the expansion.

McCormick said one of the most challenging parts of the job was removing a large section of a mountain to allow for the expansion.

Project officials soon figured out that rock from the mountain could be used as “riprap” to line the reservoir’s shoreline, he said, eliminating the need to bring in the material from elsewhere.

“So it seemed very logical,” he said. “We had good granite right here and (workers could) take the rock from here.”

While the project was originally supposed to be completed in five years, various developments delayed completion, McCormick said.

“The estimated five years for the project actually took 11 as things were modified or problems came up or the design changed,” he said.

The dam today provides irrigation water for more than 90,000 acres of land in the Big Horn Basin, along with a 6-mile long reservoir that serves as a recreation area.

Irrigation canal repairs nearly complete, Goshen County to turn water back on

in Agriculture/Business/News
Look back at how this water crisis began and see a view of the situation on the ground in Torrington with this report from Cowboy State Daily’s Robert Geha and Mike McCrimmon when the tunnel first collapsed.

By Ike Fredregill, Cowboy State Daily

Tunnel crews cleared the Gering-Fort Laramie Irrigation Canal tunnel Monday, and water could start flowing to crops as early as later this week, Goshen County Irrigation District Manager Rob Posten said.

Full capacity irrigation, however, won’t be restored immediately, he added.

“We’ll go a little at a time until we get there,” Posten said. “It might take another week — it usually takes 7 to 10 days to bring the water into where we want it.”

Irrigation water was cut off to more than 100,000 acres of farmland in Goshen County and Nebraska on July 17 after the Gering-Fort Laramie Canal tunnel collapsed about a mile south of Fort Laramie.

Torrington Mayor Randy Adams said Posten’s announcement was well received around the community.

“Apparently there is no sidewall damage, which would have prohibited running water through it this year,” Adams said. “People in the community who’ve driven around the canal area have said the crops are looking better than expected.”

Prior to the U.S. Department of Agriculture stating Friday that crop losses caused by the canal collapse would be insured, the mayor said the incident could cost the community as much as $250 million during the next few years. Adams said he wasn’t sure how the USDA announcement would affect prior economic predictions, one of which predicted a total loss to crops that could cost Wyoming and Nebraska about $90 million.  

“The USDA is going to have to wait until those farmers harvest and turn in the crop, so they know how much they’ll pay out,” he explained. “I haven’t been a farmer for over 20 years, but crop insurance is basically a means for you to get back on your feet and plant the next crop. It’s better than getting nothing.”

Crop loss

Turning the irrigation back on could reduce overall crop loss, a University of Nebraska-Lincoln researcher said. Xin Qiao, an irrigation management specialist at the UNL Panhandle Research and Extension Center, produced a report in July detailing the potential crop losses in the area served by the Gering-Fort Laramie Irrigation Canal. The report predicted 100 percent loss of corn, more than 90 percent loss of dry edible beans and a 50 percent to 60 percent loss of sugar beets if the tunnel was not repaired by Aug. 13.

“I don’t think that number is accurate anymore,” Qiao said. “Any rain they got (since) could reduce the overall impact. It’s the total amount of rainfall that matters and the timing. I don’t have a concrete analysis at this point.”

At his research facility in Nebraska, Qiao said his team turned off irrigation to their own sugar beat plots after the canal collapsed to study the potential effects on the crop. Unfortunately, he said a recent hail storm killed the plots before he could observe the lasting effect on the plants of removing irrigation.

“I definitely think they won’t have that much loss from the original prediction,” he said. “My (new) prediction is it will be less, but I don’t think the numbers will be that far over.”

Legislative support

Sen. Cheri Steinmetz, R-Torrington, said the tunnel reopening was great news for everyone involved.

“It’s a testament to the work of the problem solvers on the ground and both of the irrigation boards,” Steinmetz said. “(Locals are) overjoyed to have water flowing back through the canal.”

On the policy side, she said legislators are looking into potential ways for the state to help Goshen County ag producers and Wyoming residents affected by similar disasters in the future.

“The Select Water Committee will be taking up this project through the omnibus water bill,” Steinmetz said. “We’ll be advancing that to a construction phase in the 2020 (Legislative) Session.” 

The omnibus water bill allows legislators to approve and transfer funds from state accounts into priority water projects around Wyoming.“We’re also looking into an emergency account when issues like this arise similar to the fire suppression account,” Steinmetz added.

The emergency fire suppression account bill was adopted by the Legislature this year. It allows unspent, unobligated general fund monies appropriated to the Division of Forestry to revert to a revolving account for emergency fire suppression.

Questions of responsibility

Despite an outpouring of support from Wyoming agencies in response to the tunnel collapse, Steinmetz said there is still a question of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s responsibility in the collapse.

Bureau spokesperson Jay Dallman said the agency constructed the tunnel in 1917 as part of the North Platte Project, then signed over the responsibility for maintenance and use to Goshen Irrigation and Gering-Fort Laramie Irrigation districts.

“The agency response (to questions of responsibility) is under that 1926 agreement, the (irrigation) districts are responsible for operation and maintenance,” Dallman said. “However, we’re certainly supportive or our districts, and we’re trying to work with them to figure out solutions to the problem.”

The bureau authorized up to $4 million in loans for temporary repairs to the Gering-Fort Laramie Irrigation Canal tunnel, he said. While Dallman did not have the exact amount requested by the districts on hand, he said it was about $2 million.

Posten did not have an estimate on the tunnel’s cost of repairs.

Dallman said the loan was on a 50-year term at about 3 percent interest, and the districts would only be responsible for paying back 65 percent of the loan value.

About 100 years ago, the bureau also built the Interstate Canal System, which leads out from Whalen Diversion Dam and serves farmland in Wyoming and Nebraska.

“One could easily conclude this has been an eye opener for all of us,” Dallman said. “We will probably be not only continuing inspections with the (irrigation) districts, but also looking for ways to improve on the technology used in those inspections.”

Mongolian Race Winner Bob Long Credits Preparation for Historic Victory

in News
Wyoming native Bob Long wins worlds longest horse race
Wyoming native Bob Long popping champagne on the podium after winning the Mongol Derby, the world's longest horse race. (Photo credit: Sara Farnsworth)

By Nichole Blanchard, Cowboy State Daily

When Bob Long signed up for the world’s toughest horse race, his top priority was just proving he could do it. Less than a year later, he proved just that — and set a record doing it.

On Aug. 14, Long completed the Mongol Derby, a 620-mile trek across the Mongolian Steppe. At 70 years old, he not only became the oldest person to win the derby, he’s also the oldest person to ever complete the race, something he attributes to meticulous planning and years of experience on horseback.

“Preparation trumps youth,” said Long. “I was able to stay ahead of riders half my age because I didn’t have to scramble to get my gear or my plans together.”

It also doesn’t hurt that he grew up in Cheyenne, Wyoming, where he rode, trained and sold horses. Now a retired public health executive living in Boise, Idaho, Long still rides every day. But the quarter horses he favors for trail and ranch work competitions are a far cry from the compact, semi-feral Mongolian horses he rode in the derby.

Each of the race’s 42 competitors switched horses at multiple checkpoints along the race. Long rode 28 different horses, not an easy task considering the animals are essentially “green broke.” For Long, it called on skills he used as a bronc trainer in Wyoming.

“Once you get past the bucking phase, you have to establish that you’re the leader early on,” Long said. “All that is condensed down into a few quick minutes on the race.” 

From there, Long said, it was a matter of “figuring out how to make the horse work for you.” He paid attention to the horse’s strengths — whether it excelled at galloping in short bursts or trotting endlessly across the steppe — and adjusted his riding plan accordingly.

Wyoming native Bob Long wins worlds longest horse race on the back of local Mongolian horses
Wyoming native Bob Long wins world’s longest horse race on the back of local Mongolian horses (Credit: Sara Farnsworth)

Having never been to Mongolia prior to the race, Long was apprehensive about the horses and navigating the steppe, as the derby took place on an unmarked course that riders needed to navigate via GPS. He said he was fortunate to get a spot in a pre-derby training that quieted many of his fears. By the time the actual race commenced, Long was more prepared than ever.

Each night, he would stay with Mongolian herdsmen and offer gifts of cigarettes or adorn his horse’s tail with a blue ribbon won in a U.S. riding competition. The presents helped curry favor with the herdsmen, many of whom offered Long a place to stay and their best racehorses for the next leg of the journey.

Mongol Derby champion Bob Long
Local herders came from miles around to greet Bob; the horse is an integral part of Mongolian culture, and they recognized another truly instinctive horseman in Bob. (Photo credit: Sara Farnsworth)

“I would tell the herdsmen I’d be honored if they’d pick my next horse,” Long said. “All the herdsmen identified with me as a commoner who can ride horses.”

He had an ideal mount in mind: tall, slender horses, preferably buckskins like the horses he and his partner, Stephanie Nelson, ride at home.

As he neared each checkpoint, Long would stop to water the horse before slowing to a trot and allow it to graze. Because of the horses’ short stature and choppy gaits, Long struggled to get comfortable in the saddle.

“I spent most of the ride in a two-point stand, so I was exhausted at the end of every day,” Long said.

The grueling race left him so tired he “couldn’t hardly walk for two days afterward.” Long crossed the finish line on a stocky sorrel-colored horse after more than seven days of riding.

Later on, the family that owned long’s final mount offered him the horse as a gift.

“What an honor,” he said. “I left them some money for care and feeding of the horse and asked (the herdsman) if he would take care of the horse for a year.”

“It’s not out of the question that I’d bring him to America,” Long added.

In the decade since the Mongol Derby started, no other rider has ever been gifted a horse, Long said.

It was just one of the many ways in which the experience far exceeded Long’s expectations.

“(Before the race) I would tell my close friends, ‘Somebody’s got to win this. It might as well be me,’” he said.

Wyoming Experts Love Trying to Identify UFOs

in News
Searching for UFOs

By Seneca Flowers, Cowboy State Daily

Two Wyoming experts on UFOs are reminding Wyoming residents that strange lights they may see in the state’s wide open skies are often terrestrial in nature.

Richard Beckwith, Wyoming’s director of the Mutual UFO Network and city attorney for Rock Springs and Samuel Singer, founder of Stargazing Wyoming, do not agree on what may have been responsible for a report of a UFO in Jackson.

A Jackson woman reported she may have witnessed an unidentified flying object and caught it on video. Singer, who has been staring up at the night skies since he was a child in Nevada, said after viewing the video that he believes the object is a drone.

“Is it definitely not a meteor and almost certainly a drone,” Singer said. “This object is by definition a UFO, an Unidentified Flying Object. However, in this case I think it is being flown by a human and not an alien.” 

Singer is near the Spring Creek Ranch area multiple times a week and often sees drones in that area.

Beckwith, who works with MUFON to educate the public about UFO phenomenon, agreed with Singer that the object was not a meteor, but questioned whether it was a drone.

“This is not a meteor,” he said. “It is, indeed, moving too slowly. It also does not appear to be either a small commercial or private drone because it traverses a wide, long path across the sky from nearly the horizon.” 

He added that the video could be analyzed by software to help identify useful information such as size, distance and speed.

“For now, I can only say that the object appears to be moving more slowly than a commercial airline, at an appreciable altitude, is bright and clearly cigar-shaped, and probably of appreciable size,” he later added. “I cannot tell you what it is.”  

Whatever the object may be, both sky watchers agreed people are too quick to believe such phenomena are always extraterrestrial.

“All that being said, most alleged UFO sightings can be explained by things such as meteors, airplanes, birds, balloons, fireworks, drones, etc.,” Beckwith said in an email. “However, a hard core of approximately 5 percent to 10 percent of UFO sightings remains unexplained. That is as true for Wyoming as it is anywhere else, perhaps even more so. People do see strange things in Wyoming, and some of them cannot be explained. This, unfortunately, is not one of those cases.”

Singer said he is skeptical of UFO claims in general, but as a viewer of the night skies he knows some phenomena are not typical.

“I’ve definitely seen a couple of these things I can’t explain,” he said. “Such as light jumping from one horizon point to another.”

But for all the light phenomena that cannot be explained, he too finds that many have common answers.

Singer said many of the lights people see are iridium flares. These flares are caused by Iridium satellites, which are communication satellites that have reflective panels. The panels will reflect light toward earth in various, sometimes seemingly strange, manners.

“They create a little point of light that moves quickly across the sky,” Singer said.

Another nocturnal light is often attributed to bolide meteors, which are very bright meteors or as Singer describes them “very large chunks of space debris.”

“Their dust trail is visible for a couple of seconds after,” he said. “They are audible. They create a sizzle. They are beautiful when you see them because they are full of color.”

However, Beckwith reminds people that not all experiences are explainable.

“Anomalous nocturnal lights are common in Wyoming,” Beckwith said. “More than 10 percent of them are unknown.” 

But he added those who report an encounter with an extraterrestrial craft are rare.

Richard Beckwith said if someone believes they may have witnessed an unexplained light event, the best thing to do is report it. If they can, they should also try to capture it with a photograph or video and include that in the report.

Beckwith sees MUFON as the best organization for investigating claims.

“They (MUFON) are the world’s oldest and largest civilian UFO organization,” he said. 

MUFON has been in existence since 1969.

“MUFON tries to identify or not identify an object,” Beckwith said. “We don’t skip to the conclusion ‘It must be from outer space.’ When people say these objects are alien spacecraft, it is purely conjecture.”

Singer also doesn’t mind when people ask him about the night skies or any light or objects they may have seen. 

“I love it when people get pictures or video and send it our way,” he said.

Singer said with the dark skies of the state, there are great viewing opportunities.

“Under a dark sky, more people are looking up and marveling at the beauty,” he said. “That’s one of the great things about Wyoming.”

R-E-S-P-E-C-T, City of Casper Seeks New Code of Ethics

in News
code of ethics

By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily

The Casper City Council is looking at restoring its code of ethics and, along with it, adopting a new social media policy for how council members interact with members of the public and each other.

The code of ethics was repealed by the council last year and since then, the city has operated without one.

Council members are accepting input on both the code of ethics and social media policy through Aug. 30 and plan to get an initial look at both during a work session on Tuesday Aug 27.

City Manager Carter Napier said while the city had a social media policy in the past, it dealt largely only with employees of the city.

“The council … was hoping to get some direction, that would be oriented toward what they (employees) do, and how they interact with the public,” he said.

The issue came up because the council members tend to be very involved with social media, Napier said.

“Social media has been a major forum with regard to this particular council and there have been some conversations among them as to what’s appropriate, what’s not, who’s appropriate to speak on the part of the city with regards to the representations they make,” he said.

There have been concerns about the specific social media platforms covered under the new policy and how the policy applies to an employee’s person social media posts. 

“It (the policy) is mostly with regard to the appropriate use of city platforms,” Napier said. “It does not try to regulate what an employee or officer of the city does on their own personal page.”

The primary goal of the social media policy is informational and gives employees a set of guidelines to follow. 

“The proposed policy provides education/reminders on legal matters such as Public Records Act compliance and terms of service and privacy settings etc.” a summary of the policy said.

There are no penalties proposed for employees and council members who violate the social media policy.

“The policy as drafted does not contemplate any type of formal review or punitive process for alleged violations of the policy; it is a policy embraced by the council to set forth expectations of council for itself, upon which the public may rely, and failing which, the public will judge,” a draft of the policy said.

Included in the ordinance is the revised code of ethics, which seeks to clear up ambiguities in the previous code and reestablish rules for issues including receiving gifts, nepotism and misuse of office for personal gain.

Unlike the social media policy, consequences for infractions of the code of ethics may include termination for city employees and censure or removal from office for public officials and officials. 

You can comment and view the proposed ordinance here.

Bear Attacks Increasing Worldwide

in Cat Urbigkit/Column/Range Writing/wildlife

By Cat Urbigkit, Range Writing columnist for Cowboy State Daily

A French composer on a trip to Canada’s Northwest Territories to record the sounds of nature was attacked in his tent in the middle of the night and killed by a grizzly bear earlier this month. Such an unprovoked attack is rare, according to wildlife officials, although large carnivore attacks on humans are on the increase worldwide. Grizzly bear attacks on humans in Wyoming are part of that worldwide trend.

A new paper published in the journal Scientific Reports examines brown bear attacks on humans worldwide between 2000 and 2015. The report reinforces what we already suspected: attacks have increased significantly and are more frequent at high bear and low human population densities.

Researchers tallied 664 attacks on humans during the 15-year study period, including 183 in North America, 291 in Europe, and 190 in Russia, Iran and Turkey. There were more than 60 other attacks in Japan, Nepal, and southeastern Europe in which not enough information was available for their inclusion in the analysis.

The attack rate is about 40 attacks per year globally, with 11 attacks per year in North America, 18 per year in Europe, and 19 per year in the East (Russia, Iran and Turkey). About 14 percent of the attacks resulted in human fatalities, including 24 deaths in North America, 19 deaths in Europe, and 52 in the East (Russia, Iran, and Turkey). Of the brown bear attacks causing human injury in North America, 51 occurred in Alaska, 42 in British Columbia, 29 in Wyoming, 25 in Montana, and 18 in Alberta.

Globally, attack victims were almost exclusively adults, and most attacks occurred while the person was alone, during the summer, and in daylight hours. About half the attacks were categorized as encounters with females with cubs, while 20% were surprise or sudden encounters.

Bear awareness reminder against Palisades (Photo credit: Cat Urbigkit)

Interestingly, there were 15 attacks classified as “predatory” in which a predator attacks a human as prey: 9 in Russia, and 6 in North America. The bear attacks at the Soda Butte Campground just outside Yellowstone National Park in 2010 involved a sow grizzly killing a man camped alone in his tent, and injuring two other people in other campsites the same night, in what was deemed predatory attacks. The next summer, a female grizzly with cubs killed a man in Yellowstone National Park in what was then viewed as a defensive attack, but the same sow was linked to the death of a second man a month later in which the man’s body had been partially consumed.


Some Greater Yellowstone bear advocates point to Romania as an example of bear-human coexistence, noting that Romania is roughly the same size as the Yellowstone region, but hosts a bear population 10 times more numerous. Not surprisingly then, when it comes to brown bear attacks on humans, that almost half of Europe’s total number of attacks happen in one country: Romania. It’s worth a quick history lesson.

Beginning in the mid-1960s, communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu worked to rid the Romanian countryside of its human residents by “collectivizing” farms and razing entire villages, forcing residents into “state-controlled urban hives,” as David Quammen wrote in The Atlantic more than a decade ago.

Under Ceausescu’s leadership, brown bears thrived. For decades, Romanian gamekeepers tended to hundreds (if not thousands) of feeding stations for bears, keeping bears numerous and fat so that the dictator and his party elite could have trophies to shoot from the comfort of nearby blinds – all the while the few remaining rural residents were prohibited from having guns.

After Ceausescu was deposed and executed in 1989, hunting of brown bears was opened to rich foreigners willing to pay tens of thousands for a trophy, but that lasted only a few years. The hunting of any large carnivores in Romania was halted in 2016, with few exceptions. More than 40 bear attacks on humans were recorded in Romania in 2017, and three people have already died this year due to bear attacks. Half of the Romanian attacks in the 15-year study involved bears attacking adults who were working outside; shepherds tending flocks, drovers with their cattle, and farmers working the landscape.

Self-defense tools are rather limited since gun ownership is extremely restricted in Romania, and although it’s legal to carry bear spray, it is not a common practice. In many European countries, pepper spray is illegal or its use is tightly regulated.

The researchers found at a global scale, bear attacks are more frequent in regions where the human density is lower and bear densities higher, and that attacks are also more frequent where recreational activities in bear areas are more common. In Europe, that might be people hiking or gathering berries, but in Wyoming, it tends to be hunters seeking large game.

Legal protection has resulted in recovery and expansion of brown bear populations worldwide, with more than 200,000 brown bears now in existence. As grizzly populations continue to expand their range, it’s important for recreationalists in shared territory to be ever-mindful of grizzly presence.

Bear Attack Sign

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service recommends that if you surprise a grizzly bear at close range, drop a nonfood item (like a hat or bandanna) on the ground and slowly back away. Speak softly, but avoid eye contact, and never run from a bear. If the bear charges, remain standing. Carry bear spray and be ready to use it. If a bear makes contact with you, drop to the ground and play dead.

That’s what we’ve been trained to do in grizzly country when it comes to surprise or defensive encounters.

But a predatory bear is a different beast, and requires the opposite tactic. If a grizzly bear approaches a human in a persistent manner, with head up and ears erect, behaving in a curious or predatory manner, you need to be aggressive and fight back.

Predatory bears do not give warning signals or use threat displays or bluff charges to attempt to scare you away, as a defensive bear will, according to the Wyoming Game & Fish Department. A predatory bear will demonstrate keen interest in a person, often quietly and intently approaching, eyes locked on its target. Predatory attacks end only when the bear is overpowered, scared away, injured, killed, or kills you. If a bear attacks a person at night in a tent, fight as hard and loudly as you possibly can. 

Remember the general rule: Play dead for a defensive attack, but fight for your life in a predatory attack. The fact that predatory attacks on humans are rare is of little comfort when confronted with a predatory animal.

For more in what to do in a bear encounter, read this from the Wyoming Game & Fish Department’s recommendations.

Cat Urbigkit is an author and rancher who lives on the range in Sublette County, Wyoming. Her column, Range Writing, appears weekly in Cowboy State Daily.

State Fair endowment provides solid footing for years ahead

in Agriculture/News
Don’t miss this report from the 2019 Wyoming State Fair highlighting what the opportunity to show in Douglas means to 4H kids and their parents. (Video by Mike McCrimmon)

By James Chilton, Cowboy State Daily

DOUGLAS – This year’s Wyoming State Fair is over, but the next chapter of its story is just beginning as fair organizers begin to realize proceeds from the fair’s newly-established endowment fund.

Approved by the state Legislature in 2018, the Wyoming State Fair Endowment was established to provide a permanent, stable and consistent source of funding to draw on in future years, rather than rely on appropriations from the state’s General Fund — its main banking account —  which is subject to swings based on the fortunes of the energy and tourism markets.

“It’s always been (dependent on) the General Fund, and when you have a downturn in the economy, that impacts your ability to use those funds,” said Doug Miyamoto, director of the Wyoming Department of Agriculture. “The state fair has always operated as an educational venue and a state championship for youth in agriculture. Over the past couple of years the philosophy’s changed, and I think the legislature is looking to transition to more of a pay-to-play type situation.”

Individual and business donors have raised $100,000 for the state endowment in its first year, which was matched dollar-for-dollar by the state treasurer’s office. That’s on top of the $100,000 the endowment started with from its initial legislation, and another $1.1 million added by the Legislature in this year’s supplementary budget bill.

But by far the biggest gift to the endowment to date was $2 million from the Wyoming Pari-Mutuel Commission, which oversees the state’s live and off-track horse race wagering. 

“That shot in the arm from the Pari-Mutuel Commission is certainly one that’s appreciated,” Miyamoto said.

With $3.3 million to start with, Miyamoto said the fair will generate $150,000 a year in interest, with three-quarters of that to be reinvested into the endowment. As the corpus grows, Miyamoto said the 25 percent left over for operating revenue will trend upward too; but it won’t be the only new revenue source for the fair going forward.

“The endgame is to diversify the funding sources for the fair, so the endowment is one aspect of a larger strategic effort,” Miyamoto said. “We got a new state fair board who can reach out to businesses around the state and get some corporate sponsorship for the fair, try to use the facilities to generate revenue. We’re going to push as hard as we can to get sponsorships and contributions up.”

Go to Top