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Wind, Winter Storm Force Grand Teton to Delay Mountain Goat Cull

in News/wildlife
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By Nicole Blanchard, Cowboy State Daily

Several days of wind and snow in western Wyoming forced National Park Service officials to delay plans to eradicate non-native mountain goats in Grand Teton National Park, according to park spokeswoman Denise Germann.

The Park Service initially planned to close portions of Grand Teton from Jan. 5 to 12 in order to remove the mountain goats by shooting them from helicopters. Wind earlier in the week created unsafe flying conditions, Germann said on Thursday, while snow from a winter storm later in the week created further issues.

Germann said the removal will be rescheduled, though no dates have yet been determined. An environmental impact study on the removal determined efforts should be completed by early March, when park visitation is low.

Approximately 100 mountain goats dispersed into Grand Teton National Park in recent years. Germann said the animals are descendants of mountain goats released south of the park by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game for hunting purposes in the 1960s and ‘70s.

“We’ve been looking at this for the last few years,” Germann said.

National Park Service officials said the mountain goats carry pathogens that can cause pneumonia, posing a potential threat to a herd of bighorn sheep native to Grand Teton.

“(Disease transmission) has not been documented, but it is a primary concern,” Germann said. “The bighorn sheep have low genetic diversity … because they’re isolated from neighboring herds.”

Germann said using firearms from a helicopter was determined to be the most efficient way to eradicate the mountain goats.

“We’re trying to rapidly reduce their numbers,” she said.

According to the environmental impact study, National Park Service officials believe the entire population of mountain goats can be eradicated in one to five years.

“The National Park Service has a responsibility to arrange for native populations,” Germann said. “When there’s something that jeopardizes that native population, we take action.”

The National Park Service is not the only agency to address the encroaching species. Last year, Wyoming Game and Fish Department opened a new mountain goat hunting season on the west side of the Teton mountain range in an effort to allow hunters to thin the herd. Forty-eight licenses were issued.

CREG: Latest Wyoming Revenue Estimate Shows $48 Million Drop

in Government spending/News/politics
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By Bob Geha

Wyoming legislators will have $48 million less to spend over the next two years than originally believed, according to a report issued Friday.

The state’s Consensus Revenue Estimating Group (CREG) submitted a report to the Legislature’s Joint Appropriations Committee that showed revenues for the state over the next biennium, running from July of 2020 through June of 2022, will drop below levels predicted in October.

The CREG told JAC members the decline was largely due to drops in natural gas prices.

The JAC is meeting to prepare its budget for the biennium for presentation to the Legislature, which opens its budget session on Feb. 10. After all of the state’s agencies are funded, officials believe lawmakers will only have about $20 million to $25 million to finance other projects.

Although the state has reserve funds it can use to pay some operations, those reserves will not last forever and lawmakers will have to take that into account, said JAC member Rep. Tom Walters, R-Casper.

“There’s going to be multiple legislators that have great ideas coming from their neck of the woods and we’ll just have to see how those work out,” he said. “Wyoming is in a good position as we do have some reserves that can be used, but those reserves won’t last forever, so we have to make some hard choices for certain.”

Rep. Albert Sommers, R-Pinedale, another JAC member, said he believes the Legislature will have to be careful with programs that put an ongoing drain on state coffers.

“Those ongoing expenses of government that we have, we need to be careful where we inflate those and where the needs are, because I really do worry about revenues going into the future,” he said.

As the state adjusts to lower revenues from its energy industry, it might turn more to the tourism and outdoor recreation sectors to make up for declining income, said committee member Sen. Mike Gierau, D-Jackson.

“It really puts the attributes that this state loves and the things that we love about living here and puts it right out front,” he said. “We want to display that to the world. That’s the way we can get people to come, to visit, to spend money, which creates money for the state. It’s a good bet for the state.”

Arizona Bowl was Wyoming Triumph, but also for Tuscon Local Charities

in Column/Dave Bonner/sports
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By Dave Bonner, Powell Tribune

So it isn’t an ESPN bowl game.

That didn’t matter to fans of the University Wyoming and Georgia State University football teams who squared off Dec. 31 in the Arizona Bowl at Tucson.  And it sure isn’t a big deal to the folks who own, promote and produce the Arizona Bowl.

In fact, it’s by design. You can add a couple of exclamation points to that statement.

Of the 40 bowl games played this year, only two were not televised and controlled by ESPN/ABC, Fox Sports and CBS.

The Tucson Bowl was one of them. It was televised nationally by CBS Sports Network, a step down from the big names in sports broadcasting (61 million households vs. 86 million households for ESPN).  

The key is the matter of control.  To Tucson attorney Ali Farhang, the brains and the face behind the NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl, it’s everything.  He is the principal founder of the Arizona Bowl and the chairman of the board of the group which owns the bowl, now in its fifth year. 

He and his founding partners are insistent that the Arizona Bowl is a community-driven event. That’s one way of saying that bowl decisions will serve Tucson’s interest, not national TV programming.

That starts with game day scheduling and start time. An afternoon kickoff for the Arizona Bowl on New Year’s Eve is non-negotiable.

Tucson weather delivered for the Arizona Bowl last week. Fans basked under bright sun and a temperature of 62 degrees for the 2:30 p.m. game. 

Tim Medcoff, a law partner with Farhang who is also intimately involved in the Arizona Bowl, said the vision for the bowl grew out of a desire to remove “kind a black cloud over Tucson from days gone by.” He referred to the fact that Tucson in recent years had lost the Copper Bowl, MLB spring training,  PGA and LPGA tour events.

The road back, in the collective mind of Farhang and colleagues, was to look inward.

“Ali’s all about promoting everything that’s great about Tucson,” Medcoff said. “That includes the sunny weather of southern Arizona, the Air Force and military presence, the hospitality of the area and the great non-profits — the people who care about making others’ lives better.”

The economic impact in the area from a successful bowl game is, of course, a big deal. But giving  back to the community is not simply lip service either. The NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl is one of a kind in donating all bowl proceeds to non-profits in the community.

“We do everything we can to make things better for Tucson,” Medcoff said. “We want to give back.”

And for the record, the Tucson Bowl is happy to have the CBS Sports Network as a partner.

“They told us they support everything we’re doing,” Medcoff said.

Final numbers have not been tabulated, but game producers expect that up to $400,000 in cash will be generated for non-profits of the community.  That’s net proceeds from ticket sales and concessions.

Wyoming did its part. The Cowboys scored a 38-17 win over Georgia State of the Sun Belt Conference on the field, but that’s not all. Some 10,000 Brown and Gold clad fans helped propel Tucson Bowl beer sales to a new record.

Kym Adair, who pulls most of the levers in making bowl operations go, said she was excited by the strong showing of Wyoming fans that pushed bowl game attendance to 36,892.

She should be.

Sales of cold ones broke the previous bowl game record by $100,000. If you’re counting, that record $100,000 translates into 14,285 more of the 16-ounce drafts sold at $7 each than in any previous year.  

A new official Arizona Bowl Brew was introduced at the game, a product of the local Barrio Brewing Co. Wyoming fans gave it a big thumbs up.

Wyo Tech School Founder Eric Trowbridge to Speak at National Tech Summit

in News/Technology
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Eric Trowbridge, the founder of a Cheyenne technology school aimed at introducing students to computer programming, plans to tell attendees at a national technology conference that technology can work in rural America.

Trowbridge, founder and CEO of the Array Technology and Design School, will be one of the speakers at the Silicon Slopes Tech Summit in Salt Lake City at the end of January.

The Cheyenne high school graduate said he plans to tell the more than 20,000 people expected to attend that the technology industry can find a home in rural states like Wyoming.

“The message is that technology can work in rural America,” he told Cowboy State Daily. “It’s a very different animal from doing technology in big cities. The challenge we have in running technology in rural American is … for technology to thrive, you have to have really smart people, you have to have people who understand computer science and programming and graphic design and that’s kind of hard to come by in states like Wyoming.”

But with schools like Array, residents can be trained in the skills needed to sustain a successful technology sector, Trowbridge said.

The state can help with such efforts by making sure it creates a welcoming atmosphere for people who may want to pursue a technology-based career, he said.

“The number one mission should be to try to create the most fertile soil possible so when these seeds get planted, they grow into companies, entrepreneurship,” he said. 

“The things we’re working on now (are) the cultural piece. Having young adults who are in this space, people who want to transition into technology, being able to go see shows and go to restaurants and have that experience,” he said.

The state has made major advances toward welcoming the technology field in recent years, Trowbridge said, through steps such as mandating computer science education for all public school students.

Trowbridge said Wyoming has a history of being the first state in the nation to take bold steps, such as giving women the right to vote, electing a woman as governor and having the first national park and monument.

“It’s not about changing Wyoming, it’s about tapping into our roots,” he said. “It’s in our nature to be pioneers and drivers and cowboys and cowgirls.”

Trowbridge credited much of the state’s progress go former Gov. Matt Mead, who he said recognized the need to make technology the “fourth leg” of the state’s economic base, joining energy, agriculture and tourism.

The resulting boost helped move the state from its reliance on historic industries, he said.

“I think we got too comfortable, we didn’t innovate,” he said. “We just thought things were going to be the way that they were.”

The opportunities for economic diversification offered by the technology industry will help the state overcome the problems it has faced because of its reliance on the energy industry, Trowbridge said.

“At the end of the day, as scary as it is, we have to get off of it because a lot of people get hurt when we go into that bust cycle,” he said. “People lose their jobs and they leave Wyoming.”

Former Wyoming Governor Matt Mead joins Cheyenne law firm

in News/politics
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Former Wyoming Governor Matt Mead has joined a Cheyenne law firm as a partner, the firm announced Thursday.

Mead, a Republican who served two terms as Wyoming’s governor, has joined the law firm of Hathaway & Kunz.

The firm, in a news release, said Mead would continue his work to diversify Wyoming’s economy by bringing new business and opportunity to the state while providing advice to the firm’s clients on business, energy, natural resources and environmental issues.

“As the Wyoming legal landscape continues to advance on subjects such as energy, technology and business development, I look forward to working with the firm’s clients facing cutting-edge and complex legal issues,” Mead said in the news release. 

“The expansion and diversification of Wyoming’s economy and the success of businesses operating here is of great interest to me. I am excited to work on issues important to Wyoming’s future economic well-being,” he said.

Mead, the grandson of former Wyoming Gov. Cliff Hansen, served as Wyoming’s U.S. attorney from 2001 to 2007. In 2010, he won election to the first of his two terms as governor.

Rick Thompson, a senior partner in Hathaway & Kunz, said Mead’s expertise in the areas of energy, the environment and economic development would make him a valuable addition to the firm.

“In his lengthy tenure of government service to the citizens of Wyoming, Governor Mead gained enormous insight into all facets of natural resources, technology advancement, business development and other opportunities to improve the lives of Wyoming citizens,” Thompson said. “He will be a great fit for this firm and the services we provide.”

Wyo State Representative: America First Means Bringing Troops Home, Not Starting Another ‘Forever War’

in News/politics
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Wyoming State Representative Tyler Lindholm

By Ike Fredregill, Cowboy State Daily

With tensions high in the Middle East, now is the time to increase efforts to bring U.S. troops home, according to a state representative who has been a vocal supporter of ending military involvement in the region.

Following the U.S.-ordered killing of Iranian military commander Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani on Friday, Iran retaliated with two missile strikes Tuesday on military bases housing U.S. troops in Iraq, but no casualties were reported.

“It’s kind of this tit-for-tat game going back and forth, and the only ones that suffer are the troops,” said Rep. Tyler Lindholm, R-Sundance. “If we’re going to be serious about putting Americans first, we need to start bringing home the troops.”

Lindholm, a U.S. Navy veteran, took his anti-war message to Washington D.C. in November as a leading member the Wyoming branch of Bring Our Troops Home (www.wybringourtroopshome.com). 

The non-profit organization was founded with a goal to end “the Forever Wars and encourage Congress … to support President (Donald) Trump’s plan to withdraw our troops.”

But as the U.S. prepares to send 3,000 additional troops to Iraq amid heightened concerns of a war with Iran, Lindholm said continued military action in the Middle East would only serve to hurt future generations of Americans.

“I do believe these actions are a divergence from Trump’s previous message,” he said. “I liked that Trump was kind of known for not listening to some of his intelligence advisers, but that seems to have changed. Those are the same advisers that got us into this whole quagmire 20 years ago.”

After assassinating Soleimani via drone strike in Baghdad, Iraq, U.S. officials said the strike was meant to prevent an imminent attack on Americans. 

“The current narrative we’re being told is Soleimani operated in Iraq and led terrorist types of organizations,” Lindholm said. “They do seem to have lots of evidence pointing to lots of Americans killed because of Soleimani’s actions, but (in the early 2000s) they also had lots of evidence pointing toward lots of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.”

While some top officials have labeled Soleimani a terrorist for his role in overseeing extremist militia groups’ recruitment and training, Lindholm said the U.S. has a different term for engaging in similar activities.

“When it’s used against us, it becomes terrorism,” he explained. “When we do it, we’re teaching ‘freedom fighters.’ I think it’s a fine line.”

Lindholm said the U.S. has been involved in the funding or training of many militant groups throughout the last several decades.   

“I think it speaks to the larger issue in the U.S.’s current foreign policy of heavy interventionism,” he said. “I’m not saying the U.S. shouldn’t protect our interests, but a lot of what is currently being seen and what we’ve experienced in the last 20 years could arguably be called blowback over our interventionism.”

Going forward, the U.S. should rely more on diplomacy and economic sanctions than military force, Lindholm said.  

“I gotta hope this is over,” he added. “There’s been shown no benefit to the American people from these types of actions in the past or as it currently stands.” 

Recent events deepened the rift between Republicans and Democrats, and in some cases, party members returned to more traditional stances on America at war.

“The anti-war left has suddenly shown up again,” he explained. “A lot of my Republican friends are screaming, ‘Bomb them.’ When has that ever worked, besides losing more American lives?”

Soleimani’s killing and Iran’s retaliation could lead to a bipartisan effort to reduce the executive powers of the Authorization for Use of Military Force set in place in 2001 and used to justify actions throughout the Middle East, including Syria.

“I think think the silver lining to all this is people, left and right, will start to want an end and hopefully work toward it,” Lindholm said.

Since Soleimani’s death, both Rep. Liz Cheney and Sen. John Barrasso issued statements in support of the president and the actions of his administration against Iran.


How Private Weather Companies Work with the National Weather Service

in News/Uncategorized/weather
A mezocyclone lightning storm with dark clouds forming over the plains in Tornado Alley.
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A nighttime, tornadic mezocyclone lightning storm shoots bolt of electricity to the ground and lights up the field and dirt road in Tornado Alley.

By Ike Fredregill

Cowboy State Daily

The federal government provides the nation with free weather data, but most Americans get their day-to-day forecasts from private weather companies.  

“It goes back further than you would think — there’s always been some element of non-governmental weather services,” said Don Day Jr., DayWeather owner and meteorologist. “But, it really didn’t become more commercialized until the ’70s and ’80s.”

Newspapers, radio broadcasts and TV shows wanted specialized weather reports for their regions and graphics to illustrate what the data indicated, Day explained. 

Furthermore, private industries across the nation wanted the data interpreted to fit their needs.

“Quite honestly, the demand out there for specialized weather — the National Weather Service (NWS) wasn’t going to be able to handle everything,” Day said. 

Jonathan Porter, AccuWeather Vice President of Business Services and meteorologist, said private industry stepped up to meet the growing demand.

“This has been a real success story in terms of how companies work with their government,” Porter said. “People talk about public sector-private sector partnerships, and this is a scenario where the partnerships between the government and weather industry cost the American taxpayer nothing at all, because that data is already available, but (the partnership) yields huge benefits.”

By working with NWS to boost severe weather warning broadcasts, he said private weather companies could be helping save lives and reduce the economic impacts of significant weather events. 

Free to pay

To monetize free data, Day said private companies turned to traditional media outlets and special interest groups.

“A lot of private forecasting companies that were successful found a really good niche in TV and radio,” he said. “USA Today was a game changer. In the ’90s, they came out with this huge page with a color weather graphic for the whole country. All the sudden, if you were a daily newspaper in a medium-sized market, you had to have a weather page.”

While free, the data was raw and bulky. Weather companies translated the gobbledegook into localized data, added digestible graphics and used their expertise to interpret forecasts.  

“The federal government provides a very robust and rich set of weather data,” Porter said, adding AccuWeather also collects data from governments around the world. “We create value for our customers — over 1.5 billion a day in 200 different languages — by serving consumers the weather data they need for travel plans and their day-to-day lives. We also serve businesses, who use our specific insights about how weather could impact worker safety and business operations.”

In Wyoming, Accuweather provides weather data to railroad companies.

“Parts of Wyoming are certainly very windy,” Porter said. “We provide very specific warnings to railroad operators in terms of letting them know winds will be over 60 mph on this particular part of their track.”

Established under the U.S. Department of War in 1870, the Weather Service, which operates as part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), was assigned to the Department of Commerce in 1940, said Jared Allen, a NWS warning coordination meteorologist based in Cheyenne.

“We mainly support our core partners in emergency management,” Allen said, explaining the agency’s primary mission is public safety. “But we do work with local broadcasters and enhance that relationship as much as we can, so they understand how to look at our product, ensuring our message and their message are as similar as possible for the public’s ease of interpretability.”

Working together

The relationship between private and public weather services has not always been sunny, Allen said.

“On occasion there can be challenges,” he explained. “One instance involved some private companies putting out their own weather alerts.”

While providing weather alerts to niche interest groups doesn’t interfere with the NWS mission, Allen said private companies broadcasting weather alerts to the general public can cause confusion, which could result in injury or loss of life.

“Depending on how they brand that alert and whether it correlates with a NWS alert,” he said, “that can unfortunately set a precedent of the public needing multiple sources of information before taking preventive action.”

Another conflict arose when President Donald Trump nominated Barry Lee Myers, a former AccuWeather chief executive, to run NOAA in 2017. Experts predicted that Myers being involved with the family-owned and operated AccuWeather would create a conflict of interest. While under Myers’ leadership, the company supported measures to limit the extent to which federal weather services could release information to the public, potentially allowing private companies to generate their own value-added products using the same information.

Myers’ nomination was stalled until 2019, when Myers withdrew because of health concerns. 

“There certainly has been growing pains about how to work together effectively,” Porter said. “But there’s been a realization over time that we can accomplish a lot more by working together.”

Day said his peers have bumped heads with the federal government on occasion, but he maintains a healthy working relationship with the feds.

“I have no problems with the weather service, and nine out of ten times we don’t compete for customers,” he explained. “But my position as a private weather forecaster is very different from others.”

If the government didn’t readily share its weather data, Day said he would be out of a job.

“There is a heavy reliance on government-provided data, no doubt,” he said. “Without the tax-funded, weather forecasting infrastructure, I’d have nothing.”

For AccuWeather, Porter said many of the past conflicts between private and public weather forecasters arose from lack of clarity.

“Especially in the ’80s and ’90s… there was not a clear understanding as to what the different parts of the weather community should be doing,” he said, explaining public and private forecasters were competing to produce the same information to the same demographics. “After we realized the need for establishing swim lanes — what the academic community would focus on, what private industry would focus on and what the government would not be focused on — that concept has been embraced by the American Meteorological Society.”

Despite some turbulence, Porter said the weather community’s current relationship is healthy and strong.

“There’s a tremendous amount of passion in the weather community to make a positive difference,” he said. “Few other fields have had as much success from a predictive capability as meteorology has had in terms of leveraging the science to improve society.”

How the Wyoming Legislature builds the state budget: A primer

in Government spending/News/politics
Legislature
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By Laura Hancock, Cowboy State Daily

On Feb. 10, the 2020 Budget Session of the Wyoming Legislature officially begins, one that could be somber and frustrating — considering Gov. Mark Gordon has told lawmakers that after mandated expenses they only have around $23.5 million to play with.

As in prior budget sessions, the 12 members of the Joint Appropriations Committee, which crafts the state’s two-year spending bill, has met for a good chunk of December, poring over rows of numbers, grilling state agency heads and discussing the needs of the state. 

Most sections of the biennial state budget that lawmakers will pass will go into effect July 1 and end June 30, 2022. Read on to learn more about the JAC and the budgeting process. 

The agencies

The budgeting process starts with the heads of state agencies, which fall under the executive branch, submitting budget requests to the governor budget in the autumn before budget sessions, which the Wyoming Constitution states must occur during even-numbered years.

The governor

Each governor is required to release budget recommendations by Dec. 1 prior to a budget session, per the Constitution.

“What the governor does is he meets with all agencies and listens to their requests,” said John Hastert of Green River, a former Democratic lawmaker who served on JAC for about eight years.

The budget recommendations that the governor prepares for the Legislature show the agency requests and whether he accepts, modifies or rejects each one, Hastert said. 

Last month, Gov. Mark Gordon submitted budget recommendations with the expectation of around $3 billion in revenues from the General Fund — the state’s main bank account — and the Budget Reserve Account, which is akin to an overdraft account for the General Fund. 

Gordon largely recommended the Legislature keep spending low, considering the ongoing slump fossil fuel revenues, which most state leaders do not believe will be reversed any time soon, as the natural resources industry is undergoing fundamental changes. 

Gordon called for significant reduction in capital construction and limits on tapping the rainy day fund – to be used solely for legislatively-mandated educational needs and local governments. 

“We have only $23.5 million in structural (ongoing) funding available toconsider distributing during this biennium to any entity, including the entire executive branch, higher education, the Judicial Branch, and the Legislative Service Office,” Gordon said in his budget recommendations. “Additional spending cuts are on the horizon and appear imperative to keep Wyoming moving forward.”

Budget hearings

During the first week of December, the governor and agency chiefs meet with the JAC and explain budget recommendations and requests.

This year, Gordon met with the JAC on Dec. 9. The agency heads met with the JAC through Dec. 20. 

JAC interviews with agencies are expected to continue into the beginning of January, from Jan. 6-10 and again from Jan. 13-17.

Hastert said the information during the interviews with the agencies is valuable: “They get first-hand information,” he said. 

JAC markup

In the last two weeks in January, JAC markup begins. Lawmakers will start on the first pages of the governor’s budget recommendations and “mark up” the items with their own ideas of what the budget should look like. 

“They start with the governor’s recommendations and it’s either an ‘aye’ vote or ‘no’ vote or modify,” Hastert said. “Most of the time, it’s usually taking more of a cut. It’s just the nature of JAC to try to cut even further.”

The JAC’s version of the budget is the one that will be submitted for review by the Legislature.

The Value of Rural Subdivisions

in Agriculture/Column/Range Writing
Sublette County
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By Cat Urbigkit, Range Writing columnist for Cowboy State Daily

Private ranches help to preserve open space and wildlife habitat, while urban dwelling condenses the size of the human imprint on the landscape. These benefits are readily understood, but the importance of rural subdivisions to local communities is often overlooked.

Rural subdivisions suffer from love/hate status. While many residents hate to see fragmentation of rural land, many other people dream of living on a few acres outside of town. They love the freedom offered by rural living, including raising their children with more outdoor space, and having animals that would be prohibited by municipal living. The large percentage of government land ownership in Wyoming serves to make land use planning for private property all the more critical since energy development on public land can cause a large influx of people in need of housing, yet the burden for providing housing falls to the limited amount of private land available.

Nearly half of Wyoming is managed by the federal government, and Wyoming continues to maintain its status as having the lowest human population of any state in the union. With our traditional public lands-based boom-and-bust energy cycle comes tremendous ebbs and flows in our human population. Sublette County is a prime example. With less than 6,000 residents in the county in 2000, the county boomed to a high of 10,476 people by 2012, with most of this growth associated with net migration due to energy development. With the energy bust, the county population declined more than 6 percent by 2019, to just over 9,800 people.

With the bust, Sublette County lost about 663 residents from its peak population. By 2017, 46 percent of Sublette County’s housing units were classified as vacant. That’s a startlingly high vacancy rate, but Sublette County has long been known for its hosting of “second” homes to people living outside the county. About 68 percent of the county’s vacant units are for seasonal, recreational, or occasional use (second homes), and 15 percent of the county’s vacant units are for rent or sale. But another 15 percent (428 homes) are classified as “other” vacant, which means they are not for sale or rent, or otherwise available to the marketplace. According to the Wyoming Community Development Authority, “These units may be problematic if concentrated in certain areas, and may create a ‘blighting’ effect.”

Although we lost more than 660 residents, what we see now is that some of the people who moved to Sublette County to work in the gas fields have decided to stay; either hanging on to what energy jobs are available, or finding other ways to make a living. They may have moved here for the boom, but have determined to stay for other reasons, despite the economic downturn. While some of these residents live in town, and some have constructed homes on large acreages, most often I see their presence reflected in rural subdivisions. They have greenhouses, art studios, vegetable gardens, and chicken coops. The kids learn to ride bicycles on dirt driveways; they construct primitive forts in their yards; and they go out into the pasture to “camp” in the summer. They wade in irrigation ditches on hot days, ride incessant laps on snow machines and dirt bikes, and feed calves, pigs, and lambs for show at the county fair.

Most of these families have animals – cats and dogs, chickens and other fowl, small and large livestock, and horses – and all of these animals require both space and food. Since the acreages are too small to be self-sustaining for their domestic animals, animal feedstuffs must be purchased and brought in, which adds to the local economy. I drive by a busy feedstore across from a rural subdivision every time I drive to town.

Although some decry rural subdivision of land for its scarring of the landscape and harm to nature, I maintain that for these rural residents, they are living as close to nature (blemished though it may be) as they possibly can. Their animals are what connect them to the land, and when the jobs that brought them here may go elsewhere, it is the land and animals that keep them here.

While some may notice the horses standing in a dirt-packed corral, I see that the horse owners have corralled the horses to give their limited pasture time to rest and grow. I see those horses loaded for roping competitions, fairs and rodeos, for family pack trips and hunting adventures, and for kids to ride bareback on the vast public lands nearby, where the kids climb off to explore horned toads and other wonders of nature that surround them.

While some see rural sprawl, I notice the installation of flowerbeds, scattered wildflowers over septic systems, and boxes lovingly crafted for bats, bluebirds, and kestrels. I see people who have taken some level of food security into their own hands, raising animals to provide meat for the freezer, and living and learning about the cycle of life and death, and knowing where their food comes from.

All forms of living have both societal and environmental impacts (negative and positive), but rural subdivisions are often maligned. This view fails to recognize that people can be drawn to our communities with properties in rural subdivisions, and these rural ranchettes can serve as anchors that connect communities while supporting local economies.

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. To request reprint permission or syndication of this column, email rangewritesyndicate@icloud.com.

Former Wyoming Governor Dave Freudenthal Portrait Unveiled

in News/politics
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Former Wyoming Governor Dave Freudenthal has joined fellow past governors in being honored with a portrait to be hung on the wall of the Capitol.

The official portrait of Wyoming’s 31st governor was unveiled in front of a crowd of about 200 people during ceremonies in the Capitol on Friday.

Freudenthal, who served two terms as governor, from 2003 through 2010, was alternately praised and roasted by other officials who attended the event, including former Gov. Matt Mead and U.S. Sen. John Barrasso.

Mead noted that Freudenthal, a Democrat, was hesitant to have his portrait painted by artist Michele Rushworth.

Mead recalled that at one point, Freudenthal said no portrait should be painted of him until after his death.

“I know you’ve said in the past ‘Wait ’til I’m dead,’” Mead said. “And when he said that to me, I said, without thinking, ‘What’s the difference?’”

Freudenthal’s wife, U.S. District Judge Nancy Freudenthal, said she finally convinced her husband to sit for the painting.

“I told him that it would happen one way or another and that he wasn’t getting any better looking,” she said.

Freudenthal thanked members of the crowd, who also included former Gov. Mike Sullivan, for attending the unveiling and urged them to recognize the good that they do.

“We thank the Lord for having given us the opportunity and for having given us you for friends and for having given us this family,” he said. “We would ask that you appreciate what you do. It’s kind of you to come and appreciate what we do. But take stock of yourself. You do wonderful things. Be proud of it.”

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